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Winning the MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition

By: Fares Alzahrani, MEMP ’16

“Go Duke” were the last two words in the congratulatory email we received from the Master of Engineering Management Program director, Dr. Bradley Fox, for our selection to represent Duke University in the MEMPC PriSim Business War Games Competition. To me, his two words represented bestowed trust, serious competition ahead of us, and a request for a championship. I was honored to be part of an intellectually cooperative team representing our distinguished university in the Master of Engineering Management Consortium, which includes Northwestern, Cornell, Dartmouth, MIT, USC, Stanford, as well as Duke. We were further honored to be the first place winners in the competition. More importantly, the competition and simulation provided me invaluable lessons in applying what I have learned inside and outside the classroom.

The month-long competition consisted of 10 decision periods, each of which represented a simulated year. There were 11 teams, two of which were from Duke. Those teams were split into two automobile industries, and each team was made up of 4 students from the same MEMPC school. For more details on the competition case, visit here.

I was lucky enough to work with Saraswathi Gautham, Jun Yang, and Yijun Liu, each of whom brought outstanding intellect and personality to the team. At the beginning of the competition, we all realized two important aspects that we had to settle in order to win: team dynamics and the firm’s strategy. For team dynamics, our Management course, EGRMGMT 540, came in handy in solving two critical aspects for our success: team’s roles and responsibilities and managing conflict.

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From left to right: Fares Alzahrani, Saraswathi Gautham, Dr. La Tondra Murray, Jun Yang, and Yijun Liu

We had never worked with each other before, and given our busy schedules, there was little time to get to know each other well before we reached the performing stage. Therefore, we started sharing information about each other’s strengths and preferences on the roles to guide us during the meetings. However, in our first couple of meetings that were planned to define our team and firm, we had seemingly endless and unproductive discussions on the formulation of our firm’s strategy. We realized that our management education was useless if we could not turn around that situation and align our goals for better performance. At the end of the second 2-hour meeting, everyone at the table stated their goal for the competition, which primarily included winning and learning. Astonishingly, that short genuine discussion of our purposes and interests significantly boosted our team spirit as well as understanding and trust for each other. As a result, we were able to settle the firm’s strategy and team’s roles and responsibilities within 15 minutes.

The competition provided us an enduring and practical lesson on strategy that would have taken us 5-10 years to experience first-hand in the real world. Some of our members had taken the Competitive Strategy course, conducted various cases, and/or had practiced strategy formulation with a previous employer. We all have learned that strategy in the long run can provide powerful competitive advantage in the market place.

However, none of us had ever experienced the serious executive debates that go into approving and committing to a strategy. We had never been challenged with tough decisions that forgo market opportunities for the sake of better strategy alignment. We had never realized how powerful strategy can be in positioning our firm for long term success until we committed ourselves to test that essential strategy lesson in the simulation. The agreed-upon strategy truly served as a compass in all of our discussions and debates. Reflecting back on tough and long-debated decisions, the team is extremely happy on the outcome of those decisions that our competitors initially found strange or even stupid. The graph below shows our firm, Firm D, stock performance against the other firms in our industry:

Competition graph

The chart does not necessarily indicate that we had a superior strategy over other competitors, but it clearly shows that our team was focused on a strategy over the course of the competition. It demonstrates that the team made sound decisions that delivered significant value to the firm’s bottom line.

The simulation has cemented our finance and accounting lessons acquired during the fall and spring semesters as part of Duke MEMP’s core and elective courses. Those courses provided the basis for the discussion and analysis of our firm’s and competitors’ financial statements on each round. One important, yet subtle, lesson I learned during my Advanced Finance Course is that profitability and liquidity are inversely proportional to each other. This lesson allowed the team to make sound financial decisions which led to our winning the competition. Therefore, I also believe that the simulation and competition fostered our financial acumen.

Finally, I would highly encourage all MEMP students to apply for the competition next year as it was truly captivating and rewarding. There are innumerable lessons to be gained in different fields such as product development, marketing, finance, pricing, strategic thinking, and others. More importantly, I had the opportunity to try and validate hard-to-apply lessons in team dynamics and competitive strategy beyond just studying and discussing them in classroom cases.

Paapdi Chaat | Indian Chaat Recipe

The Professional Masters Program’s diverse student population likes to share and learn about each others culture. One of our favorite ways to do this is through food! Enjoy this recipe to get a taste of a popular Indian dish.

