Chapter Eighteen: Back to Say Goodbye

When I originally started writing this blog, I did it as a way to keep people from home up-to-date so that I could get away with not calling my mother every week because I knew that I would lose touch with some people that I used to be close with. Over time, though, the number of readers dwindled, and I figured out that the only people, besides my mother, who were still reading were classmates, friends, and Neeley staff who already knew what was going on because they were living it alongside me! I decided that it wasn’t worth my time, but every now and then I would have classmates ask me when the next blog was coming. So to my classmates, this one is for you. You’ve all made the past 21 months the best of my life, and I can’t imagine going anywhere else, so below I’ve written something about each of you. It may be a quote, a lesson that we learned together, an experience that we shared, something that makes you amazing, or an inside joke that many people won’t understand. This is my way of saying thank you. Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting me, and thank you for being a part of the best two years of my life. If I’ve shared something that you would like me to remove, please let me know, and if, heaven forbid, I forgot to include you, please let me know that as well.

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The Oncor Case Competition, back before Nick’s hideous beard.

Sid – Lesson learned: if your numbers guy never speaks, when he very adamantly tells you he thinks something is a bad idea, he’s probably right, even if he’s out voted 4-1.

Sean – There’s something about having a roommate who wakes up at 1pm, walks into the living room in his boxers, and starts eating ice cream directly out of the container for “breakfast” that makes you feel better about your own life. I definitely missed that this year.

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The original MBA House, plus Nick, and Nick’s awful beard.

Dante – “It’s not about the steak.”

Morgan – Thank you for not killing me during Neeley & Associates when it was definitely warranted on more than one occasion.

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Couldn’t have picked a better Neeley & Associates team.

Cariel – I think I’m pretty good with kids, and it took less than 20 minutes for your kids to absolutely wear me out, so I have no idea how you do it!

Hung – Your dedication to improve your English is the single most impressive thing I’ve witnessed in my time at Neeley.

Brady – I lamented in November that I hadn’t seen you in a while, and you replied “don’t worry, I’ll be at the gala (in April),” like its normal for friends who live a mile apart to go six months without seeing each other. Also, there was no gala. But I’ll see you at the gala in the Fall!

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Pizza with the Profs. Was this really almost two years ago?

Wenhui – Apparently you can’t save a .CSV file that has two sheets on it. I don’t think either of us will ever make that mistake again!

Louis – I’ll never forget going to happy hour with you before school started and trying to describe to you the difference between regular and light beer.

Colt – Instead of taking video of a bunch of kids jumping on me in South Africa, you could have, ya know, helped me out by occupying a couple of the kids!

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Thanks, Colt

Stephen – What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Just like your money.

Brett – You convinced me to start playing basketball again semi-regularly for the first time since undergrad – I’m not sure that’s a good thing, but I appreciate it!

Chelsea – Said you’d get on stage at the T-Pain concert. Got onstage at the T-Pain concert. And got Chris the best birthday present he’s ever had. Well done.

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The #TCUMBA flag made it many places, but on-stage at a T-Pain, DJ Khaled, and Uncle Luke concert is definitely the most memorable

Van – I knew I was in the right place at Neeley when you told me “whenever I see you you’re always smiling!” because before I got here people always asked me why I was in such a grumpy mood.

Peter –  You were involved in more stuff than anybody else in the program, and have a family, and never once said no if someone asked for any of the little free time that you had left.

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Nobody maneuvers a career fair quite like Peter

Dan – Worst. GSS President. Ever.

Sheila – Why did we think that the name “Blue Fuego” was a good idea…?

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Blue Fuego in all its fifth-place glory

Jose – If IBM assigns me to the Dell account and we end up having to work together again, one of us has to quit our job!

Jeff – I wish we could have played golf more often but you’re too good at golf (or I’m too bad).

Matthew – Booking a flight that leaves in less than eight hours is up there on the best decisions we’ve ever made.

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Ceiling. Roof. Champs.

Helen – Thanks for being the only host of what should have been rotating family dinners.

Roberto – Someday we’ll get you to smile for a photo.

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“I love America. They have big cups.” – Roberto (and he still wouldn’t smile)

Casey – Nobody that’s currently famous was born on 9/20/89… Also, how do you not know how old you are?

Silvana – One of these days you should fix your phone so that we don’t have to communicate via Snapchat or Facebook messenger.

C Metz – Shooters shoot.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year!

 

Adi­ – I don’t think Chris or I can ever eat at Pichi Pachi again.

Hutson – Nobody I’d rather eat zebra with.

Nunley – Nobody I’d rather spend a sixteen-hour layover in Dubai with.

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After 16 hours in Dubai (and eating this guy’s cousin), at least we got to see one shark

Sukrit – It took a year, but you finally learned the concept of my bubble!

Nick – I owe you one for Boston.

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OSHA-standard safety goggles are not the same as beer goggles, even if you’re in a brewery.

Andrew – Nick and I get back from the bar in Boston at 3am, you’re not in our hotel room, so where do we find you? The gym. Because who doesn’t work out at 3am?

Michael – On the off-chance that somebody ever thinks it’s a good idea to marry me, I’m hiring you and Angela as wedding consultants.

Vivek – Best dance moves of anyone in the program.

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Sorry Chris, you got nothing on Vivek’s moves.

Tilley – In intramural basketball history, nobody has run the full-court press quite like you.

Shane – We have literally nothing in common, so it makes perfect sense that we became friends.

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Just curious, Shane, why are Chris and Chris the most prominently displayed males at your wedding?

Lauren – Thank you for putting up with Taylor and me being way too sarcastic during the way too many hours we spent working on the Net Impact case competition!

Eric – You have an incredible ability to be smarter than everybody in the room without making anyone in the room feel like you’re smarter than they are.

Chris – I’m 100% certain that the DFWMSDC implemented exactly zero of our recommendations, and probably never intended to, so in hindsight maybe we shouldn’t have worked as hard.

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Best. Consultants. Ever.

John – You made Morgan & Taylor’s graduation party one of the funniest nights I’ve ever been a part of.

Jenny – I was very surprised when I heard that you wanted to go to the Sloan Conference, and I’m pretty sure you had the best time out of all of us.

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Thanks for putting up with the 3 of us Jenny!

Helga – I thought that it was awesome that you spearheaded the “Culture” nights. We share so much of our culture with the international students, but I know that I was guilty of not always taking the time to learn about where my friends came from.

Dani – You and Silvana planned Mackay Thanksgiving 2015 and it went off without a hitch. You weren’t at Mackay Thanksgiving 2016 and we didn’t have a real turkey. I’m pretty sure those two things are related.

Mackay – My sincerest thanks to you and Larissa for having me over for Thanksgiving the past two years.

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Thanksgiving 2015, with a REAL turkey *cough* Jose…

Taylor – Si se puede! Semi-related: if we ever have to give a presentation together again, let’s make sure we know who is presenting slide 2 before we get into the room…

Jake – Every person should have the opportunity to sit in an ethics class and witness you attempting to make the professor increasingly more uncomfortable until she doesn’t know what to say anymore.

Thanks for the memories, y’all!

