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Fridays from the Frontline: How Gaining Leadership Experience at Fuqua Transformed Me

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Commencement ceremonies currently abound for the MBA Classes of 2019, and many new graduates are reflecting back on their transformational two-year student experience.  While many MBA dreamers may just be starting their applications while first-years tackle their internships, we wanted to showcase the positive perspective after the two-year journey of a full-time MBA program.

Janette Hwang, a second-year MBA student at Duke Fuqua, took to the Fuqua blog to share how she took on leadership responsibilities she never imagined during business school—and how the journey transformed her.

The following piece has been republished in its entirety from its original source, the Duke Fuqua blog.

How Gaining Leadership Experience at Fuqua Transformed Me

Janette Hwang, Fuqua MBA Class of 2019

by Janette Hwang
June 3, 2019

The final term of my second year at Fuqua has come to an end, and it was another term full of emails, calls, and busy schedules. People usually worship second-year MBA life as the most chill period of the business school experience. It seems like the reality was different, at least for me.

However, it was not surprising considering what I did this year. I was a marketing fellow, a position that writes student blogs and helps provide social media content for the school. I served as a cabinet member of three different MBA Association subgroups—technology, international affairs, and diversity. And I worked on developing a design thinking curriculum in support of the Design and Innovation Club. What is surprising is the fact that before Fuqua, I had never tried to be in a leadership position in my life.

Before Fuqua, I thought leadership positions were not for me. It was not because of the lack of confidence, but because of the burden of the commitment that is required. I was not sure what I should focus on and afraid to make a bad decision and lead people in the wrong direction. Also, I was reluctant to spend my time working with someone I do not know.

That being said, I am amazed how Fuqua transformed me in this short time. All the leadership positions I had are ones I applied for with passion and enthusiasm. Nobody here asked me to be a leader like my parents did during my childhood days. I think it happened because Fuqua’s culture empowered me.

In general, people at Fuqua love to help. I have seen many cases where students spend their time to help prospective students, classmates, and others, while they already have so many things on their to-do list. What impresses me is not just the amount of help they are giving, but how happy they are offering that help. I can feel the genuine joy of sharing and support, which makes Team Fuqua so real and unique. As a Fuqua student, I grew my first year with a lot of help from my friends, coaches, professors, and the Fuqua staff. The experience made me actively want to participate in this ‘community of help.’

Also, the diversity of Fuqua helped me to find what I care the most about. The school has so many students from different backgrounds, experiences, and views. In and out of the classroom, I appreciated the quality of thoughts and knowledge everyone brought to Fuqua, as well as the variance of the topics and issues which I would have never examined unless I was here. Throughout the conversations I had, I realized there are some topics I am most passionate about, and this is how I found the areas where I wanted to commit my time. This passion guided me when considering which groups to join and leadership roles to pursue, and I appreciate that I got the opportunity to work on topics that were meaningful to me.

Lastly, Fuqua’s open and supportive community allowed me to make some things happen. Fuqua is a student-led school, which means it gives lots of authority to students to mold their time at Fuqua. From my past educational experience, I was used to getting what the school provides to me, and it was hard to make a change in the system. However, I witnessed so many changes at Fuqua accomplished by students last year, from the facilities to the classroom and club activities. Personally, I communicated with tech companies and tested with students to bring new software to improve the technology infrastructure of Fuqua, and worked on the design thinking curriculum. It is impressive that a student can help transform the school and create a legacy, and that really motivated me. I believe the processes I went through in gaining leadership experience will empower me long after graduation.

With all the positions I signed up for during my time at Fuqua, I created a lot of work for myself. However, I was excited to grow personally and achieve success for our community. I am no longer afraid of the commitment or failure that can come with being a leader anymore, because of Fuqua’s supportive and empowering culture. Thank you Fuqua, for this life-long lesson!

Jonathan Pfeffer
Jonathan Pfeffer joined the Clear Admit and MetroMBA teams in 2015 after spending several years as an arts/culture writer, editor, and radio producer. In addition to his role as Contributing Writer at MetroMBA and Contributing Editor at Clear Admit, he was also a co-founder of the Clear Admit MBA Admissions Podcast. He holds a BA in Film/Video, Ethnomusicology, and Media Studies from Oberlin College.