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MBA - About the MBA

Venturing Into the Unknown with an MBA Degree

This article is sponsored by Duke Fuqua School of Business

Living Purposefully:

I was determined to earn an MBA, believing the degree would be one of the greatest investments I chose to make in myself. Simultaneously, it felt like a huge gamble. Women often experience these mental gymnastics syndrome where our brain is filled with the “what if” scenarios when taking on new challenges. As a woman of color (WoC), I can attest the mental battle felt even more intense than my non-black counterparts, as I aspired to connect both professional success and personal fulfillment.

Initially, I attempted to undergo the application journey alone to avoid being talked out of the MBA degree. I quickly realize that this process was not designed to be done in seclusion. Consequently, I joined the Forté inaugural MBALaunch program surrounding myself with other like-minded women.

The Impact of Community: 

After graduating from the Forté MBALaunch program, it was several years before I joined Duke’s Fuqua School of Business, Weekend Executive program. Looking back, the timing when I joined the Fuqua Class of 2020 was worth the wait. The year 2020 was an unforgettable time with witnessing racial discrimination amid COVID-19. Ironically, I am grateful I was pursuing an MBA during the chaos because I was able to witness how a strong business school community builds character and creativity amongst students during crisis.

Community and connection were one of the many things that refined me. Before COVID-19, I suggested having a WoC dinner to connect current students with alumni minority women. Eventually, I witnessed this initiative occur virtually as an alumnus. Fuqua taught me that the essence of leadership are individuals who go beyond themselves to directly address differences with dignity. This philosophy helped me to identify my blind spots that were potentially hindering my leadership and critical thinking skills. I embraced the feedback and turned those imperfections into gold so that I could shine in the business world. I learned to be unapologetic with being bold. Analyzing various industry cases re-shifted my perspective on problem solving. My inner transformation landed me more responsibilities at work, which attracted senior management attention.

Advantages in Diversity:

To maintain balance, I made soft promises to myself to avoid burnout and involved myself with activities that sparked joy within me. I took on leadership initiatives and enrolled in supplemental classes. Under the tutelage of a professor, I completed an independent research paper and was appointed as the Diversity and Inclusion Fellow. Additionally, I completed an experimental consulting project alongside my peers where we suggested to a non-profit organization how they can bring value to their stakeholders. This past year as a WoC I learned the power of playing small is a disservice to our non-black peers as our voice matters, and we should never discount who we are. Often, women life stories are powerful and uniquely crafted, hence, when we choose to collaborate is when real change occurs. Business school was undeniably tough, however, it stretched me in unimaginable ways.

– Nady Gustave
Duke’s Fuqua School of Business Weekend Executive program, Class of 2020

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