Kyle Wu, Thunderbird School of Global Management The motivation for doing an MBA

I’ve completed half of my second semester. The onslaught of mid-term exams and group projects is over. We have gone from being students to being test takers.

Testing is a necessary ritual, usually accompanied by cuts in sleep and longer study sessions, from five hours to seven or eight hours. We all push ourselves hard. My motivation comes from leaving a stable job and incurring large debts to come to this school.

When considering whether to study for an MBA, I was beset by an itch to make something of myself, to be audacious, to have a stimulating career progression. There are so many different kinds of people at school with diverse backgrounds. We all have different motivations for studying for an MBA.

What are other people’s motivations? On Taco Tuesdays, I’m at Café Rio with Adam Nilsen, MBA ’13. In addition to having worked in finance, he has a masters degree in social work and worked as a psychotherapist.

“Plain, old curiosity,” he says while hoisting pork tacos into his mouth. “My extreme curiosity is my largest motivator.” I nod my head while sipping on soda with a look that says yeah? He tells me, “Business school fills in some missing puzzle pieces: strategy, accounting, valued perspectives, but those are reasons, not motivations. I am driven to learn because I am very curious, I want to grow, I want to make a positive difference (my religious side) and I enjoy people.”

On the way to class, I see Charity Wright, MBA ’14. She is a director at Yallos and wants to go into shared value and international strategy consulting. “Let’s make money but let’s do it in the right way” she says. “The non-profit and corporate worlds have been separated for a long time. In global business they need each other. I want to be the bridge between the two worlds.“

The most experienced of us all with 30-plus years is Pete Troiano, MBA ’14. He’s from New York City, graduated from Columbia’s school of journalism and has travelled and lived across the world. We live in the same building and I run into him in the laundry room.

“I believe with an MBA I can contribute to the world in a new way. I worked as a journalist and as a teacher,” he says. He closes the dryer door and hits normal dry. “I know how easy it is to be cynical and distrustful of the world. I believe there are solutions to the big challenges and problems. An MBA is my way of rolling up my sleeves and participating in creating a better world.”

My classmates range from people who were born into poor family situations and rose upwards, to people born into wealth. The youngest member of my class is 22 and the oldest is 55.

Some are here to work hard and get a great career. Some are here because their parents told them to come. Some are well-to-do and here for a two-year vacation. Some are company sponsored, returning immediately to their jobs. All are here to make something of themselves. All of us have deeper motivations that are private.

While everybody works extremely hard, we all have different motivations for working hard. Seeing different perspectives and hearing other’s opinions is one of the returns.