Should You Apply to Graduate School? There Are Four Key Questions You Need to Answer First

In a series of three articles for recently, we discussed how people can best decided whether, when, and where to attend graduate school.  Here are some excerpts and some recent information in other news outlets that we think will be helpful:  Tbe key questions to be answered are:

  • Why do I want to do this?
  • When is the right time to pursue such a degree?
  • Who can I ask for advice about this, andwhat do they say?
  • Where is the best place I can obtain the degree, and how do I determine this?

In our first article in this series, we asked our network of over 100 MBAs on LinkedIn Linkedin to help us answer the first two questions, the Why and the When. In the second article, we addressed the Who and the What. We now answer the last question, involving the Where and the How.

As mentioned in our previous article, considering the needs of your spouse, partner or family should be of paramount importance, because their support is critical. One alumnus integrated several criteria when answering the question. “We needed to be in state where my wife, a PA-C, could not only be licensed but maximize her clinical skills as well. The second factor was the quality of the program. The third factor was the financial aid package.”

Once again, deciding to pursue a graduate degree is one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make. So make sure you answer all four questions before making it. Getting input fromClose Connections who have already earned graduate degrees, Trustworthy Talent whose opinions you can trust, Professional Pundits like HR folks and recruiters, and alumni from those institutions you are considering, can all help you make the best decision for you.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that some employers are providing tangible assistance for graduate school to their employees, beyond the traditional tuition reimbursement that employers have offered (and sometimes discontinued) over the past several decades:

As a means of attracting stellar young hires, an increasing number of firms in finance, consulting and technology are shepherding employees through the graduate-school admissions process by organizing and paying for test-preparation courses, inviting admissions consultants to help with applications, arranging mock interviews with senior staffers and even bringing school representatives to information sessions at the office.

Companies support staffers attending a number of graduate programs, but business school is by far the most common destination.

It may seem counterintuitive to encourage employees to head for the exits, but firms say that assisting with the graduate-school application process leads to long-term loyalty and, with strings attached to tuition money, improves the chances that employees will return after graduation. (Most companies reimburse employees only after they’ve been back for a number of months or even years.)

Such programs have been in place for a while, but have grown more popular in recent years as the recruiting process heats up.

Does your employer encourage you to pursue graduate school, and if so how?  What advice have you sought in evaluating whether to return to school, who has influenced, and how?


Developing Mentors While Pursuing an Online Degree

I’m interviewed in an article today by Menachem Wecker for the US News & World Report.  In it he discussed several challenges to developing effective mentoring relationships while pursuing an online MBA degree.

Mentors, who have their feet firmly planted in industry, can provide practical advice that supplements what MBA students are learning inbusiness school. But the mentorship relationship can get controversial and more complicated when it comes to online MBA students, some experts say.

Some MBA faculty and students view digital mentors almost like invisible friends, which are unlikely to yield fruitful interactions, while others notice unique opportunities when mentors communicate with business students online.

Here are some of the thoughts I shared with Mr. Wecker during my interview:

Interacting with mentors online can be convenient for b-school students, according to Aneil Mishra.

Digital communication tools, particularly LinkedIn, help Mishra stay in touch with the many students from overseas that he coaches, he says, but he recommends a hybrid approach, where there is some face-to-face interaction for trust building amid the communication via social media and digital tools. Sometimes, that may mean making more of an effort to go to events or to network in person in other ways.

“If you’re attending a pure online degree [program] or have limited face-to-face connections with your peers and professors, it’s more beholden to you to join professional associations,” he says. 

For the rest of the article, please go here.


Meredith MBA students create exciting digital marketing projects

I am so proud of my MBA students at Meredith College that I just have to brag about the creative digital marketing projects they just completed for our summer hybrid course on digital marketing.

We met once a week for 6 weeks together and then co-created the rest of our content together on-line in a course blog.  The students found interesting and exciting articles about trends in digital marketing and together we critiqued the direction digital marketing is going, culminating in the creation of their own digital marketing projects.  These projects could be for their own personal brand, for the company they work for, or to help out another local company that needed their new digital expertise.

