Reflecting on my MBA Journey, Values, and a New DIrection

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The next week marks the end of 3½ years in the Kelley Evening MBA program at IUPUI. I decided over 4 years ago that I was going to apply.

That sounds crazy. That first semester with so many old/new concepts (Accounting, Strategy and Statistics) seems like maybe a year ago. The best part of that first semester, though, was X511 - not the Food Corps part ... the guest speakers/career advice part - which set my mind swimming with new ideas for my future.

Like many of my cohorts, I applied and started down the path of an MBA because I wanted to move up. What was "up?" I'm not the only one who didn't know.

Part of my desire was to get into social entrepreneurship to help lift others up. I originally had planned on doing the certificate program that joins with a few graduate SPEA courses. The idea of social entrepreneurship is just now catching up with the collective conscious of mass media and the general public, and this recent recap from NPR does a nice job of explaining the concept. It's all about the 3 P's: People, Profit, Planet. In the end, me slowing the pace of the core courses due to work and family obligations meant that course schedules of the requirements for the certificate didn't work out for me unless I wanted to take 4 years to get through. Nah, I've had enough school now. I'm good, thanks.

What mattered to me were the values that I took away from each course. I wasn't in it for a 4.0 for my resume. I was in it to glean the carefully placed breadcrumbs that would build my business skills to align with my values and future direction. I was smart enough to major in Entrepreneurship, which led me to Todd Saxton's DIVE program, by far the richest experience of the entire EMBA program.

The year I did DIVE, I was able to take part in a project for a social entrepreneur in the Dominican Republic, which I've talked about a couple of times before (here and here). Then I did the Emerging Markets spring break trip to Liberia only two weeks later, which I've also talked about before (here and here).

The spring of 2014 was all I needed to affirm for me the value of the Kelley program and what I would be doing in the future. I considered another local program that had good connections in the Indianapolis business community, but I ultimately pursued the Kelley program because I saw the reach as going further than that. I had no idea.

There has been quite a bit of publicity lately around the declining value of the MBA degree in general, and I think the authors are right in some cases, but most fail to address the key value differentiator among MBAs: the school name printed on your degree.* I wholeheartedly believe that if I'd gone to a non-accredited school, including any one of the for-profit and/or online institutions popping up everywhere, my degree would have possibly been worth a party and a pat on the back at the most. Maybe someone would ask me more questions beyond the mundane in the big meeting next time. Yaaawwwn. Meh.

I came to Kelley to change, and change I did. I quit my stable secure job with great benefits, and I'm working on creating a permanent, officer-level position for myself at a start-up B-Corp organization tied to the social entrepreneur in the Dominican Republic that I worked with in DIVE (want to know why you should form a B-Corp? Click here). I could potentially oversee massive international expansion of a model bringing security and sustainability to thousands of people in developing nations and Service Learning opportunities to thousands of people in the developed world who want to make a difference. That is pretty impossible for the me of 3 or 4 years ago to imagine. It aligns with my core values as a human, and it shows that monetary value is possible if you choose the right school and dedicate yourself to the change you want to make.

*You're welcome, Kelley School, for the free plug there. I was not asked to write that endorsement at all, but I feel strongly about the value I will realize from having chosen this school over others. The letters MBA may not mean much in a vacuum, but I found my true passion in the Kelley EMBA program, and that's priceless.