What to Expect in Your First Few Weeks of Classes

When telling my colleagues, friends, and family about starting the Fashion & Luxury program at Stern, many warily said, “well, I’ll see you in a year!” I thought, “huh, is school really going to keep me that busy?” 

Three months in, the answer is yes.

In twelve weeks, our cohort completed six foundational courses, plus a week of orientation. This week, we’ll tuck one additional course, Economics, under our belts and also begin Finance. Looking back, I’m impressed by the number of papers, projects, and presentations we submitted, plus the amount of learning we’ve accomplished in a condensed timeframe.  

So far, I’m having trouble picking a favorite among our classes. 

In Leadership, we used case studies to understand decision-making and leading change, first with emotion, then followed by logic. Most memorably, groups pored over a case about race cars, tasked with the decision to race or not to race, knowing we risked an engine failure at a certain temperature on race day. Fast-forward: turns out the data and situation in the case were identical to the problem presented to engineers launching NASA’s Challenger. The takeaway? Always ask for all the data before making a critical decision, no matter the risk to reputation or reward, and know when to stop, regardless of investment or emotional attachment.

In Business Communications, we learned by doing, presenting multiple times per class, and simulating a group presentation to senior executives at a company (of our choice) facing a reputational risk. This short-but-snappy course quickly got us into shape, conditioning us on best practices in presentation-making, email-writing, and public speaking.

And then there was Accounting, my first 8am course ever. Despite my personal wariness at the beginning (I don’t do numbers before noon), Professor Bonacchi guided us expertly, using the process of producing and selling chocolate cakes to walk us through income statements. Furthermore, he knew when to take a step back, more than once commenting, “I see your eyes are like a branzino in the oven…let’s take a break!” Another highlight? The CFO of Gucci joined us as a guest speaker. 💁‍♀️ Suffice to say, I have many fond memories of Accounting.

In Statistics, we tackled real-world probability concepts, once dissecting an article about MBA salaries for a group paper. Here, we learned how to identify confounding and lurking variables, understand the importance of sample size, and interpret data given to us. I walked away from this course with not only new math skills, but also an appreciation for asking questions about the presentation of data.

In Marketing, we had guest speakers from Converse and Smart Design, plus examined cases about Sephora and direct-to-consumer brands. By the end, we were able to choose a brand and string together a complete customer journey based on our newfound marketing knowledge.

On top of these five foundational business courses, we simultaneously worked and learned in our NYC Immersion course. Unique to the Fashion and Luxury MBA program, this class placed us in front of industry experts and icons, plus allowed us to get our feet wet as MBA consultants at PVH and Perry Ellis International. If we’re playing favorites, this class was mine.

Highlights included…

  • Kicking off with a presentation from the CFO and COO at Bonobos, David Sasson, detailing the types of jobs and functions we can consider in the industry
  • Hearing from a panel of our program’s mentoring council, moderated by Professor Jeff Carr
  • Pitching brand ideas to Sarah LeFleur, founder and CEO at MM LaFleur
  • Listening to Fern Mallis and PC Chandra speak to the history and future of NY Fashion Week
  • Hearing from the digital team at Tapestry about their innovations in e-commerce
  • Speaking with Revlon’s Head of Marketing in their luxury division 
  • Presenting final proposals to PVH/Perry Ellis on our consultancy projects

… plus many, many more. As someone with minimal professional experience in the fashion and luxury sectors, I found this class brought me up to speed on the challenges and trends in the space, both in light of COVID and more broadly. Now, headed into the rest of the program, I feel Stern has set us up with a solid toolbelt of foundational skills, plus industry knowledge, to guide our focuses, electives, and soon, job searches – all in just twelve weeks!