2011 UCLA Anderson MBA Q&A with Mae Jennifer Shores & Jessica Luchenta

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2011 UCLA Anderson MBA Q&A with Mae Jennifer Shores & Jessica Luchenta

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Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today’s chat. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about UCLA’s Anderson School of Management. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school. I also want to give a special welcome to Mae Jennifer Shores, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, and Jessica Luchenta, Anderson's Associate Director of Admissions. Also joining us today is Joanna Schochet, President of the Women’s Business Connection (WBC) and VP of External Affairs for the Anderson Student Association. Thanks to everyone for joining. I am going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask the first couple of questions. The first question for MJ, Jennifer, and for Joanna is-what's new at Anderson?

Mae Jennifer Shores: There is a lot of momentum going on here at the school; we are making a lot of changes. We are actually currently reexamining the curriculum to see if there is anything that needs to be revised or updated. We just added this year a wonderful communications course for incoming students that lasts ten weeks. The course helps develop executive presence, prepares you for recruiting and helps make a difference for you professionally. What we hear from MBA recruiters is that across schools, people need better and more expansive communication skills. We also now are doing a lot more globally. We have a global requirement as part of the curriculum. We are starting an academic field study internationally where we will be going to Latin America, Europe and maybe even the Middle East. And that's just a few things.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Jessica, do you want to add something to that?

Jessica Luchenta: Sure. I think the other piece that I might add is that we are doing a lot at our Parker Career Management Center (PCMC) to increase the number and variety of recruiters who are interviewing Anderson students on campus. We currently have an interim director at the PCMC or Project Repair Management Center who was formerly an investment banker and has lots of ties to the finance community and is bringing lots of new banks on campus to meet with Anderson students. And that's a trend that we think will continue through the 2010-2011 recruiting year.

Mae Jennifer Shores: Related to that, some new companies are coming on campus. Goldman Sachs is returning, we are bringing American Express P G & E. And we hope to announce a new director of the Career Center very shortly, and he is a very terrific person and I think everybody will be pleased- quite a dynamo.

Linda Abraham: Joanna, from the student perspective and in terms of the Student Association, what's new?

Joanna Schochet: From the student side, we are really excited about the changes in the core curriculum. They are modifications more than they are changes, but it's been in response to student feedback. So it's been very student directed in what we feel that we need, to be best prepared for recruiting and for our education here. Additionally, they have been adding some courses that are currently offered to people in the fully employed program, but have an international component. So they line up a trip internationally, to apply to a studies over winter break and spring break. And that is just getting piloted this year and it's very exciting for us.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. We have a large international representation among the applicants, so I'm wondering if you can describe a little about what being in LA means? There are a lot of stereotypes about LA in terms of Disneyland, Universal City and all that. But what does it mean for business school? What does it mean for an MBA student to be in Los Angeles?

Mae Jennifer Shores: That's a terrific question. For all of you out there, I was East Coast born and bred, I've lived in Moscow, Suva, Fiji, and so I've had a pretty broad perspective on cities around the world. I wasn't quite sure that I ever wanted to move to California or Los Angeles, and I did a lot of research before coming here, and was very pleased to find just how diverse the city is. It's a pretty large city, pretty dispersed, and the diversity is not evident as quickly as in some other cities. There are 124 known languages, and that doesn't include dialects that are spoken here. We have a tremendous representation of countries from around the world. We are arguably the largest and the most diverse employment base in the US. You find everything from private equity, venture capital, investment banking to things like biotechnology, aerospace, defense, and technology. If you look at technology firms, the "DVP" of all the technology firms in southern California, primarily Los Angeles, is four times the "DVP" of Silicon Valley. So it is an incredibly rich environment. It is the sixteenth largest economy in the US. We have a gateway to Latin America and the Pacific Rim which is where the growth in the world economy is going. So you get access to all of these wonderful areas. And you have an opportunity to do an internship in this area, and maybe even stay if you like California. But it's really diverse and an ideal opportunity for you to learn new skills and see how businesses start-up and succeed and continue, or maybe even fail.

