In 1981 I arrived in Boston to take up a position as Director of Marketing and Fundraising for the Boston University School for the Arts. I became interested in BU’s School of Management (SOM) and wanted to take a few courses on business communication and organizational behavior. However, staff were not allowed to take courses in the SOM unless they qualified for admission to the MBA program, which required the taking of the GMAT.
Math phobic from birth, I first took a math review course and then the GMAT. Subsequently I was turned down by the SOM for entry into the MBA program. In meeting with the director of admissions he said “you essentially got them all right in the verbal and all wrong in the math”. He smoothed this over by saying that an MBA program, which is heavily quantitative, would harm my other skills and relative success to date by undermining my confidence through failure in business school.
Subsequently I enrolled in the Certificate for Advanced Studies in Management program at the then Radcliffe Seminar Program. The Certificate program was essentially the first year of an MBA program and, although I had to take Quantitative Methods and also Financial Management and Accounting, I did it in an environment that did not “undermine my confidence” in myself.
Ultimately I became a teacher in the Radcliffe Seminar Program, and later Harvard Extension, teaching Fundraising Management and Nonprofit Management.
Life sometimes comes full circle. From 1997–2001 I taught those same two courses at the BU SOM. And I later turned down the SOM’s request to considering joining their staff as director of the BU SOM Nonprofit Management Cluster within the MBA program.