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By Maahir Shah, MEM ’13
Admitted Students’ Day (ASD), held in the last week of March, gives applicants who have been granted admission into the MEM and MEng Programs an opportunity to experience the education, culture and network at Duke first-hand. While this event is predominantly attended by applicants who are already in the US, several international applicants attend this event as well. ASD 2013 in particular was attended by a diverse group of over 50 prospective students from Belgium, China, India, Pakistan, Panama, Puerto Rico, Russia and all over the US.
ASD is traditionally held on a Friday and since several attendees arrive in Durham the day before, our current students organize an informal gathering with them on Thursday night at a restaurant in downtown Durham. This gives the attendees an opportunity to experience some amazing local Durham culture and cuisine as well as get introduced to the diverse student body in the MEM and MEng Programs.
ASD kicks off the next day with an early morning check-in that is accompanied by some coffee and breakfast. At the check-in, students are handed out an agenda and several brochures which provide valuable information about the program such as descriptions of the courses offered, career options, contact information of the faculty and staff and much more. The prospective students are then ushered into an auditorium where they are given a warm welcome by the Directors of the programs. During this introduction and program overview, several attendees have testified that they truly saw the value proposition of joining the MEM and MEng Programs at Duke. This is then followed by a short sample class on Management and Business that is taught by one of our esteemed faculty members and is a mandatory course for students in the program.
After a short break, the prospective students are lead to one of our faculty halls where several tables are set up for one of the favorite sessions of our attendees – the lunch with faculty. During this session, prospective students are assigned lunch tables. Seated at each table is a member of our faculty or staff as well as a current student. This gives our attendees a distinct advantage of getting the viewpoint of a professor as well as a student who has experienced the program. During the session, each professor also gives a short introduction to all students about themselves, the course(s) they teach and the value proposition and industry relevance for students interested in the course. The session usually ends with a break out where attendees can network with faculty, staff and current students to learn more and ask specific questions which they have in mind.
Lunch is followed by three short but very important sessions. The first one is a short session on Housing where several current students brief prospective students about where most MEMP and MEng students tend to stay and how they can go about searching for and acquiring accommodation for their duration in the program. This session is particularly useful for international students and students who are not local to the area. One of the key indicators of the success of this session is that most attendees end up living in one or two of the apartment complexes that current students suggest. As a result, most students in the program live very close by which creates a good platform for social activities during their time in the program. This session is followed up by a session on Career Services. During this time, our Career Services Team which is dedicated to only students in the MEM and MEng Programs, give students a glimpse into the variety of resources they have available in order to look for jobs and internships. During this session, prospective students truly understand the value of the network and opportunity for professional, personal and career development that they have available at Duke University. The last in the series of these sessions is the Student Panel. A diverse panel of current students is gathered into the auditorium where prospective students can ask questions to the current students about anything they have in their mind. Traditionally, questions range from housing, courses, career opportunities, the network at Duke, social activities and much more. The session adds value to the ASD experience since our attendees get an opportunity to learn about the experiences of several current students who are currently in the program.
Up next is one of the other highlights of ASD – The Campus Tour. Duke has a large and beautiful campus and the campus tour is an opportunity for students to immerse themselves into the culture at Duke University. Prospective student are split into small groups where they can get to know each other. Each tour group is led by one or two current students. Attendees get the opportunity to visit several places on West Campus which is where MEMP and MEng students spend most of their time. Some of the places include the classrooms where classes are held such as CIEMAS, Hudson and Teer, Perkins and Bostock Library, the local West Campus Hangout – the Bryan Center, the Duke Chapel, Fuqua School of Business and The Law School where MEMP and MEng students can take classes and the legendary Cameron Indoor Basketball Stadium. Prospective students enjoy the tour which usually takes about an hour. However, this can be extended by the number of pictures that students tend to take on this tour.
