First Semester of Grad School – An overview

by Josiah Bonifas, MBA student

A wise man once said “And alas, I take this weight off my shoulders, far heavier than any object I have held.” A quote, which I like to believe, the author wrote in regards to finals week. Every year of College you go into finals week either astonished at how much you’ve learned, or abashed at how little you remember. Often times a little bit of both. Either way, it can be overwhelming as you summarize the learnings of the semester. At the same time there is something special about finishing that last test. You walk out of the room with a feeling of accomplishment, finally relieved knowing that you can truly relax for a bit. Oddly it often feels like there is still some assignment looming over your shoulder, but that feeling soon fades.

For my first semester of Grad school many of the feelings were similar, but there was something significant that differed. The classes in Grad school are conducted to bridge the gap between knowledge and experience. There is a much greater focus on practical use and implementation. You spend four years storing up and building knowledge from undergrad that you now not only add on to, put also learn the practicality of, through case studies and situational analysis. This kind of learning is special, because it doesn’t only enhance your knowledge of the subject matter, it also helps you form a leader’s mindset. For any job, regardless of position, this mindset only helps you. If you are in the lowest position at your job but you think like a leader, then the sky is the limit for you. Because that mindset shows in your excellent work ethic and demeanor, both of which foster success.

It took me a long time to decide to go to grad school. It’s expensive and a big commitment. I wrestled with the decision, and weighed many pros and cons. Maybe I could go and work for a couple of years and then come back or do night classes. Maybe I can get a job that pays for it down the road. Maybe I will never want to go back to school. Maybe I should just go right into it with the 4+1 opportunity. There are so many possibilities. It gets overwhelming. But I think that at the heart of it you come to realize that the right or wrong answer that you’re looking for, might not exist. Sometimes you just have to make a decision and go with it. Life is full of these moments. In June I decided to go with it. Was is the right decision? Who knew if I’d get in on time? Hadn’t taken my GMAT yet, hadn’t even started my application. There were so many questions and “what if’s?”, but I ran with it. And now, as I sit here relaxing on winter break, one great semester into grad school, and one last semester left… I’m glad I did.

Graduate Class Highlight

by Josiah Bonifas, MBA student

For the past few months I have been taking a management class called Organizational Behavior and Leadership with Professor Bob Barbato. A lot of leadership concepts sound self-explanatory to be quite honest, but it wasn’t until the first case study breakdown that I realized the importance and relevance of what we were being taught. This class highlights the characteristics necessary in a successful leader, which can be effective both inside and outside the business world. Being a leader seems straight-forward, but there are a lot of aspects that come together to truly form a great one. Personally, when I go on to work, I want to change company cultures, encourage growth, and help make a difference. This requires certain characteristics. A leader needs to control his environment, understand those that he is working with, working under, and that our working under him. It is not easy to get a whole company on board with your ideas, or to know that you are leading them in the right direction. Every interaction needs a strong degree of emotional intelligence. This means not only being able to manage one’s own emotions but to understand and manage the emotions of others and a group as a whole. A manager will make sure things are operating appropriately, and as a leader will shape the culture. These concepts are the same for friend groups, social standings, and all of our interactions. First we must understand ourselves, and then we must learn how to understand others.

Professor Barbato does a great job at highlighting the importance of all of this, and more, by relating it to business scenarios, and everyday experiences. It is a class I would recommend not only for business students, but for any person interested in self-betterment, or being a better leader. We often see traits like leadership as a God given talent, but I believe that it is a skill that all can obtain, and everyone can improve on. Winston Churchill was a terrible public speaker when he first began his role in office, but that did not deter him. He practiced and worked at it, and went on to give one of the most inspirational speeches during World War Two. Any expert will tell you, to be great at something takes practice. Michelangelo once said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful after all.” And that is coming from one of the greatest artists of all time.

If you would like to learn what it takes to be a great leader in your life, during your time at RIT, I recommend this class for you. You won’t become an expert overnight, but you’ll definitely be on the right track. Progress excels when two things are in effect; a great teacher, and an eager learner. In the management 735 class of Organizational Behavior and Leadership you will find a great teacher– now it is up to you to go out and learn.

Just a City Boy

by Josiah Bonifas, MBA student

Born and raised in New York City (sorry South Detroit,) life started to look a lot different when I committed to play basketball at Houghton College, a small liberal arts school in upstate New York. I remember the drive up when I was first getting dropped off. We stopped seeing civilization a good hour before reaching the school. It was an endless scene of fields, farms, livestock, and the occasional Amish buggy. I vividly remember thinking, “What have I gotten myself into?”

The first month was the most challenging. Other than the general struggles of making new friends and adapting to college, there are a lot of cultural differences between living in a small town and living in a city. For starters, everyone says hello. I always thought that I was a polite person for smiling if I made random eye contact with a stranger, but this was a new extreme. I kind of liked it. It was a little act, took minimum effort, but for some reason made you feel slightly more at home.

People also seemed kinder, and had a genuine interest in you. There wasn’t a big rush, or an urgency about everything. It was very different for me. I had developed habits that were completely opposite of this kind of living. My walking and driving never quite adapted. Eighteen years in the city and you develop a speed walk that’s the equivalent to a regular man’s jog. My friends were often telling me to slow down through ragged breaths. As for driving, I can’t count the amount of times someone drove with me and never asked for another ride. It’s the fast and furious in the city, the yellow cabs are merciless…

There are countless other examples of cultural differences that I encountered, but they all came together to paint one big picture for me. We have all experienced life differently growing up. Our countries, families, environments, religions, and homes, have all played a role in the way we view things. As we experience these different cultures, there are a lot of important things to learn from the way other people view and do things. At the same time, going somewhere new will often show you things about yourself that you might have never noticed. It doesn’t have to be a new country or change of scenery, it could simply be a different group or new friend. Regardless of what’s new, enjoy the different perspective, embrace it, and learn from it. There’s no better time than now.

Transitioning to ROC

by Josiah Bonifas, MBA student

In early June I decided that I wanted to go to graduate school at RIT. In late July I took my GMAT exam, and, by August 22nd I had moved to Rochester. I didn’t know much about this city, I was sad to leave my mother who cooks like an iron chef, and I was a little hesitant to move into a house with three guys that I really didn’t know anything about. Despite it all, I couldn’t shake a feeling of excitement. Transitions can be an intimidating time in every person’s life, but there’s something exciting about change. Its nerve racking, and often filled with many mistakes, (and in my experience, parking tickets), but at the end of the day it leads to growth.

With my move to Rochester for grad school there was a transition in culture, education, housing, and so much more. For example, my first job while here was working on a farm. Coming from NYC I thought that I’d be milking cows and breaking in wild horses. I remember telling my friends back home, like I was reliving an old western. Much to my surprise, that’s not the way this farm work goes. Instead I was on an apple farm manning an apple cannon that uses air compression to fire apples out into a field. What? Exactly. Not what I was expecting, but cool nonetheless. And that’s the real lesson here. Change and expectations go hand in hand.

As I grow accustomed to graduate school and life in Rochester, I am starting to realize that you cannot rely on your expectations or hope to know exactly how things will play out. Sometimes you just need to take the change as it comes and learn from it, grow from it, and especially, enjoy it. From my enlightenment of farm life, to my many parking tickets, to the incredible enjoyment I have had in my graduate business classes, moving to ROC has been a whirlwind of change, some of it like I expected, and some of it entirely different… but interestingly, I wouldn’t change a thing.

Except not having my mom’s cooking…

And the parking tickets.