Before starting business school, several people told me that MBA programs are a snap and that you are only there to make connections. They couldn’t have been more wrong. At Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, students are placed in a rigorous program from day one. In my first semester alone, we had five hour zoom sessions for team quizzes and sleepless nights were common.
I also learned that there are students who deal with the stress of school while raising children. This struck me as astonishing, as it is often rare that we hear their stories of sacrifice and triumph. Here are some of those McDonough MBA stories.
I’ll start with Ellen Shim, a second year MBA student from South Korea. She has a five year old daughter, Seo-yeon. Shim decided to postpone a year after her first term in 2019 because she felt her daughter needed more home care and childcare services were limited in the United States. She then returned to Seoul to take care of Seo-yeon there.
The pandemic has been a blessing in disguise for Shim as it enabled him to take online classes for the first year of his MBA program while taking care of his daughter. However, that also meant that she was on the other side of the earth, attending classes at 2 or 3 a.m. and team meetings at dawn.
Shim returned to the United States in May of this year and barely managed to enroll Seo-yeon in kindergarten in Virginia. Every day is a challenge as it’s just Shim and her husband looking after their daughter while taking care of school and a full time job respectively.
âIt’s harder when my daughter gets sick,â Shim said. “Or if somebody gets sick, really, because in our home, if a bond breaks, the whole system does too.”
CUSTODY FAILURES, FINANCIAL CHARGES
Finding adequate childcare services and the financial constraints that accompany it have also been stressors for Sergio Garcia Moreno, also a second year MBA student, and Nina Vann, an MBA graduating in 2020 and currently working as consultant at EY-Parthenon.
Georgetown University offers a child care center called Hoya children but there is a long waiting list and services have been temporarily closed due to the pandemic.
âDaycare is so expensive here. We have decided not to send (our daughter) to daycare until it is completely necessary due to financial constraints, âsaid Garcia, to whom Georgetown told he would have to wait about 18 months to enroll her. girl at school daycare.
âThere is hardly any communication for parents. There is a site but nothing more. I think they could have more communication for us, âGarcia suggested.
Garcia moved from Mexico to Washington DC, and his family depended mainly on his savings, a scholarship, a loan from the Mexican central bank for students abroad, and a loan from his parents. He hopes to repay the loans as quickly as possible after starting full-time work at the Boston Consulting Group next year.
Vann was in a similar situation.
“The daycare was very expensive and the logistics didn’t make sense because I had to be in school until late at night,” recalls Vann, who eventually used nannies. Vann said she received no financial assistance from the school for childcare and that 40 percent of her student loans went to the education of her two children, one of whom was in the business school.
Three nannies left their posts while she was in Georgetown, which compounded her problems. âI felt the earth was ripped out from under me,â she said.
The financial burden eases slightly for those whose children attend public school, like Harish Mohan, a freshman MBA student. Mohan left India earlier this year with his two children and his wife, who looks after the children full time.
âPublic schools here are free. I can’t imagine incurring another expense right now when I’m already managing my MBA costs, âhe said.
BE PREGNANT AT SCHOOL B
Having a child during business school as a mother and father is both a challenge, but even more so for mothers. In Vann’s case, the more difficult parts included working in an inflexible system not designed for mothers or pregnant women when she fell pregnant with her second child, in addition to the physiological changes.
âA lot of teams weren’t empathetic, especially my study team. If I objected to meeting times, they penalized me, âVann said. âAlso, after having your child you question your decisions, your impostor syndrome as an MBA student is at your peakâ¦ I didn’t have a lot of people I could talk to. “
She eventually found an ally in Kerry Pace, associate dean of MBA programs at Georgetown, whose compassion for students who are parents stems in part from the fact that Pace took on her current position when she was 11 weeks pregnant and half past, Pace said.
âNavigating that balance between raising a kid and having a career has been tough, but it got me thinking about how students do it,â Pace said. She then set up a breastfeeding room inside the Rafik B. Hariri building at McDonough School of Business, to which only mothers have the key.
