Adam Skaggs '16SM Reflects on His SOM Experience

October 25, 2016

Adam Skaggs

Adam shares his biggest takeaways as a male graduate of the MSM Program.

What drew you to the MSM program at the Simmons School of Management?

About a year after I completed my undergraduate degree, I landed a job in the field I love, working in athletics communications at Simmons College. Almost immediately, peers and colleagues began encouraging me to enroll in the Master of Science in Management (MSM) program offered by the Simmons School of Management. After 17 years of schooling, I thought I was done with my education, but decided to apply. It was a nationally ranked program that would support me in my professional development. 

While undergraduate studies at Simmons College are for women only, the Master of Science in Management (MSM) program in which I enrolled is co-ed. However the majority of the students are women. Before starting the program, I hadn’t given much thought to the implications of furthering my education at a college that boasts its “unique focus on gender, diversity, and power dynamics.” I was focused on the more traditional aspects of a master’s program—learning about things like finance, entrepreneurship, and marketing.

What were some of the challenges and advantages of attending a women-centered institution?

In my first few courses I was the only male in the classroom. When the material or the discussions veered toward gender issues or focused on empowerment (of women) in the workplace, I often felt like the odd man out. My initial thought was “How is this relevant to me?” I soon found myself sitting alone, and not always actively participating like I was accustomed to doing during my undergraduate years. But as the program progressed and there were other men in my classes, I saw how collaboratively they approached learning in the same environment. It opened my thinking to aspects of the program beyond academics. Now, as I reflect on the question “Did you benefit from the program?", I realize that in addition to gaining the practical knowledge, I also came through with a greater appreciation for some of the underlying challenges faced by both women and men in today’s work environment, and a better understanding of the skills needed to successfully manage them. 

As an African American male I know I face unconscious bias all the time, such as someone asking me what is my favorite rap song when I do not even listen to rap music, or a stranger at a cafe asking me, “What time do you guys close?” Within the MSM program my eyes were opened to the gender aspect of this type of unconscious bias and I saw that women face similar situations that they cope with on a daily basis. Before this program I hadn’t given much thought to the parallel inequities experienced by women. For example, discussions around the gender wage gap and the low ratio of women to men CEOs showed me how bias and inequity play out in daily business. 

How have your courses at Simmons shaped your career path?

I learned the important role patience plays in managing differences of opinions, ideas, and processes. At times in class I initially disagreed with various discussions, but I learned that if you wait and fully listen to a person’s argument, you can learn something and have a better understanding of the matter at hand. In life, I will be responsible for managing all sorts of disagreements, and it will be up to me as to how I handle them. Patience and taking the time to listen will play a big part in my approach. I also learned that communication is not always what it seems. Intercultural, online, or by gender perspective, what is obvious to one person or one party, may not be—or may even be misinterpreted—by another person or party. I experienced this through class discussion as well as in class material. Usually, in my typical classroom self, I would take the lead role in group discussions and call the shots. Through this experience I began to appreciate that everyone has an opinion and that for communication to be successful, everyone’s unique point of view matters. It’s important to have a clear understanding of everyone’s perspective in order to avoid miscommunication or misunderstanding.

Click here to read the full article in the Spring 2016 issue of Management Magazine.