That is how I felt today after my coffee chat engagement with student ambassadors from Dartmouth’s Tuck school of Business. And after not one, but 2 incredibly underwhelming b-school engagements that led to one then another EDIT of my target list, I’m ecstatic to feel this way about another MBA program. I haven’t felt this buzzed since I visited the Stanford GSB last spring.
Please allow me to regale you with a quick rundown of the events that led to my uncovering an amazing jewel in Tuck while attending a coffee chat that several of their students hosted in Los Angeles today.
Yeah, annoyed. That was actually the very first thing that I felt when I referred to a map of the meeting location on my iphone. It was planned to take place at some obscure coffee house in the Los Feliz/Silver Lake area. Los Feliz and Silver Lake are two adjacent, artsy, and trendy neighborhoods just northeast of Hollywood; both brimming with upper middle class to wealthy beatnik artist types.
While it is (barely) within the borders of my self-defined and gerrymandered Hollywood Hills/Downtown/110 Freeway/LAX Airport district of acceptable proximity, I kinda don’t like going to that part of town; not as much as I don’t like going to Orange County, but about 35% not as much. I avoid this neighborhood because it is a mixture of being A) too crowded and B) too trendy–and I am a fan of neither.
It’s crowded because it is an older, densely populated area with narrow, tight roads where the only parking is on the street; and even parking there is nearly impossible unless you are going to someone’s mansion or mini-mansion that has a driveway.
Other than that, you get endless rows of classic California apartment buildings from the 50s and 60s and quaint, overpriced homes smashed together like some random block in Brooklyn (Heights, that is) with cars parked bumper-over-bumper on either side. This makes for quite a nightmare when you’re trying to find a meet place (especially at night) on some tight, 2-lane street with no parking.
The area is trendy because it’s a hip, artsy/schmartsy kinda place where EVERY eatery is pretty much some obscure, gourmet-ish spot that you’ve never heard of. Practically everyone in this area either works in the entertainment business (or some other creative profession) and/or a non profit of some sort–I’m not kidding–everyone–and they all drive Toyota Priuses (that many of them park at mansions in the Los Feliz or Hollywood Hills, no less); a fact that means that the few parking spots that may be available at any given time are way too small. And of course, the trendiness of this neighborhood only adds to the crowds and subtracts from the available parking space.
A NEW YORK MOMENT
So after taking a 25 minute drive on a street route (the freeways were a parking lot today and would have doubled the time of my journey) I came to the coffee place where the chat would be held. Naturally, there was no parking so I circled around the ‘hood for 15 minutes before finally finding a parking space 5 blocks away that I had to do a 27 point turn to get into because it was (naturally) only big enough for a vehicle not much larger than a Prius. Oh, and it was HOT outside to boot.
As I walked to the obscure coffee shop in a huff, I thought “Now see, this is EXACTLY why I won’t be applying to any schools in New York. I feel completely irritated and smothered in this sardine can of a neighborhood”.
LOS FELIZ’S ONLY CHAIN
When I approached the site of the chat, the Tuck group was easy to spot. All of Tuck’s ambassadors were casually dressed in green and the applicants all had on button down shirts with either dress pants or khakis for the most part (about 90% of the prospective admits who showed up were guys). The locals were in dockers shorts, flip flops and shades which made us look very, very out of place; however, it’s LA so no one really cared and half of the passersby were probably high on something anyway (I mean, since they’re in entertainment and all).
As one might expect on a Saturday in July, the quaint little coffee place was jam packed; so the Tuck students made an executive decision for us to walk a few blocks past where I had parked to a Coffee Bean–probably the only actual chain food establishment for miles.
WHY I NOW LOVE TUCK
By the time we sat down I had calmed the snarky attitude that I had developed while finding a parking slit space. I had gotten over my initial irritation with the location given that the Tuck students were not familiar with LA (anyone who’s been a Los Angeleno for more than 10 minutes knows that you don’t invite large groups to this part of town; it’s really made for singles, couples and small groups due to limited space). I also appreciated that they had the good sense to move us to a larger space that could better accommodate our group of 15 or so.
From an interpersonal standpoint, I found the 3 Dartmouth ambassadors to be quite personable, welcoming and most importantly, candid. These were definitely the kind of people who I would feel honored to be cohorts with in an MBA class–and I would expect nothing less from Tuck based on what I have heard about its student culture.
So here is a quick bullet-point run down on what has me so excited about the possibility of attending Tuck:
- Of course it comfortably meets my pre-req of documented entrepreneur production
- During my pre-coffee chat research I uncovered an actual part of the website that walks you through the curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular resources recommended for entrepreneurs to take advantage of EACH quarter during their entire matricularion–IMPRESSIVE!
- I was completely taken with my Tuck student ambassador’s anecdotes and examples of the level of responsiveness of its alumni–including his own story of getting funded after taking on an entrepreneurial First Year Project (a program that is unique to Tuck)–and he didn’t even go to school intending to start a company.
- I love the hands-on nature of Tuck’s program. I’m not one of those applicants who is looking to fiddle and play around with an internet company idea in some business plan competition just because its hip and trendy and then go work for a global bank. I plan to actually build something while I’m in the program–and I won’t even a consider a school that frowns upon or doesn’t well support such plans.
- There were about 4-5 data points (from the Entrepreneur in Residence program to a start up summer internship opportunity) that clearly illustrated that Tuck is a supportive ecosystem for entrepreneurs that provides actual resources (including faculty mentors) to hit the ground running WHILE in school as opposed to just a bunch of theoretical babble about business plans in some entrepreneurship class.
- Tuck’s “24/7″, somewhat obsessive culture really resonates with my personality and work style. The fact that the entire faculty and student body is committed to maintaining an environment of deep immersion makes it a great possible fit for me.
- Since there is a 100% chance that I will end up in cold weather should I get into any of my target schools (New England, Chicago or the San Francisco Bay Area–which is freezing much of the year), why not consider doing it in an idyllic setting where I can ski and snowboard ’til I drop?
I also gained a better appreciation for Los Feliz/SilverLake out of this whole experience. As I walked back to my car beaming from my Tuck encounter, my hungry stomach led me into an obscure (naturally, right?) little place to eat called Community where I had the OMG Lamb Sandwich, which 100% lived up to its name (OMG). I will definitely be back to rip into a few additional items on their menu in the future.
Oh, and in typical Los Feliz/Silverlake fashion, my wonderful server was ACTUALLY a college professor with multiple degrees who works at Community in her spare time because baking gourmet pastries is her favorite creative outlet (maybe SHE should apply to Tuck, eh?). In the immortal words of The Young Turks……OF COOOOOOOOOOURSE!
Which brings me to my ONE remaining concern about Tuck…where/what the heck is a foodie like me going to EAT in Hanover, NH????
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