“We look at people who will give back something while at Duke” – Megan Lynam

How is the full-time MBA program at Duke structured?

Duke offers a full-time MBA program that starts each August. There are just over 400 people in each class. There are four six-week terms each academic year, with week-long breaks between Terms 1 and 2 in the fall and Terms 3 and 4 in the spring. There are longer breaks in the summer and the winter which allow students to explore the world through our Global Academic Travel experiences and their career interests through our Week-in-Cities Programs. The Duke MBA is a general management program. The core curriculum builds a strong foundation across all disciplines and these courses will be completed over the first year of the program. The fast-paced four-term structure allows students to complete more courses more quickly, and students begin selecting their elective courses by the fourth term of their first year. Of course, electives may be taken even earlier if a student exempts out of a core course based on their prior academic or career-based knowledge. Beyond the core curriculum, there are no required majors or specializations. Each student has the opportunity to customize their education to best fit with his or her personal and career goals. For some, their second year may be full of finance-focused classes to prepare them for a career in Private Equity. For others, it may be filled with a diverse selection of courses as they will be pursuing a rotational program or an entrepreneurial venture upon graduation. It is entirely the choice of the student. The Duke MBA faculty is ranked in the top ten in every discipline, so no matter what a student chooses to study, he or she will be learning from the very best.

What is the specialty of the HSM program at Fuqua?

Health Sector Management is one way that students customize their education. Health Sector Management is often referred to as “HSM” and is essentially a program that leverages the strength of Duke Medical Center, Research Triangle Park (RTP) and the Fuqua School of Business. The program is well-suited for people with a broad range of career interests – from Pharmaceuticals to Biotech to VC/ Investment Banking/ Consulting with a health sector focus. HSM students earn a Duke MBA as well as a Health Sector Management certificate upon graduation. This certificate is based on the completion of two additional core courses, a guest lecture series, and two elective courses from a wide selection of options. There are no rankings when it comes to health sector-focused MBA programs, however The Duke MBA HSM program is widely respected and arguably the best due to our tight relationships with the Duke Medical Center, RTP, and Washington. What is ‘Team Fuqua’ and how do you think it will help in building future business leaders?

Working together in teams is what people outside of Duke generally think it must mean when they hear “Team Fuqua”. Although we do much of our work at Duke in teams, “Team Fuqua” is also about how people treat other people here at Duke. It is not cut-throat competition, but rather a culture of collaboration. It is about how students learn from each other, how they value the diversity, the experience that their classmates bring to the table. Students come from a wide range of backgrounds, and have vastly different strengths, weaknesses, views of the world, and ways of approaching a business case or problem. Rather than compete with each other, Duke MBA students challenge each other to think differently, and help each other to improve their skills and knowledge in their developmental areas. This raises the bar for Duke MBAs as a whole, and makes the school and its alumni base even stronger. Every Duke MBA graduate, whether they are working in Non-profit or Finance or elsewhere, carries the same strong foundation of knowledge and one can call upon any Duke MBA and expect the same caliber of leader (the best) and the same baseline of skills.

What is the profile of the incoming Class of ’07? Is this profile maintained year after year or does the profile keep changing? The profile is available on our website and in our printed materials if you join our mailing list or visit us at an MBA Fair or Information Session. The Class of 2007 has an average age at entry of 29, a 5.6 year average of work experience and a mean GMAT score of 700. Women constitute about 22 pc and international students about 36 pc of the class. We always strive in admissions to provide a diverse classroom environment – from gender to ethnicity, nationality, academic and work background, to career goals. We do not have set quotas and so the profile of our class varies slightly each year. There are so many things that are important to the quality of a Duke MBA class that are not covered in the statistics in our ‘profile’ that I strongly encourage applicants to look beyond that.

You are an alumna of Fuqua – Class of 2003, and now you are in the administration as the Marketing and Admissions Associate Director. How have your perceptions of Duke changed over the years?

