Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Kelley Direct Graduation

I will start my last quarter with Kelley Direct this week and finish the entire MBA program in August. Even though I still have one quarter remaining, I was able to participate in the graduation ceremonies in May because everyone who will graduate this year had the opportunity to participate in the spring commencement activities. It was great to be back on campus in Bloomington.

I've been looking forward to this the graduation ceremony since the day I started the program because I wanted my two young sons to see me graduate from a great university. I wanted to inspire them to do great things in their lives and get as much education they can.

I was fortunate to have a lot of family support at the graduation. My wife Emily and my sons Jacob and Andrew flew with me from our home in Seattle. My dad flew out from Colorado, and my mom and step-father flew out from Utah.

One of the things that makes Kelley Direct a top online MBA program is the on-cAdd Imageampus activities it provides to the students. While students participate in a majority of the MBA program from a distance, on-campus activities like the Kelley Connect Weeks and graduation provide an opportunity to be on campus, talk to faculty and fellow students face to face, and enjoy the full academic experience.

Kelley Direct graduates are invited to attend two different graduation ceremonies. The first is the IU graduate student commencement, which is the ceremony for all graduate students from all programs at Indiana University. The second graduation ceremony is just for graduates of the Kelley Direct programs.

I attended the IU graduate student commencement on Friday at the Assembly Hall. I was able to meet students from several of the other Kelley School programs including the in-residence MBA program and the MSIS program.

On Saturday I attended the Kelley Direct graduation ceremony at the Indiana University Auditorium. It was fun to see many of my fellow students. I had worked with some of them in person at the in-residences. Others I had only ever talked to on the phone and via email. For those friends, it was nice to be able to put a face with the voice.

As the ceremony began, Dean Daniel C. Smith commented that he heard several small children in the audience. He said didn't want parents to feel like they had to take the kids out of the auditorium if they made too much noise. He welcomed the children because they will be the next generation of Kelley School of Business graduates. I applauded his remark because he was right. And, the truth is, my kids were probably the ones making the most noise.

The keynote speaker for the ceremony was Alan B. Gilman. Mr. Gilman earned his MBA from Indiana University in '54 and went on to serve as CEO of Federated Department Stores and Consolidated Products Inc. I enjoyed hearing him talk about his experience and insights because he is such an accomplished professional.

It was a great feeling to walk across the stage and shake the hand of Dean Daniel C. Smith. I really have a lot of respect for him. He made a comment during his remarks that left an impression on me. He talked about the analogy of seeing the glass half full or half empty. He said people who see the glass half full add to the glass and make it more full. People who see the glass half empty take away from the glass and leave it more empty. He encouraged us to be the kind of people who add value and make things better, rather than the kind of people who just point out problems and deficiencies.

This is a wonderful MBA program and has been very worth while. I have seen it improve over the 21 months that I've been in the program. As a Kelley Direct MBA student, I've tried to add value and help make the program better too. That's one of the reasons I worked with the faculty and Student Advisory Board to create the Kelley Direct Investment Club.

I was humbled to be selected as a recipient of the Student Leadership Award along with my friend, Jen Oberholtzer. It was a great addition to a wonderful night.

I'm glad I made the trip out to Indiana for the graduation ceremonies. I'm especially glad that my favorite people could be there to share the experience with me.

Monday, June 6, 2011

The Feeling of India

I’ve been home from India for about a month now and have put off writing this final reflection simply because I’m not sure what to say. While we were in India, we knew that no story or picture or video could capture what we were experiencing, and now that I’m home, I find myself running into the same problem again and again when people ask me about my trip. As India was so different than any other place I’ve been, I don’t even feel like I have the right words in my vocabulary to describe it. No verbal picture I attempt to paint could even begin to do our experience, the country, the people, or the culture justice.

So, without trying to capture my first taste of India in a few paragraphs, there are a couple of closing thoughts I can offer. Before we went on the trip, we were told that many people don’t enjoy their first trip to India. Rather, it takes most people multiple trips to get passed the point of feeling overwhelmed so that they can begin to enjoy and even fall in love with the culture. Well, for most of us, this was our first trip to India. And every single one of us loved it there. We certainly hit our share of literal and non-literal bumps in the road, faced some very long days, and had to navigate many things outside our comfort zone. But through it all we remained open, flexible, and grateful to be there, and as a result, we had an amazing time. I think Kelley and this course gave us that gift, the gift of being able to not only appreciate but embrace a culture so very different from our own. While nothing could completely prepare us for the experience, the 6 weeks of coursework leading up to the trip gave us the self-awareness and desire to take in all that India had to offer. And the opportunity to explore the country while learning from India faculty and visiting local companies certainly gave us a perspective that many tourists don’t ever get.

In closing, I’ll share our “theme” from the week, a thought that was first put into words by Eric Richards during a dinner with our Indian faculty. You can’t describe India, you can’t fully understand India. You have to feel India. And so while I want desperately to share everything I saw and did while I was on the other side of the world, here is where I’ll stop myself. There is a beauty to the land and architecture, a kindness in the people, and a feeling of connectedness in the air that just has to be experienced first-hand.