Saturday, October 30, 2010

An Auto Executive and Former Student Comes Back

I think that everyone remembers one's first day on the job.

As a professor, I still remember teaching my first classes at UMass Amherst in the School of Management. I was hired, fresh with my PhD in Applied Math with a specialty in Operations Research from Brown University, and with several years of high tech work experience in the defense sector in Newport, Rhode Island, to teach MBA courses in Management Information Systems and Management Science.

One of the classes that I was responsible for teaching was a night class in Holyoke, Massachusetts. Several of the students in that class were over twice my age and doubted my credentials, so I even brought my Brown PhD diploma to show them.

In that class was a student who stood out with his energy, enthusiasm, and ambition. Plus, he was close to my age so there was a natural comfort level between us. He was trying to get into the MBA program while working as a bagger for a local food store and the then MBA Director told him that he would need to evaluate his performance in 3 courses before considering him for full-time admission. One of the courses was the course that I was teaching.

Well, he made it, received his MBA, got a terrific position with a Big Three auto company (which is profitable even today) and has moved stellarly through the ranks with assignments in NYC, Philly, Cincinnati, Detroit, the DC area, and, my favorite -- in Dallas, Texas (which was considered an international assignment because Texas is just so different from the rest of the US).

Now my former student has reached the position of Director with responsibilities for North America and he came back yesterday. We spent two hours at lunch reminiscing and catching up and his stories of transportation and business were captivating (and the time much too short).

We ended on such a high note -- he had me doubled over laughing as he regaled me with stories of all the UMass Amherst alums he comes across in his business and how they remember fondly their experiences on this campus, with its student and faculty diversity and numerous activities and events, which prepared them really well for survival and excelling in the real world.

We walked back together from lunch since I had to take part in a teleconference and he was going to meet his child, who, yes, is now a student at UMass Amherst.