In about a month’s time, I will be graduating as part of the Tuck Class of 2020. It’s been very hard to believe, especially in the wake of COVID-19 and our last two months of classes being held in a virtual environment. Yet, in a weird way, seeing the Tuck community rally together in the face of quarantine – be it via virtual yoga classes or the weekly trivia nights attended by literally hundreds of students – has been an unexpected, yet fitting capstone to my two years at Tuck.
The first five months at Tuck was a blur of activity and experiences. I didn’t have time to grapple with the notion that I was in my late 20s, and yet also a first-year student living in dormitories for the first time. I was torn in a myriad of directions the instant I set foot on campus. Besides the expected classes, homework, and networking and case interview preparation, I had to decide who I wanted to be within this intimate community in the middle of the woods. In the spirit of true FOMO, I tried everything. On the one hand, there was your typical Upper Valley agenda – numerous camping and cabin night trips and hikes, canoeing and swimming in the Connecticut river, and even cross-country skiing and hiking in the snow. But on the other hand, it also felt like I was constantly leaving campus and travelling somewhere with my fellow classmates – trips to Chicago to network and interview with consulting companies, an educational trek focusing on Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance in New York City, personal trips to Belize, Guatemala, Mexico, and Sri Lanka, and a capstone First Year Project in India.
As great as the first five months seem on paper, I think that the true Tuck experience happens after the nerves have shaken off, in the calm after the storm. It was only then when you realize the incredible and unique value of the personal nature of the Tuck MBA. Be it the open-door policy for the Tuck deans and professors, popular Tuck traditions like Tuck Talks and Small Group Dinners, or the intimate nature of classes such as Communicating with Presence or Leadership Development and Self Awareness Skills, Tuck constantly gives individuals the opportunity to be heard by an audience that has a willingness to listen. In our busy, urban lives mindlessly moving from activity to activity, we seem to most frequently approach others for validation, rather than genuine connection. This was not the case at Tuck. I have seen students sign up in droves for Small Group Dinners, forget self-interest in helping each other in their recruiting efforts, and professors going above and beyond in making themselves available for students by hosting daily virtual lunches (shoutout to Professor Kopalle). I was welcomed into my classmates’ homes for their family Thanksgivings and Christmases, chased the Northern Lights in my pajamas with fellow students in Iceland, and transformed from a person who refused to sing in public to singing on stage (thanks to my supportive bandmates) in front of hundreds of people at Tuck Winter Carnival.
In about a month’s time, I will attend what will be the first “virtual” Tuck ceremony. Although it may be a while until we can be physically together, I feel truly excited and privileged to have shared such a personal and transformative journey with my community: the class of 2020. Thank you to everyone!
Marianne Poh is a recent Tuck MBA graduate from Auckland, New Zealand. Prior to Tuck, she was a Brand Manager for Mondelez International based in Melbourne, Australia. After Tuck, she will be joining Innosight, LLC in Boston as an innovation strategy consultant.