By: Ankur Manikandan MEng ’15

Paapdi chaat is one Chaatof those Indian chaats that is irresistible – spicy, tangy, crunchy, yummy! Every person has a different way of preparing Paapdi chaat – some prefer certain chutneys and some can do without, some like thin paapadi’s whereas some like thick paapadi’s, some prefer a little spicy or some like it a bit tangy. The best part is, there is no certain recipe for Paapdi chat because the ingredients can be absolutely added in random quantities and mixed to suit your personal preference and still taste good in the end. And why not – with the blend of different flavorful chutneys, the crunch from the paapdi, the mixture of spices, and the tartness from lemon juice – all combined together wonderfully makes this Paapdi chaat a tempting chaat.

Honestly, I would never use a Paapdi chaat recipe – I would only want to know the basic list of ingredients for making the chaat, understand the concept or the procedure and then make it as per my taste and preferences. I am listing the approximate quantities of each ingredient to give an idea and I strictly recommend you to adjust the tastes to your liking.

Ingredients: 

For Sprouts Paapdi Chaat (serves 2-3)

1 cup sprouts (you can use store bought)

1/4 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup cherry tomato, chopped (optional)

2 thai green chilies or jalapeño pepper, minced (optional although recommended)

1/3 cup cilantro, chopped

1 1/2 tablespoon mint leaves, chopped

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon chaat masala

12-15 crispy paapdi (find any local Indian or ethnic store)

tamarind chutney, per taste

Spiced yogurt, per taste

Hot green cilantro chutney, per taste

For Tamarind Chutney

4 tablespoon seedless tamarind

1 1/2 cups water

3-4 tablespoon jaggery (can substitute with dark brown sugar)

1 teaspoon oil

1/4 teaspoon nigella

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon caraway seeds

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

Instructions: 

Soak tamarind in water for a couple hours. Use warm water to speed up the process. Once soft, mash tamarind in water and then strain through a strainer. Collect pulp in a bowl. Heat oil in a sauce pan. Add dry spices. As they sputter add tamarind pulp. Stir. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low. Add jaggery. Let the mixture reduce for 8-10 minutes until jaggery dissolves in the tamarind chutney and thickens it in the process. Turn heat off. Let cool. Store in an airtight jar in a cool dry placChaat 2e.

For Spiced Yogurt

1/2 cup thick plain yogurt (salt to taste)

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together.

Assembling Sprouts Paapdi Chaat:

In a bowl mix together sprouts, onion, tomato, chili, salt, cilantro, mint and chaat masala. Set aside. Poke holes on one side of the crispy puri. Make sure not to poke through the other side. Fill with sprouts salad. Drizzle the chutneys per taste. Serve as an appetizer with your choice of drink.

 

Internship Insights: Marketing the Reinvented Toilet at RTI International

By: David Richards, MEM ’15

Eat something, you’ll need the energy,” my supervisor remarked.

The I-zone meeting room – short for innovation, inspiration, or really any positive word starting with an ‘i’ – was empty now, but soon it would be filled with a collection of executives, primed to hear our toilet market entry recommendation. I grabbed the closest boxed lunch and managed a few bites of my sandwich before their voices drifted inward…

RTI
RTI’s “RTT” Design

I may be getting a bit ahead of myself here. In 2011, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation issued a challenge: reinvent the toilet. Not just the porcelain object we all know and love, but the entire infrastructure around it.

Back in Research Triangle Park, RTI International applied their wide variety of capabilities in chemistry, materials science and international development to build a water-less, energy balanced system that also has the potential to fulfill RTI’s mission, “Improve the human condition by turning knowledge into practice.” This process was documented in an awesome blog entitled “A Better Toilet”.

RTI’s project successfully caught The Gates Foundation’s attention. In 2014, RTI was awarded a substantial sum to create a working prototype and bring this revolutionary technology to market.

Enter me, an inexperienced Duke MEM candidate, ready to begin my role as an open innovation consulting intern! The first day, I was led into a room by my incredibly intelligent supervisor, and explained everything. RTI seeks to enter the India sanitation market, but we want you to develop and communicate the entry recommendation. Go.

With a few markets in mind and a rough outline of the story we were going to tell, I got to researching. And I researched. Hours and hours were spent pouring through publications and news articles. They discussed statistics about India’s state of sanitation: only 36% of the population has access, and of those that do, only 13% of their waste is treated. Because of a lack of toilets, girls do not attend school and women must trek to remote locations for privacy. I came to realize that, though this phenomenon isn’t publicized in the media much, it is an enormous problem – and not just in India.