Here are the projects that they created and the goals they set for each project:

1) SunTrust Bank’s Institutional Real Estate (IRE)

  • Use social media to increase awareness in the bank and the marketplace.
  • Increase new client relationships and resulting business opportunities through
  • Be seen as the experts in their field through thought leadership

2) Furever Dogs, custom made dog products to pay for owner’s pet chemo treatments

  • Increase sales through a more prominent internet presence
  • Leverage digital presence to increase word-of-mouth referrals
  • Build loyal relationships to increase repeat business

3) United Property Management is a property management company that targets and serves individuals and families of lower incomes.

  • Create an interactive website to attract more families

4)Michelle Lewis Design, event planner, invitations, etc.

  • Goals to increase sales, customer base and expand name recognition.
  • Improve presence on Facebook with recommendations; likes
  • Create accounts on Twitter, YouTube Channel with videos and free tips
  • Develop Pinterest page to drive ideas for customers and an informal blog to get to know the designers

5) Syncfusion, computer software company

  • Focus on listening online; harness employee engagement
  • Increase brand awareness by including embedded videos in news releases
  • Utilize social media monitoring tools

6) GENBAND is a B2B telecommunications company providing network equipment solutions based on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) infrastructure, multimedia applications and solutions for fixed wire line, mobile and cable network service operators.

  • Increase company awareness through better use of LinkedIn
  • Increase product knowledge through more attention to the company blog
  • Increase use of Skype to improve customer relationships

7) The Triangle Off-Road Cyclists (TORC) is a volunteer organization dedicated to ensuring the future of mountain biking in the Triangle area of North Carolina through the promotion of responsible riding, establishment and maintenance of mountain biking trails, and preservation of North Carolina’s natural resources.

  • Build membership using online social media
  • Build thought leadership using blogging
  • Create LinkedIn group to harness corporate sponsorships and increase club awareness

8) KS Personal Branding

  • Develop multi-author blog
  • Goal of Klout score of 35 by graduation
  • Convert videogame to open source

9) CT Personal Branding

  • Polish Facebook page for more professional look
  • Follow appropriate professionals on Twitter and re-tweet relevant topics
  • Update profile
  • Join the Women’s initiative network at employer
  • Complete informational interviews to network with prospective hiring departments at current employer

10) Tinted Image is a window film application company

  • Utilize Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn
  • Harness recommendations from satisfied customers
  • Use reviews to engage customers in conversation

11) Schneider Electric (SE) is a global specialist in energy management focused on offering its customers energy efficient solutions that reduce energy consumption up to 30 percent.

  • Use focus groups to understand how customers want to engage with company
  • Be flexible in using social media

12) @MysteryCoach, an online long-distance running training system

  • Distribute training system through website and e-book
  • Give away samples of e-book to influential running bloggers
  • Use social media sites (YouTube, Twitter, FB, Google+, WordPress, AdWords and SEO) to advertise and develop circle of users for engagement/conversation

If you have any feedback for my students, please send them a tweet @MeredithMBA.  I know they would love to hear from you!


The Role of Luck in Life, and Why Not to be a Greedy Leader

Here’s a terrific Baccalaureate speech by Michael Lewis, Princeton Class of 1982.  It’s worth reading in its entirety:

Princeton University’s 2012 Baccalaureate Remarks

Posted June 3, 2012; 04:17 p.m.  by Staff
“Don’t Eat Fortune’s Cookie”

Michael Lewis
June 3, 2012 — As Prepared

(NOTE: The video of Lewis’ speech as delivered is available on the Princeton YouTube channel.)

Thank you. President Tilghman. Trustees and Friends. Parents of the Class of 2012. Above all, Members of the Princeton Class of 2012. Give yourself a round of applause. The next time you look around a church and see everyone dressed in black it’ll be awkward to cheer. Enjoy the moment.