When I came to Duke as a student in 2001, I knew that I would learn just as much outside of the classroom as I did inside it. Duke MBA students partner with the faculty and the administration of the school and have the opportunity to truly be a part of where the school is going, to make it a better place, to leave their impact on the school. I reached out to get involved in as many activities as possible – to develop my leadership and team skills, to grow a strong network amongst my peers, and to leave my own personal legacy. Because I was so involved, I have always felt very loyal and close to Duke. It is important to remember that the value of an MBA degree is tightly tied to the students, faculty, and staff that are in the school today. Each Duke MBA student and graduate represents the same degree that I do and the opportunity for me to be a part of creating the best business leaders in the world is something that gives me a sense of purpose and contribution that I have never before had in my professional career. It has been incredible to come back to Duke because, for me, it never felt quite right to leave. This is clearly where I belong. My perception of Fuqua and Duke hasn’t necessarily changed from 2001 to now, but I no longer feel transient. Now I can make an impact, see how it ripples through the school, and still be here to figure out how we can work together to make it even better.

The percentage of women has gone down significantly from last year. What might be the reason and how is Fuqua addressing this issue?

Women make up close to 50 pc of the students entering medicine and law programs, but that is simply not the case for MBA programs. The top MBA programs have joined together with corporations spanning a variety of industries to address the pipeline for women in business as a whole. We are working as far back as pre-college and all the way through the pipeline to MBA alumnae to develop women’s perceptions about what they can accomplish in business, in MBA programs, and how they can find a balance between personal and career goals. When I came to Duke in 2001, my class was actually close to 40 pc women- much higher than other top MBA programs both then and now. I believe that the reason we had such a high percentage of women compared to our counterparts had a lot to do with our culture. Women feel welcomed and respected in the Duke community and are comfortable reaching out and pushing their limits to grow and develop both personally and academically. However, in the past few years, other MBA programs have begun to realize that it is a negative for them not to have more women in their classrooms, and they have begun to very actively recruit women. They have made notable changes in programming, marketing efforts, and increased scholarship money for women. Unfortunately, last year we lost a number of women because we weren’t doing enough to communicate the strengths of The Duke MBA and the Fuqua community for women. I assure you that will not be the case this year! Now, the rest of the admissions team, our students, and myself have been working hard to market our strengths, host a Weekend for Women, foster the Association for Women in Business, and continue our support of Forte Foundation (committed to developing the pipeline of women in business) events and scholars.

What differentiates The Duke MBA program from those offered by other top US Business Schools?

One is the flexibility and customization the Duke MBA offers. You get through the core courses and the foundation very quickly and the flexibility after that is really limitless. We have grown our faculty over the past several years – almost a 40 pc rise. As a result, there is more breadth and depth in the elective course offerings. Our faculty is incredibly strong- to be ranked in the Top 10 in each discipline by Business Week is remarkable. Our faculty is also very well connected in the corporate world which allows us to bring great speakers to the school who add real world relevance to our classroom setting. The Duke MBA is also distinguished by life outside of the classroom. I mentioned the partnership between students, faculty, and administration as one of the major reasons that I chose to come to Duke. The opportunities and the empowerment given to Duke MBA students allow them to develop their leadership skills not only within the formal bounds of the curriculum, but in actual practice of it in the clubs, student government, and Fellows programs. Second Year students apply and are selected to support the efforts of various Fuqua initiatives, from Admissions to Career to Alumni to Leadership and our Distinguished Speaker Series. In Admissions, for example, our Fellows are trained to interview prospective applicants. The input from the fellows is integral in the selection of the students who will comprise the next Duke MBA class. At Duke, you are learning things by practice – how to be a leader, how to inspire and develop people. Students are indeed deeply entrenched in bringing Duke to the next level and that itself is amazing.

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“Team Fuqua is how people treat other. It is not cut-throat competition, but rather a culture of collaboration.”
Considering that Fuqua is a very ‘young’ school, to what would you attribute the growth of popularity of its MBA program?

