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Lessons Learned from Volkswagen Scandal

greg026 croppedBy: Gregory S. Hopper, Adjunct Associate Professor

Volkswagen is an iconic company. It employs 600,000 people worldwide and is the parent company to Porsche, Audi, Bugatti, and several other well known marques. Launched by Hitler in WWII, it worked its way out of that shadow and became known for cars built with fine German engineering – the key element of their promise of value.

Today, VW is a cheater. Their “clean diesel” engine, specifically the Type EA 189, is a fraud. The company installed software in the engine control unit that senses when a car is being tested for emissions, and turns all the emission control devices on. When the car is being driven normally, the same software senses those conditions, and turns the emission control devices off. Nitrous oxide emissions are as much as 35 times higher on the road than when under test. 482,000 cars powered by these “clean diesel” engines have been sold in the US since 2009. Further investigation has uncovered that the cheating affects 11 million cars worldwide.

What could drive this sort of egregious behavior? Here’s my theory: around 2009, VW stated that it wanted to become the #1 automaker in the world, and would do just about anything to reach that goal. In June of this year, VW passed Toyota’s shipments for the first six months of the year, becoming #1.

But at what cost?

Imagine a scenario where you are the Senior Product Manager for the Type EA 189 “clean diesel” engine. You have rigorous specifications for fuel economy, performance, and emissions. And a schedule to meet, because this particular engine is key to the strategy to become the #1 automaker in the world.

Further imagine that you learn that there is no way that you will be able to meet all three of the (competing) specifications. Do you:

(a) Inform your manager, perhaps running the risk of losing your job?

(b) Figure out how to program the engine control module to adaptively engage the emission control devices based on the driving conditions, keeping the program on schedule?

Now let’s shift the perspective in this imaginary scenario: you are the Senior PM’s manager.

Your job is to assure that the engine is developed on time and on schedule. You have a sizable bonus at stake in the company’s drive to become the world’s #1 automaker. Your PM brings you her news. You know that the company has developed adaptive emissions technology, such as described in US Patent 5,868,646 (“Control Arrangement Accommodating Requirements of Different Countries for Motor Vehicles having an Internal Combustion Engine and Automatic Transmission”). (A patent search for “adaptive emissions controls” assigned to Volkswagen returns dozens of hits.) What do you do?

(a) Report it to senior management, and risk your job and sizable bonus?

(b) Authorize the use of engine control software to have context-aware engine control?

It is situations like this that a company’s values guide its decision-making process. Years ago, Johnson & Johnson relied on its values to respond to the Tylenol scare by pulling every single tablet of the product off the market rather than risk injury or death to its customers.

Volkswagen appears to have put the goal to be #1 ahead of the need to obey the law. In a broader perspective, the company confused financial metrics with strategy. Let me state: financial objectives (market share, profit, earnings per share, gross profit margin, “shareholder value” and so on) are not strategic objectives. They are, instead, lagging indicators of the success of strategy; lagging indicators of a firm’s ability to create value for customers.

Sam Palmisano of IBM declared in 2009 that his strategy was to achieve “$20 earnings per share”. That’s ridiculous. It’s like a football coach saying that his goal is to score 20 points per game. Scoring 20 points isn’t the objective – winning the Super Bowl is. You get to the Super Bowl by winning games over a long season. And you win games by building talent, innovating in game plans, executing well, and reacting to the situation on the field. In general, being better than your competition.

You don’t even know if 20 points will be enough to win games until you see the nature of your competition. Like a football team, a successful company needs to build talent, innovate in offerings and business model, plan strategically, execute well, and react to the situation in the marketplace. In general, be better than the competition.

Unlike football, there is no “Super Bowl” in business. There is no finish line. (Well, there is, but crossing it isn’t called “winning”. Ask Borders, Blockbuster, Circuit City, etc.) Companies must plan for the long term, over several “horizons”, to create and capture real customer value.

It is not unimaginable that the drive to be the #1 automaker in the world could instead drive Volkswagen out of business. Putting that goal ahead of the law and the trust that customers, employees, and investors had in the brand, VW’s market capitalization dropped 40% in a couple days. They face $18B in fines in the US alone; fines in other countries where the other 10.5 million cheating vehicles were sold is unknown. The cost to repair the cars has not been calculated. The 2016 models have not been released for sale in the US. The collateral damage—an “anti-halo” effect, if you will—to the other VW brands, notably Audi (which also used the Type EA 189 “clean diesel” engine), may be severe.

