Kathleen A. Duffy
Hometown: Marstons Mills, MA
Why did you choose to attend UMass Dartmouth for your MBA?
I received my bachelor's degree from UMass Amherst in 2006. I had such a positive and rewarding experiencing at UMass Amherst, that I anticipated a similar experience pursing my MBA at UMass Dartmouth.
It doesn't hurt that UMD is one of the closest universities to Cape Cod, where I live, and that the cost of the program is such a good value. I feel that the students who attend state schools are hard-working and down to earth—they’re looking for a good value in their education and are willing to work hard for it. That’s the kind of student I am, as well.
I’ve noticed that UMass Dartmouth is different from Amherst, too—there’s a smaller student population, a more intimate feeling, and you get to know the students in your classes more easily.
Can you describe an interesting experience you’ve had here?
In a recent management course about leadership, we had to work in small groups for the whole semester—for almost everything, including homework. Like most students, I’ve had my fair share of challenging group situations in the past and was not overly excited about this team situation. To my surprise, the three women that I worked with were all uniquely wonderful. Not only did everyone carry her own weight, but we also supported, challenged, and motivated each other. My group experience ended up being the best part of the class!
What has been your greatest challenge?
The biggest challenge has been balancing this new transitional period in my life. In addition to studying for my MBA, I’ve started my own shellfishing business. I harvest wild shellfish, mostly quahogs, from the waters of my hometown, Barnstable.
How did you arrive at this combination of an MBA and shellfishing?
My first corporate position was an incredibly developing experience for me, and it allowed me to experience the wonders of many different countries. However, after five years of almost full-time traveling, I had to re-assess my values and priorities. I made the very nerve-racking decision to leave my job in an unstable economy in order to pursue my MBA.
The opportunity to apply for a commercial shellfish license presented itself just ten days after I handed in my resignation. These licenses are rare, and so I decided to turn my recreational hobby into a full-fledged business pursuit. I had planned to establish an entrepreneurial business while attending school, so I could practice my business skills. So this seemed like destiny.
What are the rewards of your shellfishing venture?
Shellfishing is challenging work both physically and mentally, but it’s great to have my own business that I can operate around my schoolwork. And I’ve been able to apply the concepts I’m learning in class to my business.
The fishing industry is one that is physically grueling (sunrise starts, hours of raking, 50- to 100-pound loads to lift) and it is extremely male-dominated. In fact, I am currently the only commercial female shellfisherman in Barnstable. As you can imagine, I have received more than a few doubting glances from my fellow shellfishermen.
Regardless of others’ doubt, I feel I am a mentally, physically, and spiritually strong enough woman to rise to the challenges of this industry.
And I’ve found the work to be extremely rewarding. I’m developing an amazing connection to my physical environment: Cape Cod. I’ve discovered amazing little bays and waterways. I’ve experienced beautiful pink sunrises. I’ve watched gulls and herons dive into the cold blue water.
What are your plans once you complete your MBA?
I see big things for my future. Right now I’m learning the ins-and-outs of wild shellfish harvesting—littlenecks, quahogs, steamers, razor clams—but I can envision a shellfish empire! I’d like the “Barnstable quahog” to become as renowned as the “Wellfleet oyster.”
But I’m also currently interning as an assistant to a financial advisor. The Morgan Stanley office in Hyannis contacted the MBA program for an intern. Although my focus is entrepreneurship, I’ve taken finance courses as part of the program, and I was recommended. This has been another opportunity to apply what I’m learning to real life. Whether I continue with finance as a career or not, it’s definitely had an impact on my personal life and entrepreneurial life.
Once I have my MBA, I intend to try as many things as possible and see where they take me. I’ll see what doors open for me.
Photos courtesy Maureen Shea