It has been six weeks since our annual holiday celebration at The Jefferson Hotel, an event that marked the end of my six hundred weeks as director of The Richmond MBA. Six hundred weeks…how time flies!

I spent six hundred Sunday nights looking forward to the great ideas our staff might offer in the upcoming week and excited about the prospective students we would have an opportunity to meet. I spent six hundred Fridays reflecting on the decisions we had made over the course of five days, knowing that a few of them had the chance to change the lives and careers of professionals who were part of our MBA program. I spent (most of) six hundred weekends enjoying time with family while also devoting some thought to improving the MBA program through a new elective course or extracurricular program. On the whole, I spent six hundred very enjoyable weeks with a keen awareness of the special opportunity I had been afforded to serve as your director.

Over the last six weeks, I have occasionally found myself thinking that there must be a meeting I am supposed to attend or a report I should be working to finalize. The phone does not ring nearly as much and my e-mail volume is down considerably. (No complaints there!) My new office, which I love, does not yet feel like home but I can tell that it will very soon.

The time away from the MBA office has provided me a wonderful chance to see the world of business and business education through a new lens. I was very pleasantly surprised when Professor Raggio and our communications team asked me to share some thoughts in this edition of the newsletter. What follows are three thoughts for our students, alumni and friends:

(1)  Find time for quiet reflection

I have allowed myself to occasionally spend time in complete silence over the last six weeks and have found that it has enhanced both my clarity and creativity.  Whether I am out for a run or driving to an out-of-town engagement, the chance to “rest” my brain has been one of the largest benefits of the first part of my sabbatical. I was not disciplined enough to carve out time each week for quiet reflection during my tenure as director but I encourage you to build these periods into your calendar. Even 30-45 minutes a week can make a huge difference.

(2)  Be fully present in conversations with others

I have worked very hard to be fully present in my conversations at home and at work over the last six weeks. I know from my tenure as director that maintaining focus for 20, 30 or 40 minutes or more can be a challenge when a schedule is crammed with meetings and your list of tasks to be done is growing rather than shrinking. I encourage you to shut down thoughts of the next thing in your calendar when a classmate, co-worker or family member engages you in a conversation. Hear their words, ask great questions, and take advantage of the opportunity to get to know them better. This is the path to deeper, more meaningful relationships.

(3)  Recognize that people are what makes this MBA program so special

It has been a pleasure to meet with so many former students for coffee or lunch in recent months. One of my favorite parts of those conversations has been hearing how so many of you have stayed in touch with one another over the years. Book clubs, happy hours, poker nights and informal gatherings of our alumni across the region illustrate the impact of this program on the lives of our students and graduates. The last six weeks have afforded me the chance to reflect on all aspects of the MBA program at Richmond. Above all, I have been struck by the richness of the relationships that exist among the members of this community.  Although my role has changed, I look forward to remaining a part of the conversation for many years to come.

Best wishes for a very special 2016.

Richard

rcoughla@richmond.edu; (804) 289-8556