As we saw in our imaginary scenarios, the drive to achieve goals can lead to intense—sometimes crushing—pressure to behave unethically or illegally. The values that you formulate for your company and yourself should be the basis of your decision-making process. Financial goals are not strategies, they are the score, and will reflect the success of your strategic decisions over time.

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About: Greg Hopper created and teaches “Competitive Strategy in Technology-based Industries” for MEMP. He is a strategy and product marketing executive and entrepreneur with over 30 years experience in business strategy and marketing of technology-based solutions.  He is the CEO of Strategic Edge Executive Resources, LLC, a strategic planning, consulting, and executive education firm in Raleigh, NC.  He also serves as Strategist-in-Residence for HQ Raleigh, the leading business incubator in the Capital District, and education coordinator for ThinkHouse Raleigh.

Internship Insights: My Internship Search Process

Hong XuBy: Hong Xu MEMP ’15

Yesterday, August 7, marks the end of my summer internship as a data scientist in McKinsey Digital Labs (MDL). This summer in New York City has been a humbling, challenging and a life enriching experience. In retrospect, many things that once looked so daunting and mysterious now seem clearer and more manageable. I think it would be great to write down some of my thoughts and lessons learned here.

First, start early: Compared to most MEMers, I started pretty late – I began actively seeking internships at the start of the spring semester. Like most of us, I attended career fairs, networking events and coaching seminars held by career services. One key takeaway is that you should prepare for interviews even before you eventually get one. In my case, I didn’t hear from any companies regarding interviews until early March. And before I knew it, the interview invitations started flooding in and I remember I had about nine interviews in two consecutive weeks, including interviews with McKinsey that finally got me there. I cannot imagine myself capable of handling all those interviews in such short period of time had I not been consistently practicing.

A waiting game: But I have to admit, before I got to this exciting and intense interviewing phase, there was a long period of nerve-racking waiting, anxious mailbox refreshing and relentless resume submitting. I realized I needed to find myself some “other things” to do during that time. This means sharpening your tools – learning the materials you are going to use in interviews and down the road in your future job. From January to March, I made it routine for me to study data science and prepare for both technical and behavioral interview questions.

The value of research: Understanding the industry you hope to get into is another important task but somehow it is always overlooked. It is not something you can learn intuitively and it requires a lot of proactivity. I studied the company profiles and job descriptions on websites like Glassdoor and Quora. There are also numerous experienced people you can find on LinkedIn, who are working in the roles you are seeking. I was lucky enough to find two of them who were willing to talk to me. They gave me insights into the data scientist/analyst role and the outlook of the industry.

Interviewing preparation: As for the interview experience, I found it more of a natural representation of your personality and knowledge rather than a rehearsed performance. This, of course, is given that the position you interview for is a right match and you know how to master your nerves and tame the butterflies. As for the latter, I learned that there is no magic trick for coming off as confident. It is just practice after practice after practice. Mock interviews definitely help. Talk to your interviewers and ask what they think of your performance. Trust me, you will be surprised by their feedback! I had no clue that my hand gestures were very distracting for the interviewer until after my first mock interview. Learning from actual interviews, no matter how bad they turn out, are of course more important. I finally found myself comfortable talking to people about my relevant experience after I botched several interviews in the beginning.

Making the most of your internship: You have an internship offer and you decide to go with it. Now what? For technical roles, talk to your team, if possible, and learn the tools/environments/stacks you will be working with. Go to career service and seek advice. They hold a pre-internship panel discussion Ready, Set, Intern! as well. Don’t forget about setting expectations and action plans. I set three goals for myself before this summer: get to know the consulting industry and find out if it fits me; understand the applications and impacts of data analytics in different industries; meeting people and establishing lasting relationships. I found I had to remind myself of those goals constantly during the internship.

Internships might not be the most important part of our career, however it is such an invaluable opportunity where you can learn a great amount of knowledge, explore your true passion, and enjoy the early establishment of your career or the freedom to change to another path. The first day at my internship, people told me that being an intern was the best position in the firm. I think I now understand what they meant.