Linda Abraham: Great. I asked about the culture related to geography, but what about the academic culture? As an Anderson alum, I very clearly remember serving on a panel about ten years ago, with a current student, a younger alum, and we all talked about the collegial atmosphere at Anderson. And my son's friend is currently enrolled at Anderson and he is talking about the collegial atmosphere and spirit amongst the students at Anderson. But what about the academic atmosphere? What is the academic culture like?

Jessica Luchenta: I think one way in which I might define that is by saying that Anderson students seem to approach everything that they do academically and extracurricularly with an entrepreneurial spirit. So Anderson is very well known for its strength in entrepreneurship. And there is a little bit of a misconception in the marketplace, that all of our students are entrepreneurs all starting their own businesses. While there are many who do, that is not necessarily the case for everyone. In fact, most of our students go on to careers in the corporate sector for established companies. But that being said, everyone here on campus values learning how to think like an entrepreneur, understands that there is tremendous value in learning how to build a business plan and to take calculated risks and to develop those analytical skills. And everyone really embraces the opportunity to learn to do that during their time at Anderson, because they know they can apply it within those corporations and established companies that they go on to work for. So I think that is one way in which the academic culture here can be described.

Joanna Schochet: I came to Anderson knowing about the entrepreneurial spirit, not being sure what that meant, and didn't think I wanted to be an entrepreneur. But we have such great elective offerings and that is so imbued in Anderson culture, that people get the bug to some extent. I'm in my second year, and I'm taking an elective now called 'Entrepreneurship and Venture Initiation'. And since I had my first class last week, I've just been buzzing with all these thoughts about how you apply that to things and see how those concepts are relevant. And I think that kind of excitement and enthusiasm for business and for life is a strong characteristic you see around the Anderson student body.

Linda Abraham: Going back to what you said Jessica, can I ask you-- what does thinking like an entrepreneur mean?

Jessica Luchenta: I think it's a combination of creativity, willingness to take risks. I think that today in the workplace, people are more and more asked upon to be "Jacks of all trades", to have a really diverse skills set, and to understand how all the different business units relate to each other. And sometimes they even ask you to develop an entirely new business unit within their company or organization. So you have to have a certain entrepreneurial skills set to be able to do that, even though you are working within an already structured organization. And I think that is why our students here can see the value in it. And take these elective courses that for example Joanna is taking, or jump in on one of our Price Center activities like 'Map the Venture' competition, and learn what it's really like to build out a business plan and then pitch it to a room full of strangers who you are trying to convince of the value of it.

Mae Jennifer Shores: And to piggyback on that, when you look at what is going on in the economy and the number of companies that are failing and the some that are succeeding, the ones that are succeeding have people in key positions who are very nimble and very quick on their feet and they are willing to take action and a calculated risk that JL talked about. This is essential, I think, given some of the restructure in the economy, and knowing that the growth is in smaller businesses. So it's an essential skill, knowing that you are not going to have one career for the rest of your lifetime.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Let's turn to the questions that have been posed by the applicants. Fran asks, "While navigating the website, there is no private equity venture capital club. How easy is it to start new, student-lead, professional clubs?" And I might also add to that- what does Anderson offer for people interested in private equity and venture capital?

Mae Jennifer Shores: We actually host a private equity roundtable every spring that is organized by students. It brings in top private equity shots from throughout California and the western US, and sometimes some from the East Coast. So it's pretty active here. We also are very tied to the Private Equity Association of Los Angeles. I spoke to this group in August, and a number of them are going to be coming into the MBA program this fall. So there really is a lot of private equity here. Obviously this is a tough time in the economy for this area of study, but we do have a lot of interest in it among our current students, and they do go back to work in the area when they graduate.

Joanna Schochet: As part of the Anderson Student Association, we are the governing body of student clubs and how that process goes through. The reason why it's not incredibly easy to start a club is because since there is such a fast turnaround in an MBA program- you are only there for two years-so we want to make sure there is a sense of longevity and interest to keep the club going. So clubs go through a one year probationary period and then they can apply to become a full club. Last year, we approved three new clubs: Energy Management Group for a professional club, Anderson Eats-- a club about food, restaurants, and cooking for interests, and Middle East Business Association- an identity club. So I'd say that rate is pretty consistent; about three a year go through. And if there is enough student interest and students have shown leadership in that aspect, it's not a difficult thing to have go through.

