Poets & Quants for Executives

Becoming Immersed In An Intense EMBA Program

by Lee Lowder

Lee Lowder is blogging about his MBA experience at PoetsandQuantsforExecs

Lee Lowder is blogging about his MBA experience at PoetsandQuantsforExecs

It was mid-September this past year and I was on my way back home from Chapel Hill, having just completed Immersion Weekend for the Class of 2014. Before I arrived, I thought it interesting they called it “Immersion Weekend,” as if we would be submerged in a pool all weekend. Immersion Weekend, as it turned out, was an appropriate title, because we were immersed completely in what is the breadth and height and depth of earning an EMBA through Kenan-Flagler’s OneMBA program.

During my five-hour trip back from Chapel Hill, I thought several times, “Wow, I’m actually going to have to work for this EMBA.” I had only seriously considered two schools for my EMBA, Kenan-Flagler and Darden, partly because I was looking for strong programs with excellent reputations in the southeast.

However, I confess that as a lawyer who went through a Tier 1 law school in the evening, I viewed earning an MBA not as difficult as a law degree. My thoughts of earning an Executive MBA were meeting for class once per month, reading a few business cases in between, maybe writing a case brief or two, and then of course networking with other business professionals. The school takes a nice bit of change out of your pocket, awards you an MBA, and, voila, you’re all finished. Well, after Immersion Weekend all illusions were removed and I knew there would be no coasting through UNC’s OneMBA program. And I’m glad there won’t be.

WANTING TO BE CHALLENGED, PUSHED, STRETCHED AND INSPIRED

There are plenty of programs you can choose from if all you’re interested in is adding the acronym MBA behind your name. But if you’re interested in being challenged, pushed, stretched, and inspired, then don’t settle for just any MBA. I would’ve cheated myself had I chosen a less demanding program. Too often we take the least difficult route for short-term ease at the expense of long-term gain.

During Immersion Weekend, we were assigned to a local team consisting of six other UNC EMBA students, which was essentially designed to be our support group throughout the 21- month program, our AA group if you will. My fellow PoetsandQuants blogger, Lindsay Stewart, referenced in her latest post how she was at first skeptical of the value of her local team, but now finds her local team invaluable, her “school family.”

A MOTLEY BAND INCLUDING A NAVY SEAL, A WALL STREET BROKER, AN ONLINE STOCK BROKER

Like Lindsay, I was skeptical at first of the need for a local team, but now find my team absolutely necessary, not only for academic success, but also for my sanity! We are a motley band of diverse professionals made up of a Navy SEAL, a Wall Street broker, a corporate lawyer, a PhD engineer, an online stock broker, and an IT executive. And no that’s not the beginning of a joke, those are the professions represented in our group. We talk together weekly, help each other out on assignments, and keep each other updated on upcoming due dates.

I referenced in my prior post that I went to business school to fill gaps in my business knowledge. Well, after Immersion Weekend it was clear there were more “gaps in my business knowledge” than I realized. Fortunately, OneMBA has a comprehensive program to fill in those gaps. For the last few months I’ve been taking General Management & Strategy, Leading & Managing Global Organizations, Global Operations, Analytical Tools for Decision Making, and Financial Accounting (all total, 15 credits).  These classes do more than provide you with knowledge – they help shape your framework of thinking.  Business is more than just technical knowledge, there’s an art to it as well.  And much of business school to date has been teaching me how to put an objective framework around subjective processes, whether it’s leadership, strategy, or even regression analysis.

So if you’re looking to go back to school (or at any new endeavor for that matter), don’t just look for the easy road. Plenty have taken that path. Take the one less traveled by, as Robert Frost said, for that will make all the difference.

Lee Lowder is an attorney who is pursuing his MBA at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler’s Business School. HIs previous posts:

Introducing Lee Lowder, A Lawyer Working On His EMBA

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