As we approach the end of ASD, students are led to our Seminar Hall to experience a core requirement of the programs – Seminar. Every week, the program brings in an industry speaker to share some insights about their experiences in diverse industries and this relates to how the MEM and MEng Programs can position students to succeed and excel in their career. The seminar is usually followed by another great part of the programs – the Cultural Presentation. Every year, the MEM and MEng Programs have a diverse student body from over 20 countries of the world. Every Friday, after Seminar, a student from a particular country delivers a short and fun presentation about their culture. This creates an excellent platform for inter-cultural learning which is crucial in today’s business environment of diverse and global teams. The presentation is followed by food from that culture and short message from the Program Director thanking the prospective students for their attendance.
While it may seem that ASD has come to an end, current students do not call it quits so early on a Friday. Our current students offer to show attendees around Durham and organize a social event in Durham. Quite often, as it happened during ASD 2013, there is a Duke Basketball game on that Friday night. This gives prospective students an opportunity to experience Duke Basketball and meet with almost all current students in the program. Friday nights are an integral part of the social activities at Duke and this gives prospective students an opportunity to truly experience life as a Duke student.
With that, a fun-filled day comes to an end where we tell our prospective students that we look forward to seeing them in Fall when they accept their offers. And, for the most part, we see most of these students enter the program. ASD gives prospective students the unique opportunity to truly experience Duke as if they were an MEMP or MEng student. Several prospective students have personally testified how instrumental ASD was in helping them make their choice to accept their offer of admission from the MEM or MEng Program at Duke University. ASD has been a vital contributor in helping these students embark on and succeed in their journey as an MEMer or MEnger.
By Bridget Fletcher, Assistant Director of Student Services
In my job I see lots of students adjust to life at Duke very quickly and also see large groups of students struggle with the adjustment and never quite get to the point of comfort. In my experience, one of the groups that seems to have the toughest time acclimating is our Chinese population. This makes sense. The language and culture are different, but not different in the way that people from the UK say “lift” instead of elevator. Different in the sense that the concepts of things like success, happiness, and family mean fundamentally different things in China. I spent lots of time trying to figure out how to better help these students and decided that a little research was in order.
I did a lot of reading about China. I read about the history, the culture, the educational system, and pretty much anything I could get my hands on. I learned a lot. For example, I had no idea that math works differently in China. The way you talk about and explain numbers is completely unlike the way we do it in the US. (Some say this is why China is better at math than the US – go figure!) I also learned a lot about the educational system. The Gaokao (college entrance exam) is something so unparalleled in the level of importance it plays in a young Chinese students life, that it’s hard to find a comparable topic for discussion that would make sense to an American. Basically, China and the US operate in ways so vastly different that most people (and universities) have not really even attempted to talk about it. It’s hard to know where to begin, let alone what a reasonable outcome might be. I am generally fairly comfortable in the realm of uncomfortable and decided this issue was one I would like to tackle.
I took what I knew through my experiences in working with Chinese students, what I had learned through my research, and decided to create a project that would allow me to better understand something that had not been thoroughly researched yet – the gap between Chinese student expectations about their experience in the US and the realities of their actual experiences. After lots of interviews, a few trips to China, and several servings of xiao long bao, I had a decent idea of what might actually be helpful for our Chinese students – a book they could read before coming to the US. Something that would help them understand what to expect in terms of language barriers, new classroom expectations, and general cultural differences.
I created From Jiao Shi to Classroom to address these very issues and to give students some ideas for ways they might prepare for their trip to the US. Things like ways to practice critical thinking, which is something that would not be expected in a Chinese classroom. The book also includes tips for making it through the first few weeks of classes. For example, write down a few comments and questions ahead of time so you aren’t caught off guard if participation is expected. The book also covers a lot of general cultural differences to expect. Things like ordering in a restaurant, the American custom of hugging, and why “how’s it going?” isn’t really a question. (This was my favorite part to write because I experienced these cultural differences on the other side of the spectrum, while I was in China.) No book can ever really prepare you for cultural differences as vast as those between the US and China, but my hope is that From Jiao Shi to Classroom gives Chinese students preparing to come to the US a head start.