Hong photoSushi making class at McKinsey


Conversing Across Cultures


By: Bridget Fletcher, Associate Director of Student Services

As a part of our overall commitment to cultural exchange, we’ve launched a conversation club this past term. Students from around the globe come together to talk about special topics each week. The club gives students and staff an opportunity to learn from each other and for some of our international students, it’s an opportunity to practice using English in a low pressure setting.

We focus on a particular topic or activity each week and students can sign up for topics that interest them. We had a great showing for our March Madness/Sports meeting. We talked about the format for the ACC and NCAA tournaments and learned about popular sports in other cultures including cricket, badminton, soccer, and my personal favorite, kabaddi (a popular sport in India featuring breath holding, tagging, and wresting). We also had a lively chat about popular culture and celebrities which turned into a fascinating discussion about who is famous and for what reasons in different places (FYI– the global audience doesn’t seem to understand the fame of the Kardashians either). Just this past week, we had a great discussion about travel. We began by listing all the countries we’ve visited and the top three countries we each most want to visit. It was a great way to get some insight on lots of really board picinteresting countries and to learn about some of the cool reasons people have visited places – work assignments, study abroad, vacations, cultural exchanges, roots explorations, etc.

For the final couple of conversation club meetings we’ll be forming small teams, building model rockets, and launching them. We’ll have a contest to judge which rockets look the coolest, which go highest, and which crack us up the most because of erratic flight paths. It should be a rally good time and a great way for students to make pleasant, low-pressure conversation while working toward a common goal.

Alumni Spotlight: How I Landed a Job in Consulting

By: Amine Bounoughaz MEMP ’14Amine

My name is Amine Bounoughaz, and I was in your shoes two years ago when I first started the MEM program. In the fall of 2013, I was fortunate to receive an offer from McKinsey & Company.

In this short article, I would like to share with you all some thoughts on what I believe were the most essential things that really made the difference in getting the job.

1) Mindset:

As MEMers, you might be feeling that you do not have an advantage in the job market, stuck between undergrads and MBA’s, especially if you don’t have a significant work experience.

This is just a mindset. The truth is: the moment you step into an interview room, people don’t care what degree you have or where you come from. It becomes about how good you are, and how much they like you. Don’t worry about titles and degrees, focus on getting good at case interviews.

2) Getting an Interview:

There are two ways to get an interview in consulting:

Through Online Applications: This is personally how I got my interview. I worked intensively with Jenny Johnson during the first weeks of the MEM program to craft my resume.

Through Networking: This is about getting someone in McKinsey to recommend you for an interview. Ideally if you know a partner/AP/EM, your life will be much easier as they can recommend you for an interview if they think you are good.

3) Preparation and Hard Work: 

There is no shortcut to success, no magical formula. I was casing every single day, at least twice, for 5 weeks. I skipped going out on weekends and traveling on fall break just to focus on getting better at it.

I went through Victor Cheng’s Look Over My Shoulder at least 5 times, both written and audio recordings. I got to the point where I was dreaming about solving a case!!!!

Also, preparation does not start when you get an interview call. It starts months before applying to a position.You should be already familiar with the industry and type of interview months in advance.

4) Knowing When to Stop: 

Even though I was casing every single day, I was terrible at it. I would get the structure off, the math wrong, and my recommendations were weak. I was a disaster. In fact, in all 60-70 cases I did, I screwed up in 90% of them.

It wasn’t because I didn’t know how to do cases, it was because I was making the same mistakes over and over and over again. I was stuck in a hole. Luckily for me, my roommate gave me the best advice at that time: “Dude, you are in a hole: STOP.”

So in my last week before the interview, I actually stopped casing. I didn’t do a single case and just let it all sink in. I relaxed, went out and also focused on my midterms.

5) Balancing Intellect with Personality: 

During my interviews, I focused on having a great time with the interviewer and making the most out of my time there. I smiled, laughed sometimes, had conversations and genuinely enjoyed every single moment in the case.

By the end of my last interview, I had just completed three 1-hour long cases and the only thing I could think of was: I want another case!!! I didn’t force anything. I was myself and the partners just loved me.

