My Bentley Story by PJ Neal
Alumnus/a, Cambridge, Massachusetts
It’s Saturday morning at 8 a.m. Most students are sleeping off their Friday night, and a handful of others are just getting home. I walk into a quiet, empty Smith Center and find my way to one of the large windowless classrooms. Looking around, I see a dozen or so other students, about as many large coffee cups, and several “breakfasts of champions” (a bottle of Coke, two Advil, and a package of Pop-Tarts).
John McIntosh walks in, wearing jeans and an Oxford shirt, and starts setting up for class. I take out my notebook and course readings and get ready for the first of five full-day Saturday class sessions. My classmates and I had signed up for MG340, Managing Electronic Businesses. We had no idea that course name wouldn’t come close to describing or capturing all we would learn.
Over the course of those five Saturday sessions, Professor McIntosh taught us the course material as any other faculty member would, but he also went far beyond that. He used the lengthy class sessions to give us time to really think and develop our arguments, and coached us along the way. He taught us – first by example, then through exercises – to embrace storytelling as part of our presentations. He mentored us, showing us how to improve the quality of our work, the look and feel of our materials, and the flow of our presentations. We learned together. We worked together. We reflected together. We helped each other grow and develop in that windowless classroom in Smith.
By the end of the five weeks, every single one of us knew we were a better student. What we didn’t realize at the time, however, was just how impactful Professor McIntosh’s lessons would be in the real world.
Soon after graduating, I found myself giving presentations at work, and constantly getting praise for the quality of my materials, the flow of my arguments, and the narrative elements of my presentations. While my peers in the workplace were struggling to develop these skills on the job, I already had them. When they were visibly nervous about speaking to small groups, I wasn’t, because I had done it before. And most importantly, when my colleagues were struggling with these challenges, I could step up and help them grow and develop, because I had helped others before, and I knew how to be a coach to my peers.
I had no idea how impactful Professor McIntosh and his course would be when I found my seat at 8 a.m. that Saturday morning.