Jessica Luchenta: I'll just let the person who asked the question know that our Investment Finance Association is the club for students interested in all type of careers in finance, whether it be portfolio management, corporate finance, or private equity and venture capital. So there is a home for those students. There are networking events in ways to build skills and to extend connections. In addition, our Price Center for Entrepreneurship does offer a lot for people interested in private equity and venture capital. For example, one program called the Venture Fellows Program is an opportunity for students to build mentoring relationships with local venture capitalists and to have the resources of the school behind them in trying to gain a venture capital internship over the summer between year one and two, as those are notoriously difficult to obtain, no matter what school you are going to. So there definitely is the support system here for people interested in those careers.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. The next question is from Riya. She asked, "What do employers like most about UCLA Anderson graduates?"

Jessica Luchenta: What I would say goes back to your earlier point Linda, that you made about Anderson students known for collegiality. And so I think that Anderson grads are known for being extremely sharp, very well prepared and well educated during their time here. We have a very challenging and rigorous curriculum that prepares them for all the different issues that they face in a business environment. Our students are also incredibly broad in terms of their experience. Because our program is so diverse, all of our students are coming from various academic and professional backgrounds, they really learned well how to work with an incredibly diverse group of people during their two years here. And that translates well into the business and workplace environment after the MBA. So much of what we do here at Anderson is team based, that our graduates fit right in when it comes to team based office environments. And they are known for knowing how to martial resources and get the job done and be successful. But at the same time, maintaining that sense of community and support and working together that is really the hallmark of our student culture.

Mae Jennifer Shores: To add to Jessica's comment, we see a broader diversity of people coming into the student body each year than you see in a lot of schools. There is not as much of this herd mentality of people coming primarily from a couple of key industries. Because of that, our students were exposed to a huge set of diverse disciplines among their classmates. And the fact is that all of you may tell us that you know what you want to do, coming into an MBA, but very few of you actually know what you want to do. So this exposure actually prepares you for a variety of careers. So when you do shift gears, maybe change careers or focus during the program, you are a little more nimble and able to adapt to some new areas and have exposure to it, rather than having a change that seems quite so radical to the employer.

Linda Abraham: Okay, thank you. June asks, "I've noticed that AMR is included in the second year winter curriculum. It seems that all 360 students get to participate in this program. Can the students choose which partner to work with? For example, if I would want the challenge of working for a marketing industry, do we have an option to choose from?"

Joanna Schochet: From a student's perspective, I just started AMR, so I can speak to that. It's a two quarter long program, so students can select if they work in the fall and winter quarter or in the winter and spring quarter. You can select your own team of 4-6 students and you select your own client. So there is a lot of autonomy in terms of the direction you go with that. That said, it is our thesis product, so in terms of getting your degree, there are requirements that you need to meet in terms of the scope and scale of what you are doing. But people who are interested in working in the sports industry are working with a minor league client right now, people who are interested in the arts are working with the museum. So there is a lot of room to find clients that address your interests.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. To change the focus of the questions for a moment, let me ask about your optional video audio question. Should I get more specific or just let it go?!

Mae Jennifer Shores: I'm happy to answer that because I was the one who initiated this when I came to UCLA a couple of years ago. Optional means optional. And we made it doubly optional this year, so it's an optional essay and it is one of three options in terms of the delivery of an answer to the questions. So you can do one of the optional essays as audio, video, or in writing. This option was created in response to the impetus via Live U, who are applicants in the fall, wanting additional vehicles for getting to know us through the application process, rather than the old traditional black and white one-dimensional essay. So if this is something that appeals to you and you feel like it can round out your application or add something new, we welcome it. It does not give you an advantage to certainly prepare this but it's there for those of you who are interested in submitting it. We are really concerned more with content than delivery or style. So if you don't look like a Hollywood producer or you don't look like you have a final polished product, that is fine. It's really the content that drives the process for us. And if you look at our home page, you will see some samples of optional essay submissions, one of them actually in writing, that will show you that a lot of these people aren't really varnished or polished, but it's really an opportunity for them to let us see visually and hear verbally some of what they want to share with us. So don't be intimidated by it if you want to do it.

