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My MBA Experience

by Marina Maller Friday, November 16, 2012

I want to share with you my experience as a “mature” student...namely, one of the very few students whose age is significantly above the average of 27 years.

Returning to school when you have kids in fifth and eighth grade is already a challenge, but doing so by immersing yourself in a full-time program, instead of a part-time one, is an even more complex one. As I was choosing the school, I had many concerns around this topic: Would I feel alienated from my classmates? Would they find me out of touch with their lives? Would employers be interested in someone like me? Above all, would I find myself being an outcast?

When I visited the Wisconsin School of Business, I thought that a smaller class and the one-to-one attention I could obtain at the A.C. Nielsen Center for Marketing Research might come to play a key role in my experience. And now I can see that I was right.

My classmates at the A.C. Nielsen Center are fun, curious, and intellectually stimulating. Debates about the ethics of marketing research spur on the moment, jokes tend to revolve around the continuous search for the elusive consumer insight “gem,” and lunch topics can go from the latest trends in advertisement to the newest CPG product in the market. The passion that we all feel for marketing research is the glue that holds us together and makes everyone, even me, feel included and at home (even when I have to ask what “Gangman Style” is).

In addition, Kristin and Jen, as well as other staff and faculty members, have constantly checked on me to make sure I was doing fine. I got the proper amounts of sympathy when I mentioned missing my boy’s baseball game due to a group meeting, as well as encouraging words about the great role model I’m being for my children by going back to school at this time in my life. I feel understood and cared for in the exact right amounts.

Another element to take into account is that the specialization model enables the recruitment of very mature students that know exactly where they want to go, regardless of their age. The A.C. Nielsen Center class represents an impressive array of life and professional experiences that allow all of us to learn each and every day from each other. This maturity level also helps explain why so many companies come to recruit at the Wisconsin School of Business. Recruiters know that we are not in marketing research to “check it out,” but that we are in it for the long haul. This focused vision fulfills their need for long-term professionals that will stay in the field beyond the summer internships. Personally, recruiters have been welcoming and appreciative of my experience, and very forthcoming about their interest in all of the graduates from our program above and beyond any personal characteristics.

As I wrote at the beginning, going back to a full-time program at this time in my life is challenging. However, Wisconsin and the A.C. Nielsen Center are making sure I have all the support and the tools I need to make it not only a successful experience, but also a pleasant and worthwhile one.