RTI 2
Countries with <50% access to sanitation and projected water scarcity

There are dozens of countries that suffer from low access to sanitation and will have unprecedented water scarcity by 2025. India was chosen as the target location for three reasons:

  1. It has a large and growing economy
  2. It has a democratic and cooperative government
  3. RTI has both an office and several partnerships in the country

These three factors allowed for the possibility of not just making an initial dent in the problem, but a sustained impact.

As I collected more and more data, a market clearly presented itself and an entire deck was created with this recommendation in mind. My supervisor gave me the tremendous opportunity to present my work to six vice presidents and two senior directors in a capstone meeting.

RTI 3
Presenting at the 7th Annual RTI Internship Showcase

In the end, I realized that though my level of experience paled in comparison to my audience, what I learned over the last three months uniquely positioned me as an expert on this project. I knew where all the numbers came from, had a comprehensive understanding of why our recommendation presented the best opportunity, and understood the nuances of the engineering backstory for the toilet and the Gates Foundation’s stipulations. They listened as I spoke and I answered as they questioned. It was a remarkable experience that I will remember for the rest of my career.

More generally, having participated in 20+ projects over the last three months, I learned three important lessons about the process of working, especially juggling multiple tasks.

First, I realized it helps to carefully divide and conquer – whether you’re working on one project or five. You need to divide each task into manageable chunks and make sure you are working efficiently. This required not only planning but also giving yourself the confidence to say “no” to other projects when you are aware of how little time you have to spare.

Second, you must adapt to your supervisor’s working style as soon as you begin working with them. Since I was involved with so many projects, I collaborated with a large number of project managers – each one with a completely different style of working. Some liked for me to communicate in person, others via the phone and a few only over email. Questions must be asked early and effectively.

Third, and most importantly, you must strive to add your personal brand of value to every task you participate in. This means thinking critically about your assignment and going above and beyond what your supervisor asks you to do. It helps to come up with questions at the beginning of a task – some may be simple clarification questions; others may lead you to take the task in a completely different direction. Conscientiously adding value does not only differentiate yourself, but also gives you the chance to think creatively about your work.

RTI International’s Innovation Advisor’s group was a fantastic place to intern this summer and I hope that their relationship with the MEM program continues to strengthen.

What is the Global Leadership Fellows Program?

By: Lorelle Babwah, Assistant Director of Student Services

The Global Leadership Fellows Program (GLF) is a brand new initiative within the Professional Masters Program led by Bridget Fletcher and myself, Lorelle Babwah. If you are audiovisually inclined, you can learn more about the program by watching our Harry Potter-style recruitment video found here.

GLF Program

We are pleased to announce that the program received 20 applications for our inaugural class! From that, we selected 10 excellent fellows and sorted them further into two, five-person groups: House Babenclaw (headed by yours truly) and House Fletchendore (led by Bridget Fletcher).

The goal of the program is to develop a small community of MEM and MEng students who are interested in digging a little deeper. Fellows focus their engagement in three core areas: Leadership, Personal Development, and Cultural Competence.

I’ll elaborate more on these later, but today I’d like to talk a little bit about our fellows’ current activities—knowledge sharing! In keeping with the school’s mission of “knowledge in service of society,” program fellows must demonstrate leadership through service and ongoing engagement to develop others and improve Professional Masters Programs. Each fellow must plan and execute an activity where he or she shares some knowledge with the greater community. Here are just a few examples of the fellows’ presentation topics for this semester:

Working on Diverse Teams

Singlish (Singaporean English)

Traditional Chinese Martial Arts

Women in the Workforce

Palm-Reading

Chinese Characters

Navigating Chennai

Chinese Culture and Paper Cutting

Living Through the Five Senses

Look for future updates on our fellows and the GLF Program as we progress through this exciting first year. In the meantime, please check out the Global Leadership Fellows Program blog, with special links to hear from the fellows themselves! Who knows, we may even feature some guest bloggers very soon…

Conversing Across Cultures

debate

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.

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!

staffstaff2

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

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).

 

 

Reflections from the Duke Lemur Center

By: Lorelle Bablemur2wah, Assistant Director of Student Services

During the weeklong reprieve that was Spring Break, many of our students traveled across the country and even the world. And of course, a bunch stayed here in good old Durham and visited Duke’s Lemur Center with us.

Beyond simply being adorable, our fine furry friends had a thing or two to teach us about the importance of taking it easy every now and then. Without further ado, I present to you…

The Lemur’s Top 3 Tips for Living Well:

1. Keep Loved Ones Close

During our visit, we were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of 2 month old baby Isabella granddaughter of the famous lemur Zoboomafoo. Little Isabella can often be found clinging to her mother Pompeia or rolling around on the floor with her father Charlie as he coos to her. Human cuddling releases oxytocin, an important hormone implicated in lowering blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones.

