Reflections from First Semester Through an Academic Lens

Edgard Mejico (MBA ‘24) and Alliyah Gary (MBA ‘24) look back on their first fall semester at HBS

Edgard Mejico, Editor-in-Chief

The Class of 2024 officially survived the first semester on campus. Even though we are still grasping the concept of three case days (especially on Fridays), we have acquired the ability to skim and summarize cases (lifehack: most of the pages of BGIE cases are exhibits). Mid-class cold calls have become increasingly common, much to our surprise. And across all sections, a safe environment where students can voice their opinions and have constructive debates has long been established. With finals and grades long behind us, I sat down with Alliyah Gary (MBA ‘24), one of Section G’s Education Representatives, to reflect on some of our first semester’s most discussed topics.

Surviving finals

“Writing for 4-5 hours sounds like an impossible amount of time” was the dominating thought among much of the student body as we began preparations for finals. But when it came down to it, many students were working up until the last minute, uploading finals seconds before the deadline. Despite the unexpected time crunch, we were well prepared thanks to the Women’s Student Association (WSA) study sessions that helped us summarize and organize our thoughts before finals. 

But being new to the case method left many students unsure what they would find when they opened up final grades in January. Some were surprised to find that their seemingly impeccable essays with exhibits and charts had landed them in the fourth quartile. Gary reflected: “The thing about finals is that your writing style matters a lot, relative to the content. We all have access to the same notes and the same classes, so how you elaborate on your ideas and explain your concepts become important.” In more quantitative classes, such as Marketing or Financial Reporting and Control, the ability to link calculations with recommendations in larger paragraphs (instead of charts or technical details) was key – especially compared to a course like LEAD, where leveraging frameworks and more qualitative ideas took up most of the word count. With our first six courses in the rearview, the RC class will try to leverage learnings from this first round of finals come April.

The new course: Inclusion

The RC class attended the new Inclusion class with the knowledge that we were, in a sense, guinea pigs: we were participating in the first iteration of the required 10-session course. While the topics covered felt relevant and the cases were contemporary, opinions among students varied across sections and case to case. Many were grateful that inclusion was a topic deemed important enough to cover on its own; others felt that some of the cases did not provide enough context about the systemic causes of several issues discussed (for example, some international students talked with faculty about including cases that represented the diversity of backgrounds present in classrooms). The course was included in students’ final grade reports using the traditional forced curve grading scale, though some felt that it should not have been: receiving a grade of “3” in inclusion felt more personal to some students. Luckily for most sections (including both Alliyah’s and mine), professors were willing to engage in constructive discussions and incorporate feedback, all while creating a safe space for students to share personal stories. 

The critical role of the Education Representatives

In Gary’s opinion, the “Ed Rep” position is essential to ensuring that class discussion remains both engaging and constructive. “Ed Reps are the link between professors and students. We serve as communication channels for every type of issue – for example, talking to professors about their calling patterns.”  Ed Reps also become the right hand man or woman of professors when evaluation time comes. And they are a crucial part of what has become a beloved tradition at HBS: professor “roasts” at the end of the semester. However, the workload can be heavy for one person. In Alliyah’s section, the class elected two Ed Reps who share the responsibilities. Gary elaborates: “Brendan Hellweg (MBA’24) and I work together as a team. We split class responsibilities and send a weekly email to the section with all the important information needed academically. I firmly believe that having two people in the role makes it easier to manage responsibilities and give both the section and the professors the attention they deserve.”

Edgard Mejico (MBA ’24) is originally from Lima, Peru. He graduated from Universidad del Pacifico, Peru with a degree in Business Engineering in 2016. Prior to the HBS MBA, he worked for six years in Brand Management and Sales in Colgate-Palmolive Latin America.