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Chapter Seventeen: Who Needs a Clever Title When You’re in Cape Town?

I wanted to write this Thursday on the plane ride home, and I wanted to write this on Friday, and Saturday, and every day since I got back from South Africa, and the words just haven’t come out, but it’s past due time for a blog in general, and especially one recapping my trip to Cape Town, so forgive me if this seems forced, and my apologies in advance if it’s insanely long.

A year ago when choosing which study abroad trip to go on with the TCU MBA program, I had made up my mind to go to Chile. The Italy trip sounded cool, but it didn’t go to Rome, and I want to visit Rome, and I want to do a trip across Europe some day anyway, and I figured that I’d never go to Chile otherwise, so I’d made up my mind. I hadn’t gone to the South Africa table, though, and I really wasn’t interested, but one of my friends dragged me there, where I proceeded to get the single greatest sales pitch that anyone has ever given in world history (Meghan, Amanda, and Stephanie, I owe you big time) about why the trip was so amazing, and by the time I walked out the door I was 100% on board the South Africa trip.

I left a little over three weeks ago on a 15 hour plane ride headed for Dubai. As my first international flight, I didn’t understand that when they dim the lights, that’s when they want you to sleep (nobody ever accused me of being smart), so I watched movies for the first 10 hours, at which point I decided to try to sleep, which is when it started to get light. About two hours of sleep later, we landed in Dubai, and my classmates Matt Nunley and Hutson Prioleau checked into our hotel and decided to go explore on our 16 hour layover. We decided not to go to sleep so that we could get acclimated to the South African time zone quicker upon arrival even though we were all exhausted. Unfortunately, after a quick trip to the Dubai Mall, we discovered that literally everything in Dubai costs money. Lots of it. And if you don’t want to spend lots of money, Dubai is pretty much not anybody’s idea of fun. Did I want to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa? Absolutely. Was I willing to pay $150 to go stand at the top of a really tall building? No.

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Take that is as hot as the Dubai summer: somebody was overcompensating for something when they designed the Burj Khalifa…

Long story short, Dubai was miserable because we refused to go to sleep, and 16 hours is a really long time to kill with nothing to do. Eventually we boarded our flight to Cape Town, and after another miserable 10 hours of flight, we arrived to perfect weather: 70 degrees, sunny, and a nice breeze. That’s my kind of winter weather!

When we got to our hotel, we parked our stuff and walked a couple blocks over to the harbor and walked around a bit before stopping to grab our lunch. It was then that I discovered how great it is to have American money in South Africa – a delicious two-course meal of seafood salad, lobster ravioli, and two beers cost $16, tip included. I can get on board with that!

With our stomachs full, we grabbed an Uber and headed up to Lion’s Head, a small mountain overlooking the city, for a hike. At this point I’d had about 3 hours of sleep in the previous 40 hours, so the tank was just about at empty at this point, but we made it up and down in about 2 hours, and got to the top just as the sun was starting to set. My knee swelled way up in the morning, but it was totally worth it.

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Top of Lion’s Head. Shoutout to the guy scratching his butt for ruining my picture. 

The next morning we had a 3:45am wake-up call to drive two hours to go shark diving, which I anticipated would be the highlight of the trip. Talk about a massive letdown. The company goes where the sharks go, and on this particular day the sharks happened to be in the shallows, which meant that the water was cloudy and the visibility was only about a half meter. Oh well, I can now say that I went shark diving.

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Sharks aren’t that tough…

On the first official day of the trip, we took a trip to the township of Barcelona, one of the poorest areas in Cape Town. We spent the morning at Mama Beauty’s, a day care run out of the home of a woman in the township. We cleaned, killed thousands of cockroaches, gave our best effort at painting the filthy walls, and played with the kids. For me, this was the highlight of the trip. These kids spoke no English, but smiles are the same in every language. They just wanted to be held, spun around, and climb all over us. I doubt that we made any sort of long-term impact on those kids, but I won’t ever forget them.

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Welcome to Barcelona

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Too many kids to pick up!

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It’s all fun and games until the kid in the green starts throwing haymakers…

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Don’t know her name, but I miss her already!

The rest of the trip was filled with visits to entrepreneurial ventures in Cape Town, a safari on a game reserve (really underwhelming, the lions were the lamest, laziest cats I’ve ever seen), and a lot of late nights with awesome people. Cape Town is absolutely the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, and it’s not close. We stayed right in the harbor, and woke up to views of Lion’s Head, Table Mountain, and the harbor. We were less than a ten minute drive from downtown Cape Town, and spent a number of late nights on Long Street sampling the local food and drink. My only gripe about the trip is that our hotel had twin beds, and frankly I’m too tall for that. I definitely missed my own bed more than anything else from home.

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Meeting with the owner of a furniture sales business in the townships at the small business center in Phillippi Village 

Most of the businesses that we visited were fairly forgettable. That’s not a criticism of the trip as much as it is an endorsement of how beautiful and amazing everything else was. One of the last days there, we spent the evening in Camp’s Bay where we had dinner and watched the sun set. I have absolutely no idea what we did the rest of the day, and with a view like this, who can blame me?

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Camp’s Bay

 

On our final day, we decided to hike Table Mountain, which was both awesome and awful. The hike was a steep, rocky two-and-a-half hour hike to the top, and I hated about two-and-a-half hours of it. The view at the top was completely worth it though. We could have just ridden the cable car to the top, but I’m not sure if I would have appreciated it quite as much.

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Staring out over the edge when you don’t like heights was… interesting

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All the way up…

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View of Camp’s Bay from 3600 feet

I chose to go to South Africa because I didn’t think I’d ever go back, but I couldn’t be more wrong. There’s a 100% chance that I go back some day. During our brief time there I didn’t get to go to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point (where the Atlantic and Indian Ocean’s meet) or Robben Island (where Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 years), and because it’s winter in the southern hemisphere we didn’t go to any of the beaches. Those three things alone are enough to make me go back, and since my mother really wants to go on a safari one day, I think it’s a safe bet that I go back on a family vacation one day. With that said, if anybody wants to donate to the cause…

Chapter Sixteen: Sky’s the Limit

I’ve been doing a lot of reflection recently on all of the incredible experiences that I’ve had in the past year, and I often ask myself how I got here. I haven’t really had anything crazy this summer to write about or a way to frame anything, but this past weekend I flew to Charlotte to visit some friends from undergrad and at some point heard one of the most underrated hip-hop songs ever, Notorious B.I.G.’s “Sky’s the Limit” and the song’s final line really put everything that I’ve been thinking into perspective.

Stay far from timid. Only make moves when your heart is in it. And live the phrase ‘sky’s the limit.’

“Sky’s the Limit” – Notorious B.I.G.

Before embarking on this MBA journey, I was timid. I settled too easily. I held two jobs at Onondaga Community College that I cared deeply about, and my heart was in both at first, but the campus community settled for mediocrity. The student services side of the college was struggling to figure out how best to help our students, and the men’s basketball team went 41-46 in my three years there. It certainly wasn’t for lack of effort, but we were mediocre. I wasn’t much fun to be around, and after a while I didn’t have much heart left to put in. I was pretty miserable, and when you’re miserable for long enough, the sky is definitely not the limit. I didn’t know what to do, but I knew that I couldn’t keep doing what I was doing and I decided it was time to make a change.

