McDonough School of Business
I Come From Poem Collection
News Story

Georgetown MBA Course Explores the Life of Work Through Poetry

An emotional, captivating, and thought-provoking panel took place in the Rafik B. Hariri Building as a group of Georgetown MBA students and alumni shared poetry based on life experiences to culminate the end of the Life of Work Intensive Learning Experience (ILE) course. 

Taught by Doug Holladay, the Heinz Christian Prechter Executive in Residence at Georgetown McDonough, Life of Work is one of several ILEs available in the Full-time MBA program at McDonough. ILEs are condensed courses that students can take over one or two weeks for credit toward their degree and feature experiential learning, innovative teaching methods, and off-site visits that supplement what students learn in the classroom.

The event on March 9 included a welcome from Stephanie Prechter (B’03) followed by a panel featuring Aashima Gupta (MBA’23), Tom Kennedy (MBA’21), Jake Kornack (MBA’23), Sheryl Palmer, CEO of Taylor Morrison and guest speaker in the Life of Work ILE, and Holladay as the moderator. The panelists shared insights into their personal backgrounds, the impact of the ILE course, and the poems they submitted for the class.

“Life of Work pushed me out of my comfort zone. It’s different than any other MBA class I took during my time at Georgetown,” said Gupta. Never did I think I’d read a poem in front of a whole class of students, but I did it. I loved the opportunity to push myself and just focus on myself for a whole week.” 

For Kornack, the ILE experience challenged him to embrace his entire life story and reach outside the conventional borders of business.

“The experience of writing a poem was certainly different than running a regression analysis or inspecting a balance sheet, but in important ways, writing a poem in business school and sharing it with classmates helped connect us to each other and tap into our deeper purpose, giving us permission to be unashamed and intentional about the core parts of our life that are not conventionally harnessed in business school,” he said. 

The poems derived from Holladay’s simple prompt of “I Come From” touched on a wide range of themes such as the experiences of first-generation children, faith, fears, sacrifice, devotion, grief, sustainability, and love.

This Life of Work course is made possible by the financial support of the World Heritage Foundation – Prechter Family Fund. Over 10 years ago, the family established a gift agreement with McDonough to create the Heinz Christian Prechter Executive in Residence. The goal of the position, according to Heinz Prechter’s daughter and McDonough alumna, Stephanie, is to facilitate courses with an emphasis on the importance of “emotional intelligence, empathy, resilience, entrepreneurship, and a sense of giving back to the community, and do so in my dad’s memory to honor his spirit and the difference he made in this world.”

During the recent “I Come From” event, Prechter shared that she felt a certain closeness to her father that is difficult to put into words. “I really feel like my dad’s light is shining through all of you — just by being in this room. It’s a powerful legacy to carry.” 

This legacy is also portrayed through the teachings in Holladay’s classes and his approach to learning. The ILE course utilizes the Socratic method, which is based on the idea that an unexamined life is not worth living. 

Holladay asks his students questions to provoke deeper meaning behind their actions and encourages them to journal the answers and be in dialogue around them. A few examples include: How has family and peer pressure played a role in your decision-making? How do you define success and understand the place of failure and setbacks in shaping your story? Do you live a fully integrated life? 

As a result, Holladay’s class includes elements of examining life from a place of gratitude, the significance behind journaling, and discovering the source of one’s motivations. 

“There’s a lot of healing and processing that comes with the arts. The course is such a great marriage between the two, where MBA students are exercising creative expression and building their imaginative muscles,” said Prechter. She has gathered 16 poems along with releases from students to form a poetry collection to share with the rest of the McDonough community. 

“Listening to the students recite their poems is so moving to me; almost to the point that I had to leave class one day because I started crying,” Holladay said. “It touches me to see what an impact this course has had on the students. They’re exploring a side of their life and heart that they did not know was there.” 

A recording of the recent “I Come From” event can be found on Georgetown McDonough’s YouTube page. To learn more about ILEs available through the MBA program, visit the courses and curriculum page.