My name is Jennifer Telitz and I’m in the broadcast media industry. I’ve been a leader in my industry heading up business development and managing campaign execution for 20 years. The last 16 years have been in the San Diego market.
Going back to school to get my MBA has been on my to-do list for a long time. 2017 is the year I’m crossing it off my list, and I’m now officially part of RIT’s EMBA online class 23!
I started my MBA program search in San Diego. It made sense since there are great schools right in my own backyard. At some point during the process a lightbulb went off over my head giving me the idea to check out my alma mater… RIT! They were cutting edge with online classes when I attended so I figured they would have an amazing online program. My experience right from the very first conversation I had with Amanda Williams was a night and day difference when compared to what I was dealing with at the San Diego schools. Immediately after getting off the phone I knew I found my school. I heard this same sentiment from fellow students during orientation too. Speaking of orientation...
There’s nothing like going back to school to bring any awkward nerves you may have long since forgotten about to the forefront. I went to RIT as an undergrad and lived on campus all 4 years. You might think this would be a benefit and that I wouldn’t have any nerves. Ha! There’s something about going back to school, no matter how old we are, or how successful we are in our careers and personal lives, that brings back first day jitters!
The First Day
As both the online and on campus groups gathered together for breakfast that first day one thing was obvious—everyone was nervous. No one likes ice breakers, but they are effective. We went through a few and they helped us relax a little and get to know each other. Even though we were all from different backgrounds, we were able to come up with pretty lengthy lists of things we had in common. It turned out that everyone was really open, bright, and funny. You expect folks that are accepted into a program like this to have the smarts, but the great sense of humor everyone had was an added bonus!
Midmorning we learned who would be on our individual teams and had a chance to gather and chat with each other. After a quick chat each of our teams worked on a project (making a building out of paper) to highlight how certain assignments can be evaluated in very different ways.
As a whole the online group was small, with teams of 3-4 people each, which created an atmosphere for us to become a tight knit group in a very short amount of time.
Before lunch we had professional photos taken, and we all took turns trying to get each person to laugh during their individual photo session. Who knew a photo session could quickly turn into a team bonding session full of shenanigans?
As part of the afternoon session we took the first half of our Business Ethics class. Dr. Barbato was an engaging teacher and led us in a great discussion. I had forgotten how fast a three-hour class could fly by when you combine a great teacher and interesting material!
Throughout the day there was a strong emphasis on the support we could expect from the faculty and staff. They really wanted to let us know we would have the help we needed during our 16-month program.
The online group wrapped up the first day with a delicious dinner at Max’s. A few of the professors and some of the staff joined us which made for some lively conversations and a lot of laughter.
Thursday: Day 2
It’s another early start to the day as we meet the shuttle at the hotel for a 7am pick up. Any nerves from yesterday are long since gone as the group has bonded after our full day of togetherness.
After breakfast we were all fueled up on coffee and ready for another jam-packed day! We started our morning with a great lesson led by Pat Scanlon, our writing coach for the program. He reminded us to write simply by writing how we speak versus using jargon and unneccesary words. After that session Marty taught us how to navigate MyCourses (the learning management platform) and Zoom (the video conferencing system) which are both key elements of the program.
During a tour of the library we met Jennifer Freer and found out we have access to a huge amount of research and resources. It was a shock to discover how few books are in the library compared to the last time I was in the campus library!
Reviewing our DISC assessments was a great exercise in learning more about the personality types we would be working with in both our individual teams and the larger cohort in general. We participated in a team building exercise at the Red Barn in the afternoon. The activities we did helped drive home some of the same messages we got during our class time about working together with different personalities. It was a chance to put some of what we learned into practice. The overall experience was a combination of uncomfortable moments and some hilarity which made for an interesting and fun afternoon!
After working up an appetite at the Red Barn we were whisked off to enjoy some Dinosaur BBQ at Dr. Barbato’s house. There we had a chance to meet a recent EMBA graduate. Our group peppered him with a bunch of questions, but his message was consistent with what we kept hearing throughout the orientation which was “You get out of the program what you put into the program!” Okay, okay, we hear you!
The first two days of the orientation schedule were packed and kept us all on the go, but it also works really well and runs smoothly. It helps set the pace on what to expect from the program. I ended each day with that strange combination of feeling simultaneously wiped out and energized.
Friday: Last day already?
After breakfast we continued our ethics class discussion with Dr. Barbato. He again had everyone actively participating in the discussion by deliberating multiple ethics cases from various angles. I could have sat in that class all day!
During lunch additional professors we would have throughout the program joined the group. They each took turns positioning their class and getting us excited.
After lunch we met with Dr. Michael Palanski, who provided guidance on best practices regarding team contracts. He also took us through a simple exercise listing all of the potential pitfalls we might encounter working with our cohort. This was followed by a moderated panel discussion where three online EMBA alumni shared their experiences in the program.
Here’s the thing: I could have chosen a program that didn’t require the same amount of collaboration, and gone for my EMBA at a different school flying solo. But I believe my personal and professional growth will be greater because of the cohort format. There’s a reason this program is so highly rated.At the close of the three days I sensed that while the first day jitters were long gone, now we were all nervous about actually starting the program. It made sense. We were about to take on the business world in a whole new way with people we had just met. Are we ready? Bring it on!