Linda Abraham: I didn't look at it this year, but last year I looked at the samples that you had up and the authenticity and the individuality of the applicants really came through. That is my perspective on it, but I guess it's good to know that it is truly optional, and you have a lot of options there. And I think if you go and look at the samples Anderson has up now, I bet a dime to a dollar that that authenticity and individuality still comes through.

Mae Jennifer Shores: It does.

Linda Abraham: Okay. Let's go back to the applicants questions. Quan asks, "I don't really understand C for C. Could you tell me more about this?"

Joanna Schochet: C for C, a Challenge for Charity, is a consortium of West Coast MBA programs that work together in a fun, collegial way to fundraise money for selected charities. I think the main charity we work with is Special Olympics and Junior Achievement. They are our main partners. And so it is a way to get students involved in volunteering in the community, giving back. One of the programs we do is we mentor local high school teams trying to start their own businesses. So we're giving back in fun ways but also leveraging the skills for learning. And it culminates in April in a weekend at Stanford; it's a big game day, a fun time for all the students to get together. People love it because it's just a fun way to get involved and meet other MBA students. But UCLA has been the braining champion for three years going, so we take a lot of pride in that over here.

Mae Jennifer Shores: Yes, and the Golden Briefcase Award that people win at the end of this competition is actually based on the number of volunteer hours that each school submits. And Challenge for Charity involves eight West Coast schools including Stanford, Berkeley, University of Washington. And we have probably had this award more than any other school, which speaks to the kind of culture at the school and how students love to give back to community.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Lewin asks, "I was wondering whether there are any opportunities to apply for scholarships during the application process."

Mae Jennifer Shores: We award merit based fellowships at the time of admission or shortly thereafter, that are based on the strength of the entire application, so there is no need to go through a formal application process. We do additionally have some name based fellowships, that are based on maybe a particular interest that we see in an applicant, like accounting or finance, or work experience and age upon graduation. So we identify people from the applicant pool for these as well. Our other awards are need based, and we are frankly one of the few schools that continues to make those available to incoming students.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Navine asks, "Do the younger candidates, three years experience or less, have a good chance of getting an admit, or does UCLA give preference to older applicants?" Let's rephrase that. Instead of the 'older' and 'younger', let's talk about three years of full-time work experience or less, or more than three years. Let's talk in those terms.

Mae Jennifer Shores: UCLA Anderson is actually very friendly when it comes to early career individuals and we define those as three years or fewer of work experience. The key for us is not how long you've been working, but it's the quality of the work experience and what you make of it to us. I think the early career people who don't get admitted are admitted not based on their limited work experience but on a limited perspective, or having done their diligence on what an MBA is and what it can do for them. We are admitting people not based on demonstrative skills only, but we are also looking at potential going forward. So if you are an early career person, really think long and hard about what you hope to get out of an MBA, and certainly your recommenders can speak a lot to your potential going forward.

Linda Abraham: Miha asks, "Can you speak about Anderson's marketing program, and more specifically about resources and advantages offered to students wanting to specialize in brand retail marketing?"

Jessica Luchenta: I can start and then others can chime in. I think the thing that is important to keep in mind about Anderson is that we are primarily a general management program. We actually don't have majors or defined tracks here, which means that we offer you the chance to be as flexible as you'd like to be and to customize our own program of study to meet your individual specific career goals, whatever those might be. So after going through a very rigorous core curriculum in the first year that is going to prepare you for whatever you encounter in the business world, then you get to specialize in elective courses. So if you have an interest in building a career in marketing and something like brand management, you can take all of your elective courses in marketing if you'd like. Most students choose to take classes in two or three different elective areas to supplement their skills and get a broader perspective. I will say that our marketing faculty is very well known for their exceptional research that they do and also the exceptional instruction in the classroom. We do have the Marketing Association which is a student professional club which will help to tap you into the industry here and also into the alumni network of Anderson alums working in marketing positions. And finally, LA is home to a number of great brands that do recruit actively on campus, such as Neutrogena, Tell, Taco Bell, Nestle. So there is a lot of opportunity for exposure to a career in that area.

