Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Grad & MBA Orientation

My Goddess, you can't even begin to imagine all the wonderful young people on this campus! Two that I met and chatted with for a time stand out: Stephanie, a tall, slender African-American who has been working since she was 13. She's the first in her family to go to college and figured out the ropes on her own. She earned her B.A. at U.C. Berkeley, working the whole time to put herself through. Berkeley, she said, gave her more than an education; it taught her self-reliance. She's been working I.T. at a non-profit for several years and got laid off. She's starting her Masters in computer science and is hoping to be able to only go to school and not work for at least one semester. I hope she gets her wish - I know she'll do well.

The other stand out is a young man (yes, Mills accepts men but very few apply), who is a part of my cohort in the MBA program. He was raised in East Oakland and Richmond, CA. As he put it, "there were 12 of us on my street who started school as kids together. Today, 8 are dead, 2 are in jail, and the other is mentally retarded. Then there's me ..." He's working at an AIDS non-profit and will be pursuing his MBA concurrently. He wants to get his doctorate and become a professor, particularly so he can help young people of color. I have no doubt that he'll accomplish this and much more.

I tell these stories because I think the young people of today often get a really bad rap. I think they are smart, experienced, insightful, sensitive, aware, and brimming with an authentic desire for social change and good. I love them and I'm so grateful to be among them.

There's also a good proportion of mid-lifers like me in the program, probably 15%, which is reassuring (I'm not the only lunatic). I haven't had the chance to talk with all of them, but those I did chat with shared similar stories and goals; e.g., laid off, bored to tears with previous job, seeking growth through education, and looking for a change.

I want to mention that another part of my decision to return to grad school is in honor of the spirit of my friend, Willie Neiman. Willie and I earned our Anthropology Masters together and remained good friends over the years. We always talked about how we were going to go back to school one day (he was brilliant). He died of cancer last year at age 53. I'm sure he's hangin' on Mt. Olympus with Zeus thrusting lightening bolts, and traipsing off from time to time to help Thor wield his hammer. Willie's spirit keeps me strong and resolute in my decision. "Full throttle," Willie!

Back to Mills ... We're the first class in the new Lorry Lokey Graduate School of Business building and it's magnificent! It's super modern and green, with an incredible garden rooftop that you can see when on the second floor. We have plush chairs, state of the art technology, and that awesome newness everywhere. It feels like a fine place to be spending my time! I have my first class tomorrow - Negotiations. Can't wait!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why, OH why would I do such a thing?

Crazy, courageous, ridiculous, delusional, brilliant or all of the above? These, and many more such thoughts, have bounced and bounded around my brain since deciding to earn my MBA at the age of 50. So, here’s my story:

I’ve been employed as a managing editor for the past 17 years, nearly 13 of which have been with the same company. My job has been that of a content editor for an enormous history, social science, humanities curricula called the Paragon Curriculum®, which is implemented in Mosaica Education, Inc. schools around the nation (it’s a proprietary program). My job has been very gratifying— I’ve learned so much and have worked with wonderful people. But, the curriculum is done, finished, complete— nearly 40,000 pages— and I’ve been laid off.

So, I’m at a crossroad. I’ve thought deeply and earnestly about what I want and going back and working at what I’ve been doing just isn’t resonating. I went through a serious health challenge a few years back, which is still affecting me. I have an acoustic neuroma, which is a type of a benign brain tumor. I’ll write more about it another time, but for now it is suffice to say that working at a computer for 8 – 10 hours a day, five days a week, which is required of my job, is way too challenging. I want a change and I feel it is in my best interest to seek a change, so I started considering graduate school.

I already have a Masters degree in Anthropology, which has served me very well. Yet, it’s been a long held dream to create my own business. It’s been fascinating to witness the growth of Mosaica Education, Inc. and, as the first employee hired, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of a start-up company. While I want to form my own business, I seriously lack so many of the skills necessary to do so—accounting, finance, marketing, advertising, and so on. When one earns a degree in the social sciences like I did, one does not even dabble in these disciplines. So, I decided that a MBA would be a great choice!

I’m enrolled at Mills College in Oakland, CA and classes begin on August 26th. Please come with me as I chronicle my journey of earning a MBA @ 50!