A big part of the McIntire experience revolves around the concept of teamwork. For me, this adjustment was the most significant one that I had to make when joining the M.S. in Commerce program. I was always an independent worker throughout my academic career. I never studied with friends, enjoyed individual writing assignments, and dreaded group projects and presentations. I knew coming into the program that I would be pushed out of my comfort zone and have to reevaluate how I approached schoolwork. The program emphasizes teamwork, and I wanted to push myself to build upon this skill set I knew was lacking.
The first day of the program was the day that we received our semester-long group assignments. When I picked up the welcome packet, I anxiously opened it to find my team assignment: Group 1A. I began to frantically ask the few people I’d already met that morning about their group assignments. None of them were part of my team.
It was halfway through the day when I finally met my long-awaited group. Right away I saw how diverse our interests, backgrounds, and skill sets were. I was anxious to learn more about my new teammates and could already foresee that we would each play different roles within our group. Our undergraduate majors were incredibly diverse: astrophysics, economics, English, history, German, political science, and psychology. We hailed from all over the United States, and one group member from Switzerland.
Working with my group has been an invaluable learning experience. In the beginning, simply getting into the routine of having so many group assignments was a difficult transition. We had to figure how to best schedule meetings, delegate work, and avoid groupthink biases when tackling projects. All of the concepts that we learned about in Organizational Behavior were very real challenges we faced early on.
In the beginning, balancing teamwork with competing priorities of the program was challenging. However, as we began to bond, I noticed that our mindsets shifted and we became more comfortable expressing our opinions, sharing ideas, and keeping one another on track especially once we started the Integrated Strategy Project. Most importantly, we began to take our time and individually invest ourselves in the success of the group as a unit. There were times when we were frustrated with each other and times when we made each other laugh so hard that someone came to check on us. Overall, everything balanced out and we became a very strong and efficient team.
It’s safe to say that the M.S. in Commerce program has changed the way I view and approach group work. I have come a long way from thinking that tackling projects and assignments independently is the most effective method. Now, I actually enjoy being able to bounce ideas off of different people with different backgrounds and viewpoints to approach tackling a business challenge or analyzing a case for class. I have learned a lot about my own strengths and weaknesses by working closely with others who give me honest feedback. I have also learned how to speak up and communicate effectively in a group. Working closely with the same group for an extended period of time allowed me to grow, academically and personally, in a way that I know will benefit me in the workplace as well.