Mae Jennifer Shores: Yes, a couple of key faculty at UCLA Anderson include Jim Stengel, who just came to UCLA about a year ago from Procter & Gamble, where he was the former global marketing officer. He does a tremendous amount for our students in that area. And he works very closely with another faculty member, Sanjay Sood, who actually received a teaching award this year. And he worked with a number of students this year on a marketing campaign with Coco Cola. And Coca Cola was so pleased with it that they are sending all these students to their main office, and they're anticipating to build that into some of their marketing going forward.

Linda Abraham: I can also say that I was at the alumni reunion last year and I attended a presentation given by Noah Goldstein. It was phenomenal. It was a fantastic presentation, fascinating. So it's also marketing oriented and highly recommended in my book. I would certainly take a class with him if I could. Okay, next question. The next participant asks, "With the automotive and energy, specifically green energy industries, what are the internship opportunities like within these industries at UCLA?"

Jessica Luchenta: I think this really ruminates well to MJ's earlier point about the diversity of industry in Los Angeles. Clean-tech is a huge burgeoning industry in Southern California, so our students are kind of located at the epicenter when they choose Anderson as the place to get their MBA. There is a new clean-tech club on campus for students and lots of new interest among the student body in that industry and in terms of recruiting. I think the important thing to keep in mind is that it's up to you to customize your time here at Anderson. So if that's the direction you want to head in, then all the resources of the school are behind you in being able to do so. I think we are still building companies that are recruiting in that industry on campus and I think it's only going to grow as the industry gets hotter for MBAs.

Joanna Schochet: I wanted to add onto that. In addition to that, there's been interest in that for the past several years here, at least that I know. And that's been under the umbrella of the Net Impact Club. And last year, in response to that industry getting bigger, we created the Energy Management Group on campus, especially to appeal more to the recruiters and industry people to see officially that there is that student interest there. So we are making changes to respond to that as well because the student interest and the jobs are definitely out there.

Linda Abraham: Wonderful, thank you very much. Next question: "My name is Jose, and I'd like to know about the opportunities of select classes related to public policy and real estate."

Mae Jennifer Shores: There are some courses that you can take as electives at the business school that cross over very nicely with real estate or are directly related to real estate or public policy. As you know, a lot of these lines between different disciplines, whether it be business or public policy or law, are pretty arbitrary. You can also take courses outside of the MBA program at other schools around UCLA like the Public Policy program and count them toward your MBA. You can take the equivalent of three semester long courses or the equivalent of six quarter long courses, or some combination in between. We do have a Ziman Real Estate Center here which is incredibly involved in the community, bringing a lot of experts and people who are known for real estate development and other areas, to meet current students either informally though a mentoring partnership or through speaker series.

Linda Abraham: Thank you. Ricken asks, "What do you feel are Dean Olian's initiatives for the next three to five years?"

Mae Jennifer Shores: I think one of her primary initiatives, that many of you may have heard about first through Financial Times, is to become financially self-sufficient.

Linda Abraham: Yes, we have another question also asking specifically about that and its impact on tuition.

Mae Jennifer Shores: Okay, so that's actually a great question. We currently only receive 18% of our budget from the state. Becoming financially self sufficient will actually give us a lot more freedom to operate the school as we would like. We will still be part of UCLA, we will still be part of this entire institution, but administratively it will give us a little more freedom. A lot of people don't realize that this school, unlike some schools, has been very good at managing its endowment and its funds. We did not engage in a lot of hedge funds and a lot of things that depleted our resources. For example, in financial aid, in each of the last five years we've actually increased the net amount of funding that we give to our incoming and returning students. So we are actually in a really good position financially as a school. So the impact, I think, is that you really won't feel it as a student but you will definitely benefit from it in terms of the administration being a little more nimble in what they can do in terms of course offerings, how quickly we can offer admissions to students and things like that. The second initiative the Dean has is to further expand the global outreach of the school. You will notice if you've looked at any recent press, that we've just created a Global Executive MBA program with the University UAI in Chile, which complements our Executive MBA program with NUS. We do have the new field study coming up. And one thing that I really am proud of with this school is that we have more students than virtually almost any other MBA program who go on exchange, with more than 50 partner institutions around the globe. Some schools will say that they have 13 programs that students can go on exchange, but very few students in practice do that. Because we are on a quarter system, it's a lot easier, so in any given year we have about a sixth of the class leaving UCLA for schools around the world, and then those schools sending people back here. That further enhances the global student population and your exposure to a wider variety of people. So those are probably the two major things that I see. There certainly are a lot of other initiatives like the curriculum review, but I think that is probably enough for now.

