The first finance exam at the Broad College is a rite of passage in my view of universal experience to most first-year MBA students. The aftermath of this ordeal is like a dramatic late-night awakening, filled with sentiments of being knocked off one’s horse or receiving a wake-up call. These phrases echo through the iconic Minskoff Pavilion building, reminding us why making the best of the permission to bring a cheat sheet by carrying a stack of cheat sheets into a Michigan State University STEM MBA finance exam might not be the smartest idea. The resulting cognitive dissonance feels like an endless night, where every idea leading to this point in life will likely be questioned. You can almost touch the envy and admiration of fellow students who, when asked about the exam, casually reply, “It was good!” before swiftly escaping the scene. As a first-year student, one can’t help but reminisce about the orientation weeks in which MBA Program and Academic Services Director Wayne Hutchison’s clerical voice did more to prepare incoming students for the MBA experience and little to explain the impending storm of first exams.
It’s often said that courage isn’t the absence of fear but triumphing over it. So, there I stood, contemplating a visit to the enigmatic office of William Horton-Anderson, the MBA program’s assistant director of academic and student affairs, where I later got to know that 15 of my peers had already ventured, seeking answers to this predicament. Thoughts of holding William accountable for the finance exam, interrogating him on the extent of his involvement or demanding a moral explanation for starting with such a challenging finance exam flooded my mind. And yet, William, with his warm, angelic smile, managed to silence my descent into outrage. Coincidentally, it was his birthday, and he sat there as if he had never had a good lecture on the hundred excuses to skip work. He listened intently, responding with collected calmness, reassuring me like he had my predecessors that there was no need to worry, urging me to consult with my team, peer coach, Broad buddy and classmates who may have experience in finance.
Later, the brilliant Deloitte/Michael Licata Fellow in Taxation Kevin Markle, an accounting maestro, entered the scene. He began his class with soft music playing in the background, setting a soothing tone for an afternoon class before delving into accounting wonders. These moments, accompanied by the music, made me feel like being part of the green and white family was genuinely cool! Yet it wasn’t always this way at the very start. Change, especially academic change, within a different country can be hard. But when you have a supportive system, access to abundant resources, dedicated professors and a team such as at the Broad College committed to helping, navigating these challenges becomes not only easier but also consoling to know you may not be alone navigating these challenges. It’s a reminder that seeking help is just a question away.
The MSU STEM MBA journey is akin to a mother eagle shaking her nest, forcing her eaglets to learn to fly. The first time feels harsh, almost sociopathic, to the fledglings. Yet they must venture out to truly discover their potential. This transition mirrors an African saying: “ebilungi bigwa byokya,” which translates to “good things always end on a high note.”
As classes end midterm and new ones begin, fall descends upon us, slowly yet steadily. The weather, once palatable and kind, begins to turn its face, literally shedding the memory of the semester’s warm start. For an international student hailing from the sunny plains of Uganda, where an 80°F temperature feels like a deep freeze, the prospect of 0°F or negative degrees is a chilling horror. A friend recently texted me, “Hi Raymond, wait, wait, December and January are not far away off!” I can’t help but imagine what that possibly means or will feel like! Yet, in the midst of this academic transition, the Spartan spirit is alive in me, and unites everyone around me, to remind me that change, no matter how hard, is merely a stepping stone in to a brighter future.