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As I was thinking about writing this, my friend Marcus posted the above on Facebook, and it summed up exactly how I had felt before I chose to come to TCU. I knew it was time to do…something. If I kept waiting for a sign that was more obvious than the dread that I felt every day when I woke up to go to work, I was going to die waiting for the sign.

I’ve now been in Texas for just over 11 months, and I’m fundamentally a different person than I was a year ago. I’ve grown in ways that I couldn’t even imagine a year ago. I have a confidence that I’ve never had before. When an opportunity is presented to me my default answer is “yes” instead of trying to find any and every reason to say “no.” For the first time in a long time, it really feels like the sky is the limit. Age 26 has been unequivocally the best year of my life.

I say all this because I know that there are people out there who aren’t happy and are thinking about making a change, but aren’t sure if it’s the right time, and to them I would say that it only becomes the right time when you stop thinking that it might be the wrong time. I’ve been telling my friends Rashaun and Ally that I’ll come and visit them in Charlotte for three years now. The first two years that they were in Charlotte, I had income to go visit and a million excuses not to. A month ago, as a student with very little income, I decided it was time to book a flight and go visit, and it was an absolutely awesome weekend and I can’t wait to go back. If I hadn’t decided 18 months ago that I was going to uproot my life and try something different, I’m certain that I’d still be coming up with excuses why I couldn’t make it to Charlotte.

What made Charlotte so awesome? I can’t really describe it. I mean, I can get down with any city that has a beautiful skyline and breweries popping up on any corner.

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Jesus Shuttlesworth jersey spotted at Sycamore Brewing. How can you not love Charlotte?

More than likely, though, it was just spending time with great people who I haven’t seen in a long time. What more can you ask for?

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With Potsdam’s Finest – Ally, Rashaun, and Kristen – who I hadn’t seen in over three years

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I hadn’t seen Katelyn since high school, so naturally we ran into each other within 24 hours of me being in Charlotte. Small world!

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I mean, I saw Dan three weeks ago, but still awesome to see a fellow TCU MBAer!

 

 

 

 

Reflection One: (insert long sigh of relief here)

It’s been 90 hours since I finished my last final of my first year in the TCU MBA program, and in those 90 hours, I’ve done…nothing. Absolutely nothing. It’s absolutely glorious. And it’s completely unbearable.

For the past nine months, I’ve been going 90 miles an hour. The first semester was full of things that I had to do, and the second semester was things that I chose to do, but there wasn’t a time where I didn’t have something in front of me that I was working towards. In START Workshop, we were working towards a case competition. The first 15 weeks of class were built up to the Integrated Project, and the last 15 weeks have been building up to our final Neeley & Associates client presentation. And the entire nine months was spent searching for an internship. Now, it’s completely over, and I have no idea what to do with myself, so I guess it’s a good time to reflect on where I was and where I am.

A little less than a year ago, I hung up my coaching whistle for the last time. I crammed everything that I could fit into my Nissan Sentra and left New York to drive halfway across the country and try something new. I didn’t know if I was making the right choice – I had absolutely no idea what I actually wanted to “do” after getting my MBA – I just knew that I wasn’t happy where I was or doing what I was doing. I’m not a person who takes risks, and yet leaving everything that I knew, easily the biggest risk I’ve ever taken, seemed so safe and exciting. It wasn’t quite running away, but it was putting all of my eggs in the “grass will be greener on the other side” basket.

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Hanging up the whistle

Incredibly, the grass in Texas is actually greener, even though it only rained once in the first three months that I was here. I came in knowing absolutely nothing about, well, anything. Trying to talk with recruiters early on was an absolute nightmare, in part because I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, and in part because I just couldn’t speak the language of business. The career fair in Orlando, while incredibly fun, made me realize how much work I still had to do. The first semester of classes were spent just trying to keep my head above water and retain as much as I could. My GPA was pretty awful (in terms of grad school GPAs anyway), but it was all about just getting by and building a foundation that I could work from when the Spring rolled around.

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#TCUMBA at the NBMBAA Career Fair in Orland

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My first-semester team after our final IP presentation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the past nine months, I’ve taken trips to Orlando, Silicon Valley, Boulder, Boston, and Austin. I’ve had in-depth, no holds barred conversations with the CEOs of Adaptive Insights, Think Finance, and BNSF Railways. I’ve presented to teams of executives from Alcon Vision Care and Toyota. I’ve listened to panels hosted by some of the smartest people in sports, and I toured the headquarters at Twitter. None of these are things that I anticipated happening when I left New York in July. I didn’t know what to expect, but I know that I’m incredibly lucky to have been a part of all of it.

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Sloan Sports Analytics Conference in Boston

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Net Impact Case Competition at CU Boulder

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Next Gen Mobility Challenge in Austin

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Dinner with BNSF Railway CEO Matt Rose

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Don’t get me wrong, it hasn’t all been easy. I am exhausted. I am beaten down. There’s only so many internship rejection emails that you can get before you get burnt out. When I got my first offer, I was happy because I finally had a little bit of leverage. When I thought I had received my second offer, a position that I was actually excited about, I was elated. When I had that offer pulled an hour later because the company realized that they didn’t have the budget to hire someone full-time and I wasn’t interested in a part-time position, I felt like someone had punched me in the gut, especially because I had already turned down the first offer! When I finally landed a position – a marketing project sponsored by Oncor for the DFW Minority Supplier Development Council – my response wasn’t happiness or elation, it was just a long sigh of relief. All of my hard work, and the hard work of everyone at TCU who had helped me along the way, was finally over.

I won’t start my internship for a couple of weeks, so now I’m decompressing. The problem is that I’ve been doing so much and going so fast for the past nine months that now, when I have nothing that I have to do, I feel oddly uncomfortable. I don’t know what to do with my time, and I don’t have much motivation to go find anything to do at the moment. If anybody has any suggestions, I’m all ears, but in the meantime, I think I’m going to go take a nap…

 

Throwback: Inside the Dean Dome

Inside the Dean Dome: My Pilgrimage to College Basketball’s Mecca

Author’s Note: I wrote this in the spring of 2011, shortly after I had the opportunity to visit the Smith Center in Chapel Hill for the UNC-Duke basketball game that decided the 2011 ACC Title. I also got a tour of the facility, which was one of the coolest things I’ve done in my lifetime.

It’s quiet at the bottom of the hill; A little too quiet, actually. Sure it’s only 6:30 and the game doesn’t tip off until 8:00, but this is North Carolina and Duke in Chapel Hill. This is supposed to be the biggest rivalry in all of college sports, the Yankees and Red Sox of the basketball world. I’ve been to plenty of Syracuse University games before, and you can’t hear yourself think if you walk through the SU quad ninety minutes before tipoff.  I can hear the thoughts in my head right now, and they’re thoughts of utter disappointment. There are hundreds of people milling about, mostly students, but they all appear to have no idea where to go, as if this is the first game that they’ve been to all season. These are real fans? Painting your chest and waiting shirtless in line for hours might make you a true fan somewhere up north where it’s still snowing in March, but its sixty degrees out in Chapel Hill.  That’s not making a sacrifice to show support for your team, that’s getting drunk and looking like a fool!  Maybe Sam Cassell, the former Florida State guard, was right when he called the crowd at the Dean Smith Center a “wine and cheese crowd.”