Linda Abraham: Tijon asks, "How much can Anderson help a student seeking a general management role in a hi-tech company?" I think Joanna partially addressed this earlier, but perhaps MJ or Jessica can address the hi-tech part of it.

Jessica Luchenta: In terms of preparing students for a hi-tech role in a company, we mentioned some of the resources already; the new Energy Management group that was started last year in response to student interest. Those kinds of things plus electives in that area would help develop specialized skills so that the student would be able to perform in that industry. But I think that all of the other resources that you are exposed to during your time here at Anderson will help you perform no matter what role you take on in a company. I think we are very committed here at Anderson to make sure our students are well prepared with the foundational set of business skills that is going to follow them through the rest of their career. Over the remaining decades of an MBA's career, it's very likely that they are going to transition to new industries and to new functions over time, multiple times. So the education and the extra-curricular experiences that you get here are going to make sure that you are able to perform no matter where you might find yourself down the road.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. June is asking a question, but before you answer it, I want to ask the applicants a question. June's question is, "How much do you weigh the GPA compared to other attributes and is there a minimum GPA score?" Right now, what I want to ask the applicants in the audience is- how many of you are concerned about your GPA negatively affecting your acceptance chances? Okay, we have 23% of those present concerned about their GPA. How many of you are concerned about your GMAT score negatively affecting your acceptance chances? Here we have 41%. And how many of you are concerned that you have either too little or too much experience, despite MJ's comments earlier? Alright, we have 29% concerned. So we have 93% concerned about one thing or another. So you are all in very good company. It might be reassuring to know that you have so much company in terms of your competition, each having their own point of weakness or point of concern. Now going back to June's question- Is there a minimum GPA and how much do you weigh the GPA compared to other attributes?

Jessica Luchenta: The quick answer is no, there is not a minimum GPA, nor is there a minimum GMAT score. And that is because when we have an application across our desk, we really do apply a holistic review process and we look at every piece of information that a candidate submits. We try to get the entire picture on who they are, what is important to them, the nature of their experience and where they want to go with and after the MBA. So if the GPA is a little on the lower side, that can often be balanced out by other pieces in the application. Often times what people do if they are concerned about the GPA, and if people are concerned about a lack of quantitative course work, they may decide to sign up for some quantitative classes like calculus or statistics before or during the application process to try and prove ability. But that is definitely not necessary because a solid GMAT score can help address any of those concerns that the admissions committee might have. But I really do want to emphasize the fact that we are looking at all of the different dimensions of the application; there is no magic formula, no one thing is weighted more than another. So it's really about weighing in the balance; the exceptional qualities that a candidate brings to the table and then looking at the areas for development that we will be able to help them with once they join the program.

Mae Jennifer Shores: One thing I'd like to add is that I know that you all hear this from a lot of schools and it really is true. Academics for us is a relative measure. We do look at the GPA and GMAT in combination and not in isolation. And our question is really very simple: If you are admitted, can you handle the curriculum and what you can expect to be exposed to particularly in the core. So there is a wide range of people and we frankly make reaches for people who might be stars in other areas who could be border-line in some of these dimensions. Just do the best you can and leave it to us. But we do make risks for people. If everything was purely number striven, we would not have such a big staff of admissions officers.

Linda Abraham: Adam asks, "Does Anderson have rolling admissions or does admissions wait until around deadlines closed to review all applications from that round?"

Mae Jennifer Shores: We do have applications by round and we commit to release decisions by around deadline, although we sometimes release them earlier. I think the key to remember is to apply when you are ready within a round. There is really no order to the release of decisions or necessarily to the order our files are read. We have multiple reads before your application even makes it to the interview. And when your file is read depends a lot on all of our schedules if we're travelling or when we come back, so try not to read so much into it. But we do commit to giving your decision by the deadline.

