Such lovely weather and such lovely things, as observed by a commuter from the suburbs

I can see green grass everywhere now – with some yellow and brown leaves in between and pink and white flowers on the side – and it makes me smile, wide. The once cold and dry ride from Rockville, MD to Tenleytown, DC has inconspicuously turned into a beautiful escape I look forward to everyday. I think there’s nothing quite like the nature of nature – ever changing, abrupt, lovely yet dangerous, and the DC metro area roads definitely have one of the most scenic botanical topography for the suburban commuter. For any AU prospective student or anyone looking to move next year, I highly recommend exploring the greater metro area, especially if you drive. My recent relocation to a new place has been nothing short of great.

With AU’s great geographic and meteorological position, I was thrilled to learn about the launch of the new Master’s Degree in Sustainability Management. I truly believe that the risks and rewards resulted from the environment will dictate the financial future of our generation. Mother Nature giveth, Mother Nature taketh. We’ve been brutally hit by natural disasters one after another in the past few years, as the depletion of natural resources continues at an accelerated rate. A friend laughed hard when I recently told her I am a “parks and mountains” type of person. But, I can’t help but think about the impact of my energy consumption every time I reluctantly pay for the bolting gas price to fill up my economical 2001 Corolla after I hit the I-270, I-495 or my favorite route MD 355.

The onset of the lovely weather has also stimulated my social life in the past month. It’s amazing how weather impacts my mood. I confess I have been somewhat anti-social during the first three months of the semester, primarily due to the cold weather (it is a good 20-30 minute drive to DC), work, and relocation (may I add HW?). The impact of de-socializing has been so significant for a social butterfly like me. I miss the stories I had intended to collect in between the intersections of Kogod hallways as I mentioned in my last blog. I felt a large vacuum in a very important part of my life.

In the past month, I signed up as an Admission Ambassador for the MSA program and I am already listening to a whole new set of stories from the incoming students. I attended a “Dish with the Dean” event where I got to meet Dean Durand personally for the first time. The interaction with my fellow students and Dean Durand elated my student experience at Kogod to another level.

I taught myself to not head straight to the Katzen parking lot after class. Instead, I have learned to look up events taking place on campus in the evening. Separating from the MBA crowd has definitely compelled me to re-think my socialization strategy.

Attending Graduate Business Association events in the evenings has also helped me reconnect with my peers. I am also making a conscious effort to change and re-adjust as a commuter from the suburbs and it has worked out perfectly. Completely unplanned, the semester is winding down on a beautiful note (so far).

As all of us are wrapping up the semester, I hope the summer brings in gentle waves of luck for each one of us as we embark on our internships or jobs; and joy for our lazy summer days with lots of lager beer around a pool; or whatever else we may find interesting.

Signing off, Sudipa

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A weekend in South America

This past Saturday I attended the wedding of a close family friend in Bogotá, Colombia. The young parents on my Thursday night Avianca flight were shocked when I mentioned that I was traveling to South America for the weekend. The short trips that my sisters and I made to Colombia meant a great deal to our immigrant father and made for a once-in-a-lifetime weekend.

Bogotá is no small town.

This being only my second trip to my father’s hometown, my dad and uncle were intent showing us as much as possible. Thus my South American vacation was full of rushed car rides and little sleep. It was awesome.

Saturday morning we were up at 6 am to get ready to visit Monserrate. Next, we went to the Museum del Oro which featured some of the most interactive exhibits. The wedding on Saturday night was “espectacular” and the bride was a “princesa”. Sunday morning we were able to sleep in until 8 before attending a family reunion on a “finca” about an hour outside Bogotá. Three packed days but luckily hundreds of pictures to help remember them.

Family reunion on a farm

I took on a great deal of risk traveling when finals are only few days away and group projects are nearing culmination. It would have been impossible for me to make this rushed trip without the support of my classmates and professors at Kogod. Even though I am in the process of catching up now I am immensely grateful for the understanding that my teammates offered me before my trip and upon my return.

I was very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend two amazing events in Colombia and I have my great friends at Kogod to thank for that.

Making time for me

***Warning: This post contains a MAJOR drool factor!***

How can eating cake batter NOT make you less stressed!?