The Smith Center, more affectionately known as the Dean Dome, opened on January 18, 1986. The arena lists a capacity crowd of 21,750, the fifth largest on-campus basketball arena in the NCAA, and is named after Dean Smith, the former coach at the University of North Carolina. UNC faithful and college hoops enthusiasts know Smith as the man who retired in 1997 as the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Division I basketball with 879 victories. Although UNC is a state-run institution, the Smith Center was built entirely through private donations, mainly through a Carolina-fan organization known as the Rams Club. No state tax or university funding was used, which is why the majority of the lower level seating are sold to Rams Club members as opposed to students, faculty, and staff. The building is a testament to the passion that UNC fans have about their Tar Heels. Every seat in the building is Carolina blue, a color that dates back to 1795, when the University’s Dialectic and Philanthropic societies (Di-Phi) chose representative colors. Carolina blue is slightly bluer and whiter than a turquoise, but darker than a sky blue, and its presence in every structure in the arena is a constant reminder that you are in Tar Heel country.

There’s a line of students, probably 500 deep, forming from one of the gates into the arena, and they keep talking about “student tickets.” Not knowing what that means, my dad and I get into another line, much shorter, and generally consisting of much older people. If that’s the student line, this might as well be the geriatric line. The student line starts to move, but the gates don’t open to our line for another five minutes, and once we finally get into the Dean Dome, three sections of seats are already completely filled by students. Apparently the student sections are all general admission. You get there early and you don’t get up, or you end up losing your seat. The tradeoff, however, is that the Carolina student section is right behind the visitors basket in the first half, the best seats in the house that aren’t held exclusively for Rams Club members. The seats are close enough to the court that during warm-ups the Tar Heel students crowd into the first few rows, less than fifty feet from members of the Duke Blue Devils, certainly within earshot of a few individual insults. Still, for much of the hour and a half prior to tipoff, the best that the students can come up with is a chant of “Duke Sucks,” followed by sarcastic cheers whenever a Blue Devil makes a layup.

Despite being one of the largest arenas in the country, there isn’t a bad seat in the house. The lower section creates space by moving in more of a horizontal direction away from the court, with about ten rows of seats all of the way around the arena being covered by the upper level. Unlike the lower level, though, the seats in the upper level extend away from the court in a much more vertical direction, creating more of a bird’s eye view while keeping the audience reasonably close to the center of the arena. Perhaps the most spectacular aspect of the arena that is visible to the fans, though, extends downward from the roof. On one end of the Smith Center are the banners from the seventeen Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament and twenty-seven ACC regular season titles that the Tar Heels have won. On another end are the eighteen Final Four banners. Above the student section, hanging in white from the rafters, are banners honoring the jerseys of thirty-five former North Carolina greats. In order to be honored, a player must be the Most Valuable Player of a National Championship-winning team, an ACC Player of the Year, a consensus first- or second-team All-America, NCAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player, or a member of a gold medal-winning Olympic Team. In front of these jerseys, hanging in blue, are the jerseys of eight former Tar Heels whose jersey numbers will never again be worn. To have a uniform number retired at UNC, one must win one of the six National Player of the Year Awards. Among the retired numbers is the number 23 jersey worn by Michael Jordan, arguably the greatest player to ever play the game of basketball.  Directly across the arena from these are the banners honoring the six National Championships in Tar Heel history.

Down in the stands, it becomes obvious that Cassell’s “wine-and-cheese crowd” is a comment made about a previous generation of Carolina faithful. After clearing the floor to go to their respective locker rooms, the teams return to the court for their official warm-ups with about twenty-five minutes remaining before tip-off. The Blue Devils enter to a chorus of boos from an arena that has become about three quarters full. Moments later, the large video screens in the corners of the upper level show the Tar Heels running through the tunnel and then a roar begins to erupt unlike anything I have ever heard. I’ve been in the Carrier Dome, the home of the Syracuse Orange, for a game with an attendance of over 33,000, and never in that time did those Syracuse fans make more noise than the Tar Heel fans that arrived half an hour early made. Cheerleaders waving large white flags with the letters U-N-C and a Tar Heels logo emerge from the tunnel first, taking a lap around the court, followed shortly by freshman point guard Kendall Marshall, who leads the Tar Heels out to begin their warm-ups.

Even with a capacity crowd, there was no problem moving around the concourse in the Smith Center. With only two gates, one would think that there would be lots of traffic near the entrances, but inside each gate is a large open area that allows you to figure out where you are and how to get to your seat without worrying about being in someone’s way. Once you do begin to walk about the concourse, the sense of pride in UNC history becomes apparent immediately. Plastered along the walls throughout the arena are large chronological team pictures of every North Carolina Tar Heels team from 1910 until 2009, complete with team rosters, schedules, and accomplishments. The entire history of the program is literally a part of the walls of the arena. What other school in the country can say that? Banners with the UNC logo plastered on top of photo collages from 100 years of Tar Heel action hang from the ceilings. This is not the selected works of North Carolina Basketball, this is the full package. Everything is included, from the 2009 National Championship to the 2002 team that finished 8-20. This is a proud program, with more than enough history to push aside the bad years, but it is a credit to the sense of family that exudes from the program that they choose to acknowledge everything, not just highlighting the positives.

With three minutes left on the pregame clock, the horn goes off and the clock stops. Tonight is the final home game of the year for the Tar Heels, a night that colleges across the country choose to honor their senior players, managers, and cheerleaders. The video boards play a short highlight clip of the seniors as well as a clip of each reminiscing about their time in Tar Heel Blue, and all three mention the disbelief and awe that they felt the first time they stepped out under the lights at the Smith Center. The arena is probably ninety-nine percent full now, with only a few people still finding their seats, but when the video montage ends, just before the arena erupts in applause, you could hear a pin drop at center court from any seat in the building. The respect that the fans pay to this moment is incredible. All four of the seniors have played just one year at UNC; Three are walk-ons who formerly played on the junior varsity team while the fourth is a graduate student who transferred to UNC to play out his final year of eligibility, but as each is introduced they receive cheers loud enough that one can only imagine mimic those that were once received by the men who’s jerseys now hang from the rafters on their senior nights.

