Side Effects of Learning and Expectations
It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year since I sat in my first MBA course at UW-Stevens Point. There I sat wide-eyed and ready to soak up whatever information I could possibly take in from the dozens of strangers sharing a room with me; strangers I now call colleagues, mentors and friends. Although we shared very different backgrounds, areas of expertise, and motivations, we all wanted two very simple things that I can uncontroversially say that we have innately within us all: we wanted to learn and we wanted to be better at what we did and who we were.
The extent and span of each of those desires included a great degree of variability, but for all intents and purposes, we simply wanted more knowledge, direction and credibility. Stepping into a life- and career-changing program, I think every one of us expected just that–change. I can’t speak for other current and former (it’s so weird to say “former,” it feels like yesterday I was sitting in front of Prof. Kevin Bahr listening to him lecture on the long-lasting effects of the 2008 financial crisis) UWSP MBA students, but I went to each class, went through each course, and engaged in each conversation with the intention of walking away knowing more than I had previously. It’s only now–or as of recent–that I realize the learning that was taking place wasn’t the learning I thought I would take with me following my time in the program necessarily.
Don’t get me wrong, I took much away from Prof. Nik Butz and the usefulness of data analytics as well as the nuances and depth to communication in business from Prof. Reed Stratton. These courses and others have proved useful as I establish my career in banking. And to be frank, I think I expected that! I think we all expected to learn what was taught, but there was so much taught through learning.
“What does that even mean?”
Good question. An example: Growing up, I loved playing baseball. When I was finally old enough to play Little League, I could hardly contain my excitement. I would sleep with my uniform on, I would practice in my backyard on days we didn’t have practice or a game, and I would watch highlights on my family’s computer for as long as my parents would let me. I watched highlights because they were entertaining of course, but also because I wanted to learn how to be a better hitter, how to be a better fielder and how to play the game with the intention of winning. As I studied and played the game as a kid, I learned the game of baseball as I expected I would. What I didn’t expect to be taught was patience. I didn’t expect to be taught how to respect something bigger than myself. Integrity, responsibility and dealing with pressure were all intangibles that I learned from the game.
If we only learned what we expected to learn, life would be … boring. And predictable. And straightforward.
Relating back to the UWSP MBA program, it’s as if now, following the program, I feel like I’ve taken almost as much from the experience and the trials of working through the program, as I have from the actual courses. Feeling the need to serve others, worrying about more than the bottom line, and lining up each action we take as professionals with our greater intentions are just a few takeaways I took from one course, two courses or several courses combined. By putting each MBA candidate into a situation where we were unfamiliar or a touch uncomfortable, we were forced to rely on more than the content shared between professor and student; we had to pull, add to, build on and maneuver through information in order to find successes.
This encouraged us to build on skills that we hadn’t necessarily made a concerted effort to work on before. These traits and this unchoreographed style of knowledge collection separates conventional learning from dynamic learning. Unlike conventional learning, growth in these instances wasn’t measurable. However, as we move through each of our careers and lives, the extent of our advancements in our communities and workplaces can and will be measured. How will you measure up?
After earning a bachelor’s degree in business administration, Kevin Ile ’19, MBA ’20 served as a graduate assistant for the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point MBA program. Since completing the program, Kevin has advanced into a commercial lender role with Peoples State Bank in Wausau, Wisconsin. He can be contacted at email@example.com.