It was only when I walked into the Student Life Center and saw the assembled mass that I realized I had thrown myself into an awfully big, and awfully difficult, adventure.
We are all coming to Vanderbilt from wildly different walks of life. We are doctors and lawyers, we are investment bankers and stock traders, we are engineers and entrepreneurs. I’m arriving from the music industry, having spent the last few years running a label in New York. Every one of us has a different skill set, and we are all approaching the new opportunity of the MBA program with a unique and ready mindset.
And by the time lunch rolled around, everyone I met felt like they were staggering from the amount that had been thrown at us. Here are the people with whom you’re going to work and play for the next two years. Here are the professors, the administrators, the colleagues. Here are concepts which you’re going to be expert in shortly, but which currently feel like a foreign language. Then there’s a tremendous success story from an incredible speaker to show you what Owen and life after might be like for you. Oh, and there’s going to be a lot of math.
The mind reels. It is noon on Monday, and the next scheduled break is Saturday. I look around the room and see an odd mix on everyone’s faces. The future business leaders of America are exhausted and overwhelmed, but they are also invigorated and tremendously excited. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a group of people look tired and alert in equal measure. Thirty-six hours previous to this I had a guitar in my hand, singing “Thunder Road” out to an assembled crowd in an upstate New York auditorium. Now I was in a suit, furiously taking notes so as to not miss a single thing about my new life at Vanderbilt. If I was venturing on my own, I would feel as if I was drowning. Each new person I meet reminds me that’s not the case.
We are all in this together. When I spend the afternoon grappling with my old nemesis statistics, when I realize that most of the first mod will be spent apologizing to Professor Cooil for being a rank moron, I remember that there are one-hundred-seventy-odd of us in the program, and every one is feeling similarly about some aspect of it. Each member of the Class of 2014 can tell a different story about how we got here, how we have been thrown in together and now are expected to conquer every challenge that confronts us. We all have different expectations and different fears. To some of us Nashville is old hat, their established home. Others are still trying to set up their apartments while dealing with orientation and classes.
What we have in common? We’re all new to Owen. This program, this place, these people are our grand adventure for the next few years. As orientation passes in a blur, as we shuttle ourselves from stats review to dinner at Cabana to CMC overviews to service projects to lectures on the library and OSGA and how to speak to a global audience, it becomes clear that every bit of this is real. Maybe the MBA track isn’t our first rodeo. Each member of the class has been out in the world, and we all thought we knew what being back in school was going to be like. But this is no dress rehearsal. Nothing is going to slow down to accommodate us, not even during orientation. So I’m learning to get up before the sun to get my to-do list out of the way. I’m studying the map of Nashville to make sure I can always find a quick bite between classes, get my shirts laundered to look crisp for recruiters, blow off some steam on a Thursday night. I’m preparing myself for the breakneck pace of the Owen Graduate School of Management, and I am sure that all my compatriots are doing the same thing.
Because it all starts here. And we better be ready.