I always knew I would pursue an MBA. I vividly remember sitting at my undergraduate graduation looking forward to the day I would return to business school. My motivation evolved over the years but one theme held constant; I knew I was not done learning.

Fast forward four years, as I walked into one of the first sessions of the summer onboarding for the one-year program (I later deemed that my motivation included learning as quickly as possible!). Professor Steve Walton was tasked with the challenge of easing 62 students into the world of case studies beginning with “Operations Strategy at Galanz”. While admittedly maybe not the most intriguing premise for a case, the goal of the session was achieved: our minds were firing. You could hear the buzz of the classroom as we analyzed “The what?”, “The how?”, and most importantly “The why?” of the case. Little did we know, this was just the beginning.

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Professor Walton teaching Process and Systems Management during Block one of the Summer Experience.

We revisited Galanz many times over the coming weeks. After a few weeks of lecture, our class took a trip to a local business. In preparation for the company visit, the class was instructed to evaluate various aspects of the company’s operation and strategy. During the tour, a few of us hinted at the uncanny parallels between our Galanz case and the company. While different industries, both companies were plagued with similar challenges.

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Suiting up for our company tour of a local business.

It was during a conversation with Dean Brian following the company visit that I had my “Ah ha!” moment. A group of us were talking with him over lunch about the transition back to school. One of the key challenges we discussed was the difference between undergrad and graduate school. Dean Brian shared with us that one of the biggest hurdles he saw students face was reconciling the expectation of the MBA program with their previous academic experiences. In business school, Dean Brian explained, the goal is not to get the right answer; the assumption is that we will be able to derive the correct answer. But rather, the learning occurs with how you apply the answer.

This really resonated with me those first few weeks as many of us realized that we were being evaluated far beyond “calculating” a correct answer. The professors wanted more. They wanted to see how we processed the information and the insights we provided. We saw this first hand with the Galanz case study. We were never graded on how we answered the questions at the end of the case. Instead, by studying the case, we had the information we needed to effectively analyze a company facing similar challenges in the area.

As the first block of the summer semester comes to a close, I am encouraged to have experienced Dean’s Brian advice first hand. The summer experience, and likely beyond, has been designed to test us within the courses by preparing us to apply the concepts beyond the classroom. Lessons far more valuable than a GPA. Lessons to equip us to be more than the smartest MBAs, to be exceptional future leaders.