Thirty years ago I sat where you sat. I must have listened to some older person share his life experience. But I don’t remember a word of it. I can’t even tell you who spoke. What I do remember, vividly, is graduation. I’m told you’re meant to be excited, perhaps even relieved, and maybe all of you are. I wasn’t. I was totally outraged. Here I’d gone and given them four of the best years of my life and this is how they thanked me for it. By kicking me out.

At that moment I was sure of only one thing: I was of no possible economic value to the outside world. I’d majored in art history, for a start. Even then this was regarded as an act of insanity. I was almost certainly less prepared for the marketplace than most of you. Yet somehow I have wound up rich and famous. Well, sort of. I’m going to explain, briefly, how that happened. I want you to understand just how mysterious careers can be, before you go out and have one yourself.

I graduated from Princeton without ever having published a word of anything, anywhere. I didn’t write for the Prince, or for anyone else. But at Princeton, studying art history, I felt the first twinge of literary ambition. It happened while working on my senior thesis. My adviser was a truly gifted professor, an archaeologist named William Childs. The thesis tried to explain how the Italian sculptor Donatello used Greek and Roman sculpture — which is actually totally beside the point, but I’ve always wanted to tell someone. God knows what Professor Childs actually thought of it, but he helped me to become engrossed. More than engrossed: obsessed. When I handed it in I knew what I wanted to do for the rest of my life: to write senior theses. Or, to put it differently: to write books.

Then I went to my thesis defense. It was just a few yards from here, in McCormick Hall. I listened and waited for Professor Childs to say how well written my thesis was. He didn’t. And so after about 45 minutes I finally said, “So. What did you think of the writing?”

“Put it this way” he said. “Never try to make a living at it.”

And I didn’t — not really. I did what everyone does who has no idea what to do with themselves: I went to graduate school. I wrote at nights, without much effect, mainly because I hadn’t the first clue what I should write about. One night I was invited to a dinner, where I sat next to the wife of a big shot at a giant Wall Street investment bank, called Salomon Brothers. She more or less forced her husband to give me a job. I knew next to nothing about Salomon Brothers. But Salomon Brothers happened to be where Wall Street was being reinvented—into the place we have all come to know and love. When I got there I was assigned, almost arbitrarily, to the very best job in which to observe the growing madness: they turned me into the house expert on derivatives. A year and a half later Salomon Brothers was handing me a check for hundreds of thousands of dollars to give advice about derivatives to professional investors.

Now I had something to write about: Salomon Brothers. Wall Street had become so unhinged that it was paying recent Princeton graduates who knew nothing about money small fortunes to pretend to be experts about money. I’d stumbled into my next senior thesis.

I called up my father. I told him I was going to quit this job that now promised me millions of dollars to write a book for an advance of 40 grand. There was a long pause on the other end of the line. “You might just want to think about that,” he said.


“Stay at Salomon Brothers 10 years, make your fortune, and then write your books,” he said.

I didn’t need to think about it. I knew what intellectual passion felt like — because I’d felt it here, at Princeton — and I wanted to feel it again. I was 26 years old. Had I waited until I was 36, I would never have done it. I would have forgotten the feeling.

The book I wrote was called “Liar’s Poker.”  It sold a million copies. I was 28 years old. I had a career, a little fame, a small fortune and a new life narrative. All of a sudden people were telling me I was born to be a writer. This was absurd. Even I could see there was another, truer narrative, with luck as its theme. What were the odds of being seated at that dinner next to that Salomon Brothers lady? Of landing inside the best Wall Street firm from which to write the story of an age? Of landing in the seat with the best view of the business? Of having parents who didn’t disinherit me but instead sighed and said “do it if you must?” Of having had that sense of must kindled inside me by a professor of art history at Princeton? Of having been let into Princeton in the first place?

This isn’t just false humility. It’s false humility with a point. My case illustrates how success is always rationalized. People really don’t like to hear success explained away as luck — especially successful people. As they age, and succeed, people feel their success was somehow inevitable. They don’t want to acknowledge the role played by accident in their lives. There is a reason for this: the world does not want to acknowledge it either.

