At SMU Cox, MBA alumni Michael Orr says that the most surprising aspect of his MBA program was the level of personal growth he experienced during the two years. Michael was able to leverage his professional experiences, position himself for success, and develop a "deeper sense of self".
Name: Michael Orr
Why did you choose your MBA program? Do you have advice for students on how to make a decision?
The class size of the Cox School of Business was a driving factor in my selection process. We all have an innate desire to know people and to be known by people. It’s the Cheers effect, the idea that people desire a community, “where everybody knows your name.” I did not want to be known as MBA Candidate Number 438. The smaller class size of the Cox program means I know every one of my classmates and when I run into a professor off-campus, my professor recalls my name. My advice for future students is to heavily weight personal “fit” in the decision process.
What do you think was your program’s greatest asset?
The location of the program in the heart of Dallas, Texas is a strategic advantage for the school. Dallas continues to attract Fortune 500 companies seeking to move their corporate headquarters. As these companies establish their new locations, the Cox School of Business is one of the programs they call on to fill their ranks. Proximity to Fortune 500 companies also enriches the classroom experience as professors invite executives to class or students are given the opportunity to work on real world projects for these companies throughout the school year.
How did your classmates influence your MBA experience?
The most enjoyable part of business school is friendship and community. I have discovered the real value of business school is the friendships that are formed. At Cox, I have found lifetime friends. Friends with whom I have rejoiced with in success and shared with in disappointment. We’ve bonded over early morning hours cramming for exams, Tuesday afternoons throwing a frisbee and the constant search for the perfect spot to hammock on campus.
What is something that you learned that was unexpected?
I was most surprised by the level of personal growth I’ve experienced over the last two years. I arrived at business school expecting to learn financial equations and strategic frameworks. I did not expect to develop a deeper sense of self. Prior to business school, I lived my life attempting to fit into a mold I was never meant to fit. I believed that success was a mathematical equation that needed to be followed precisely. Instead, I discovered there is no set path to life, everyone creates their own unique trail. This realization gave me the freedom to investigate new interests and uncover hidden talents. I recommend students enter business school with an open mind, prepared to explore different concentrations and possible career fields.
Did you do an internship during your MBA? How did that experience influence your education and career?
The summer internship is one of the most formative experiences within business school. It gives students an opportunity to not only apply the various concepts they learned in the last year, but also an opportunity to test drive a future career. The internship serves as confirmation that a student is on the “right track.” As a career switcher, the internship experience was a catalyst that deepened my passion for brand management and serving consumers. While my internship experience confirmed my future career, it’s important for future students to know it’s not uncommon for a student to walk away from a summer internship desiring something different.
Advice for Future Applicants
What is the one thing you wish someone had told you before you started the MBA application process?
Life is a journey with twists, turns and unplanned detours. Many students enter business school with a defined road map for their life. They come with a plan for their chosen concentration, their ideal internship and their future career. I showed up with similar thoughts and ideas. While there’s nothing wrong with having a plan, it’s important to remain flexible and keep an open mind. In my experience, these plans often change in the first semester. Those students who can adapt and overcome seem to thrive in business school.