Making time for the things (and the people!) you love can be difficult in graduate school, especially within a full time program as fabulously jam packed as ours! But this first year has taught me many many lessons and for me, a big lesson has been, sometimes you just need to throw on that apron and BAKE!

For me, baking is my “me” time. It’s what I do on a Sunday when I’m just in one of those “I don’t want to do anything moods”, it’s how I challenge myself when I’m feeling unproductive and, most importantly, it’s how I wind down when I’m really stressed out.  My old co-workers used to LOVE when we entered our busy season in the office, because the communal kitchen would become overflowing with treats: bread, cookies, brownies, cupcakes (a personal fave) – you name it, I’ll bake it.

For everyone in the program it’s something different: for some, it’s going for that long run after a stressful day. Others, it’s a comfy couch and a bottle of beer. But whatever your “me time” is, it’s important to find those rare few hours and focus not on derivatives and Porter’s 5 Forces, but on you, and what gives you that little sparkle in your eye.

And with that I give you the recipe for one of my favorite creations: Giada’s Lemon Ricotta Cookies! Trust me… these taste like heaven!

Little pillows of goodness!

Ingredients

Cookies:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 lemon, zested

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cookies:

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

Cheers – happy finals and happy baking!

Graduation, here I come!

So graduation is approaching and I’m starting to look back to see how getting my MBA in Kogod has helped my personal and professional career.

Not that I was so junior when I started the program, but the two years at Kogod helped me grow a lot. There are many additions that make me feel more fulfilled, the first being that I am now more prepared to take challenges and interact with top-notch professionals. After two years of hard work, I’ve gained more confidence in solving problems, making decisions with little information, and presenting orally to whatever size group of people. What else can a person interested in management ask for? I’m extremely happy for all the training and knowledge I’ve received, and this will stick with me forever.

Friends and connections will also stick with me. Through Kogod, I’ve met very cool people that have become a very important part of my life in DC. These people have different experiences and perspectives that make of any short conversation an interesting one. Thanks to them, I’m a much more open-minded and cultured person now that I was before, and it feels good. Most importantly, these people made me enjoy the ride, even though it was a tough and demanding one. I had fun.

Now graduation is less than three weeks away and it feels a bit weird. I’m excited of course, but I’m gonna leave the “workplace” I’ve been in during the past two years. After spending so many hours at school and meeting up with so many groups and friends, Kogod has become pretty much like my home. I’m sure I’m gonna miss it, and I’m glad I’m gonna miss it. I’m glad I’ve been part of Kogod.

Entrepreneurs and the Science Fair

My younger sister, Kelly, is a member of her high-school’s Young Entrepreneurs Academy (YEA). Earlier in the school year, she and all other members of the YEA were tasked with developing a business plan for an original idea which they created. At the end of the allotted 6 month period, the students would present their businesses to a panel of investors in hopes of being awarded money to pursue their ideas.

Kelly’s business idea was a fashion blog highlighting good deals on stylish clothing in the Rochester area with the intent to show young people, mainly, that the expensive looks they see in the magazines are affordable. Roc The Look, as it’s named, has a great following for being so new. Local businesses have dropped “twitter bombs” and nationally recognized clothing companies have given “props” to them as well. My sister and everyone she’s worked with is elated with the success of her pet project and its potential. Kelly and the other YEA members presented their ideas on Tuesday.

Kelly didn’t win top prize (but she did get some cash). As an older brother, my first inclination was that “the contest obviously was rigged”. A second thought: “Okay, well those other kids must have cheated”. Finally, I realized the truth. Kelly, in my honest and impartial opinion, had the best idea for a company. She had a targeted demographic; she was building a network; she had outside interest in her product; and she had (and still has) a real willingness to pursue the idea after the 6-month development period. These attributes were all lacking from the other students’ proposals. Why did she lose?

The answer for me can best be explained by my own elementary school Science Fair days. I won the 4th, 5th, and 6th grade science fairs – that’s three…count ’em THREE. But I never could take home “top” prize. My winning projects were cool: I made my own traffic light,  my own electronic game, and I simulated the physics of a bed of nails using a balloon and golf balls (shout out to my brother who “assisted” me on this one) . The projects were cool, but so are fireworks displays.

What the judges were interested in was the physics of a firework: What’s the force behind an explosion? What makes the colors? What’s the reasoning behind the sound? The point I’m trying to make is that anyone can set off a firework…anyone can have a great idea. But being able to explain that idea is where the real value lies.