I wrote a book about this, called “Moneyball.” It was ostensibly about baseball but was in fact about something else. There are poor teams and rich teams in professional baseball, and they spend radically different sums of money on their players. When I wrote my book the richest team in professional baseball, the New York Yankees, was then spending about $120 million on its 25 players. The poorest team, the Oakland A’s, was spending about $30 million. And yet the Oakland team was winning as many games as the Yankees — and more than all the other richer teams.

This isn’t supposed to happen. In theory, the rich teams should buy the best players and win all the time. But the Oakland team had figured something out: the rich teams didn’t really understand who the best baseball players were. The players were misvalued. And the biggest single reason they were misvalued was that the experts did not pay sufficient attention to the role of luck in baseball success. Players got given credit for things they did that depended on the performance of others: pitchers got paid for winning games, hitters got paid for knocking in runners on base. Players got blamed and credited for events beyond their control. Where balls that got hit happened to land on the field, for example.

Forget baseball, forget sports. Here you had these corporate employees, paid millions of dollars a year. They were doing exactly the same job that people in their business had been doing forever.  In front of millions of people, who evaluate their every move. They had statistics attached to everything they did. And yet they were misvalued — because the wider world was blind to their luck.

This had been going on for a century. Right under all of our noses. And no one noticed — until it paid a poor team so well to notice that they could not afford not to notice. And you have to ask: if a professional athlete paid millions of dollars can be misvalued who can’t be? If the supposedly pure meritocracy of professional sports can’t distinguish between lucky and good, who can?

The “Moneyball” story has practical implications. If you use better data, you can find better values; there are always market inefficiencies to exploit, and so on. But it has a broader and less practical message: don’t be deceived by life’s outcomes. Life’s outcomes, while not entirely random, have a huge amount of luck baked into them. Above all, recognize that if you have had success, you have also had luck — and with  luck comes obligation. You owe a debt, and not just to your Gods. You owe a debt to the unlucky.

I make this point because — along with this speech — it is something that will be easy for you to forget.

I now live in Berkeley, California. A few years ago, just a few blocks from my home, a pair of researchers in the Cal psychology department staged an experiment. They began by grabbing students, as lab rats. Then they broke the students into teams, segregated by sex. Three men, or three women, per team. Then they put these teams of three into a room, and arbitrarily assigned one of the three to act as leader. Then they gave them some complicated moral problem to solve: say what should be done about academic cheating, or how to regulate drinking on campus.

Exactly 30 minutes into the problem-solving the researchers interrupted each group. They entered the room bearing a plate of cookies. Four cookies. The team consisted of three people, but there were these four cookies. Every team member obviously got one cookie, but that left a fourth cookie, just sitting there. It should have been awkward. But it wasn’t. With incredible consistency the person arbitrarily appointed leader of the group grabbed the fourth cookie, and ate it. Not only ate it, but ate it with gusto: lips smacking, mouth open, drool at the corners of their mouths. In the end all that was left of the extra cookie were crumbs on the leader’s shirt.

This leader had performed no special task. He had no special virtue. He’d been chosen at random, 30 minutes earlier. His status was nothing but luck. But it still left him with the sense that the cookie should be his.

This experiment helps to explain Wall Street bonuses and CEO pay, and I’m sure lots of other human behavior. But it also is relevant to new graduates of Princeton University. In a general sort of way you have been appointed the leader of the group. Your appointment may not be entirely arbitrary. But you must sense its arbitrary aspect: you are the lucky few. Lucky in your parents, lucky in your country, lucky that a place like Princeton exists that can take in lucky people, introduce them to other lucky people, and increase their chances of becoming even luckier. Lucky that you live in the richest society the world has ever seen, in a time when no one actually expects you to sacrifice your interests to anything.

All of you have been faced with the extra cookie. All of you will be faced with many more of them. In time you will find it easy to assume that you deserve the extra cookie. For all I know, you may. But you’ll be happier, and the world will be better off, if you at least pretend that you don’t.