In fact, they loved me to the extent that they didn’t even wait to call me on the phone. One of the partners came to me right after my last interview and said: “Amine, you have impressed all of us, you have a bright future ahead of you. We all loved you here: When can you start?”

Go out there and crack the case,






Victor Cheng Case Interview Secrets

Victor Cheng Look Over My Shoulder



MEM and MEng Staff Members Shine in “Meet Your Staff” Summer Videos

By: Bridget Fletcher Associate Director, Academic and Student Services

One of the things that students often struggle with when they first arrive on campus is figuring out which staff member to go to when they have a question or problem. In an effort to proactively manage this issue, I worked closely with current MEMer, Shirin Biswas to create a video introduction to each of our primary staff members.

The videos offer some background information on each staffer, including where they grew up, went to school, and other places they’ve worked. They also outline what they do for MEM and/or MEng and the various ways that they might interact with or help students. The videos were shot at different locations across campus and all around Durham in order to allow incoming students to see some of the place they are about to call home.

The most challenging (and the most fun) video to shoot was for Assistant Director of Student Services, Lorelle Babwah. As an avid cyclist, Lorelle wanted to be filmed while riding her bike. We made it work, but there were a few crashes along the way!


You can view the videos here:

Bridget: https://youtu.be/v9lXttA3_jA

Lorelle: http://youtu.be/WAcQBpgcVAg

Staci: http://youtu.be/-ekcqxA3Brg

Leah: http://youtu.be/94SWTcGbivs

Christina: http://youtu.be/s9olpVYIYyI

Jenny: http://youtu.be/_V1U_jav6Sc

Susan: http://youtu.be/L4OLlLdtWY4

Jamila: http://youtu.be/TGTtTlq3BWY

Brad: http://youtu.be/hoj1ZDVEB3Y

La Tondra: http://youtu.be/HytH_R5hSKk

Finding an Internship/Job: From Start to Finish

Prof PhotoBy: Elizabeth Neely MEng ’15

It’s simple: Getting an internship/job is not easy. Unfortunately, I don’t hold the secret to finding an internship or job with great speed and no pain. However, I can offer a few pieces of advice that have helped me in the past. The key is starting early.

In an ideal world, we would all follow the schedule below, but we all know that timing never plays out the way we want.

(Let’s assume you’ve been admitted into Duke’s MEM or MEng program as of March 2014):

April 2014: Email your professors and any industry contacts (current/past supervisors) to inform them of your next step…going to Duke!

May 2014: Start working on your “ideal list.” Ideal list = the companies that you would love to work for (and don’t forget to look at their competitors – you’ll most likely want to work for them as well, as they will have a similar mission).

June 2014: Finalize your “ideal list” (consult your family, friends, professors, and anyone that you have developed a professional relationship with to ask their opinion or other suggestions).

July 2014: Go back to the emails you sent in April and resend each of them an email. Let them know that you have taken the time to dig deep and think through your goals for graduate school and the years to come after (I would even use part of your admission essay and send it their way – let them see your passion). Finish the email by explaining your “ideal job” and the possible companies that might offer that job/internship. Hopefully you have a strong relationship with each of the people you are emailing and can ask them to brainstorm ways to get in touch with people at this company.

August 2014: If any leads came out of the emails sent in July 2014, follow up with them first. The goal is that you already have a contact at one or more of the companies you want to work for – but if you haven’t developed contacts yet – devote all your effort to networking. What this means is: sift through LinkedIn, the career service sites (that you already have access to!), talk to friends/family, etc.

September 2014: Take the opportunity (that they offer many times to us!) and meet with Career Services. Schedule a 1:1 appointment with them, rather than drop-in hours. And most importantly, come prepared! Come to the meeting with your “ideal list,” a progress update from the past few months, and current leads. (This is assuming you’ve already put in the effort to beef up your resume and you’re ready to send out). People are willing to help you if you have first put in the work for yourself. I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m sure that career services would be more than willing to assist you with furthering your networking – put you in touch with recent alums, recruiters and more.