2. Strengthen your Network

Sometimes we need to rely on our network to accomplish things we cannot do alone. Lemurs are equipped with a special set of comb-like bottom teeth and grooming claw that they use for grooming not only themselves, but also their friends. (Kind of lends a new meaning to “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours,” doesn’t it?) Of course this easily extends to our world as well. A large percentage of jobseekers eventually find a job through networking. And remember, the more you help others, the more likely they will be to help you!

3. Get some Vitamin D!

The sun is important, regardless of what type of primate you are! Ring tailed lemurs regularly sunbathe, sitting in a yoga pose to feel the warm rays on their bellies. We need the vitamin D to maintain numerous bodily processes, to calibrate our sleep cycles, and to regulate our moods.

And now we will close with a picture of our group at the Lemur Center in typical ringtail sunning pose.

Lemur

Duke MEM Loves our Blue Devils Basketball

MEM Duke Basketball_1MEM Duke Basketball_2

By Sasha Doust (MEMP ’15)

The Duke Master of Engineering Management program has been thoroughly engrossed in campus life this year, and along with that, longstanding Duke basketball traditions. Excited to be part of the action, MEMers set up tents for a weekend at Duke’s Basketball Campout in the fall to have a chance to win season tickets to the basketball games. Those of us (including myself) who did not win tickets, have still managed to find ways to make it to Cameron Indoor to see our Blue Devils play. This has been an exhilarating year, as we have had many great wins and have watched our highly regarded basketball coach, Mike Krzyzewski (aka Coach K) reach a career high of 1,000 wins.

MEM Duke Basketball_3MEM Duke Basketball_4

We have enjoyed cheering on our boys to amazing home-game wins against teams including Notre Dame, Syracuse, and of course, our in-state rival UNC. We have had other opportunities to see the team in action as well and hear the players speak, such as at our Countdown to Craziness event and a talk given by Coach K in Cameron. Some of us have even spotted the basketball players around campus and Durham!

We have had fun tailgating, cheering on the team at Cameron, and attending watch parties for away games. We are looking forward to the continued excitement in the NCAA Tournament. Duke MEMers are proud to be able to share in the rich tradition and legacy of Duke basketball!

CDAR MEM Student Group – Achievements & Final words

By Naman Garg , MEM ’13 – CDAR Director Fall 13

Naman Garg, MEM '13
Naman Garg, MEM ’13

It is my immense pleasure and honor to write final words for activities performed by extremely talented and hardworking Career Development & Alumni Relations (CDAR) members during Fall 2013. We have worked on some amazing projects such as Internship Information sessions, Informational Interviewing, Workgroups, and the CDAR Fall 2013 Installment document. I am very hopeful that in Spring ‘14 CDAR will do more wonderful work under Osama’s leadership and Jenny Johnson and Ross Wade’s guidance.

When I joined Duke MEM program in Fall 2013, I was overwhelmed with the options and choices presented to me. Being an engineer with limited work experience, I had little idea of the professional path I wanted to follow. So I set on a quest to understand my career interests. I started by talking to a lot of people from diverse fields. This helped me to realize what I didn’t want to do in the future. Eventually I was able to figure out about my career interests.

I also learned that I was not alone in this struggle of choosing a career path. So, when I got the opportunity to work as CDAR’s director, I oversaw a highly motivated team that worked on projects aimed at helping MEM students make effective career choices. Informational Interviewing is one such project which will help students to know about day to day activities of various alumni working in diverse fields. We believe that it will definitely help students make  informed choices with respect to their careers.

Internship Information sessions, lunch with professors also registered highly positive feedback from students. All the transcripts of alumni interviews, internship information sessions, and feedback from other projects have been documented in the CDAR Fall 2013 Installment.

I am sure CDAR will have much more exciting and wonderful projects for MEM students this semester. I highly recommend students to go through the CDAR Fall 2013 Installment to learn about different projects and their outcomes. We believe this will definitely help students in their Jobs/Internship search.

Finally I would like to thank Margaret, Osama, Vaishnavi, Arjun, Ajay, Samkit, Anthony, Pranav, Swathy, Zihe, Tucker, & Kavitha for their excellent work. Jenny, Ross and Bridget for their valuable guidance and Maahir & Venos for constant support.

It was a great learning experience for me personally. I would like to welcome the future team and hope they will have as much fun and wonderful experiences from this forum.

Click here to read the CDAR report including informational interviews with alumni, discussions with MEM faculty, and more!