Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Sarah Feagles

Class of 2014

Sarah Feagles

"Most people who have never had to lead a team assume that excellent results go along with the description of being a leader. As I learned in the Navy, that assumption is not true, either because the organization itself does not demand excellence or the individual in charge does not take his/her assignment seriously."

My Background

Most people think Ohio is a boring place in the Midwest that is home to mediocre, if not terrible, sports teams. I, however, called Ohio home for 18 years before venturing out into the "real world," and I wouldn't have chosen to grow up anywhere else (although our sports teams need some work).

My parents are both professionals and taught my younger sister and me that hard work pays off, and there is no limit to what we can do, which is why she's graduating from Tulane this spring and I'm at Fuqua today. A large part of my Midwestern upbringing has made me seek challenges, no matter where I am, to ensure that I make the most of every opportunity available. I have always enjoyed juggling multiple activities, whether that meant playing 3 varsity sports in high school, participating in the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps (NROTC) program and a sorority at Vanderbilt University, or finding submarines off the coast of San Diego while organizing a ship-wide softball team. Coming from a small city, I have seen too many people grow complacent and not take advantage of the world around them, so I knew from a very young age that I would travel and experience as many things as possible, which is why I'm always so busy!

What I find most interesting is interacting with people and learning about their lives. I am able to do this through my classmates at Fuqua, but I also enjoy learning about others through reading fiction and nonfiction. Despite my extrovert tendencies, I enjoy quiet time that comes when I read and run. I have completed three marathons and am looking forward to training for more. And lastly, as a northeastern Ohio girl, I love watching Cleveland sports teams (as depressing as they may be at times). Luckily, I have Vanderbilt football and Duke basketball to cheer for as well!

Why I Chose Fuqua

Ultimately, my decision to come to Fuqua was solidified when I decided that I wanted to make my 2-year experience an exercise in relationship building, not just about finding a better job. The students I spoke to before making my decision were all eager to help me with whatever questions or doubts I had about the Daytime program, Durham, or MBA life.

I never visited Fuqua during the application process, so deciding to come here is a huge testament to my Fuqua Buddy and members of Duke's Armed Forces Association (DAFA) who convinced me that Fuqua would be the right fit for me. They had all found their particular niche, whether it was with the more social, outgoing crowd or with students who came to Durham with partners and children. The fact that either demographic of student could find his or her particular support group proved to me that people who come to Fuqua are not just punching a time clock at school and living their lives separately from their classmates.

One of the best things about Fuqua is that it is located in Durham, which isn't a bustling metropolis like New York or Chicago, where many people already have extensive networks. Fuqua students actively decide to leave their comfort zone in search of more personal relationships, because if you don't bond with your classmates, it's going to be a lonely 2 years.

I have always been a people person and am at my best when I'm interacting with and learning from others, and Fuqua gives me that opportunity every day—not just in class, but during Section Happy Hours, club mixers, recruiting events, and Fuqua Fridays. At Fuqua, I am developing relationships with people from countries and continents that I never would have had the opportunity to meet anywhere else, and their diversity and perspectives are making me a better student and future leader.

Leadership Attribute: Excellence

Most people who have never had to lead a team assume that excellent results go along with the description of being a leader. As I learned in the Navy, that assumption is not true, either because the organization itself does not demand excellence or the individual in charge does not take his/her assignment seriously.

As the Force Protection Officer onboard the USS SPRUANCE, I was responsible for developing and executing a training program to protect our ship in foreign ports with a crew that had never worked together before. I had a team of 16 seasoned individuals who had all come from different backgrounds with different ideas on how we should train our rookie crew, but what was missing from their grandiose plans was a sense and expectation of excellence in the performance of our duties. Unfortunately, they were all satisfied with the minimum score of 80% needed to pass our assessments, but I knew that those results would put our crew in jeopardy if we were faced with a real terrorist attack.

As a leader of consequence, it is necessary that you impress upon your team the importance of the mission and explain to them why the minimum score is unacceptable. If we had settled for 80%, we would have gone home earlier and not worked on weekends, but the crew would have developed the impression that the minimum is acceptable, and protecting the ship and crew is an unimportant responsibility, which is contrary to the threats that exist in the world today. It was difficult to convince my team (all of them older than me with more time in the Navy) that we had to be excellent as a team and as a ship crew, but once I was able to bring them all onboard, we scored a 96.6%, which is definitely "excellent."

Five Random Things About Me

  1. I won Wheel of Fortune. I thought that anyone could win (because, in my opinion, it's not as difficult as Jeopardy), but when I was on air, I didn't win ANY money during the first 4 puzzles. Luckily, Pat Sajak landed on the $5,000 space for the final round, and I won. Then, on the bonus puzzle, I already guessed the answer after the R, S, T, L, N, and E! The episode is on YouTube if you want to see me make a fool of myself, and see what I won.
  2. I have eaten at every chain restaurant in America, except Red Lobster. And I pride myself on making my Fuqua friends from big cities like New York and Los Angeles who have never, EVER been to chain restaurants accompany me to restaurants in Durham like Carrabba's and Red Robin. Their reactions are pretty priceless—they can't get over how inexpensive these places are!
  3. I majored in Spanish but have never been to Spain. I studied abroad in Argentina for 6 months and have been to Chile, Panama, Uruguay, Colombia, Mexico, and Honduras. Spain is next on my list. 
  4. I have a black belt in karate. The only problem is, I began taking lessons in second grade and earned my black belt in eighth grade, so all I remember is how to kick and punch. However, I attribute my self-confidence and poise to my karate classes. Preforming complex movements (katas) in front of a panel of judges as a 10-year-old will make public speaking as a 27-year-old seem like a piece of cake!
  5. I will request a Bon Jovi song at any bar. "You Give Love a Bad Name" is my favorite, and it doesn't matter if I'm at a fancy club or a country bar, I will always ask the DJ to play it because I LOVE the air guitar. And Bon Jovi.

What I Love About Durham

I have been running since I was in the seventh grade. It is the one hobby that I have had consistently through all of my major life phases: high school, college, the Navy, and now graduate school. Luckily, I lived in locations that were incredibly conducive to running: Nashville and San Diego had plenty of parks and public green spaces. I was hesitant before arriving in Durham because I had no idea if there would be a variety of safe places to run, so that I could train for my third marathon.

I was pleasantly surprised when I arrived at Fuqua, because right across the street from campus is a gorgeous 3-mile loop around the Washington Duke Inn & Golf Course. The Al Buehler Trail is a favorite of Duke students and the Durham community. It is always fun to run in a place where you can see numerous people—I'm a bit ADD when running, so distractions are welcome! Another great path is the American Tobacco Trail, which is perfect for long runs or bike rides. Eno River State Park has several trails to run around and a picturesque swimming hole in case you need to cool off during an August workout. Other options for runners or walkers are the Duke Forest and the East Campus Loop, which is close to Station Nine apartments.

Durham is a community that offers something for everyone, whether you like to golf, hike, visit museums, or attend theater productions. If you're like me, and running or biking is your favorite avocation, you will never be bored!