October 2014: Reach out to everyone on your most updated “job/internship” contact list (including personal contacts, alumni contacts, career service contacts, etc.) – if this is your first time to contact – it’s great to introduce yourself and ask if they have a few minutes to walk you through how they ended up where they are today (especially if they went to Duke- ask them to lead you from their departure from Duke to their current position). If it’s someone you have reached out to before, make another “touch” (someone once told me to make as many “touches” as possible when networking. This just means to make sure to reach out to as many people as possible – a touch can be an email, a LinkedIn message, coffee, meeting, phone call, etc.) This is the time to let your consistent contacts know that you are currently looking for an internship or job (and let them know your timeline, i.e. your ideal start date). If you have made the effort to develop the relationship, by starting to reach out in April, and continue to reach out, they are going to be willing to help. People want to help each other- it’s in our nature- but they also want to know you have put in the effort.

November 2014: This should be listed in October as well, but apply to internships online, via career fair, etc. and get some practice! If given the opportunity to interview, this is a great chance to gain experience interviewing and talking about your background and your goals. It might not be your ideal job/company, but practice makes perfect. And when you’re off to your dream job interview, you’ll feel even more confident.

December 2014: If you’ve had great progress over the last few months, this is the month where you’ll see this effort come to fruition. Aim to have 5 interviews (phone interview, informational interview, behavioral interviews, etc.) by the end of December. The holiday season creates a delay in the recruiting process and its important to get your face (or voice) out there before the season.

January 2014: Continue interviewing. Hopefully, you’ve reached some 2nd round interviews. Set goals for yourself, i.e. 3 informational interviews by the end of October, 5 interviews by the end of December, 3 second round interviews by the end of January, 1 offer by the end of January, and 2 offers by the end of February. The goals might seem unrealistic, but if you set these goals in advance, you might just hit them.

February 2014: Continue interviewing and following up with contacts. Meet with Career Services if you are finding yourself in a rough patch and need new ideas.

March – April 2014: Job offers! Now it’s your chance to make the decisions. Make sure to have thoughtful conversations about your offers (ask all the right questions) and leverage your offers. Career Services can offer some great language for conversations about offers.

May – June 2014: Start your job/internship!

As we all know, graduation dates are across the board, so please know these months can be applied to any month, just know it can be more than a year process! Make sure to give yourself that time. And also note that this timeline is something that has worked for me in the past and doesn’t necessarily mean will work for everyone or take this long.

Attend: Go to TechConnect Night, go to all the Career Fairs and don’t miss out on any industry events that appeal to your interests. This is a game of quantity – the more companies you talk to, the better you’ll understand your passion/interests, and the more likely you’ll find the right fit for yourself.

Remember: Even though you are trying to find a company that wants you, don’t forget that the company wants to find the right person for them. This needs to be a mutual fit – so always remind yourself that you are interviewing them as well!

I’ve listed a lot of steps here, with not a great deal of detail. If you want help with appropriate “language” to use in the emails or need help brainstorming your “ideal list” or anything else, please consult with a Career Advisor. As I keep saying, they are very helpful!

*To see another guideline on what do each month, take a look a the Student Checklist: 2 and 3 semester options 


4 Ways to Find a Fantastic Mentor

By: La Tondra Murray, Director of Professional Masters Programs

One of the best things that you can do in any industry is to work with a good mentor. In my experience, people often underestimate the degree to which a mentor can help you learn the landscape, build relationships and manage challenges in the workplace.  The search for a strong mentor, however, can be daunting at first thought.

Any approach can ultimately work if you can collaborate with a mentor who is willing to share his or her experiences while simultaneously getting to know you. Trust, honesty and vulnerability all play a role in strongest of mentor-protégé pairings.

The first step, however, is to find the right, willing candidate. As you search for and ultimately ask someone to serve as a mentor, here are a few things that you can do from the start:

