Will Riegel, 2019-20 One Year MBA student, reflects on his time in the program and motivations in furthering his education.

Taking His Business Education to the Next Level

In the years following his undergraduate degree in communications, Will worked for several companies in Washington State and New York City, including a Fortune 500 company, startups, and an ad agency. Working as a strategist, manager and accountant, Will learned the intricacies of building a successful business from the ground up. He quickly discovered he liked the pace and the challenge of start-ups and new ventures. “I have a preference for the energy of younger and smaller companies over established industries,” Will says.

Will was inspired to pursue the One Year MBA after he started his own company in manufacturing. He realized that he had gaps in his business knowledge, and he wanted to master the art of running a business effectively. “We were developing a new product, so we didn’t have case studies or other companies to model our operations or development processes after. Every day was a new adventure. It was very exciting and stressful at the same time.” After attempting to teach himself using free online resources, he decided to take the plunge and enroll in an MBA program. “I was in a good place in my life to make some changes in preparation for the next phase of my career.”

Will chose Denver before he chose the CU Denver Business School. He was at a flexible point in his life where he had the freedom to go anywhere. He had already lived in San Francisco, Seattle, and New York. He was craving somewhere new, and he had a few friends who had already relocated to Denver. He reconnected with some of them and when he found out more about the favorable weather patterns and easy access to outdoor activities, he was sold. 

Once Will had decided on Denver, his next task was finding the right MBA program. “The biggest driver in selecting the One Year MBA program for me was it only takes 12 months to complete. I wanted to dedicate myself to school, so the thought of completing a graduate program in the shortest amount of time possible was really attractive. I also liked the cohort structure, which would provide me with an instant network of similar-minded people to work through the challenges I knew I was going to encounter.”  

Harnessing the Power of Networking

The number one thing Will has taken away from the One Year MBA program is the networking with his classmates, professors, and partners of the program. “There is power in numbers,” Will says. “Realistically, no single person is going to know every formula in finance and every emerging tactic in marketing. But, if you find the right people to work with, collectively, you will.”

“The One Year MBA program is a cohort program, which means we stay with the same classmates all year,” Will says. “That’s enormously beneficial for networking and building leadership skills. We work together in teams on each project, and everyone has strengths in different areas of business. You get to lead the team on some projects and learn a lot on others.”

“The best leadership skill I’ve developed in this program is knowing when to ask for help,” Will says. “You don’t have to do it all on your own, and your classmates will have skills and interests that complement yours. I’m always happy to lend a hand when I can, and my cohort does the same.”

Although the program is only one year, Will is confident the connections he’s made in the program will last much longer. “I anticipate I’ll be working with my classmates and professors for years after I graduate.”

Overcoming Challenges

“Successful time management and organization are your best friends in an MBA program. Grad school is challenging, period,” Will says. “The One Year MBA’s five-week format provides a fast-paced environment, and you need to be able to switch between tasks and continually hit deadlines along the way. It’s a big undertaking.” Each professor is different and some classes are harder than others, depending on course-load, your personal strengths, and teaching style. “There is nothing in the program that a dedicated and self-aware person cannot handle, but don’t get complacent! Your next challenge is coming, whether you like it or not.”

Will personally has found the program especially challenging because of his personal gap in schooling. “I’ve been out of school for a significant period of time. The first two terms were a bit rough, but then I got into the flow of things.” All of the terms during the MBA have been challenging, but some have been more difficult than others. For example, Will worked on a consulting project where he and his group helped a local brewery with their Human Resources needs. During that time, balancing the work of the project with his classwork was a challenge. However, he’s always known the cohort has his back.

“The cohort structure builds a support team into the process, which helps lessen the blow. The quickly changing subjects encourages the groups to pull together and support each other.” Each new term brings new subjects and each team is comprised of students with varying strengths and areas of expertise. This allows them to draw on each other for guidance and knowledge when one student in struggling and another is not.  

Advice for Interested Students and Looking Ahead 

If you’re considering earning an MBA, Will’s advice is to make sure your motivations are sound. “Don’t go for your MBA because it’s what all your friends are doing after undergrad or because your dad tells you it’s the next step. You need to ensure that you want a challenge and that you want to get in the same room as 30 other people who feel the same way. You will get much more out of the experience if your drive is intrinsic.”

Will is just one month away from graduation, and his sole focus right now is to successfully complete the program. He’s also actively using the network that the Business School has provided him to have conversations with local small business owners and entrepreneurs. “I have a lot of options after graduation. I might join a start-up, or start a new venture. I’ve also developed an interest in consulting, and with the projects I worked on this year, I have the opportunity to start a consulting business and continue that passion. I have a number of paths I can follow, but first, I am going to finish strong.” 

The One Year MBA is certainly a challenge, but it’s a fast and effective way to get business experience while you earn your MBA.

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