Had Kelly really dug into the value of her business, rather than why the idea was so novel, she would have without a doubt won the top prize. As a Kogod MBA Grad Student, my seventeen year old sister’s experience has really opened my eyes to this all important fact. If you have a good idea, you need to explain its value, not just how it works.

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.”

– Thomas A. Edison

Professorial quality

I’ve been on a committee for the past 6 months that has given me the opportunity to really, thoroughly understand the school’s benefits and drawbacks a lot more intently. Faculty from International Business, Management, Accounting/Tax, Marketing, Finance, Information Technology are also on this committee, as is one alumnus, one dean from another school within AU, one undergrad, and two staff members. Our mission involves looking at what we have and how to use it to really position Kogod better in the marketplace so that, with coming efforts, it will be understood and known what a gem this place really is.

The question often comes up, “Why did you choose this school?” I went to an enormous undergraduate institution in a moderately-sized city and, though I got a lot out of my education there, thought that a small school in a big city would have been a better fit.

I got into other graduate schools with recognizable rankings and was even offered a pretty large scholarship at one, but Kogod just worked out better for me. I remember sifting around through faculty profiles on the Web site and thinking, “Oh wow, that’s a pretty cool background/research interest/pedigree!” and noticing the faculty to student ratio and thinking, “Hmm… so a professor of that caliber will actually know my name?” Well, it’s absolutely true. They will and they do.

It’s actually one of my favorite parts about this place– the collegial community. I can stop in a professor’s office, I can email them, I can run into them in my neighborhood, and they know who I am, they’re interested in what I’m doing, they want to help if they can. It sounds so cliche, but it’s true! And just recently, Professor Wasil was awarded yet another Scholar of the Year Award, not to mention that he’s been awarded the Scholar/Teacher of the year award before. No one was surprised. (And he teaches statistics to the MBAs!) What a boon to have such a talented person in the classroom, especially for a subject that isn’t always easy for the masses.

And we all just continue on, taking advantage of the strength of our professors within the classroom, their abilities and successful research outside of the classroom, really reaping the benefits of this diamond in the rough that Kogod truly is.

Is it May yet??

I have to be honest, this semester stinks. I’m tired, stressed out and am counting down the days till May 3, my final final of this spring semester. But sometimes its semesters like these that remind you of why you chose the school you did and what you love and truly value about it.

My daddy taught me how to spell.

If you haven’t guess by now, I’m a bit type A. Ok, ok, that might be an understatement — I’m extremely type A. So its not a surprise that I’ve always done pretty well in school. But this semester surprised me with the worst grade I have ever experienced in my life, and I mean LIFE, like worse than any third grade spelling test (and mannnn was I bad at spelling!).  And I’m not gonna lie, it sucked, I was upset, but I’ve also found something really great as a result: Professor Kent Baker, the master of all things financial and the safe haven that are office hours.

Many students, including my past self are slightly uncomfortable with the idea of office hours. I think we get caught up in the, “oh my professor is an expert, he writes books, why would he want to help me figure out something as stupid as NPV?” But I’m pleased to say my experience with reaching out to a professor for help has been completely different than I ever expected. Refusing to accept defeat (I will triumph over you finance!!), I have spent much of this semester meeting with Professor Baker going over countless finance problems. While a student may fear that this is an inconvenience to their professor, I’ve found that for the most part my professors enjoy this one on one time with their students, because at the end of the day, they genuinely want us to succeed. And if you still feel guilty about going, just remember Paul Celano went to every single office hour with Professor Lindsay. LITERALLY- every. single. one. (And we love him for that!)

So, in true Professor Baker fashion, I leave you with the following takeaways:

Me after the next finance test...hopefully...

1. Don’t ever be afraid to ask for help, whether it be from your peers, your ta’s or your professors. One of the benefits of the AU program is its size, take advantage of this!

2. It’s not all about the grade. Yes, straight A’s are great, and they look snazzy on a resume, but at the end of the day its about what you learn, both inside the classroom and out.

3. You can’t be naturally great at everything. You can’t, sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s not possible. BUT you can work your butt off, accept extra help, attend peer learning and office hours, and do well. If you want an A, EARN IT! And then go get a stein at Chef Geoff’s to celebrate 😉