Becoming a Student Again

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Diane Long is an HR Director at Fidelity International and an executive MBA student at Chicago Booth.  Diane has been living in Hong Kong for four years after relocating from New York where she was born and raised.  Below she writes about starting the program at Kick-Off Week in Chicago and what it's like to become a student again.

It was a 15-hour flight from Hong Kong to Chicago and after over 10 years away from the classroom, I was feeling quite nervous to begin. I spent most of the flight going through a printed version of the optional online math course to prepare.  Okay, I will admit, I might have watched a full season of The Closer as well; criminal dramas really get my focus onto derivative calculations! 

In the spirit of challenging myself, I also decided to use the week to live a healthier lifestyle than my usual in Hong Kong.  I took a spinning class every other morning at 6:00 am. The exercise helped me to focus once I reached the classroom, though I did miss out on some late night socializing.  

Kick-Off Week started Saturday afternoon with drinks at the Hyatt Regency Hotel where we learned that there are 243 of us from all over the world. In some fun facts shared by the Associate Dean, Patty Keegan, we realized that diversity didn’t just mean the gender mix, but that we may have a James Bond in our class, someone who did Crisis Management for Hillary Clinton, and I counted at least 7 doctors! 

From there we headed into the first LEAD workshop which rotated us into several small groups to discuss what leadership meant to each of us. It left me feeling inspired about the 21-month journey I was about to embark on. Already I had met people from very different backgrounds, but all of us had one commonality: we had chosen and been accepted into the Booth program.

As part of the Miller international cohort, we began class Sunday morning with Professor Linda Ginzel teaching us the Essentials of Effective Leadership.  She shared that her goal in this course was to make us ‘wiser, younger.' Later in the week, she gave us a green pen to use to be our own coaches by habitually recording personal feedback with it. I have already bought a box of green pens to hand out to the new graduates in my company to inspire them on their own journey of self-learning.

Afternoons were incredibly intense as each of us went through algebra, geometry, and other math topics to get ready for Microeconomics. I was lucky to be sitting next to my study group members and we supported each other throughout the week. There was no ego between us and I remember at one point, someone said, “This is going to be so amazing when I get it!” I don’t think we ever guessed that supply and demand curves would get us so excited. 

Being part of an international group gave us a fantastic opportunity to learn across different industries. In one assignment, we learned about the cement mixing business from one team member and we used it for a case study answer. We ended the week agreeing that we would get together one more time before the London international session over a webex and audio conference call to review the final answers for our Microeconomics group problem set. We worked out that it would have to be Asia evening, U.S. morning, mid-day for Lagos and Russia. This is the spirit of our global team!

Our next international week happens in less than one month. This time around, I will still focus on being healthy, but I think I will definitely make sure there is time for some evening fun. But don’t worry - I've already started looking up spinning studios near the school!

Diane Long, '18 (AXP-17)