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Part Time MBA, Full-Time Student

I like hot chocolate, especially in the morning. Once in a while I wake up recalling a dream where I hold a cup overflowing with the aromatic liquid. It must have been three years ago, when I was waking up from one of those dreams, that I realized it was the day of my first MBA class. I was excited and found myself wondering, "how hard could it be?"; "I have been through engineering school and graduated; I married (once); raised four kinds (or at least tried); learned a foreign language (guess which one)..., so going back to school should be Ok, right?" I had no idea.

Learning Time

Time moved slowly the first semester, in the fall. Semesters are arranged so they coincide with cold weather, and that should motivate students to stay indoors and work hard; or at least that is the intent, I think.

Business School impacts how I perceive things, subtlety. Management is one of those areas that can be applied right away to everyday activities, at work, at home, at the grocery store... Issues that I considered arcane and complex began to look differently, under a special light. I liked that. Absorbing the information school threw at me, though, became a little overwhelming in the next semesters.

Take the subject of Motivation for instance, one of my favorite topics. It was fascinating to learn about concepts such as "The Alignment Problem", "Empower vs. Micromanage", the motivation method of "KITA" (euphemistically, the kick-in-the-pants approach) vs. Job Enrichment (Frederick Herzberg, "One More Time: How do you Motivate Employees?") and so on. I told professor Hydrie: "All this material, lessons and advice are great; however, how am I supposed to remember all that when I am on the field, when it matters?" She responded, "Practice, you have to live these lessons and apply them every single day". It was then when time appeared to go faster.

Balancing Time

There had to be some balance, I thought. After all, classes are not the only source of knowledge at Carlson School of Management (CSOM). The School encourages students to participate in fundraising events, clubs, seminars, lunches with keynote speakers, sport events (I still have to attend my first tailgate get-together at Gopher Stadium), concerts, boat trips and much more.


And talking about boat trips, there is a couple of them students do not want to miss. One takes place along scenic St. Croix River and the other one on Lake Minnetonka. I have attended both in previous summers and came out just fine. These outings are great opportunities to meet students and exchange tips and information on classes and student life in general. I did not know, for instance, we had a student lounge, and that classes can be arranged in such a way that you can take four per semester but no more than two at a time. There were other surprises along the way.

One evening before class I met Jessica at the atrium of CSOM. We had trained together for a marathon the summer before and were gladly surprised when we bumped into each other at school. We talked for a while and before we parted ways I suggested we had a glass of wine. Yes, right there in the middle of the atrium people were talking casually in small groups, enjoying some wine. She hesitated (we were not exactly registered for that special event), but I just asked for a glass of Cabernet and the bartender gave me one. I remember the class that evening was one of the funniest and most interesting ones I have had a in a long time. This episode has made me think the School should hold more of those pre-class networking sessions as way to motivate students to work extra hard and have fun at the same time.

Problem Solving Time

We are in the business of solving problems. That was the message I listened to this morning at a seminar on technology commercialization sponsored by 3M and the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. Everyone has good ideas, but most people struggle to find ways to "land them", i.e., put them to good use. "First find a real problem, and then you can think of different ways to solve it." I know, it may appear counterintuitive. Unless I find something people care about (even if they are not fully aware of it), my idea may not go too far. So, as my wife and I are preparing to attend a concert by Grammy Award winner Lila Downs ( this weekend--Lila studied at the U of M and was born, like me, in Oaxaca, south of Mexico where I had hot chocolate since childhood--I will be thinking about problems to solve.

Alberto Vasquez-Parada
Minneapolis, MN

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What may have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation...
T.S. Eliot
Burnt Norton, Four Quartets




I enjoyed reading your blog. It allows others to experience the Carlson MBA journey from your unique perspective!

I have season tickets for Gopher Football @ TCF bank stadium and look forward to taking you to your first tailgating experience and Gopher Football game. They have plenty of hot chocolate for us there to enjoy while we watch the game discuss problems to solve!

Nice post. There will always be problems to be solved, and of course there will always be different methods to solve these problems.

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