Never forget: In the nation’s service. In the service of all nations.

Thank you.

And good luck.


The role of B-Schools in preparing women for leadership roles (and others)

An article in Forbes is critical of business schools, claiming that they don’t do a good job preparing women for the multiple roles that they will play when they graduate. The author claims that b-schools focus exclusively on the roles at work and fail to help women (and men) plan ahead for how their work will eventually affect their lives, as well.

As a 1988 MBA graduate of the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, I am happy to be able to disagree.  I didn’t realize it at the time, but a panel discussion I attended one weekend during b-school completely changed my perspective on life and how I made decisions regarding work and family.

Many of my female colleagues (who at the time made up approximately 30% of the MBA class; I think that number is similar today even though my school is missing from this list!) were not married (like me) and did not have children, but were still interested in hearing about life after b-school.  These women spoke honestly and candidly about the fact that women, more so than men, would have multiple lives and roles after b-school.  They presented us with the stark facts that by virtue of getting married and having children, we would make career decisions that would take us off the path we had in mind today which would ultimately lead us to have several different career paths.  “What?!  I was going to be a CEO by 30!”

As I veered off this path for the first time as we moved to State College, Pennsylvania.   I was filled with dread after I left my job, but I was not surprised.  I had been prepared for this by the panel of alums who alerted us to the fact that we might have to choose between our marriage and a promotion one day, which I had done.  As a result, I discovered a new passion and career path, college teaching.  As a result of that new road taken, I am now a b-school professor myself.  Now, it is my turn to prepare a new generation of women for the speed bumps ahead in life and work.


Penn State’s Leaders Didn’t Consider Stakeholders in Responding to the Sandusky Scandal

As horrible as the alleged crimes are that Jerry Sandusky is accused of committing, it’s even more shocking that Penn State University’s academic leadership, in particular President Graham Spanier, failed to keep Penn State’s board of trustees fully informed of what may have transpired and what academic officials told the grand jury.  Karen was interviewed today in the Pittsuburgh Tribune-Review about the lack of a comprehensive crisis response:

Other public relations mistakes — such as firing Paterno by phone, inflaming a mob of students who rioted in Happy Valley — suggest the school’s leaders acted before identifying all the stakeholders they needed to appease, said Karen Mishra, a business professor at Meredith College in Raleigh, who focuses on crisis management and is writing a book about that subject. Mishra taught at Penn State in the mid-1990s.

Erickson, the former provost who took over as Penn State president, started to remedy those early mistakes with a promise of openness and transparency and his three town hall meetings last week to answer alumni’s questions, Mishra said.

“You want to let people know, ‘We’re on top of this. Even if we don’t know everything, we’re going to get the answers quickly,'” Mishra said.

Many alumni, however, vented at Erickson about the university’s board of trustees. Erickson said Penn State is creating a website on which it will post online updates on the school’s response, including contracts for Erickson and football coaches, as well as those for outside consultants and lawyers. Those postings were supposed to come this week but are now expected next week, a spokeswoman said.

Full disclosure:  Karen and I were both business school professors at Penn State from 1992-1997, and have some dear friends who played for the football team during that period.


Delta College Bucks National Trend and Offers Tenure-Track and Tenured Status to Faculty

In an article in Inside Higher Ed, a community college in Michigan recently decided to improve the status of many of its faculty:

Delta College, a two-year institution located in Michigan, has moved to make all of its full-time faculty positions either tenured or tenure-track. That means about 55 instructors at Delta have the option of replacing their one-year renewable contracts with tenure-track status.

The decision bucks a trend toward the hiring of adjunct professors and keeping them off the tenure track, at community colleges and across most of higher education. And the conversion of existing positions to tenured, as opposed to just hiring new professors, is considered the Holy Grail for adjunct advocates.

Officials at the college said their goals are better teaching and showing respect for professors. They also said the move won’t cost much, and will help in recruiting new faculty members.