Fuqua was founded in 1969 and DukeUniversity itself is just 81 years old. We are the youngest of the top tier MBA programs and the reason that we have risen to the top so quickly is that we have never rested on our laurels. The school is always looking to say ‘How can we be better?’ ‘What is the next level?’ ‘What are we good at and how do we capitalize on that?’ We – the students, the faculty, the administration, and the alumni network – are all working toward making Duke increasingly better. This brings a sense of passion, excitement, of “going places” to the school, and it attracts top candidates to Duke who want an MBA experience where they can truly have an impact.

Getting into a top business school is a challenge to many prospective applicants. At the same time, top business schools scurry for top-notch students from all across the world. How does Duke reach out to applicants in different countries?

 

The Admissions Team, with the support of our students, faculty, and alumni, are doing our best to take the Duke experience to people who cannot get to campus. There are several different groups that organize MBA fairs and we participate in these around the world with the support of our alumni. We also conduct information sessions in major international cities which are usually one to two hours long with a formal presentation about The Duke MBA program. There will be current students and/or alumni at these sessions for Question and Answer sessions along with Admissions representatives. Prospective students listed in our databases are emailed invitations to information sessions in their area, and all of our recruiting events are listed on our website. We also reach out through academic advisors, GMAT test prep centers, and corporations across the world. By taking advantage of these resources, prospective students can learn about what makes our program different, as well as get a glimpse into the Fuqua community through our alumni, Admissions representatives, and current students. Still, coming to the Duke campus will give the best insight to a prospective student about what makes The Duke MBA unique. I encourage prospective students to sign up for campus tours, class visits, lunch with students, and campus interviews on our website under “Visit Duke.”

Coming to Admissions, what kinds of students are getting accepted at Fuqua?

We are looking for intelligent, passionate team players from diverse backgrounds with strong leadership potential. We seek students who will awe each other with what they have accomplished and experienced and how they approach business situations. Much of what Duke MBA students learn is from the diverse perspectives of their classmates, so we strive to bring people who will augment the classroom discussion and the greater Fuqua community with their contributions. We attract and cultivate people who want to be a part of something larger than themselves – those who want to make an impact and leave a legacy at Duke and beyond.

What is the application process at Duke?

We have three deadlines – Oct 27th, Jan 10th and Mar 21st. Given the competitive applicant pool, we encourage prospective students to apply as early in the admission cycle as is possible, without sacrificing the quality of their application. Prospective students whose ability to enroll is dependent upon receiving merit-based scholarship assistance should apply during Round 1 or 2. There are a number of components of the application (GMAT, TOEFL if applicable, undergraduate and any graduate transcripts, two recommendations, three essays, and an interview, if requested). No one component is weighted more heavily than another. We don’t specifically screen on GMAT, GPA, or any other factor. Every application is read at least twice in its entirety and is discussed in detail in our Admissions Committee. It is the whole picture of who an applicant is and what he or she brings to the table that determines admission.

How should a prospective student address his/her bad undergraduate performance or a low GMAT score in the application?

 

Applicants have an option to write a fourth essay to provide the Admissions Committee with any additional information. We encourage applicants to fill in any questionable areas in their application. If there is a good explanation for a gap or performance that the applicant does not believe meets his or her full potential, the fourth essay is the applicant’s opportunity to convey that information to the Admissions Committee.

Who should be your recommenders? At times, it is hard to get recommendations from current supervisors. What should be the course of action in such cases?

The most valuable recommendations come from the people who know the applicant’s professional skills and abilities. The Admissions Committee is not impressed by the title or prominence of recommenders, but rather the extent to which they know the applicant and have worked closely with him or her. We encourage at least one recommendation from someone who works with the applicant on a daily basis and can critique his or her professional performance, such as a current supervisor. We understand that a direct supervisor is not always an option. In such cases, a vendor, client, or recent supervisor relationship is often a good source. Another source for a strong recommendation may come from a supervisor in a community organization where the candidate has a leadership role.

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Is there a definite number of years of work experience that an individual should possess before he or she chooses to apply to The Duke MBA?

It is all about quality and not about quantity. The experiences that a prospective student has had and what he or she has contributed to their organization(s) is what matters to us the most.

 

With many engineers applying to most of the business programs, how would you suggest an applicant distinguish himself/herself in the application?