Jaime Brown, a part-time MBA student who will graduate next year, also got help from Pace after deciding to move to her hometown of New Jersey earlier this year because she got pregnant. . It is expected in January 2022.
Brown was frustrated with the school’s policy of having to take classes and exams in person when she felt unsafe there due to the pandemic.
âThere are fewer cases of COVID at the graduate level, but our classes are still 60 to 65 people and that’s a lot of people next door,â Brown said.
Since Georgetown University chose to be fully in-person this fall, it was up to individual faculty to provide Zoom-to-Class links for synchronous online participation, and teachers and students struggled with the format. hybrid.
To get around the problem, Brown takes transfer credits to Saint Joseph’s University which are all virtual, and the professors and staff at Georgetown worked together to allow him to virtually sit a final exam for a core class.
âI hope teachers are prepared to be more flexible, or that the program allows people to take lessons virtually if they wish,â said Brown, one of the many parents interviewed for this column who asked. flexibility of the course format.
âBeing able to Zoom in on a class is huge. A hybrid option would give me a lot of peace of mind, âsaid Kate Bodner, mother of two young children. Bodner said she had to risk her attendance score this semester for needing to stay home with sick children or when her family chose to self-quarantine due to possible exposure to COVID.
SUPER PARTNERS, SUPPORT NETWORKS
All of the students and alumni interviewed for this story stressed that their MBA journey would not have been possible without the support of their partners and spouses.
âI’m fortunate to have a partner who supports me and bends over backwards for me,â says Bodner. âSome things seem selfish, but it allows me to do whatever I want to do. Ryan, her husband, told me that it was necessary to “plan and review said plans” to help them balance work, school and family life.
“I will do everything in my power to rearrange my schedule if necessary,” he said of the unexpected changes.
Khadijah Brydson-Van, a freshman MBA student with two young twins, says her husband helps her attend MBA social events.
“He asks, ‘Why are you at home?’ if I get home early. He understands how important this is to me, âsaid Brydson-Van. “Today I am going out with my study team.”
Matt Pershe, another sophomore MBA, recalls that his wife was instrumental in recruiting her summer internship despite having just given birth to their first child, Eleanor.
âCaitlin was so sacrificed to herself. She did full shifts, and when I didn’t have those internships, I felt really bad. We want to find a better balance going forward,â he said. said Pershe, who will also join BCG next year after an internship at Rios Partners.
Student parents have also found support in other like-minded people on and off campus. Brydson-Van has appealed to local mothers’ groups for support, while she and Bodner are fans of Georgetown Partners and Families, an MBA program club for spouses, relatives and families of students. McDonough graduates.
âHaving the club is great,â says Bodner. âI’m so proud of them and what they have done for the group. It was very helpful mentally.
Adam Kuebler, club co-chairman, said the club has strived to become a place where partners can come together and find other people. The club has organized events like a virtual scavenger hunt as well as visits to the Washington DC area zoo and parks.
âPeople love to be a part of your kids’ and family’s lives if you invite them over. It reassures me to know that people know the names of Caitlin and Eleanor and that they ask questions about them. These people are part of our lives, âsays Pershe.
As for parents who are considering going to business school, they should have a strong support network, Vann says. âBuilding your support system is so important, emotionally and financially. But also don’t forget to bring your whole being to the table.
Garcia, the Mexican student, says, âDo not be discouraged by the idea of ââgoing on this adventure because you have a child. The experience is going to be different but still very valuable and you can bond very well at school.
Shim agrees, saying she would like to encourage other mothers to apply to MBA programs, adding that being a parent can give you an edge.
âThrough parenting, you get so many great skills. I want to tell the next generation that there are many possibilities for parents like us, âsaid Shim.
Christine Kim (McDonough ’22) is a former Reuters correspondent and communications specialist in Seoul, South Korea. As a journalist, Christine has covered topics such as North Korea, global financial markets and central bank rates. She also managed global communications for Samsung Electronics before business school and plans to focus on strategy and crisis management after graduation. In this monthly column, Christine will highlight the less heard voices and diverse experiences of the Georgetown MBA program.
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