Nov 24, 2014

Tuck’s Electives and Fellowship Opportunities Make Learning Practical

By Deirdre Garrahan T’15

Deirdre Garrahan is a second-year at Tuck. She originally hails from Northern Virginia, is a proud alumna of Wellesley College, and has work experience ranging from working at an investment bank to founding a nonprofit. To relax, she plays on the Tuck soccer and tripod hockey teams, enjoys dinner parties, and cheers on the Red Sox.

I remember working on business school applications, trying to make a connection between the courses offered and my personal passions and career goals. Sometimes, that process was difficult. However, at Tuck, there are so many ways that learning is practical and tailored to your interests!

After coming out of a summer internship in management consulting, I wanted to further develop skillsets that would support my continued success. My goal was to work on three things this semester: financial statement analysis, articulating a clear voice, and team problem-solving.

Financial Statement Analysis (coming alive!)

Okay, I know that looking at financials sounds a little dry, but at Tuck I’ve seen this material come alive through, for example, the elective FRSA (Financial Reporting and Statement Analysis) taught by professor Robert Howell, the David T. McLaughlin D'54, T'55 Distinguished Visiting Professor of Business Administration. FRSA explores the assumptions used in the financial analysis through case studies and discussions. It’s very practical, and shows what can drive different valuations.

In addition, I’ve been fortunate to see how these different perspectives actually play out. I’m a Revers Board fellow this year, sitting on the board of a local nonprofit. As part of this experience, I sit on the finance committee. The committee includes many retired prominent business leaders who held very senior financial positions. The same type of discussion from class—looking at projected cash flows or ratios—come up, and I can see exactly how they influence discussions and decisions.

Articulating a clear voice (what’s my world view?)

In my application to Tuck, one of the courses I mentioned was Leadership Outside the Box by Associate Professor of Business Administration Ella Bell Smith. Attending this elective now, I’ve been challenged to look at my personal journey (all those ups and downs) and look for patterns and choices I have made. This has given me insight into my personal decision-making process, which has affected my outlook on jobs and other opportunities.

Likewise, in Signal Companies’ Professor of Management Matt Slaughter's Leadership in a Global Economy course, he challenges us to put our personal voice (or “teachable point of view”) into the major issues affecting the global economy and current events. This class has also encouraged lively discussions with classmates (and other friends or family) outside of class. This course has become a way of life rather than just a course to take.

Team Problem-Solving (value creation and actors matter)

My final elective this fall was Negotiations with visiting Associate Professor of Business Administration Judith White. The fully immersive class includes practicing negotiating not only as individuals, but also as groups to seek value for yourself and also find out how to collaboratively create value for everyone. I’m finding the group negotiating especially helpful and realistic to real life, where people have different incentives, alliances, and influence. It provides an opportunity to take risks, use different styles, and debrief with classmates afterward.

I’m also researching how negotiations play out in the workplace. As part of being a Center for Global Business and Government fellow, I’m currently working with two other students and senior fellow Curt Welling to analyze General Electric’s proposed acquisition of Alstom last spring. We are looking at a range of different actors (firms, governments, analysts) and their motivations. Ultimately, we are working on a larger global mergers and acquisition framework to use on other cases too.

Conclusion: Reaching my goal

As the semester drew to a close, I was so excited to see how I’ve transformed in such a short amount of time. I’ve made significant progress in deepening my financial analysis, articulating a clear voice, and team problem-solving. The adventure has included both electives and fellowships, all integrated into an incredibly practical learning experience!

I can’t wait until the next semester begins …

(Photo above of Ella Bell Smith done by Laura DeCapua)