Success is said to breed success, and that is obvious at North Carolina. While the fans and their surroundings are certainly incredible, it is what sits behind the court, far out of sight of the fans, that is truly the Tar Heels’ most effective recruiting tool. The Smith Center is Tar Heel Basketball, which means that everything, from the players’ lounge to practice facility to the coaches’ offices are located within its walls. Immediately after the 2010 season ended, the staff moved out and renovations were done, resulting in the beautiful combination of court-like hardwood floors and interior walls to go along with crystal-clear, full-wall glass windows. In the lobby are the trophies from each of the six National Championships, as well as a copy of the championship ring from the five most recent titles. Through a large set of glass doors frosted over with a translucent UNC logo lays a long hallway. In this hallway sits perhaps the most enticing item in the entire building for Tar Heels recruits; a trophy case titled “Carolina in the NBA,” containing the signed jerseys of some of the most recent and successful pro players that have come through Chapel Hill. Also along this hallway are large photos built into the wall of the eight players whose jerseys have been retired, and the offices of three assistant coaches. At the end of the hall is UNC Head Coach Roy Williams’ office, which more closely resembles something befitting of the President of the United States than the coach of a college basketball team. Bookshelves line the walls on two sides of the office, with a third built around a 72-inch television opposite a full U-shaped leather sectional. Is it all necessary? Certainly not, but to an 18-year old recruit who’s grown up in the inner city it is certainly a sight to remember, and the prep school phenom will feel right at home.

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Do you NEED 11-foot shower heads? Well, when you have a bunch of 7-footers on your team…

The pregame clock sits at 0:00, the National Anthem has been sung and the Duke starters have been introduced to a chorus of the loudest hate-filled boos that I have ever witnessed. Anticipation fills the arena, and suddenly the lights go out. To the Carolina faithful this was nothing new, and was met with screams of delight. To a first-time Smith Center attendee, however, it was a shock to the system. It was then and there that it became apparent that this program truly was run like an NBA organization, right down to shutting the lights off during introductions of the home team. The video boards flash team highlights, then show the name and position of the first player to be announced, one of the senior walk-ons. Traditionally the seniors will start and play the first few possessions of the game on Senior Night, even if they are walk-ons who normally never see a minute of playing time. It’s certainly an honor that is deserved, but it makes for an anticlimactic introduction when four of the starters are players that half of the arena has never heard of. Still, true to the sense of pride and family that I’ve gotten to this point, the Carolina fans applauded just as loudly for the three walk-ons as they did for freshman point guard Kendall Marshall, the one normal starter who remained in the starting lineup.

If Coach Williams’ office gave me visions of the White House, then the lower section of the Smith Center is Coach Williams’ secret bunker. Instead of using access cards, several doors in the lower level have a palm reader, which is programmed to allow access to the palms of the players, coaches, and training staff. Supposedly this is to eliminate the need to bring one’s ID everywhere within the arena, but you get the sense that it is really done to remove any chance of people getting into the players’ lounge, locker room, training room, coaches’ lounge or weight room if they don’t belong there. The stairwell is lined with massive photos of the greatest players in Tar Heel lore. To the left is a fifteen-foot high picture of Vince Carter in mid-air preparing to dunk. Across the way is a twenty-foot tall image of Tyler Hansbrough pumping his fist. On the lower level wall is Michael Jordan, holding his shooting form immediately after releasing the game-winning shot in the 1982 National Championship game. Open the door at the bottom of the stairs and you immediately face a wall that that contains the words, “Play Hard. Play Smart. Play Together. The Carolina Way.” If the goose bumps haven’t risen already, that will certainly do it while you look to the right and see that the entire hallway leading to the players’ lounge is lined with images of the Tar Heels’ National Championship teams.  The players’ lounge is the ultimate man-cave, to which the players have twenty-four hour access.  Housing a fifty inch HDTV, the room is complete with an Xbox video game system and all of the latest games to go along with a Digital cable hookup with all of the premium channels, as well as a full kitchen that is kept stocked full of whatever the players request and is cleaned nightly by a cleaning service. Two large tables sit to one side, each holding four large swiveling desk chairs for the Tar Heels to conduct study hall.  Through the lounge is the Tar Heels locker room, complete with eighteen wardrobe-like lockers large enough to hang a jersey on game day and house as many pairs of Jordan’s as a twenty-year old male can ask for. Off of the locker room sits the showers, which are no different than a normal shower, with one exception: the showerheads sit eleven feet off the ground to accommodate even the tallest of players. No expense has been spared to make the UNC players comfortable in their home away from home.

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The lights are still not back on, but anticipation in the building has reached a new high, and finally I understand why. A high pitched squeal, reminiscent of a horse in pain, is blasted over the PA system, and a loud cheer goes out through the crowd. It is in fact a saxophone squeal, the first notes of the House of Pain’s 1992 hit single “Jump Around,” featuring the clever lines “Jump, jump, jump.” On cue, the entire Smith Center is on its feet jumping like a mosh pit. Students, faculty, staff, “jump, jump, jump.” Children, businessmen, grandparents, “everybody jump, jump, jump,” and jump they do. Before every home game at the University of North Carolina they jump, 21,750 fans, in unison they jump. The players jump. Even the coaches do a little bounce. The lights are on now, the music stops, and the jumping turns to applause. The sound of 21,750 clapping fans becoming one, and the video screens now show former greats as one by one they say, “Seventeen ACC Tournament Titles. Twenty-Seven ACC Regular Season Championships.  Eighteen Final Fours.”  The starters leave their benches and make their way to center court.  “Twelve ACC Players of the Year.  Nine Naismith Hall of Famers.  Eleven National Players of the Year.”  They shake hands and take their positions for the opening tip. “Six National Championships.”  The ball goes up…

This is Carolina Basketball.”

View From Beneath

I wrote this in spring 2010. It’s the first thing that I ever had published. I’ve edited it probably 50 times, definitely looked at it more than any other piece of writing I’ve ever done, and, like most writers, I absolutely hate it (show me a writer who says they like what they wrote and I’ll show you a liar!). Hope you enjoy it more than I do!

 

 

I remember the first time I touched you.

December 9, 2005. I reached out with my

Stretch-Armstrong limbs, took a leap of faith,

and for a few brief moments I knew what it was like to

spread my wings and soar like an eagle,

high above the earth-bound mortals below.

 

I remember the first time I grabbed you.

August 16, 2006.  I loaded up the springs in my legs and

exploded off the ground, willing myself to fly higher still,

until suddenly your orange glow lit up my face

as I clutched your neck for dear life and dropped a

rock to the forgotten forests below.

 

I try not to remember the last time I grabbed you.

September 7, 2008.  My days of being grounded were over.

I was a dragon, protector of the skies, gracing the heavens in a single bound.

But those days are long behind me now, replaced by the legs of a

chicken and the wings of a penguin.  All because I got cocky

and let the Gods shoot me out of the sky.

 

I look forward to the next time I rise above you.

Whenever I come near I see your pearly whites

sneering at me from beneath your molten face.

Taunt me, tease me, laugh at me from your high horse while my

wings are clipped, for when I fly again

you have my word I will make you regret it.

Chapter Fifteen: Are You Not Entertained?

Whoever said that second semester of an MBA program is easier and less time-consuming than the first was lying. The only difference is that the first semester is full of things that you have to do, while the second semester is full of things that you choose to do, but really they’re expected because why else would you eschew a paycheck for two years in order to get an MBA instead of doing it online/at night?

