It’s a quintessential University of Maryland love story.
Justin Ferguson and Jasmine Snead first met on the University of Maryland College Park campus in 2015. He was studying communications. She was studying political science and African American studies. He liked structure and planning. She liked to decide as she went along.
But when Justin first saw Jasmine at McKeldin Library, he didn’t have a plan ready to go. He waited until he saw her again at a Greek life event not too long afterward. And they arranged to go out. They knew it couldn’t be a university love story if their first date wasn’t a study date. So they went back to McKeldin Library.
Time passed. They got their bachelor’s degrees and went on to the working world – together. Four years later, they returned to the University of Maryland as graduate students. Justin is now a first-year master's of business administration (MBA) student. Jasmine is a first-year MBA and master's of public policy dual degree candidate.
In June, just before their encore round as Maryland Terps began, Justin and Jasmine went from “in a relationship” to “engaged.” Their second month back at school, the couple worked on a Fiat-Chrysler case competition – together. They traveled to the National Black MBA Association Career Expo in Houston – together. They did homework. And they planned for their wedding. Together.
The first three months of their new, shared-MBA-program way of living has meant a lot of togetherness. Robert H. Smith School of Business full-time students enroll in the same classes at the program’s outset. Studying happens in a shared set of case rooms. Professors are shared. TAs are shared. Meals, friends and late nights at the business school are shared.
So what can other graduate students learn from this couple – perhaps the most extreme example of togetherness the graduate school has to offer?
1. Make self-awareness and clear communication a priority in your relationships.
“Your first month of school can be draining. You go from home to school, home to school, and back again,” says Justin. “It’s important to use emotional intelligence to know when you’re low energy.” Be sure to communicate how you’re feeling, so you don’t imperil relationships with missed context. This applies for any graduate student interacting with family members, partners and loved ones. Clear communication and self-awareness are important.
2. Learn from each other and keep the big picture in mind.
Grad school has both challenged and strengthened Justin and Jasmine’s relationship. “The MBA program can be like rollercoaster,” says Justin. “You can get caught up in the stress, and daily ups and downs.” The important thing is to remember to look at the big picture, says Justin. Your Monday or Tuesday may be filled with peaks and valleys of emotion. But, if you look at the overall semester, you’ll see an upward trend of positive learning and growth. Having a loved one in the same program is an extra boost to help reframe your perspective. “They reassure you [that] you’re fine,” says Justin.
3. Look FOMO in the eye, and don’t bow to pressure.
“Sometimes when I’m at home relaxing,” says Justin, “[Jasmine] will pull out a book and start studying. It makes me feel pressured [to study]. That’s not her intention, but seeing her study makes me think that I should also be working, even if I already completed my day’s work.”
As an MBA candidate, there is pressure to study at all hours, attend every happy hour, every professional conference, forever striving. Maryland Smith professor J. Gerald Suarez advises overcoming your fear of missing out and underperforming. He advises brining more balance and JOMO – or joy of missing out – into your life.
4. Make it fun
“Make time to socialize, even if your tendency is to work on your career or academics,” says Jasmine. For this UMD couple, that can mean anything from playing the card game Phase 10 to date night at Matchbox in Rockville, MD.
Can you spot Justin and Jasmine in the Robert H. Smith School of Business full-time MBA Class of 2021 photo (above)?
–By Miranda Taylor. Taylor is a 2020 MBA candidate. She is originally from Minneapolis, and worked as a science writer and digital content strategist in the health industry before coming to Maryland Smith to pursue an MBA.
Feature image (at top): Double Terps, Justin Ferguson and Jasmine Snead, first met at the University of Maryland McKeldin Library in 2015. They are now engaged.