  1. Develop clear goals for the interaction. What is it that you want to get out of a mentor-protégé relationship? Are you interested in growing your technical expertise? Do you want to learn more about the organization’s product lines? Would you like to create better strategies for work-life integration? If you give some serious thought to what you’d like to glean from your mentor upfront, you’ll be able to: 1) make a stronger case for who you specifically want to work with as well as why and 2) gain a clearer view of how you want to progress over time. You should also think about how you want to contribute as the best partnerships are mutually beneficial.
  2. Think beyond your immediate team. Sometimes is it helpful to get the perspective of someone who isn’t aligned with your department, business unit, or even your company. Mentors can certainly be internal to your organization, but consider the possibilities outside the realm of your employer as well. At the end of the day, mentors can often provide a unique vantage point based on their experience and knowledge. If you can look beyond the people you have access to on a daily basis anyway, you may be able to engage with someone else with surprising results.
  3.  Be prepared to work with more than one person. Mentors can serve different purposes in your professional life, so you don’t need to have an exclusive arrangement with a single person. As I tell my own mentees, ‘we can see other people.’ While you don’t want to have so many mentors that you can’t create a quality relationship with any of them, I do think that there is value is establishing a small ‘board of directors’ that can help you flourish in the areas that are important to you. An open mindset will release you from the expectations that one individual can help you with everything.
  4. Choose someone who is different from you. While it is often comforting to align ourselves with a mentor who shares our gender, race, educational background, etc., we may miss out on an opportunity to leverage diversity in our favor. A mentor with a background that varies from yours can provide you with unique insight. Don’t be afraid to venture beyond your comfort zone to connect with someone different. You stand to make tremendous gains if you can broaden your horizons.

Most people will be more than willing to help, but you need to take the initial step.  Figure out who you would like to learn from and reach out!

What other strategies would you suggest when it comes to finding a mentor? Leave a comment to let us know!


Dr. La Tondra Murray and her fantastic mentor of 20+ years Dr. Mary Carol Day

Why You Should Join the Duke MEMP Consulting Club

Consulting Club

By Madhav Shekhar: MEMP ’15

The Duke Masters of Engineering Management Consulting Club’s mission is to prepare students for successful careers in consulting after graduation. Our organization achieves this through three primary initiatives: industry sponsored projects, case interview preparation workshops, and professional seminars. Every semester the Consulting Club partners will firms within the Research Triangle and beyond to offer students an opportunity to work on real world consulting projects. These projects include anything from impact or market evaluation to supply chain strategy. The Consulting Club also offers a weekly case study practice workshop on Fridays to help prepare students for case study based interviews. The club also partners with local Duke Alumni to host seminars and workshops to educate students on careers in consulting. These events expose students to real world professional’s insight into the world of consulting.

Our most popular event of last year was the case interview preparation workshops: one co-hosted by notable Duke Alumni Daniel Kauffman and the other co-hosted by Mr. Fred Humiston. Both these individuals are McKinsey and Company alums and have been coaching people for a long time. Over 80 Master of Engineering Management Candidate students attended these three-hour events. The seminars begin with a basic overview of management consulting. It then progressed into the nuts in bolts of case interviewing. Several basic frameworks were covered and then the students were given several examples of possible case study prompts. Students were asked to present their frameworks in front of the class and feedback was given. Live cases were then performed in front of the class. Students found the event extremely informative. As a result, the Consulting Club has begun to reach out to other MEMP Alumni in the area who may be interested in hosting a similar event in the future.

The consulting club then builds on these workshops and organizes weekly case preparation workshops to help students hone their case interviewing skills. We also organize mock case interview competitions to give students a chance to practice their interview skills. Simulating a real-time consulting interview, students face challenging case interviews and behavioral interviews in the process to completely practice what they have learned so far. Given the job and internship search that goes on the entire year, we have found these workshops and interviews to be highly beneficial to the students.

We also facilitate real-time consulting engagements lasting 6-8 weeks with clients in and around the area, which help students get the hang of the consulting industry. Students form teams of 4-5 people coordinated by a member of the consulting club and try to solve the business problems of the clients, which can range from market entry to forming strategies for market expansion. We have had a history of delivering quality and timely results and hence, the companies are always eager to have the Duke MEMP Consulting Club do pro-bono consulting for them.

Finally, we collaborate with other consulting clubs in Duke to form a community dedicated to help students prepare for a career in consulting. It gives us immense pleasure in being able to help the Duke community and in the process, help ourselves get better in whatever we do.

