As I sit down to write, Post-Tropical Storm Sandy (formerly known as Tropical Storm Sandy, formerly known as Hurricane Sandy) spits its last bits of wind and water across the Eastern Seaboard of the US. For the first time since my arrival, Ireland’s weather feels relatively calm.
I had come close to feeling Sandy’s wrath myself. Last week was a no-lecture week at University College Dublin, and so I used the opportunity to visit friends and loved ones in Boston and Washington, DC. My flight back to Ireland took off just as the winds were picking up, and we beat the storm out of town before the airports shut down.
Returning to cities I once called home provided an opportunity to take stock of my short time in Ireland so far; contrasts and lessons snapped into clarity when confronted with feelings and experiences that felt instantly familiar.
With the support of the Mitchell Scholarship, I am pursuing an MBA at University College Dublin. And as much as I am enjoying my coursework and settling into a routine here, the trip back to the States reminded me of how unlikely my choice to pursue a business degree was. Before coming to Ireland, I’d worked for an international development NGO for three years, and my friends were working at jobs in the federal government or at advocacy organizations, labor unions, or nonprofits — or they were studying in graduate programs training them to do the same.
When I told people I was going to be studying in Ireland, I was met with raised eyebrows and expressions of interest. When I told people I was going to business school, the stares were blank or confused. I don’t wear the mantle of business school student very easily, but it’s a role that has become increasingly comfortable over the past months.
For me, the pursuit of an MBA is simply another route to the practice of social justice. After my time working in international development, I recognize that the impact of business decisions can dwarf development interventions. And these same development programs often fail to reach their potential because of mismanagement.
My visit to the States provided an opportunity to reflect on why I came to Ireland and on whether I was in fact learning what I had hoped to.
My classes are challenging and rewarding, and I oftentimes return home at the end of the day spinning with ideas about how what we learned in class could be applied to the development sector I recently left. Sometimes I try to imagine ways to allow businesses to think beyond their bottom lines and maximize the positive dividends of their presence in communities. For the remaining ten months, that will be the centerpiece of my academic journey.