On April 28, the Leeds MBA experience culminated in an annual tradition at Leeds—the Last Lecture where a chosen faculty member gives a final lecture to graduating MBAs with parting words of wisdom and advice. This year’s lecture had more than 80 students come together from the full-time MBA and evening MBA programs to take part in this experience. For many, it was the first class together for some familiar faces, not seen since the core classes in the first year of the program.
Headlining the Last Lecture was beloved accounting professor Henry Laurion—a fan favorite of both cohorts, who took his accounting class during our first year of instruction. Henry brought the same humor, energy and knowledge to this lecture as he delivered all semester long in accounting.
His lecture began with a discussion of Apple’s latest earnings report and the company's focus to create content to be consumed through their products. In a time where everyone is a consumer of lots of content, Henry’s advice was to buck that trend: “The more you consume, the less you can create. As MBAs, I want you to create new things.”
Henry’s second point related to Spotify and outcomes from its earnings report. When Spotify’s revenue wasn’t growing with expectations, it can lead to what’s known as a growth torpedo, where a small deviation can cause a downward spiral. Laurion cautioned that growth torpedoes happen in our careers, too. He discussed the importance of setting and meeting realistic expectations for ourselves to find happiness, drawing on his own experience of leaving the corporate world of consulting to go back into academia.
In class, Henry would classify exams or quizzes not as a test of competency, but as a celebration of the knowledge gained during class. The last lecture proved to be one last test for students to learn from Henry, and for Henry to learn from all of us. He was impressed with the wealth of experience MBA students brought to the classroom and the confidence students had, even if they didn’t know the answers. Henry learned that students immersed themselves in his class by going to office hours and putting themselves out there, eager to learn regardless of their comfort level with the content of the class.
After a poor showing in an accounting midterm, Henry shared with us once that “when you are in grad school and you are over 25, what’s important is that you keep your resume updated and hope for the best.” In other words, a midterm exam isn't the most important thing in your life and there are things beyond a test. As many of us move on from grad school to figure out a new career trajectory, Henry reminded the room, that at the end of the day, no matter where you find yourself at now or in the future, don’t focus on the little things, just keep your resume updated and hope for the best.
The event also featured guessing some fun facts from classmates, everything from who surfed with Barack Obama to who has been to over a dozen baseball parks. Shannon Flahive, the outgoing president of the full-time MBA program spoke about the shared experiences people had in the program and offered a toast. During her toast, it became apparent she had shared her personal Zoom link out to classmates, resulting in about six people being named Shannon Flahive—a real Spartacus moment. Rush Combs, the outgoing president of the Evening MBA class also addressed the Zoom room with his final words of wisdom and reflection on the program.
In the end, we were all Shannon Flahive on this day.