To find out more visit our website: Duke MEMP Consulting Club

Pre-Arrival Programming in China – Duke MEM Shares Best Practices at WISE

BridgetBy: Bridget Fletcher, Associate Director of Academic and Student Services

The Duke MEM program has been visiting China each May for the past three years. Our visits are with admitted students, so the focus is on pre-arrival programing, rather than recruitment. We typically meet with 10-15 students in Beijing and 15-20 students in Shanghai. We hold one-on-one conversations with each student to give them an opportunity to ask us questions about MEM, Duke, Durham, the US, the job market, really anything! Some common questions are about whether to complete the program in 2 or 3 semesters, how to stay safe on campus, how to avoid bed bugs, how to navigate the US party culture, and whether or not they will need a car. These are not questions we would expect to get my email, so the in-person visits allow students to ask about things that might be worrying them, but they wouldn’t otherwise ask.

Bridget 2We also hold group sessions in each city, which typically feature a couple of current students as well as alumni. These sessions allow the incoming students to get a student’s perspective on the program and an alumni perspective on how the program has impacted their career. We also provide the students with suggestions and materials for summer preparation. We encourage the students to be thinking about preparing to use English on a daily basis, practicing networking, getting their resume and LinkedIn profiles ready, and sorting out some general moving logistics.

These trips have proven to be very helpful for us. We have found that students are generally more comfortable when they arrive and, in many cases, seemingly more open to new experiences. We have also seen a marked improvement in English communication skills and classroom participation. Additionally, the students are more willing to speak up when they have a question or concern, which means it’s easier for us to help them. Another HUGE benefit is that we get to better understand Chinese culture by being immersed in it for a few weeks. By doing this we become better at serving the needs of our Chinese student population.

10444777_10152458032496950_5526634359830460157_nSince we have had such a positive response to our pre-arrival programs, Jenny Johnson (Associate Director for Career Services) and I decided to put together a workshop for other universities to learn about our model. We were able to present our workshop at the WISE (Workshop on Intercultural Skills Enhancement) Conference at Wake Forest University this past November. We focused on how our pre-arrival trips to China came to be, the improvements we have experienced since implementing these trips, and helping other universities determine if this type of investment would be beneficial for them. The session was met with a great response and a lot of positive feedback from universities all over the US (and even one on Australia!).

MEM staffers Jenny Johnson and Staci Thornton (Academic Coordinator) will be headed to Beijing and Shanghai this May for our fourth Pre-arrival programming trip to China. They are very excited to meet the incoming Chinese MEMers and to spend some time with alumni (all while eating delicious xiao long bao).



Admitted Student Day 2015


By: Malena Lum MEMP ’15

The 5th annual MEM/MEng Admitted Student Day (ASD) was held on Friday, March 27, 2015. This event was a great opportunity for applicants, who have been granted admission into the MEM and MEng Programs to get a first-hand glimpse of how amazing the Duke experience really is, participating in activities such as a sample class, a sample workshop, lunch with the staff and current students, campus tour, seminar, and much more.

IMG_6395ASD started with a warm welcome and overview of the programs, where attendees were able to meet the faculty and staff behind the MEM and MEng Programs such as Dr. La Tondra Murray, Director of the Professional Masters Programs in Engineering and Bridget Fletcher, Associate Director of Academic and Student Services for the Professional Masters Programs in Engineering.  This was followed by a sample class, Management in High Tech Industries, which is one of the core courses in both programs that focuses on managerial decision-making and leadership.  Also, the Career Services team gave a brief overview of the variety of resources they have available dedicated to only students in the MEM and MEng Programs.

After this great start, attendees were led to a lunch with the faculty, staff and current students, where they had a chance to talk more about core courses and elective options. During the lunch, each professor gave a brief presentation on their course.

Lunch was followed by an interactive IMG_6439sample workshop, housing overview presented by current students, and a student panel to answer specific questions about Duke, Durham, courses, and activities in general.

One of the highlights of ASD is the campus tour, where prospective students interact with potential future classmates while exploring the beautiful campus. Following the campus tour was a seminar, a core requirement of both programs, and a cultural presentation. Every week, the program brings in an industry speaker to share some insights about their experiences in diverse industries. This helps students in the MEM and MEng Programs learn how to best position themselves to succeed in the industry and excel in their careers. Every Friday after seminar, students from a particular country give a short and fun cultural presentation, followed by delicious food from that country.

At the end of a long but fun day, the student body had also organized a social event to mingle with other students in a more informal setting, watch the Duke’s basketball team win, and give prospective students an opportunity to experience life as a Duke student.


Admitted Students Day MEMP 

Admitted Student Day MEng