The essays, interview, undergraduate/postgraduate activities and recommendations are there to help you set yourself apart. Some people have a work background that automatically distinguishes them while others may come from a career field that is more common in MBA applicants. I would encourage applicants to take extra time with their essays and recommendations to detail the specifics of the roles that they have had and the team and leadership experiences that may better define the impact that they have had on their company or companies beyond a simple job title. Also, an applicant is defined not just by what career field they have chosen thus far, but also how they were raised, what they do outside of work, how they interact with others, and where they want to go. Applicants should strive to provide the Admissions Committee a glimpse into who they truly are, what they want to be, and what they will contribute at Duke.

How does the interview session happen? What is the evaluation process?

If an applicant is able to visit campus, a Second Year student will conduct the interview. If an applicant is based internationally, we offer alumni interviews. There is an option on the application to request an alumni interview, and we do our best to meet these requests. We strongly encourage applicants to schedule an interview as it helps them to understand the Fuqua community and offers us a chance to have a more personal interaction with the applicant.

Is any specific reason behind the significant rise in the number of Indians coming directly from India?

We have seen a rise in applications from developing economies – India, South Korea, China. There is a notable demand from the market for MBA skills in these countries due to the infrastructure being created and entrepreneurial ventures being started.

In India, there are limited chances to get involved in activities during undergrad and while at work. What would you advise an individual with limited extra-curricular activities?

 

It is important to take steps to distinguish yourself from the rest of the applicant pool. Start something, do something different. Stand out. We are specifically looking at people who will contribute and give back something while they are at Duke. One of the best indicators is the fact that you have gone above and beyond in your life before business school in order to give back and have found something that you are passionate about. Yes, it is easier to get involved outside of work in some countries and some industries. We understand these differences, and so it is even more impressive to see someone from an industry or area where it is hard to get involved outside of work find a way to do it.

What kind of financial aid or loans do you offer International students?

Every candidate who applies to Duke and is accepted, whether he or she is an international or a domestic student, is considered for merit-based scholarships. Merit is determined on the overall strength of the candidate’s application. Scholarships are given for various values up to full tuition, and are granted upon admission for both years in The Duke MBA program. In addition, we offer the Duke MBA Opportunity Loan to our international students. This loan does not require a US-based cosigner and all Duke MBA international students are eligible to borrow up to the full value of their education, including living expenses. This year, what kind of information sessions or tours is Fuqua planning?

The Duke MBA holds recruiting events around the world. The exact details can be viewed on The Duke MBA website at www.fuqua.duke.edu/mba/daytime, under “Duke Visits You”.

 

What would be your advice to prospective students applying for the Class of 2008?

Do your homework on schools. An MBA program is not just about the class profile or the curriculum – much of what influences your MBA experience is the culture of the school. If you have the opportunity to visit schools, absolutely do so. If that is not feasible, reach out to the alumni in your area. You should apply to and attend the place that just ‘fits’ and where you feel as though you are ‘at home’. You will be most successful in an environment where you feel comfortable and are able to push your own personal and developmental boundaries. I would encourage prospective students to reach out to all of the avenues and resources that they have access to – from websites to current students to admissions representatives and alumni. You don’t have to apply to a long list of schools, but rather apply to the few that are best suited to you. Take your time with your application, show us what you bring to the table, why Duke is the right program for you, and what you will contribute.

Megan Lynam earned her BA in Psychology from Cornell University in 1997 and her MBA at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in 2003. She spent her early career in IT consulting, specifically SAP implementations, for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte Consulting. Megan returned to school to make a career change into marketing and strategy. She did her summer internship in brand management at Johnson & Johnson and then accepted a full-time position upon graduation in Brunswick Corporation’s Leadership Development Program. In addition to her role in marketing strategy and product portfolio planning at Brunswick, Megan led Brunswick’s MBA recruiting effort at Duke. This ongoing relationship with The Duke MBA program is what ultimately drew Megan back to Durham to lead the marketing strategy effort for Admissions at Duke’s full-time MBA program. Megan is a triathlete, a certified spinning instructor and an avid baker. She loves to spend her free time with a book on a boat.


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