You know who else was lying? The guy who writes this blog when he said that he was going to write a post each week this year. With that said, I place full blame on you, the reader, because you’re a liar too. Only 35 of you read my last post, but way more than 35 people have said that they have read all of my posts. If you want me to keep writing, I need a steady supply of readers, or at least people willing to guest-write a post like my classmate Nick Kosicki. Kind words are one thing, but actual eyes are another. That’s the only way that I know that I really have readers! After all, I do this for you – I’m a man of the people!

Now that we’ve established that we’re all liars, let me fill you in on what I’ve been doing instead of writing lately. For starters, I’ve been applying for every MBA Marketing/Product Management/Digital Media internship position from here to Timbuktu. I basically have three check boxes that I’m looking for:

  • Position is even remotely related to marketing in a way that I can hopefully leverage into a full-time position somewhere after graduation
  • Company is one that people have heard of so that the name value adds legitimacy to my resume in a way that I can leverage into a full-time position somewhere after graduation
  • Company is willing to pay actual green money that can be used to purchase things like food and pay my rent

If the position hits even one of these check boxes, I’m very likely super interested. I’d estimate that over the past month I’ve sent out more than 100 applications into cyberspace. Those applications actually resulted in one offer, but I had to turn it down because it didn’t check off any of the boxes that I’m looking for. All of this rejection spurred me to try to try something different, so I created a fake newspaper personal ad and posted it on LinkedIn in the hopes that people would see it, laugh, and share it. Instead, you have all “liked” it, but haven’t shared it. I’m trying to go viral here people, so please click on the link above, go share the add, and then continue reading. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

 

You haven’t shared it yet, have you…? Here, take a look at it.

 

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Now that you’ve seen it, you really want to go share it and be a part of internet history, right? No? Fine, you win.

Anyway, now that I’m done begging you to help me become an internet sensation and get hired, let me talk for a moment about the other reason that I haven’t been writing: Neeley & Associates Consulting. N&A is a consulting program that the TCU MBA first-years have the option of participating in (aka it’s one of those things I was talking about above – my teammate Morgan Ferguson called it “a right of passage.” It’s something most of us do) where we’re put into teams that work with Fortune 500 companies on a real-world business problem. My team worked with Alcon Vision Care on a marketing strategy project. I’d tell you more about it, but per the Non-Disclosure Agreement that we signed with Alcon, they get to punch me in the face and take all of my current money and all future income if I tell you anything about the project. It seemed rather excessive to me, but who am I to argue with them? Anyway, the project was incredibly time-consuming and finished with a 45-minute presentation to their entire sales and marketing team. Ed Riefenstahl, the director of the N&A program, said it was the largest group he’s ever had a team present to before. Needless to say, we absolutely crushed it, and I’m looking forward to seeing how much of what we suggested they end up implementing! The experience was absolutely awesome throughout, and went somehow went off completely without a hitch!

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Post-Neeley & Associates final presentation at Alcon.

I really don’t know where the last eight weeks went. I’m currently writing this because the alternative is to be studying for my Business Law final, and I can’t completely wrap my head around how my first year of B-school is going to be over in a matter of days, so I’m boycotting the whole studying thing for the time being. I’ll do my best to write more frequently, but if I don’t find an internship, that’s going to make my posts incredibly infrequent. So if you want me to write more, you should probably go share this and help me go viral and turn into an internet superstar!

Interlude Two: Shipping up to Boston

It’s been over a month since I’ve posted anything on here, and for the most part, that’s been because nothing earth-shattering has happened. When I got back from Colorado, it was time to bear down on the internship search (update: there is nothing to update, except Nike gave me a big ol’ NO. If you’re interested in the services of Mitch this summer, let’s chat!), work on my consulting project, and finish the semester strong. Yawnnnnnnnnn.

8W1 (eight week one, as in, the first eight week session of classes within the semester for the two of you who read this blog who aren’t affiliated with TCU) wrapped up strong, which meant it was time for spring break. Instead of heading south like most college students, I shipped up to Boston for the week. Why, you might ask? Well, for as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to go to the Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, which started ten years ago in an MIT classroom as a tiny sports nerd fest, and is now a conference of almost 4000 people held at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center.

I flew out on Tuesday with my classmate Andrew Knust. We checked into our hotel (props to Andrew for finding a 4.5-star hotel in Boston for $120/night. He is my new hero) and grabbed dinner/drinks with Max Laverty, a prospective TCU MBA student who lives in the Boston area. We ventured to the historic Green Dragon Tavern, which apparently has some sort of history dating back to the 1700s, but so does basically everything in Boston, so I won’t bore you with details. That’s what Wikipedia is for.

The next morning, Andrew and I took the train (another thing I have to give props to Andrew for: he figured out the train instantly, whereas it took me five solid days to understand it) to Cambridge where we walked around MIT and Harvard.

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MIT’s Stata Center, home of their CSAIL (Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab). The picture doesn’t do it’s absurdness justice. You should look it up, just trust me.

While walking around Harvard’s campus, we found a Shake Shack. Texas folks will call this blasphemous, but it is absolutely 100% better than Whataburger, and I will argue that to the death. After lunch, we met up with Max again. You see, Max works part-time for the grounds crew at Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. While I absolutely despise the Sox, I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to get a tour of Fenway (Max, if you decide to come to TCU, I owe you many beers).

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No, Fenway does not currently have grass.

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Just hanging out in the Green Monster

On Wednesday night, my parents drove into town and we went to the Boston Celtics-Memphis Grizzlies game along with another classmate, Casey Schuler and his wife Hannah. Later on, we met up with yet another classmate, Nick Kosicki, who you may remember from this blog post. We bar hopped for a bit and then headed back to our hotels. The next morning, we met up at Harpoon Brewery. Having been to Boston before and done the Sam Adams Brewery tour, I can say with certainty that Harpoon is way cooler than Sam Adams, but if you’re a beer fan, I highly recommend both of them. Harpoon has really awesome hot pretzels that are made with leftover hops, though, and Sam Adams has no food, so Harpoon wins in a landslide.

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Celtics-Grizzlies

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Reunited with my parents at Boston Beer Works before the game

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TCU MBA takes on Harpoon Brewery, complete with OSHA-certified safety goggles, which are not to be confused with beer goggles…

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Harpoon Brewery

On Friday morning, the highlight of the trip kicked off bright and early. As I mentioned above, I’ve wanted to attend the Sloan Conference for almost as long as its been running. It did not disappoint. Over the next two days, I attended panels ranging from the Moneyball Reunion (for those who don’t know, the book-turned-movie Moneyball by Michael Lewis really kicked off the sports analytics era),  Analytics in Action (a basketball panel that included Jeff Van Gundy and Shane Battier), Soccer and Football Analytics, Facebook Sports: the World’s Largest Community of Fans, and Modern Basketball Coaching (which was a panel made up of three former NBA coaches who all got fired for struggling to win despite having all-time greats on their rosters, which I found ironic). Casey, Andrew, and a third classmate, Jenny Hoang, attended other panels and workshops, including how sports teams use CRM software, R statistical methods, Wearable Technology, and Entrepreneurship in Sports. While at the conference, we were able to sit down with members of the NBA, NFL, the Kraft Group, Indiana Pacers, Philadelphia Phillies, ESPN, Booz Allen Hamilton, and a host of sports technology start-ups. I don’t have enough amazing things to say about the conference. I may or may not write a blog post about all of my takeaways from the conference so I won’t hash out the details here, but it was truly an eye-opening experience, and crazy to walk past former pro athletes and current sports executives in the hallway as they walk to the same panels that you do.

