Start Strong: Advice from Dean Perry

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Today marks the beginning of a new semester. Are you ready to start it off on the right foot? We sat down with Lee Perry, dean of the Marriott School, to get his take on what current and prospective business students can do from day one to thrive during fall semester.

What can students do now to stay academically strong all semester?

Every semester you have to recommit yourself to come out of the blocks fast.  You have to have the discipline to stay on top of things, so impose and follow your own structure and deadlines.  If you do the homework and the reading for your classes, you will understand the class discussion better. It’s not the end of the world if you miss a day, but it won’t work out well if you save up until midterms.

How can students returning from summer internships leverage that experience in school?

Coming back from a summer internship can be a positive thing for the classroom. Come back ready to build on that experience and learn more. You’ve had some successes and failures, and you have a context where you can place your learning. Let questions come to mind based on your experience and seek for answers as your professors are teaching you.

What kinds or relationships should students cultivate in the classroom?

Peer relationships are very important. I always think it is more fun to learn with someone else, and if you rely only on your own perspective you’ll get a fairly narrow view. Sometimes group work gets a bad reputation. But learning to work with a team is critical for management education. If you don’t learn how to motivate and lead others and to participate fully, then you will miss out on an important part of your education. A lot of work in the real world can be done by one person, but in order to pull off large-scale projects, it is critical to work with others.

Why should students consider joining Marriott School clubs?

Clubs give students an early view of what management education is about. We admit new students in their junior year, but clubs can involve them much earlier. When you join a club you have the benefit of peer leaders who can teach you the ropes before you commit to a major. For some students accounting is the perfect fit, and for some students strategy, but they need a little experience and  understanding to know which program is for them. The clubs can do that—you can move in and out a club a lot easier than you can move in and out of a major.

What kinds of career decisions should students keep in mind at the beginning of a semester?

Commit to find out as much as you can about career options.  You can be more deliberate about building your experiences and your knowledge if you choose early where to start your career. As a mission president in California, I would tell my departing missionaries to stay open until you find something you’re good at and love—it helps if you can use it to support a family too. Narrow down your options for a career starting point as much as you’re comfortable but also stay open to making changes. The best way to do that in the Marriott School is, again, joining a club or signing up for a lecture series.

What do you wish you knew as a student?
I wish I hadn’t been so focused on grades. I was very good in the classroom, but I had a lot to learn from experiences outside of it.  Knowing what I know now, I would definitely target a mentoring or club-type experience.  As an undergraduate I knew I wanted to go to law or business school, but it was difficult to decide on a major. The thing I wouldn’t change, though, is staying open enough to explore different major options to find a good fit.

Read more about Dean Perry and the school’s three associate deans in the Fall 2013 issue of Marriott Alumni Magazine.