Joel Huber colored outside the lines before joining the Fuqua faculty 21 years ago. After completing his undergraduate degree at Princeton, Huber continued on to the Wharton School for his MBA. Contrary to custom, he then began teaching high school mathematics during the Vietnam War era. Ultimately, Huber returned to higher education with teaching stints at Purdue and Columbia before moving south to Fuqua. “Business school has changed so radically in 20 years,” he says. “It’s been very exciting to be part of that change.”
Juggle Heavier Balls
Fuqua adheres to a term system. Basically, we have divided a normal semester into two terms. Students here take three courses each term, or six courses in the same amount of time that students at other business schools usually take five. The balls are heavier here, but there are only three in the air at one time. We did that because we found students were getting lost when they had five balls in the air.
Now, students are learning to be very quick studies — starting up and closing down in record time. All our courses have pre-assignments because we have only basically seven weeks to teach each course. We think this system is very similar to what happens in business. When a project is over, it’s over.
In some ways, the core curriculum at Fuqua is like boot camp. It’s extremely hard, and very fast. Students don’t think they’re going to make it, but they do. Once they learn to be soldiers, we teach them how to be smart soldiers, and how to specialize their skills outside the core. Once they learn to take orders, they can learn to give orders in the business world.
Adapt to Upheaval
At the beginning of the first year, students are assigned to a study team that Fuqua enforces for two terms. After the second term, that team is dissolved and students are given a new one.
We dissolve the teams because after the second term, teams tend to suffer one of two problems. Some teams are dysfunctional and haven’t conjured up a solution. The team from hell either doesn’t get along, or it has a free rider or an incompetent member. Sometimes those teams are fixable, but often they’re not. The other team fault is excessive efficiency — and that’s much more common. For example, a team with a good writer may rely on that person to do all the writing, and the remainder of the team may find themselves unable to speak knowledgeably about the paper they just turned in. If a student’s name appears on something, they should know it inside and out. Truthfully, we could care less how many papers the teams produce, we just want them to learn.
Consider Summer School
Students who have avoided quantitative activities since taking undergraduate calculus need to refresh those skills. Similarly, those who have done very little writing since freshman English need to build their communication skills. Courses such as financial accounting move very fast, and a person who has not worked with accounting numbers should do substantial preparation.
As part of the admissions process, Fuqua gives students substantial advice about the areas they need to develop before school begins. We also offer one-week computer and math camps to help our students get up to speed. And for the 34 percent of our students who are not US citizens, we offer a five-week intensive language course designed to get them up to speed.
Do Everything in Moderation
The most common mistake among first-year students is demonstrating a lack of balance. Some students spend 80 hours per week on courses, neglecting their job search and personal life. Others spend almost all their time on the job search, and focus too much on courses that develop short-term skills helpful in the first job. Too often, students fail to realize the value of developing strategic and interpersonal skills that will not pay dividends until five or ten years after business school. These skills include learning from and helping other students, providing leadership for clubs and activities, and taking courses that develop their skills as general managers.
Polish All Skills Equally
Students need to explore different ways of approaching problems and different management styles. It is not enough to be an outstanding financial analyst, future managers also need to be able to communicate and sell that analysis to people who do not understand it. It is not enough to be able to execute market plans beautifully, managers also need to be able to train people to take over for them. It is not enough to recommend an appropriate restructuring plan, they also have to implement it. Thus, the successful manager needs to have a broad range of talents and the wisdom to know when they should be applied.
Don’t Expect Uniformity in Curriculum
Fuqua does not have any standard teaching method. Professors try to use the method that best fits the learning goals. For example, statistics is taught by problem sets and carefully crafted cases. Marketing is taught by a combination of readings and broad-based cases. Finance begins like statistics, with a focus on particular quantitative skills, but by the time students take the capstone Restructuring course, they are required the apply those skills to complex cases. Finally, entrepreneurship is taught by a combination of readings, mentor experiences, and business plans.
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