Story|

Explore the World of Business School

A former geology major sees the broad applicability of a business education through the Graduate Student-at-Large: Business program.

Written by Philip Baker
woman in red jacket smiling

After discovering the joy of working with effectively communicating teams through the Graduate Student-at-Large: Business (GSALB) program, Sarah Moon applied to Chicago Booth and was accepted—knowing the skills she would learn while there would apply no matter where her life took her.

Sarah Moon wasn’t certain that she wanted to dive immediately into a PhD program after majoring in geology as an undergraduate at Harvard. Her fascination with the composition of rocks and the processes by which they form was beyond doubt, but she had some reservations about the sort of life she would be building for herself in academia. There were other parts of the world she wanted to explore and learn about first, so she took a position in general management at McMaster-Carr and was soon pleased to discover an abiding interest in the world of business and management.

“There are actually plenty of similarities in the ways problems are approached in business and geology,” Sarah says. “In both fields you’re regularly presented with a complex situation and moving forward involves uncovering and trying to understand the relation between seemingly unrelated pieces. It’s a matter of noticing small details and making connections and, if possible, scaling those connections into conclusions you can work more generally with.”

Great Way to Test the Waters

After a year at McMaster-Carr, Sarah started seriously to consider applying to business school at Booth. Uncertain about the time and financial commitment such an endeavor would entail, she learned about the GSALB program as a great way to test the waters and get a sense for what business school would be like without having to make to commit herself fully. By taking three classes through the GSALB program over the course of a year, Sarah determined not only that the commitment was manageable for her, but even more importantly she learned that the skills she could learn while getting her MBA would be broadly applicable in her life no matter where her career directed her. In the end, she applied to Booth and was accepted.

Discovering the Rewards of Teamwork

“I really enjoyed ‘Managing in Organizations’ in particular,” she says. “The lessons were directly relevant to what I was doing at work and often I’d turn around and implement ideas I’d learned in class immediately. The psychological concepts focusing on ways to communicate effectively with others might have seemed straightforward at first, but they could be tricky to put into practice and I enjoyed learning to use them to improve processes my team was working on.”Even if Sarah’s passion for geology remains—and she hasn’t completely set aside the idea of returning to school for her PhD—she’s discovered in the world of business something she feels was missing in academia. She enjoys working in teams and pushing projects forward as a group and the feeling of camaraderie that comes with accomplishing tasks along with others.“I really can’t say where I’ll be in ten or fifteen years,” she says. “I do know, however, that whether I get a PhD in geology, go to work for an energy company, or if I remain at McMaster-Carr, the skills I’ll learn at Booth will help me wherever I go. And the GSALB program was a critical step to my coming to realize this.”

Discover the Graduate Student-at-Large: Business program at the University of Chicago

Test the MBA at Chicago Booth

Graduate Student-at-Large: Business students have the opportunity to take classes at the Chicago Booth School of Business. Exemplary students may be granted admission into Booth and may transfer up to three of their courses towards their MBA.

Learn More

Additional Stories