Life is what happens while you're busy getting an MBA

Sean Kemper, MBA ’17 here, writing from the border of Buena Park and Wrigleyville on Chicago's north side. It’s early in the Spring ’16 semester, the work has yet to pile up, and while I don’t actually have a lot of free time, winter break was recent enough that I still feel like I have some free time, which I’ve used to snap a few pics and share a picture of my life at Liautaud.

My days start early; Coconut and Mung-Mung, my Yorkshire terriers, want breakfast and a walk, and I’ve learned that with Yorkies, a consistent routine is everything. So I bundle up and dress the dogs in winter gear, and we take a spin around the block. After I drop them off at home, I head back to Gill Park, my local public park, to workout in the field house gym.

If you’re new to Chicago, you might not know: many of the public park field houses have well-maintained fitness centers. Students living on or near campus have access to UIC's facilities, which are hard to beat. But if you're living in another part of town, the public fieldhouses are a great option. Annual membership at Gill Park’s is $150, a steal compared to nearby commercial fitness clubs. Some mornings it's weight training, some mornings I run and some I swim (which may be my favorite - an especially relaxing way to start the day).  As you can see, early birds get priority access to the machines.

I’m working three part-time jobs this semester. One of them, for an educational testing service, starts in the morning, which puts me in the office by 8 or 8:30 a.m. most weekdays and on the occasional Saturday.

On off mornings, I drive my wife to work downtown on my way to UIC. The morning traffic on Lakeshore Drive is often heavy, but drivers are compensated by the views of downtown and Lake Michigan. My mornings at UIC are usually devoted to T.A. work for Professor Peter Thompson’s MGMT 340 class. Always plenty of homework to grade and paper to shuffle.

This week I had a morning meeting with Glenda Insua, a reference librarian at UIC’s Daley Library. Glenda’s helped me navigate UIC’s business information database, which I use for a lot of work related to different kinds of industry and market analyses. Thanks, Glenda!

And about once a week, I manage to squeeze some homework into the mornings. This morning, it was readings about sales forecasts for my operational management class. Dense material packed into a quick study session, but fortunately I get to rehash everything with a study group later on. At Liautaud, a lot of our work outside the classroom is done in groups. It helps us reinforce material, and accustoms us to team-based work.

At midday, I have a few minutes to grab some food, and then, depending on the day and the agenda, dive into a little more homework, like my microeconomics work, for example, for which it always helps to have a full stomach and a clear head. Again, group study is essential. Tackling practice problems together is less stressful and more efficient.

I also schedule my on-campus meetings around this time. The other day, I met with Jeff Wilson, Senior Director of the UIC Business Career Center (I’ve been meeting with Jeff since my days as a Liautaud prospect). Meetings with Jeff  are a regular way of keeping short-term and long-term goals in line, Surprisingly, a lot of students don’t consider it a resource. If you find yourself thinking in circles about what your next steps should be, talk to someone; Jeff’s helped countless Liautaud students into the early stages of their careers.

On the weekends, late afternoons and evenings are when the rest of life seems to happen; grocery shopping, cooking at home, opening the week’s mail. A note about grocery shopping: here's where I envy people living near campus. I live near a Jewel, aWhole Foods and a Treasure Island, and there are two Whole Foods within walking distance of campus, so I'm not missing anything there. But campus dwellers can walk to places like Conte di Savoia on Taylor St. (maybe the best deli sandwiches in the city) as well as Elea Food Market on Halsted.

Last weekend, I received notice from the State of Delaware that my LLC is official. We celebrated with an impromptu trip to Milwaukee. If you haven’t been, it’s an easy getaway by train or car, and those of you living near campus are conveniently close to Union Station, an Enterprise Rent-A-Car office (at Morgan and Jackson) and 90/94, the freeway to Milwaukee.

During the week, evening time is classroom time. I’m involved in a few things:

First, the UIC Startup Challenge, open to anyone with a business plan. Participants get workshops on networking, financing and marketing, and the winning startup receives $10,000. Second, my finance class with Professor John Binder. And third, my marketing class with Professor Moon.       

This evening after class, I picked up my wife from work and we had dinner at Pizza Rustica. Again, students who are new to town: skip Giordano's, Gino's, Malnati's and the like. They're all good, don't get me wrong, but you'll find the best pizza at smaller spots like Rustica, Piece and Spacca Napoli. After dinner, Netflix. We just started the fourth season of Luther. Today’s been long, and tomorrow I’ll wake up with the Yorkies and get back to UIC Business


Text and photos by Sean Kemper.