Duke MBA 2nd Year Electives Are Amazing

This is a post I wrote a while back. Sorry that I haven't been good at updating my blog lately. I'm writing again so stay tuned for some new posts in the upcoming weeks! Here goes.

I'm currently about half way through my second year of the Duke Fuqua MBA and have taken quite a few electives now. I've written about Fuqua electives toward the end of my first year at Duke and think it's a good time to give an update on my experience with the second year electives. And as the title states, they have been quite amazing.

As you may already know, most students take 7 core courses. That's three in Fall 1, three in Fall 2, and one in Spring 1. Fuqua has 6 week terms so things go by pretty quickly. That means in their first year of the MBA, students can take one elective in Spring 1, and three electives in Spring 2. This allows Fuqua MBA students to take 4 electives prior to their summer internship, which in my view, is a real advantage for students. It exposes them to business concepts ahead of time, which is really valuable for career switchers and allows more time for networking and other things during the summer.

Here are the electives that I've taken so far in my second year:

Fall 1, Second Year Duke MBA:

Managerial Accounting
Venture Capital & Private Equity
Supply Chain Management

Fall 2, Second Year Duke MBA:

Corporate Finance
Leading & Managing Human Assets & Organizational Change

Spring 1, Second Year Duke MBA (currently taking):

Effective Advocacy

Why I Chose These Duke MBA Electives

As you can see the second year electives I've chosen to take are all over the place. They don't really fall under any concentrations that are offered at Fuqua. This was a deliberate choice as I wanted to structure my MBA education to give me the broadest possible perspective on how to run a business. Obviously there's nothing wrong with focusing on a particular business specialty, but I just wanted to explain why my elective choice seems a bit on the unconventional side.

My Experience With Duke MBA 2nd Year Electives

The MBA core courses are a bit like the alphabet, tools to help you understand the language. The MBA electives take it to the next level, and teach you how to use that language. I found the content to be highly relevant and very intellectually stimulating. In my Managerial Accounting class, I was blown away by how accounting could be used as a tool to create incentives and drive change in an organization, and can still recall the debates we had in class as well as individual conversations with the professor, Shane Dikolli.

In my Supply Chain Management class, we learned how to use supply chain costs to design the most optimal procurement system. And in my Corporate Finance course, I learned how to understand the financial deliberations behind business decision making. While it be unlikely that I would use any of these learnings in the first few years after my MBA, they would be important further in my career.

The learning experience is also very fulfilling. Fuqua professors are extremely passionate and engaging as usual, with the difference is mostly in the students. After the internship, my classmates have all had internships in various industries and functions. As a result, I've noticed that student input is much higher in the second year, with students sharing what they've learned during the summer, and asking really good questions. These questions were ones I would never think to ask, and they drove the discussion to a much higher level as professors are challenged. This is but one of the reasons why the classroom experience of an MBA program is so valuable - and one that is hard to replicate even with online learning tools as I discuss here.

Teamwork is also a big component in electives, as it is with the core classes in the first year. A big difference is that teams are either self selected or randomly selected by the professor. Because of this, I was able to work with a lot more people in my class and had the opportunity to learn from them. As one example, I was able to work with many classmates who were previously in the military, something I haven't experienced in my C-Lead team in the first year. I learned much about leadership from them.

Why MBA Electives Are Important

As discussed, I see MBA electives as being important in the long run. As I'll enter a career in marketing, I likely won't use much of what I've learned in the second year electives such as Supply Chain Management or VC/PE in my first role. However, I'm confident that the framework they've provided me has helped build my business thinking skills in a way that I'll be able to revisit them when the need arises later in my career. Topics discussed in classes like Leading & Managing Human Assets & Organizational Change and Managerial Accounting are extremely important for business leaders in companies, and I find it valuable to be exposed to these issues early in one's career.

You can find all the posts I've written on the classroom experience at Duke Fuqua on this page. Feel free to take a look if you're interested.

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