Finding Work-Life Balance as a Business School Student

Pooja Banjaree and Joel Igu
Pooja Banjaree and Joel Igu

Pooja Banerjee is a Global MBA candidate at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. She prides herself on her ability to humanize businesses, which she developed during and after her graduate and post-graduate training in Clinical Psychology and Business Administration. Graduating at the top of her class with a Master's degree in clinical psychology, she joined Alternate Brand Solutions—a Times group company, India's largest media conglomerate. In addition to her academic and professional experiences, Pooja has been actively engaged in pro bono consulting with I-INDIA (a non-governmental organization) for the last several years. Her passion for social upliftment led her to starting an NGO—Universal Development Foundation (UNDF)—where she served as a President, and later as the Strategic Advisor, when she moved from India to Singapore and eventually, to the United States. Joel Igu is a first year GMBA student at the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School. Previously, he studied Medicine at the University of Nigeria where he was the Medical Scrabble Champion two years in a row. Upon graduation from medical school, he practiced Clinical Medicine and Surgery in multiple urban and rural locations across Nigeria, engaged in community health practice, partnership building, and extensive training of health workers.

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You are about to click Send on your application for business school. Then a thought hits youI would have to move. A flood of questions rush in, “What about my spouse? My kids? Will my fiancé be alright with a long-distance relationship? What will the new environment be like for my relationship?”

For me and many MBA students around the world, this issue is critical. The Graduate Management Admissions Council estimates that about half of prospective MBA students in 2017 were 24-30 years old, and a further tenth of all potential MBAs who took the GMAT were over 30 years old. One recent study that randomly sampled 42 MBA students found that almost 35% were married.

You get where this is going, right? MBA programs, like many other professional or graduate programs, have applicants with family-sensitive needs like “Where will I live?” or “Where should my kids go to school?” For international students whose spouses may require work authorization, there is also the issue of what to do with all the spare time. I found this issue so compelling that along with my colleague, Benjamin Schneider, we raised the topic at the Carey Business School to fellow students and we found that yes, spouses and significant others were an important factor for current MBA students; even for deciding what business school to attend.

And so, we started the process of creating a club that supports every MBA student who is in a relationship that impacts their study.

Today, we are finalizing a Carey Spouse and Significant Others club that will make it easier for our MBA students to enjoy the benefits of being in a new MBA program while supporting the relationships that matter the most to them. Our maiden ‘Meet and Greet’ event in November 2017 was a success. We invited all students, spouses, partners, kids, faculty and student services; having about 25 attendees. Vice Dean Frick honored the occasion, fondly remembering his experiences during his own schooling and how clubs provided succor to students. In between bites of Maryland-themed appetizers (I always enjoy Maryland crab cakes), students and spouses were able to talk to each other and to Student Services Office representatives Mike Doyle and Wendy Rumrill; having a chance to share their feelings and thoughts. Thomas Weisniewiski, on behalf of GMBAA, shared some of his own perspectives on the potential future impact of our meetings.

The highlight of the evening was definitely the tour of the Carey Business School, graciously provided by our Student Government Association president, Marcus Tan. I smiled with enjoyment as I saw partners connecting familiar stories with faces and classrooms, and I remembered my own experiences at MIT as a spouse who really appreciated feeling welcome at my husband’s campus. Most business schools are about networking, and I enjoy the thought that our club can facilitate building stronger networks—even outside the MBA program. As the spouse of an MIT graduate student, I connected with people from several nationalities, cultures, and religions. Some of these connections transformed into lifelong friendships. The tour ended with taking pictures of the inner harbor from the 24th floor of the Legg Mason building. You really cannot beat the view of Baltimore from there (and if you think you can, I want to see!).

As the first president, the vision that I have for this club is to make it a platform for the spouses and significant others to connect, network, and engage both socially and professionally. The club will provide several membership benefits like free admission to the school library, discounts on school merchandise, volunteer opportunities for school events, and participation in them amongst others. In 2018, the club is led by the new President, Dr. Igu Joel (GMBA 2019), who is a family man himself with two kids. Dr. Joel understands the importance of the role such a club can play in supporting an MBA program.

It was a great start to an experience I hope I can share with you more. Let me know your own experiences surrounding balancing family or other relationships with a competitive MBA program. You are not alone!

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