Andrew Key T'23

“By going to Tuck, you are expanding your identity for life.”

Read My Story

I had an internship at The Aspen Institute’s Initiative on Financial Security that really reframed for me the ways in which I could contribute to societal good. I no longer had to become a policy analyst or a speechwriter (or specifically a Sam Seaborn for my fellow West Wing fans out there). I saw that MBAs in the public, private, and social sectors could speak a common language and get things done, leveraging the individual strengths of the various sectors for a comprehensive solution.

This latter approach resonated better with me in terms of a theory of change as well as in terms of the professional experiences that I could potentially have.

After setting my personal non-negotiables (top program, explicit focus on cross-sector collaboration, small class size), I knew I was optimizing for happiness. Tuck quickly established itself as the far-and-away leader on that dimension. While I technically applied to multiple schools, in my heart of hearts, I only ever truly applied to Tuck.

I loved that it is a community of people who specifically wanted this experience; a “24/7 MBA” in a small town off the beaten track, and that they were willing to uproot themselves in order to get it. And based on the levels of alumni engagement, it was clear that the attachment to this community had real staying power—it was not just something you did to help two years more pleasantly go by. By going to Tuck, you are expanding your identity for life.    

As someone who earned his high school varsity letter in debate, going into a real Division I locker room and hitting the ice beneath the jumbotron for Tripod tryouts (everyone gets picked, they just want to evenly distribute the lucky few who went to ice rink birthday parties as kids) was easily my first Friday Night Lights-sort of experience. That was just a really, really cool moment, and I am absolutely going to hang my framed hockey jersey one day.

More substantively, I remain in awe of the heart that every one of my classmates brought to our hybrid acting/leadership development/public speaking course Communicating with Presence. The confluence of sincere reflection and the courage to publicly share one’s true self caused emotional tears to be a regular byproduct of class time. Oftentimes this came just minutes after a good run of laughing tears because the radical shedding of self-consciousness and hesitation required us to be plenty silly. I cannot tell you the first thing of how/why this class works, only that Professor James Rice is a miracle worker.

Caroline Cannon T’98 is the career adviser for social impact and entrepreneurship (in addition to holding a number of other cool complementary roles at Tuck, like being one of my professors for the Diversity Entrepreneurship Collaboration Practicum) and she is my rock. When I told her that my first-choice employer had invited me to interview, she was fully there for me, scheduling at least a half dozen mock interview blocks. And thanks to deep personal familiarity with the field, she was able to just devise new cases on the fly. By the time the interview came, I felt super ready, and I was able to secure the offer.     

Tuck’s small size plus its culture of “co-investment” means that there is no room for loafers. Intentionality with this school does not end once you unload your moving truck; by choosing Tuck, you are choosing to take ownership of a slice of life at Tuck. Even something as simple as making sure that Tuckies get home safely after long nights out is student-owned; we have the SafeRides club to coordinate nightly coverage of designated drivers from a student body-wide pool of volunteers.

The number of jobs to be done lines up pretty well with the number of students, and it creates a motivating sense of shared communal purpose. Moreover, I think it means that there are enough leadership and other developmental opportunities to go around: Getting involved in campus life does not come with the corresponding hoopla of getting involved in a competition. In addition, I think it also keeps the programming fresh and relevant. Events happen because a group of students care enough about the event to put their own sweat equity into it. That’s very different from a model where the school’s administrators take the lead on coordinating student life.  

When I was a teen living in Florida, a lot of people used to say, “I live where you vacation,” and that used to make me roll my eyes. But now that I live in a place where I inhale the scent of pine as I canoe, where I sit under a starry night sky with my firepit, where I’m a text message and a short drive away from being with a dozen buddies at a world-class ski resort (and then just run into a dozen other friends when I’m there), I finally understood what those Florida folks were getting at. I just didn’t appreciate at the time that my idea of an amazing vacation involved wearing flannel and eating maple everything. It’s a real gift to be able to call the Upper Valley my home, even if only for a short period of my life.

Just as you (probably) would not write a fifty-item checklist for a new friend, focus on your key non-negotiables and operate with an open mind from there. Like friends, the schools with which you click might surprise you. On that point, after you have had some time to reflect, trust me that deep down you will know whether a school feels right. From there, you can do no wrong.

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