February 14, 2014
Wednesday night, we got to participate in the MBA Combine held at the Galloway Suites of Floyd Casey Stadium. The idea for the event plays off of the NFL Combine, where prospective draftees show off their stuff for pro scouts in anticipation of the NFL draft. Our Combine was a way for us to practice our interviewing skills with each other before next week’s Spring Job Fair, where many of us will go in search of internships and jobs.
A highlight of the event was an inspirational talk given by Walter Abercrombie, the all-time leading rusher in Baylor Bears football history, former first-round draft pick, former Pittsburgh Steeler and former Philadelphia Eagle. He talked to us about how eventual graduation from the MBA program and entry into the work force is similar to Abercrombie’s jump from college to the NFL in 1982, since we will be working in companies filled with competitive, talented people.
One of the coolest parts of his talk was listening to his jump from high school to Baylor, where he was awed by the two running backs ahead of him on the depth chart. Despite being told by coaches he would red-shirt his freshman year, Abercrombie said he worked hard to show he belonged and to be ready should his number come up. It did when the two NFL prospect backs ahead of him went down with injury. His preparation paid off on a fall day in 1978, when he ran more than 207 yards in a win against Texas A&M.
When he reached the NFL, he quickly noted the huge jump in talent, strength and speed among defenders like Lawrence Taylor. His answer? Be smarter. He watched game films that prepared him for spotting and exploiting tendencies among the defenders he faced.
I think it was a great message for us to hear. We are often caught up in our day-to-day classes and lives stuck in the Baylor bubble. But we are all going to graduate, probably faster than we expect, and thrust into work places that will challenge us more than we’ve ever been challenged before. Preparing harder, and smarter, is what will let us compete and succeed.
February 6, 2014
So within the business school we have a little suite called the Breakout Rooms. There are 6 or 8 small conference rooms each with a white board, a conference table and an abundance of laptop-friendly outlets where you can study by yourself or meet with classmates to work on projects or gossip your faces off.
The Breakout Rooms are great. Problem is, I spent what seemed like 98 percent of my days in the Breakout Rooms during IMS from June through August. As you can imagine, I got pretty darned sick of those predominantly windowless places, nice though they be. So I started searching other places on campus to study. My friends like to ask if I’ve gone to my “undisclosed location” whenever they haven’t seen me for a while.
Well you’re in luck, because this is the world premier listing of my undisclosed locations, on campus and off. In no particular order:
The Starbucks area of the library. There are tables and a bunch of really comfortable lounge chairs in the entryway to Moody Library. Great big windows look out on a pretty nice view of campus. A Starbucks is right there for the overpriced beverage or snack of your choice. It’s not bad, if you don’t mind the occasional person who thinks it’s cool to yell across the way to their long lost roommate from freshman year. On a hot day, it can get pretty hot because of the windows. On a cold day it can get kind of cold because of the windows. But the seats are comfy, there are plenty of power outlets in the floor, and you’re only a pair of headphones away from being in your own little study oasis.
Sid Richardson Building: Paul L. Foster Success Center. I don’t know why this building has so many names. But it’s a decent place to study if you can get a table in one of the first floor study areas. There are no views into or out of anything, but it’s a nice little place to study when you have an hour or two in between classes and it’s right by the business school.
Student Union Building (The SUB). In addition to having a freaking Panda Express, which I thank God for every single day, and the ability to observe the cutting edge in undergrad fashion choices, there are a few surprise places to study. There’s a third floor area with a few tables and chairs that is usually not packed. I don’t know if people just dont’ know about it or what. There’s these living room type areas on the same floor as the big room where Dr. Pepper Social Hours are held. You can usually find somebody sleeping in there somewhere. Then there are the long strips of couch-like areas along the sides of that bigger Dr. Pepper room. You kind of feel like you’re in someone else’s grandma’s house, but the couches and chairs aren’t too bad if you can find one.
Lobby of the Business School. This lounge-like lobby area is usually infested with undergrads like ants at a recently-abandoned picnic buffet, but it will work if you don’t feel like walking to any of the above-listed areas during the evenings or on a weekend. There are plenty of chairs and tables to choose from, it’s open and airy, and there are vending machines and big windows on either side.
Off Campus Starbucks (specific location I will not reveal). There’s a certain Starbucks to remain un-named that I like to go to that’s about a 10 minute drive away from campus. It’s got a few lounge-like chairs and a few tables. No frills. And it’s kind of loud, since an off-Broadway production of Stomp seems to break out in the kitchen every single time I’m there. But it’s nice to get the heck away from campus every now and again.
