Oct 27, 2017

An Uncertain, Yet Transformational, Detour

By Courtney Bragg T’18

I worked at a job I loved (in urban education) in a city I loved (Washington, D.C.) prior to Tuck. D.C. is a different city than I left it, but it has always felt like home. It felt like home in a way that my first year at Tuck did not yet. Sitting at the airport now heading back to Hanover, I feel like I am heading home. As a non-traditional student, whose work felt important and urgent, deciding to get my MBA felt a bit like taking an uncertain detour. I knew the operational skills of finance and accounting were valuable; however, it was the leadership training that I was most excited to explore. Overwhelmed at orientation, I wrote down why I was at Tuck, “To become a leader I respect and with whom I would want to work.”

Bragg with classmates in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea as part of a fun trek where they ran into the managing director of the International Monetary Fund.

But Fall A was a bit of a blur, delving into omitted variable biases and marginal costs. And then came Decision Science, Capital Markets, and FMAR. I wondered if I was in over my head. As I prepared for my FMAR final, I asked my professor a frantic question about the distinction between accrual and deferral expenses—she lit up, “See, you’ve got it!” My lack of certainty was clearly visible, but she reassured me that conceptually I understood and the mechanics are illustrative and reinforce those concepts. With the first-years now stressed staring at T-accounts, I am amazed by how much I learned in such a short span of time. The Fall at Tuck is intense and it is exactly the immersive experience I was seeking. In my second year, I am taking more time to enjoy the stark beauty of fall in the Upper Valley and reassure first-years that they will be in awe of how much they learn and that it is the learning, not the mechanics they will retain.

This summer, I was having coffee with a venture capitalist I admire and she asked me why I was getting my MBA and specifically, why I chose Tuck. I explained that I wanted to invest in myself and my education and I wanted to be intentional about making that investment. People do not stop by Hanover—they opt in. She nodded and smiled and acknowledged that my approach was right. A Tuck education extends beyond two years of reflection and recruiting—it is both the process of immersing yourself within the community and making progress in becoming the kind of leader you aspire toward.

A team of Tuck students participates in a candle lighting service at the Shwedagon Pagoda during a Global Insight Expedition to Myanmar.

My professors, my classmates, we all have chosen to join the Tuck community. There is a power in not stopping by, but opting in. In the blur of classes and recruiting, it is easy to lose focus of why you are making this investment. Think about why you are going to business school and what you really hope to get out of it and test for that. Once you get to campus, keep that in focus. Take time to have dinner with incredible visitors and fall down the mountain at Killington (if you are a South Florida kid like me who is too competitive and too naïve to properly learn to stop). My experiences at Tuck, from chatting with my Managerial Economics professor about the intersection of ethics and economics in pricing Epi Pens to traveling to Singapore and Burma to explore the juxtapositions of post-colonial development are demonstrative of what it means to be at Tuck—to opt in.

While it was great to be back in D.C., I am excited to be heading home.

Courtney is a second-year MBA student who grew up in South Florida. Prior to Tuck, she worked primarily in education, first at KIPP DC and then at a startup in South Africa. This summer, she interned in tech at New Relic in San Francisco and got to host the incoming first-year students during their tech trek. On campus, you can find her mentoring a first-generation undergrad, serving as a Revers Board Fellow with Habitat for Humanity, or researching cheap flights for her next adventure. Courtney graduated from Washington University with studies in Urban Studies, Education, and English Literature. She grew up jet skiing and has kayaked Antarctica—she hopes to kayak Greenland this summer to check out the other pole!