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Momma I made it!

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Jenny, Casey, Andrew and I on the second day of the conference. Had to break out the #TCUMBA flag!

After six days in Boston, its definitely nice to be home and sleeping in my own bed again. There were a lot of late nights, and I’m not sure that my bank account could take another day of Boston, but I think that I speak for all of us when I say that it was an incredible way to spend spring break!

Chapter Fourteen: ¡Si se puede! (pero no se pudo)

Let me sum up my experience at the Leeds Net Impact Case Competition in Boulder with my TCU MBA teammates Taylor Curtis, Lauren Roach, and Jose Soto Saco (who has asked for credit for translated “but we did not” into Spanish) with one simple interaction that took place in the presentation room approximately 15 minutes before our presentation began:

Taylor: Mitch, what’s your transition going to be on slide 2 so that I know how to start on slide 3?

Me: Wait, what? I thought you were doing slide 2…

Taylor: WHAT? We definitely didn’t say I’m doing slide 2.

Lauren: Mitch, what did you think you were doing?

Mitch: Just the intro and then I was going to turn it over to Taylor.

Taylor: That’s definitely not what we said…

Lauren: Yeah, I thought you were doing the first two slides Mitch.

Me: Oh s***…

So yeah, needless to say we were not one of the five teams that presented in the finals of the competition (on the bright side, the TCU second-year team did present in the finals and took home honorable mention). With that said, the experience that I’ve gained throughout the two rounds of the case competition have benefit me at least as much as all of the classes that I’ve attended to date at TCU combined.

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First and second-year teams after the awards dinner

Back in October I was given the opportunity to put a team together, and along with the Neeley Net Impact club officers, I picked a team of first-years that I thought had a really strong, cross-functional skillset that would let us be competitive, and I was absolutely correct. The topic of the competition was impact investing, that is, investing not just with profit in mind, but also with the goal of benefitting people and the planet in some way (super smart people call this the triple bottom line). I didn’t know the topic at the time, so I definitely lucked out a bit in my team selection. Taylor seemingly mastered the tax code regarding impact investments, and Lauren had an uncanny knack for finding social and environmental information on companies. Jose was our PowerPoint deck builder (a skill that I knew he had mastered as he was on my team in the fall), and I sat around attempting to look pretty (I’m pretty sure that I failed), wrote and recorded the dialogue for our virtual round presentation, and thought that my strong presentation skills would carry us in the in-person round.

We put together a really strong presentation for the virtual round back in the fall, but found it almost impossible to coordinate schedules during the past two weeks to get together and work on the final presentation, so we arrived in Boulder on Friday morning with just over half of the presentation finished. It didn’t help that I got 75 minutes of sleep on Thursday night due to a combination of being an idiot (drinking coffee during my night class) and habitually being someone who can’t sleep if he has to be up early (we had a 6:00 AM flight from Love Field, an hour from Fort Worth).

When we got to Boulder, Taylor, who went to Colorado University for undergrad, showed us around town and we posted up in a Starbucks for 5 hours (alongside a team from Georgia Tech who took third place) working on the presentation. All day, Taylor kept saying “si se puede,” which apparently is an obscure reference to some movie or TV show or something, but seemed appropriate, as I must have flip-flopped in my head at least 30 times on Friday from “we have a legitimate chance to advance to the finals and win” to “we’re so absolutely lost and have zero chance tomorrow,” so whether Taylor believed it or not, it was reassuring to hear “yes we can!” We checked into our AirBnB, took a little nap, Taylor and I may have had a few beers to stimulate the creative process, and we headed to the welcome reception and dinner, where our worst nightmare was realized: we would be the first team presenting the following morning.

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¡Si se puede!

The rest of Friday night is a blur. We did our best to finalize our thoughts, but our 11:00pm target bed time came and went without the presentation even being finished let alone practiced. After Taylor’s part was finished, he informed us that he was going to go upstairs and go through his presentation without distraction and he’d be back in twenty minutes. An hour later, Lauren turns to me and says “so, do we think Taylor is coming back down, or is he asleep?” Shocker: Taylor did not return (which I do not hold against him for a second, as he basically spent the previous week continuously pumping caffeine into his body to be able to work on our project and two other projects that admittedly were more important than ours) and we limped to the finish line, vowing to wake up early and nail down any last minute issues before our presentation.

I was pleasantly surprised with the result of our presentation given that we hadn’t practiced it once, but I personally felt like my portion was very weak. I didn’t know the material as well as I needed to, and if I built the team believing that my key contribution would come out with a killer performance, I was sadly mistaken. Our Q&A session was pretty weak as well (I blame the judge who, for some strange reason, said “I’m from Minnesota, and obviously we hate New Yorkers.” I was unaware that this was a thing. Apparently it’s a one-sided rivalry. Although he definitely did not know I was from New York, I’m totally blaming the fact that we didn’t advance on him), and we all knew walking out of the presentation that we weren’t going to advance.

The rest of our time in Colorado was awesome, though, and just reiterated that it’s a place I could definitely see myself someday. I played third wheel to Taylor and his girlfriend Saturday afternoon (sorry guys!) as we bar-hopped and drank some awesome Colorado beer, we attended the awards dinner on Saturday night, and then hung out with some first-years from the Notre Dame MBA program before everyone crashed early.

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Sunday morning, we drove up to Chautauqua Park, a section of the Flat Irons that certainly looks like a mountain, but by Colorado standards is more like a small mound. We walked a little ways up the hill, I realized how out of shape I am, we hopped in the car (actually, the mini-van. I was in serious dad-mode all weekend, even going so far as to go out and warm the car up every time we’d go somewhere), and drove along the mountains through Golden into Denver.

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We spent the last few hours of hour trip walking along the 16th Street Mall, grabbing a drink at the world-famous Falling Rock Tap House, and finally stopping at Voodoo Doughnuts (donut names include “Marshall Mathers Doughnut,” “Maple Blazer Blunt,” and “Mango Tango.” Yes the Mango Tango donut is dusted with Tang powder, because of course it is) to grab a dozen (why five people thought they needed a dozen donuts when each one is larger than the palm of my hand is beyond me) before heading off to the airport.

All is all the weekend was a ton of fun, though it was a bit disappointing not to advance to the final round. Still, it was an incredible experience, and I got to spend 60 hours in Colorado, which is quickly becoming my favorite state. I’m pretty sure that I said “that is absolutely incredible/beautiful/gorgeous” in reference to the Boulder backdrop at least 30 times this weekend. Let’s just put it like this: I’m now actively searching for reasons to go back to Colorado. For now, though, it’s back to the real world. I’m writing this from 30000 feet in the air, and once we land its back to class, internship search, and five days to work with two other classmates on the Sloan Sports Analytics Case Competition. The work never stops, but as has been the case throughout the past seven months, we managed to have a ton of fun with it!