“We truly believe that having tenure or tenure-track faculty is a commitment to our students,” said Thomas Lane, vice president of instruction and learning services at the college. Part of the reason, he said, is that tenured faculty can focus on students and teaching instead of worrying about “are they still going to be here” after their contract expires.

Delta is a mid-sized community college, with 11,495 students who are taught by 225 full-time faculty members (including the 55 who have been off the tenure track) and 324 part-time adjuncts. The full-timers will have the option of converting to tenure-track, a choice Lane suspects most, if not all, will make.

Relatively few faculty members at community colleges have tenure, and that percentage is shrinking.

Research from the American Federation of Teachers found that in 2007, only 17.5 percent of faculty members at public two-year institutions held either tenure or tenure-track status. About 43 percent of new hires among full-time faculty members at community colleges are tenure-track, said Craig Smith, AFT’s deputy director of higher education, and those numbers are “going down.”

A tenured professor is far more likely than an adjunct to serve on a curriculum committee. That’s good for the curriculum, because classroom insights are obviously valuable. And Smith said that professor is likely to feel more engaged with the curriculum than would a faculty member who was merely on the receiving end of curriculum shifts.

To the extent that these faculty do indeed respond to Delta College’s offer of improved status by contributing more to the curriculum and life of the college, students will end up winners as well.


CNN Needs to Go Back to Journalism School and Learn its ABC’s

I was taking a lunch break yesterday with my interns and eating in the lunchroom in which a t.v. shows CNN all the time right above the lunch table.  As the subject was Millennials, “Slacktivists,” and social media, I paid some attention (one of my interns belongs to the Millennial generation).  This is what I saw:

Notice what’s wrong?  If you’re a fellow graduate of Ms. Matthew’s 9th grade English class from Okemos High School, or any other decent college preparatory curriculum, and then had constant practice in writing throughout college, as I did, you’d immediately realize that “Affect” should be “Effect.”

The video went on for at least a couple of minutes, a lifetime in television, and yet the title was never corrected.  I think CNN’s staff should pay less attention to social media perhaps, and more to traditional media, i.e., the written word.


Mobile Mish-Man

We’ve been quite busy planning our move back to North Carolina, and I’ve actually moved ahead of Karen and the kids to start my job at as Vice President of Curriculum and Faculty Relations where I’ll be representing 2tor as it partners with UNC Chapel Hill’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business to launch its unique and pathbreaking online MBA program.  It’s truly the job of a lifetime in which I’ll be able to pursue my passion for innovative business education with a great company and a great business school.

So, in addition to not having any time to blog, I’ve also had to set up temporary living quarters in Chapel Hill until the rest of the family moves here in June.  I’m going to use this post to start listing the must haves/must do’s and other lessons learned from being a bachelor for three months:

1.   Internet service at home.  Got that set up today.  Now I’m not dependent on reading the Wall Street Journal or New York Times on my iPhone 4 when in my apartment, which was certainly not ideal.

2.  Nonetheless, I still depend heavily on my iPhone for contact management, GPS, internet when I’m not using my laptop, social networking, and of course, making phone calls.

3. for outfitting my apartment with dishes and utensils, bedsheets and blankets, and everything else I need that is still back in Okemos, Michigan for now.


5.  Bed, Bath and Beyond email sign-up for those 20% off coupons.

6.  Groupon

7.  Livingsocial

Our leaders are heroes, too

There is a great article in the NY Times about a new effort at Stanford to help middle school students embrace the qualities of heroes.  The professor who started the Heroic Imagination Project describes heroes as “an ordinary person who does something extraordinary.”  We’ve often described our trustworthy leaders this way, as well.  Folks who stepped up and took a risk to be more reliable, open, competent and compassionate than others and ultimately made a difference in other people’s lives.

I think this project is a great way to get teenagers to think about how they can get outside of themselves and do something for someone else.  Middle school is the time to start, before they get all wrapped up in themselves in highschool.  Who knows, we might get the added bonus of heroes who build trust in their communities.

What do you think?