Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A `Poet' at Business School Faces Finance, Accounting Former Presidential Speech Writer Pursues an MBA

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

A `Poet' at Business School Faces Finance, Accounting Former Presidential Speech Writer Pursues an MBA

Article excerpt

AT one particularly desperate point in his first year at Stanford business school, Peter Robinson likened his experience to that of Dante in "The Divine Comedy."

Given such a comparison, it is not surprising that Robinson, a former speech writer for President Reagan, has titled his account of that formative first year, "Snapshots from Hell: The Making of an MBA."

Despite its ominous title, however, this book offers a complete picture of both the good and the bad that accompany the quest for a master of business administration degree. From never-ending word problems to job-offer elation, Robinson's primer covers it all.

Fresh from his job at the White House, the author arrived in California in 1988. He looked forward to the next two years of studying a discipline that had always fascinated him and to pepping up his stalled career.

"I had come to Stanford for a new start, following the American logic: If the land on the old homestead is played out, pick up and move west," he writes.

His enthusiasm soon waned as he discovered that his abilities as a wordsmith would not help him in required classes that demanded not a dictionary, but a calculator.

At Stanford University, students, like Robinson, who came to the MBA program without much math experience, were officially referred to as "poets" - hence, the Dante comparison. They struggled through finance and accounting courses but regained their self-esteem in Public Sector Economics and Business in the Changing Environment - courses that afforded them opportunities to discuss concepts, rather than just numbers.

Nevertheless, Robinson found the majority of his subjects dull and impenetrable. He writes that he felt "stupid," sleep-deprived, and often asked himself in his journal entries why he was there.

"Yet the most difficult aspect of the work lay not in its sheer volume," Robinson recalls, "but in adjusting from politics to business. Politics was big ideas and talk. Business was implementation, organization, specifics, numbers. …

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