A Glimpse of Graduation

Sally Luber

Master of Business Administration

There is a myth that many graduate students are pursuing a degree with a firm sense of direction. They know why they’re here and what they intend to accomplish. In reality, I am probably like many of you. I can’t say precisely why I decided to come to graduate school, nor can I articulate what I plan on doing in life. After all, I have changed career goals a few times. I went from wanting to be a veterinarian to being a CPA who collects animals. What I can say, however, is that I have learned a great deal from my professors and peers and still have a lot more to learn! After this wonderful experience, I hope to be open to learning every day of my life.

I’ve covered a lot of topics in my classes. Through no fault of the professors, I’ve probably forgotten almost as much as I have learned. Sure, I remember some key concepts: Porter’s 5 Forces, Supply and Demand, Bond Pricing. Perhaps the most critical lesson, however, has been the importance of the people behind everything.

Competition will always exist and drive us to innovate. Sometimes, though, I feel we get caught up in competing with others. Remember there is another form of competition that drives us to succeed: competition with ourselves.

I have what I consider to be an amazing professional background. I spent the first four years out of school working for Arthur Andersen. Working there taught me the importance, and sadly, the rarity, of loyalty. I stayed with the firm until we closed our doors forever. I still keep a picture of the infamous double doors with me, as a reminder of the perseverance people can show when faced with seemingly insurmountable obstacles.

My next significant job was with a bank based in Hamilton, Ohio. It was very different from my bank audit job at the time. This new one would be much smaller, cater to a different clientele, and require a significant commute. Additionally, most people considered the position to be undesirable at best. But during the interview, I was overwhelmed by the desire to work there. Why? The people.

Unfortunately, once again, I experienced professional turbulence, with the ousting of a CEO and corporate reorganization. Similar to my Andersen experience, although many people could not cope with the uncertainty, others rose to the challenge and took the lead. In both cases, I saw that the true leaders were those that were looking out for everyone’s interests and not just their own.

In addition to continued learning, my experience at the University of Texas at Dallas has reinforced several critical lessons:

1. Competition will always exist and drive us to innovate. Sometimes, though, I feel we get caught up in competing with others. Remember there is another form of competition that drives us to succeed: competition with ourselves. In fact, I decided to attend graduate school because my mentor challenged me. He did not compare me to others; rather, he compared me to what he knew I was capable of.

2. You cannot take the “people” component out of anything. I used to think I was not really a people person. In fact, I have always joked that “the more people I meet, the more I prefer animals.” Now, however, I realize that the common denominator in my favorite jobs and classes has been the people. Although I might not remember all of the details surrounding supply and demand, I do remember exactly how excited Dr. Lewin would get during each lecture, and his genuine concern that we as students understood the concepts. It takes an amazing talent to keep worn-out grad students engaged after sitting in a classroom for hours – but he did it! I also believe that the students at this school bond together when it really matters. I don’t just mean when we had a demanding group project.

You cannot take the "people" component out of anything. I used to think I was not really a people person. In fact, I have always joked that "the more people I meet, the more I prefer animals." Now, however, I realize that the common denominator in my favorite jobs and classes has been the people.

One of my favorite UTD stories is about what seems to be, at least on the surface, an insignificant encounter in a parking lot. One night while walking to my car I saw a small group of people, one of whom was crying. And then I heard it – a pathetic “meow.” I went over to see what the commotion was, already concocting an explanation to my husband as to why I might be returning home so late at night with another cat. As it turns out, a cat had crawled into an engine and was crying out in fear. Complete strangers were stopping by to help the girl, even waiting with her until the campus police arrived. Despite what I previously felt, I learned that when it really matters, people will bond together.

3. The topic of ethics inevitably came up in a majority of my classes. Although I did encounter a few instances of questionable decisions, I learned that most people are honest when faced with difficulty. Much like I have been surrounded by excellent mentors at work, I have had the privilege of interacting with top-notch professors and students. Again, my formal education helped to reinforce a wonderful lesson my father instilled in me. Before my very first interview, after what seemed like 5 minutes of do’s and don’ts (at least to a 22-year-old), he told me to always work for someone whom you can aspire to become.

4. Lastly, we are all something to someone: a parent, a child, a spouse, a friend. I am amazed at some of the demands I have seen my fellow students balance on a daily basis: careers, school, family, and personal issues. Going back to school has helped me to realize that the people I have admired the most have been able to succeed in work while still maintaining their personal identity. This lesson also reinforced a previous bit of knowledge. As part of the same pre-interview conversation, my mother rolled her eyes and told my father to stop, because he was making me more nervous. She then told me to have fun and most importantly, to be true to myself.

So use this day as a day of reflection and not just a day of finality. What did you learn in your classes and from other people? Don’t just consider the typical profound moments. Sometimes we gain the most during the times we consider the least – trying sushi for the first time; being called “ma’am” or “sir” for the first time; realizing for the first time that you were so busy talking, that you didn’t panic on the plane.

Apply these lessons to all aspects of your life. Don’t necessarily do this with the intent of changing the world; rather, with the intent of creating your own seemingly insignificant, profound moments.

Sally Denise Luber received her Master’s of Business Administration with a Grade Point Average of 4.0. She holds a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree from Louisiana Tech University and is currently a self-employed consultant for First Financial Bancorp of Hamilton, Ohio.

She has worked for First Financial Bancorp, Fifth Third Bank, and Arthur Andersen and is a member of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants and the Texas Society of CPAs.