Duck Caldwell, MBA '13in Sustainability
Leading Her Organization Forward
AUNE: What brought you to the MBA in Sustainability at Antioch University New England? What were your aims in entering the program?
Duck: I was looking for a degree program that would help me coalesce and refine my diverse work experience in management, business, and education. I also needed to improve my chances of finding a higher-paying, rewarding job in the second half of my work life. An MBA was one of my choices, but I had a hard time finding a program that I thought I could stomach. What I really wanted was a collaborative, experiential learning environment that included social justice in its theory application. This is what I found at AUNE, and the weekend format clinched it.
AUNE: What did you find valuable and why as you were going through the program?
Duck: It really mattered to me that my classmates and I were largely in the same boat: mostly working, many with families, and juggling full lives. We were able to focus intensely when we were together for our weekends, and we cut each other slack when needed, but expectations were also high. To me, this mirrored the kind of relationships that I wanted in my professional life, as well as the determination that is needed to tackle the kind of business problems that we shared interest in.
AUNE: How were you challenged by this program (in a good way)? How did you respond to the challenge, and what have you learned or how have you grown professionally and/or personally as a result?
Duck: In my work life before AUNE, I would scale back pretty quickly when stress got too high: I would drop commitments or change jobs. This was not a choice I had at AUNE; we were all in it for the long haul. I think that I learned new ways of dealing with the stress that comes with too much work. All of my classmates and I had too much work all the time, but we all wanted it. Learning how to do this well was invaluable for me in order to move my career forward. There are business and social justice problems that I want to help solve, and many are very difficult. The magnitude of this used to scare me off. But I will no longer make choices based on a fear of too much stress; I know I can handle it, and furthermore, that I can create the supportive working relationships I will need to make it manageable so that I can do the work I care about.
AUNE: What are you doing now professionally?
Duck: Nonprofit executive director
AUNE: How has your learning in the MBA been valuable to you professionally and/or personally?
Duck: I held my current position throughout my degree work. As a result, my organization has benefited immensely in what I have learned about finance, human resource, and strategic management in particular. Two of my major assignments were focused on my organization, and I have been able to provide consulting to two similar organizations as a result. The degree fulfilled my greatest hopes of what I could learn and how I could move my organization and my expertise forward.
AUNE: Please describe a specific situation in which you drew on some aspect(s) of your learning from the MBA program.
Duck: The process of writing a strategic plan for my organization made the challenges we are facing and the work we need to do crystal clear. I had known that the organization was approaching a new barrier to moving forward, and spending a semester working on the plan gave me the confidence to approach my own board of directors and present a clear rationale for hiring a strategic planner. I am excited to say that we have issued an RFP and are in the process of reviewing proposals for this work. It is clear to me that if I had not been able to provide the necessary leadership to begin this process, the organization would soon begin a slow decline.
AUNE: What would you like prospective students to know about the MBA in Sustainability?
Duck: The faculty is both incredibly flexible and interested in what you want to learn. This means that, even if they have never encountered a person with your interests, history, and current challenges, they will rise to the occasion and learn what they need to in order to move you forward. They will learn along with you. This ethic emulates the kind of management they teach: understand who you are working with and figure out how to give them what they need in order to do what they want.
AUNE: Is there anything else that you would like to add?
Duck: The extent to which the faculty believed in me and supported me gave me a new confidence and belief in myself. It enabled me to do a level of work I did not know that I could do. I remain deeply grateful for this support in my learning.