Common Grounds. This is an interesting place and I’m still trying to figure out why I keep coming back. It’s not too big. They blast music kind of loud sometimes. But if there’s a spot on one of the couches, it’s a nice place to settle down for a few to several hours of study, as long as you have brought headphones. Some days undergrad conversations are painful to listen to, and some days they are the highlight of my day. The drinks are nice, if a little overpriced, and the staff is pretty friendly. And it’s cozy as all get out. So there you go.
I have a friend who recommends Barnett’s Pub and everybody seems to be going mental over Dichotomy lately, so I’ll have to try those out eventually.
February 4, 2014
So we’re a few weeks into the second semester of the MBA program and here are a few thoughts, in no particular order:
- I need to get an internship. And stat. Like way over due on this. Although I applied last semester and phone interviewed for one, the time for messing around has passed.
- Even though we’re dealing with the same amount of work as last semester, it’s somehow easier this time around and nowhere near as overwhelming. We know what’s coming. We’ve been through a semester and come out OK on the other side.
- Business vocabulary is starting to be second nature. Where as last semester, I felt like a fish out of water, this semester I’m starting to get used to things and can understand what people say when they throw around business terms. I think we’ve had a semester or more to shift how our brain thinks. From making a recommendation to making a monetized recommendation with data to back it up. (at least that’s the idea).
- In the summer, when I was way over my head with the intensity of IMS, I was on the phone with a friend of mine who is in the eMBA program at Big 12 university down the road. “You know when you hear about NFL rookies and they say the speed of the game is so much faster than college?” he asked me. “And then one day the game just slows down? Well hang in there, because one day the game will slow down.” And it has. I feel comfortable as an MBA student where as the first half of last semester I felt like someone playing the part of an MBA student.
So I’ve been in Waco since June and it’s time to update the list of restaurants. Looking back at the list from my post back in the summer, I hardly ever go to any of those places any more. So without further ado:
Shorty’s: This one is still on the list and it’s going stronger than ever. I. Cannot. Stop. Eating. Their. Pizza. Pillows. It’s gotten to the point where after a stressful day at school my first thought is pizza pillow. If more effective and healthier means to deal with stress exist, I haven’t found them, yet.
Baris: This is an Italian restaurant and it ain’t a bad place to go with a bunch of friends on a Sunday. I usually get the lasagna and I enjoy it. My friend Mike likes to get the calzone and I swear it’s the biggest available in the free world.
George’s: It’s still good when you’re in the mood for a greasy meal, and I mean that in a good way, because I like everything I eat there. Have you had the crazy wings? It’s chicken filled with hope and beauty, wrapped in bacon, and deep fried. I wouldn’t recommend eating one when they first bring it to your table because it will burn a hole straight through your mouth, but man they are good. My only problem with George’s is if you order the fries or whatever with your burger you have to pay extra and they bring out like seven. So that part’s not super cool, but all-in-all I really like the place.
Ninfa’s: Ok, so I’m not as big of a fun of Ninfa’s as everyone else seems to be, but it’s decent. I find the waitstaff to be pretty friendly and the best part is they are extremely accommodating to large parties. This makes getting a bunch of classmates and their significant others together for a Friday night meal a heck of a lot easier than most other places. And the fried ice cream is pretty good.
Katie’s Frozen Custard: This has replaced U-Swirl as my late night (sort of) go-to frozen treat destination. I’m not ashamed to say I’m there in some capacity five times a week. It’s not pretty. But they stay open until 11 and they have really good sundaes.
August 3, 2013
I was anxious. Not because I was wearing my uncomfortable dress shoes. It was because I was standing in a line of people, usually one or two abreast, in a hallway of the Cleveland Correctional Center, near Houston. Like Dorothy before us, we had been instructed not to step outside of the yellow-striped lines on the floor. They led from the visitation room, where we were welcomed and told about the day’s activities, out the building and into the gymnasium.
The 10 of us who had driven down from Waco the morning of July 19 had already been briefed about the Prisoner Entrepreneurship Program by members of the organization’s staff. As volunteers, we were there to help affect change in a prisoner’s life. Starting in the fall semester, we will help them with personal statements and business plans. Today was the kickoff for Class 20 of the program. Of the 154,000 inmates in the Texas prison system, 1,000 applied for the PEP. The 105 who were selected awaited us in the unit’s gymnasium. All were within 3 years of being released.
Lining up, I noticed that every window in the hallway was a tall skinny opening, probably 5 or so inches wide at the most. We had already gone through the metal detector and a pat-down by security guards. Our driver’s licenses were filed away in the check-in desk. We’d been told that we would get time for one-on-one meetings with the program participants. Beyond that, I didn’t know what to expect.