Guest-Post One: “Beyond the Glass” – the Nick Kosicki Story

Mitch’s Note: This post was written by Nick Kosicki, TCU MBA Class of 2017. Nick is a first-year MBA currently searching for brand management marketing internships for the summer of 2016. He currently serves as the MBA Association Philanthropy Chair as well as President of Neeley Net Impact. In addition, at least once a week he shows up at my house uninvited. If anyone can put a stop to this behavior, it would be greatly appreciated by the residents of my house. I hope that this is the first of many guest posts by my classmates, and that you enjoy Nick’s story!

 

 

“If there is no struggle, there is no progress”- Frederick Douglas

“The only way to make sense out of change is to plunge into it, move with it, and join the dance”- Alan Watts

“Sometimes if you want to see a change for the better, you have to take things into your own hands”- Clint Eastwood

Change sucks – I don’t think there is any other way to put it. Change is something that I have struggled with for a long time and during the fall of 2014, I knew it was time to buck up and get moving. Along with some difficult times in my personal life, I was at a lull working for a company made famous by The Village People, and I looking for my next challenge after being with the same organization for seven years. I was ready to pack up, head for graduate school and leave the only place I knew: H-Town. I was born and raised in Houston, where, elated with smiles and overbearing with tears I did my undergrad, made a name for myself and made an incredible number of friendships and relationships with some of the greatest people on Earth. More importantly, I was leaving behind true Tex-Mex and Mexican food which has run through my veins for my entire life.

I knew I was headed for graduate school during the summer of 2010 when I spent three months in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. I had the opportunity to work with underprivileged kids in favelas (read: worse than ghettos in the US) teaching English, dancing, arts and crafts, and playing soccer! I saw and experienced things I could have never imagined, and knew from that moment forward that I was going to return to the States to finish undergrad, obtain work experience and better my education with an MBA. As mentioned earlier, I was a born and bred Houstonian and was not planning to leave the greatest state I had the fortune of living in.

Fast forward to spring 2015. I am visiting graduate programs across Texas, hoping to find a new place to call home.

I immediately fell in love with Texas Christian University (TCU) from the first time I corresponded with current students, faculty and staff. I had an excellent time during my visit to Fort Worth, touring the campus, interviewing for a spot in the MBA program, and learning from the current students. Before I even left campus, I was ready to “sign on the dotted line,” and I knew that if I was offered a spot in the Class of 2017, there was nowhere else I wanted to spend the next two years of my life.

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Now, back to that whole “change” thing: I didn’t like change before so I had to ask myself why I would want to put myself through what would be the biggest change of my life to date? Well, sometimes life gives you lemons in the hopes that you’re smart enough to make lemonade, and I was ready to make the most of it when I was accepted and admitted into the TCU MBA Class of 2017. I will never forget the day I received the acceptance call! I won’t lie and say there weren’t any struggles that I dealt with but I do not regret the decision I made to leave everything behind to start a new life in Fort Worth, one of the fastest-growing cities in the United States.

I cannot put a number on the amount of people I have met, both in my class and people throughout the city, or the number of relationships I have sprung with the TCU network. It is great to be associated with such an institution that carries so much weight (special thank you to TCU football team for putting us on the map). I can honestly say many of my classmates will be friends for life and quite possibly standing by my side if I ever get married (did I really just drop that?). I am sure they know way too much about me and sometimes I think the same of them but that is what TCU has meant to me: one giant family where anyone will reach out for help the second you ask.

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True story, I met Ronda Rousey.

Football tailgates are no joke – We have a great set up for our MBA program and I’m thankful for Rahr & Sons Brewery for providing beer at every event. We have had quite memorable (although sometimes its a lack thereof) experiences during our home games, but I admittedly have not stayed at a game past half time because of the thumpings we gave to any team that came to play us at home. I travelled to San Antonio for the Alamo Bowl in which TCU overcame a 31-0 halftime deficit to win in triple overtime. By far, the craziest football game I have ever witnessed in-person and I’m so happy I made the trip with some classmates.

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TCU-Oregon with Bob, Sean, and our fearless MBA PresiDante

As I attended a commuter university for undergrad and worked full-time, I was unable to have the “college experience” that most of my classmates had, and I can say I have taken full responsibility to ensure that it does not happen again. I grew up playing competitive soccer and hockey (yes, to all you Yankees reading this, we really have hockey in the South) so having the opportunity to play intramurals was something I could not pass up. You could say being a part of a team is something I have always had and cherish each and every team. This past fall, I was able to continue playing beer league kickball and played flag-football competitively for the first time. Although we didn’t win it all, we made it to the third round of playoffs as the only non-frat, non-undergrad team and you can be damn sure we had more fun than any of the undergrads. This spring, I have taken to heart the age-old saying “if you can’t be good, look good” on the intramural basketball court – and I’m still working on those big point celebrations. I am signed up to continue playing kickball and helping to put together a MBA program outdoor soccer team. You can definitely say it will be an active couple months ahead!

Jobs – That’s right, I came back to school to better my career and look for a job. How could I forget to mention? Luckily, there is not a day that goes by when I think about what I want to be when I grow up. I didn’t believe our career services staff when they said your job search starts in August before you even step foot on campus, but boy were they right! I had the opportunity to travel to Chicago and Houston for national career fairs and they were eye-opening! I found out quickly where I was compared to where I wanted and needed to be. I still have lots of work ahead of me but had the opportunity to interview with several huge companies and I know my card will be called in no time. We have superb Graduate Career Center with staff who will do anything for us, but finding a job is ultimately my responsibility. I’ve lost count of the number of applications I have filled out and companies I have researched on my own so someone hire me!

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Took a break from interviewing with companies in Denver over winter break to stop in and check out the Breckenridge Brewery!

My classmates nominated me to serve as Philanthropy Chair of the MBA Association, and I was later voted to be the Net Impact Club President which will help continue and shape my leadership. I have had an increased opportunity to meet prospective students who were in my shoes this time last year. Meeting new people and building relationships is something I take pride it and I am honored to help shape the class that will follow me.

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“We’re done with the first semester!” photo with my teammates Brady, Van, and Colt.

School has been school – By that I mean it has been extremely challenging at times but that is what I signed up for and made the decision to pursue a year and a half ago. I try to make the most out of things and always keep a positive attitude but there are, without doubt, where I look to see if my old place of employment is hiring! I am looking forward to heading back home at the end of this month for Houston Rodeo Cookoff, something I have been involved with sponsoring for the past several years. It will be an awesome time to get back together with friends and spend time in the city that shaped who I am today. Spring Break will be here in a month and then it’s on to the home-stretch of my first year of grad school. If I have a chance to write (word vomit) on this blog again, I might have a job! I am looking forward to studying abroad in China with several of my closest classmates after classes end the first week of May which I never would have expected to have the chance to experience. I am definitely on the upside swing of this whole change thing and cannot be more proud of how far I have come since choosing to leave the nest and try something new!

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New thing I will continue doing: wearing a bow on my head. It’s super cool, guys!

Go Frogs!

Nick (SELF-GIVEN NICKNAME REDACTED BY EDITOR’S CHOICE) Kosicki