Tools for Making the Transition Back to School

START Orientation Activities
Transition 2
START Orientation Activities
Transition 3
START Orientation Activities
Transition 4
Spouses & Significant Others Mixer
Full-time MBA Class of 2019
Full-time MBA Class of 2019

Incoming students at the TCU Neeley School of Business start preparing for their full-time MBA journey well before the first day of class. As soon as students are admitted to the program, they can begin taking advantage of the many resources Neeley has created to support their future academic — and professional — success.

An Individual (and Family) Focus

Prior to starting her MBA at TCU, Vanessa Contreras spent eight years with IBM in South America, working in consultative sales positions in Chile and her native Colombia. Vanessa appreciates the lengths to which Neeley goes to ensure that each incoming MBA class feels acclimated to the school's unique culture. “We have access to staff, students, videos, websites, academic modules, workshops for international students, student panels and social events,” she says. Vanessa especially benefitted from working with second-year MBAs via the program's New Student Liaisons initiative. Liaisons are elected by their classmates to serve in this capacity. Moreover, like Vanessa, each incoming student is assigned to a second-year mentor during the summer before their first semester.

Vanessa also appreciates that TCU "cares about the whole student. They recognize that students need to have a school-life balance to be successful. For example, they held a special event just for our spouses and significant others. They wanted to invite them into the TCU family too. The staff helped them understand the flow of the program and the benefits of being associated with TCU." The result, according to Vanessa, is not just a welcoming environment, but a sense of community in which every individual is treated with real respect.

Academic Preparation

Starting in April, Vanessa and all incoming MBA students were given access to online academic modules in accounting and quantitative methods to complete at their own pace. For the many students coming to the MBA with experience in the humanities, law, science, IT and other fields, these modules provide an essential foundation for the MBA curriculum. Even incoming MBAs who have undergraduate degrees in business value these refreshers, particularly those who may not have sat in a classroom or actively studied these subjects for several years.

According to incoming MBA student Michele Tan, these modules "helped level the playing field with my classmates who have a business background." A former chemical engineering major, Michele comes to the program from an associate position at TAEL, a private equity firm investing in ASEAN businesses. Prior to that, she spent five years as a process engineer.

Faculty members use the results from the academic modules to identify strengths and weaknesses in the incoming class as a whole. They also use those results to plan several half-day academic sessions that are offered during the START Workshop in August.

START Workshop

During the 13 days of START, students work alongside both their instructors and their colleagues to further delve into topics such as critical thinking, teamwork, accounting and strategy. The goal of the START Program is to help incoming students develop greater self-awareness, an appreciation for the unique skills and backgrounds of their classmates, and an understanding of the expectations — academic and otherwise — the Neeley community has for all its MBAs.

Michael Swartz says that "the START Workshop balances an introduction to the campus and community culture with meaningful team-building experiences, administrative to-dos, and foundational academic content. I now feel more prepared and energized to take on the next two years!" Michael certainly understands the value of successful onboarding and teamwork. He spent the last four years as Director of Youth and Family Engagement at the Temple Emanu-El in Dallas, where he was responsible for engaging over 1,000 individuals each year.

Corporate Connections Begin at START

The Neeley MBA experience is informed by the belief that students need to be ready to interact with prospective employers from day one. Over the summer months, incoming students are introduced to the school's wide array of career resources. They are encouraged to explore opportunities within their areas of interest and are invited to view webinars featuring tips from TCU alumni.

Additionally, before embarking upon the START Program, incoming MBAs are required to update their resumes, fine-tune their LinkedIn profiles and submit video interviews. Then, during START, students attend several sessions dedicated to career planning. 

The START Workshop itself culminates in a week-long business case competition sponsored by one of TCU's corporate partners. This year’s sponsor, IBM, based the case on one of their current business issues. By the end of the week, teams of incoming students had been coached by staff from Neeley’s Professional Development Center on presenting the recommendations they delivered to company executives.

Finally, once the Fall Semester begins, these now-full-time MBA students enroll in a 6-week career development course.

Are They Ready?

How does these incoming MBAs feel about the Fall Semester now that they've spent a summer preparing to enter the program? “I think TCU Neeley has a 360-degree approach to providing the resources that new students need,” Vanessa says. “Every aspect for incoming students is covered well.” Looking back, Michele says that "TCU Neeley has made my transition back to school a seamless one. Their intentionality in helping us succeed is highly commendable.” And Michael is one fired-up Frog. "I'm extremely thankful for all the tools and resources that I have received during these couple of weeks. I'm ready to embark on my MBA adventure!"

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