Approaching the door to the gymnasium, I heard cheering erupt as the volunteers ahead of me entered. I approached the door and saw men in navy blue prison uniforms cheering for us, their hands in the air and forming a two sided tunnel made of hands, tattoos, and cheering, smiling faces. I walked through the door and was amazed / petrified at what I saw. All I saw were inmates. Like real, honest-to-God inmates. I did my best to high-five every hand on the way through. I kept seeing tattoos. And kept trying not to look at tattos. Which made me want to look at them some more.
After the receiving line, which kind of made me feel like I was on Soul Train a little bit, there were more inmates who were lined up to shake our hands.
It was a tremendous mix of emotions. On one hand, I was scared out of my mind. I had no idea there’d be so many prisoners around. And they looked like prisoners that had walked out of the movies or TV. But at the same time, I was overcome by the sheer joy and positive energy that was in that gymnasium. From the first minute until we would leave later that afternoon, the inmates, who I will refer to from now on as program participants, went out of their way to make us feel welcomed and appreciated.
Later, I turned to my classmate and fellow volunteer, Rich Lubbers, “So this is what it’s like to be Payton Manning.” I’d never felt so welcome before. The recurring theme throughout the next hours was one of gratitude. Program participants were truly grateful we were there.
One of the coolest parts was the one-on-one meetings we had. The 10 or so I spoke to, 10 minutes at a time, ranged in age from early 20s to early 40s. Many times I would look at the person in front of me and forget they were a prisoner. All were extremely polite and excited about the program. We largely talked about their initial business ideas. I thought about how we were in the same shoes, looking for a business education.
After the program activities, those of us who were volunteers switched roles and formed the two-sided high-five line as participants made their way out of the gym.
July 19, 2013
Well, it would appear that the supposed on-campus black bears actually DO exist. Yesterday I saw the bears, named Judge Joy and Judge Lady, napping in a cave in their habitat.
I’m sure after my post about not seeing the bears escalated its way up to the university administration, they decided to ship in two black bears from where ever one ships in black bears from. And the ruse became a reality.
Either way, it was super cool to see. It’s like having a mini-zoo right here on campus. (Built in 2005, it is officially a class C specialty zoo and educational exhibit, if you want to get all technical about it.)
The top picture is from the official Bear Program web page. I took the fuzzy bottom image yesterday on my phone.
July 14, 2013
The first day of summer session II was last Thursday. We spent the first half of our finance class discussing career advice and other bits of wisdom with our professor, Dr. Rose. After discussing the importance of knowing and living by your values, he paused.
“Now who is going to ask me the question that you’ve all been wanting to ask?” he said.
There was silence for about 10 seconds when a classmate responded, “What happened to your back?”
Prof. Rose wore a back brace over his clothes as a result of back surgery, which involved implanting rods and screws into his spine. The brace went around his waste and looked like a professional wrestling belt that was at least a foot wide. Out of politeness, I think, most of chose not to ask about it.
Not mentioning it during a job interview, he warned, would be a huge mistake.
“When you go out interviewing for jobs, you may interview at a company with all sorts of scandal or bad press,” he said. “They expect you to ask about it.”
To not ask it, he said, meant we would be too shy, or too scared to ask, or it would look like we hadn’t done our research–all things a company would find unattractive.
It was a really great way to make a very important point and a great way to start a class we were all worried about.
Waiting for class to start, we all wondered what would be coming our way. We’d heard from many sources that finance was going to be a challenge. “Dr. Rose is fair, but he’s tough,” we had heard. “If you have trouble with the class, don’t waste time. Go see him in his office hours.”
At 10 a.m., class started. We were pleasantly surprised when the first half was spent in what felt more like a nice chat than a lecture.
Here are some other bits of wisdom Prof. Rose shared:
- Emails are a professional picture of yourself.
- Values guide your behavior which shapes your reputation.
- There are a lot of smart people out there. There’s no need to hire smart people who are also jerks.
“A lot of this stuff may be more important than anything you learn in the course,” he said.
We then dove in, discussing concepts like financial management, risk management, wealth, and market value of equity.
July 8, 2013
So it’s midnight and I’m making my last-ditch studying for tomorrow’s accounting final. I’ve been studying for it since Friday. This second test should be more challenging than the first. Whereas in the first half of the course we learned how to put on our shoes and tie our shoelaces, the second half has taught us to play the financial accounting equivalent of hopscotch.
It’s still the basics of accounting, but it’s going to take a little more know-how than the first time around. Cost of goods sold, bond amortization, and fixed asset depreciation, oh my!
I figure I’ll give it another hour and then call it a night. Wish me luck. (I’m trying not to focus on the fact that as soon as I’m done with the test I’ll get a few days off before the start of 2nd summer session this Thursday)
July 6, 2013
Often, our financial accounting professor will assign cases that we work on individually or in groups as homework. The last one we received that was due today was simply known as “the Martin case,” since it had to do with a fictitious company going by that name.
