February 16, 2016

The Small School Advantage: Fostering relationships with faculty

Heather Frutig is a candidate in the full-time MBA program.

This semester, I’ve had the good fortune to work on an applied financial strategy independent study for the Cleveland Museum of Art with my friend and classmate, Dylan Beach. I was going to use this blog post to dig a bit deeper into my independent study experiences at Weatherhead since I’ve had a few, and maybe I will in my next post. However, something seemingly small but actually meaningful happened recently that reminded me of the unique opportunities that are available at a small school like Weatherhead that have accessible and engaged faculty.

Dylan and I were working together in a windowless study room in PBL when I got a call from our faculty advisor on the independent study project, Professor of Banking and Finance Scott Fine. What ensued was a boisterous 30-minute catch-up about the project, my ex-boyfriends, job hunting, the luck of getting a job, the art of networking and how important it is to cultivate relationships with faculty. The call jumped from pertinent to irreverent, to anecdotal and then settled on thought-provoking before I had to cut the conversation short and head to another meeting. There was a lot of laughing. We could have kept talking for a while. The conversation was not between Dylan and me and our lofty professor. We were talking to our more experienced, wise old friend. We could have simply told Scott about our progress on analyzing financial statements and moved on. It could have been a 10-minute call. (Well, if you know Scott, you know it might not have been that easy.) But we had the time and we used it to build a deeper and more meaningful relationship with a cool old dude. (I’m very much joking about the "old" part!)

My classmates can attest that I’m not a talker in class. If our only interactions with professors were in the classroom or at office hours, I would be at a real disadvantage for building friendships and networks with them. Luckily for me, there are many opportunities outside of the classroom to build those relationships. There are the independent studies like the one Dylan and I are working on with Scott Fine. And there are other avenues such as extracurricular clubs. Take, for example, my work with Assistant Professor of Design & Innovation Michael Goldberg, the faculty advisor for IDEA (Innovation, Design and Entrepreneurship Association). In my role as co-president of IDEA, I’ve been working with Michael since the end of spring semester last year. I’m currently in my first class of his. He can joke that I don’t talk in his class because we’ve already built up a rapport over the last year.

My classmates have similar stories with other professors because that is the type of environment that a small school fosters. In my opinion, that reality is a very real competitive advantage for Weatherhead. Small schools like Weatherhead have the same amount of resources as much larger schools but fewer students to fill the leadership roles. Therefore, the opportunities to shine are much greater and the opportunities to rise to the top and be recognized are more plentiful. 

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