Note to My Students: A Reflection on ‘Home’

Class of 2023, Section G

(I occasionally write notes to my students. The latest is below. The second-year students are about to graduate.)

Dear Section G and VCPE:

I write this to you on a Saturday morning from my HBS office. The campus is largely empty and quiet, and I hope you’re all sleeping in.

It was a joy to see many of you during Bridges, and I hope you can congratulate yourself for completing the MBA program. What a feat!

I hope you give yourself permission to process the many emotions as you ready to don the cap and gown for Commencement. Here are two observations. As always, YMMV!

HBS is a version of home, if you let it be. When I came back to campus one day for a group meeting, the Professor started the session by saying: “Welcome back to HBS, welcome home.” At first, I thought that it was over-reach, but as I reflected on it, he was right. “Home” is never perfect, and “home” is rarely always positive. But “home” can be a special place, and HBS can be one such version for you.

Time stands still in a way at HBS. When I was being interviewed for a possible teaching role at HBS, I walked into the Rock Center for my meeting and was immediately struck by how it looked and smelled the same 25 years later.

My favorite Professor still teaches here. The school’s “high standards, high care” culture I saw as a student decades ago continues to this day. There are more buildings than when I was here, but the grounds continue to be immaculate.

VCPE, fall 2022

As a result of all this, it’s comforting to come back on campus. It is nice to come home.

Commencement is the beginning of the HBS experience and not the end. Yes, the MBA program has concluded, but your relationships with each other and the school are life-long. The school in a weird way is inside of me. The Case Method rewired my brain somehow, and it’s always a joy to reconnect with fellow classmates and Sectionmates.

The bonds can also exist with other alumni. For example, I just now finished a Zoom with alumni from different years. In 2019, we all took The Reflective Leader, which is a truncated version of ALD. We were organized into living groups that were also discussion groups. Since the program ended, our group has had a Zoom each quarter to catch up and update each other. You can do something similar with a group of classmates?

I’ve seen some of you shed tears the past few days. I think you should! It’s an important part of processing your experience. But know that whilst the first chapter of your HBS experience has ended, you still have the rest of the book to go. You’re still very early in the book.

This experience with the school will indeed be life-long, if you permit it.

Happy graduation! I will be there on May 25 and will cheer loudly as you each “walk the stage” and receive your diploma!



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