It was a full page long, detailing numerous financial transactions we had to account for and then use to create a year-end balance sheet. Although it only used material from chapters 5 through 10 of our book, we had to draw on almost everything we’ve learned since the first day of class. It took me at least four hours to complete.
When I first read the problem, I almost passed out in fear. But then I just started breaking it down, sentence by sentence, figuring out what adjusting entries needed to be made, followed by corresponding T accounts. I was constantly flipping back and forth throughout most of the book, looking up the many accounting procedures needed to complete the assignment, one step at a time.
It’s only been a month since we started the IMS program, but it feels like so much longer than that. I can’t believe it’s only been a little more than four weeks since we sat in the grad student lounge for orientation going over the honor code, academic policies, and forming groups for ice-breaker activities.
In that short period of time, we’ve gotten what our business math professor likes to refer to as the “fire hose” of information.
We’ve been so busy doing written book homework, online homework, written case problems, and various other accounting-related activities, we haven’t really had time to take a step back and look at what we’ve done.
A month ago I new barely anything about accounting. Now I’m able to do a problem like the Martin case, which included knowing how to account for inventory and cost of goods sold, asset depreciation, bonds payable, owner’s equity, retained earnings, and all sorts of other wonderful things. There were actually times where I had fun working on the assignment.
I guess what I’m trying to say is: We’ve barely got our foot in the door of the MBA program. I know there are a ton more challenges coming our way. But at the same time, I’m pretty proud of how much work I’ve put in since June 4th and how much I’ve learned. It’s daunting and exciting realizing how very little I know, and how much more I’ll learn over the next year and a half.
July 4, 2013
So I’ve lived in Waco and taken classes at Baylor for a month now. I’ve seen and experienced things that I figured I’d write about. Here goes:
1. The supposed on-campus bears don’t exist. Six times in the past month I’ve been to the black bear habitat where Baylor’s mascots, Joy and Lady, supposedly live. And I have yet to see a freaking bear. The habitat is located in-between the campus bookstore and the Student Union Building, better known as the SUB. Anytime I go to the bookstore, I stop by the exhibit.
The bears have outdoor space to hang out, water to play in, and a cave-like enclosure, presumably to take naps or play poker or whatever it is bears do when they want to get out of the sun. Maybe they’re somewhere else for the summer. Maybe they don’t come out of the cave because of the heat. (I’ve been there at night, and I’ve been there during the day.) But until I see one, I’ll assume their existence is part of a well-orchestrated, campus-wide lie.
Photo caption: My dog was just as disappointed as I was.
2. The school colors are growing on me. When I came to Waco in early May to find an apartment, I stopped by the bookstore, thinking I’d maybe pick up a Baylor t-shirt or something. I walked in and was taken aback by the green and yellow before me. I went to undergrad at Syracuse, so I often see the world through orange and blue-tinted glasses. I had a lot of trouble picturing myself in these alien colors. I did my first stint of grad school at Boston University in 1999 and 2000 and I walked away with a single, long-sleeve t-shirt that I forced myself to buy “just because.” I figured the same would happen here.
Well, I’m amazed at how I’ve acclimated to Waco, to campus, and to the school colors. I even bought my first piece of apparel: A baseball cap. I bought one for myself and one for my dad, which I keep forgetting to mail. I haven’t worn the cap, yet, but I’m sure I will soon. And I’ll probably, gasp!, pick up a t-shirt or something soon. Although not orange or blue, it will do just fine, I think.
3. My classmates are wicked smart. I’ve got 19 or so fellow students in the summer Integrated Management Seminar (IMS) program and they’re all pretty stinking smart. Among their ranks are former members of the military and former and current members of the following professions: border patrol agent, nurse, law student, church pastor, personal trainer, software engineer, and firefighter, among others.
Every day I’m humbled by how quickly they grasp accounting and business math concepts. Everyone works hard and there is usually a whole lot of over-achieving going. I’ve gotten in the habit of doing accounting homework days before it is due, for example, just from following the example of my classmates. I genuinely like everyone and feel fortunate to get to go to class with them and work on assignments in groups with them. So many are ridiculously generous with their time when I need help understanding something.
4. Dr. Pepper Hours are awesome. There is this tradition at Baylor to have ice cream socials know as Dr. Pepper Hours. You take a big old punch bowl full of vanilla Blue Bell ice cream and mix it with Dr. Pepper, which was founded in Waco. The ice cream looks slightly soda colored, but it basically tastes just like vanilla ice cream. Really, really good vanilla ice cream.
We had a Dr. Pepper Hour the first week of school in the MBA Healthcare office. They’ve been held regularly because of the Freshman summer orientation events that have been going on. During the school year they are held every Tuesday. I make sure to always enter the time and location when I hear of one in the calendar on my cell phone.
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