I’ve spent most of my life living in the eastern time zone, so moving to Texas was a wild departure from my past. As I chatted with prospective students who spent their whole lives in the Northeast, or maybe even outside of the US, it made me remember the questions and priorities I had when I was seeking out business schools. Did I find what I was looking for in Texas? (Spoiler: The answer to that question is “yes”)
Here are four main things I was looking for:
1. I want to go work for _______.
Inside, I’m still a small kid, fascinated by the prospect of two giant jet engines propelling a 300+ ton wide-body airplane up into the sky. I always wanted to work for the airline industry – yes, that pressurized metal tube, shoes off, delay-prone industry. Knowing this, I set out to find a school that gave me the best chance at fulfilling my ambitions. It was the active and well-connected alumni network, the well thought-out career support system, and Texas’ historic strength in the industry that made the school so attractive to me. In fact, it was one of the alumni that helped convince me that I would have the connection and resources at McCombs to get where I wanted to be.
Importantly, it’s not just the connection to a dream job or function that mattered. The relationship to my career aspirations, the career management staff and system strength, and diverse experiences of my classmates mattered just as much. I asked my self, “can I develop a connection with the career staff who will have my best interest in mind?” “Is the career support system proactive?” Thinking back, I made absolutely the right call.
(For brevity sake, I left out the next seven paragraphs about airlines. I have been known to talk people’s ear off about it…)
2. The Neat Outdoor-sy City Called Austin
First off, I spent most of my life in the frigid tundra of the Midwest. I loved the snow (and snow days!), and thought it had a bad reputation. When I descended on Texas, freezing weather was somewhat a foreign concept.
Austin’s Freezing February
Seriously though, Austin’s an outstanding outdoors town. It’s actually a neat town in general. I like to spend a lot of time outdoors – playing tennis, ultimate Frisbee, jogging – and in the ten different cities I’ve lived in my life, Austin’s has by far the best trails, courts, and the weather to enjoy it all. If you’re not familiar with the area, definitely check out Barton Springs Pool the next time you’re here. It’s Austin’s natural river open for swimming nearly all year-round
Hiking the Barton Creek Trail with Classmates
3. A Customizable Curriculum
By now, you’ve probably heard about our class structure – two years, four semesters, mandatory core classes to start. But it’s the brevity of the required core curriculum that was especially attractive. After all, the Full-Time Texas MBA Program is only two years / four semesters long.
When I was looking at the Texas MBA Program, I was concerned that the small class size meant less options for electives. Many case/discussion-based classes need critical mass to tap into the proverbial “wisdom of a crowd”. That said, I discovered a surprising number of interesting electives for a program that currently averages 270 students per year, because there’s so much time to take electives (nearly three-quarters of the program are reserved for electives).
A great example of a course that shows the diversity of our electives is “Corporate Governance” taught by Professor William Cunningham. To analyze a Board of Director’s important duties and responsibilities, the Professor invites several former and current senior executives from various companies to address the class. I’m taking this course this semester; it’s a rare opportunity to take a course where we can learn from today’s business leaders. And so far, it has been quite a treat.
4. The People
It’s a bit of a clichéd concept, but I believe that people can make the greatest difference. I always tell this anecdote about how I started to see UT as the place for me. Last year, I was making my decision on business schools, and visited Austin to check out the city and the university. Incidentally, it was the Austin Marathon weekend. There was something about the volume of energy and excitement around the city that surprised me, even if it housed a very large public university.
When I visited McCombs, it was much the same. The important thing to ask is – do I see myself with these people as my classmates? Would I enjoy their company, and be able to work with them? After talking to the current students, the faculty from the class I was able to shadow in, and even random people in the atrium, I think I saw myself fitting in just fine.
Texas vs. Cal from the MBA Student Section! (I believe we were winning at this point…?)