Linda Abraham: Joanna, I have a few questions for you but let's start with one. Why did you choose Anderson and has it met your expectations?

Joanna Schochet: I chose Anderson because for me I knew I wanted to stay on the West Coast; that's where I'm from. So that firstly narrowed down my field. But besides that, I can't imagine being at a more perfect school for me. I come from a bit of a non-traditional background in the entertainment industry and non-profit, and I was a little bit worried about what an MBA would feel like for me, and I've been astounded. I've learned so much on the more quantitative part of business school side of things, but I haven't felt like the odd one out in my classmates here. I feel like there are a lot of people here who are very diverse in their interests. People here are interesting but they are also interested. So there is a great blend of people who are in this. It's hard to talk without using cliches, but they are collaborative, they are entrepreneurial. An anecdote I'd like to share, which I think illustrates that, is that two of my classmates first year were recruited for a grand management job at Nestle. It's a competitive, highly sought after job here. And one of my classmates realized right before an interview that he didn't bring a belt with him when he was changing into his suit. And a classmate, who had just finished his interview, took his own belt off to give to the other student. So it's not that people aren't ambitious, it's not that they aren't competitive, it's just that they aren't going to do it at the expense of someone else here.

Linda Abraham: That's a great story. Let's go back to the applicants' questions. Ametha asks, "What is the quality that you would like to see in an Anderson student or applicant?"

Jessica Luchenta: I don't know that there is necessarily one specific quality that we are looking for; I think we are looking for a host of things. And as I mentioned earlier, different candidates bring different things to the table. But that being said, I would say that we are definitely looking for leadership and management potential in the application process. Now many people have not yet had the chance to fully demonstrate that in the workplace; they might not have direct reports, the supervisory experience or have had a formal team label. But what we are looking for is, in the work experience that they have had, how have they created value? How have they had an impact or gone above and beyond what was minimally expected of them and maybe stepped into some more informal leadership roles? We are also looking at extracurricular activities to evaluate that even further. So I think it is important to keep in mind that Anderson has an extremely engaged and active student culture. Our students are in leadership positions in several clubs, members of many more. They are actively participating, both inside and outside of the class, giving back to the Anderson community and to the local community through volunteer work, even to the national and international communities through some of the volunteer projects that we do. So I think that we are looking for students who are going to carry on that tradition and be very engaged and active members of our community, and also carry that onto to their time in the alumni network. We want to make sure we are bringing people into the program who are going to be the kind of alumni that are going to keep the network tight and responsive, and engaged with current students.

Mae Jennifer Shores: Having been in the industry about 11 years, I would say that what really stands out I think among admissions officers across programs is someone who is genuine and authentic. Just let us get to know who you are in a real way through your application and make sure there aren't too many hands writing the essay and too many personalities that show up, so we don't know who the real candidate is. Be authentic.

Linda Abraham: Sounds like good advice to me. Joanna, is there any quality that you feel is either desirable in Anderson students or that unites Anderson students or shows up, not uniformly, but in the majority of students?

Joanna Schochet: I think it's that sense of collegiality. The people here are just nice; there is no other way to put it. People are friendly and outgoing. I don't think anyone here has ever felt ostracized or there wasn't an opportunity for being inclusive. When elective courses have to form study teams, I've never seen someone sitting on the outskirts, not feeling like there was a group of people ready with open arms to bring them in, because we also have a high level of trust for our classmates. Even if you don't know someone, you figure, "You're here, you've gotten through a year, so I'm sure you have a lot to offer any group you're in." There is just a wide range of respects, trust and friends in our school.

Linda Abraham: Great. Collin asks, "How about social entrepreneurship? What is there for the social entrepreneur, both in the curriculum and in terms of student events and clubs?"

Joanna Schochet: That's an interest of mine. Net Impact is a huge club on campus here, which is part of a national and professional organization. I think all business schools have a chapter of Net Impact which is the umbrella of social and environmental responsibility in careers, something that we've been developing a lot at Anderson. I've seen even in my two years here, the clubs becoming even more involved. We have an elective called exactly that- Social Entrepreneurship- taught by Jonathan Greenblatt who is great. He is the founder of Ethos Waters; he has a number of other projects going on. He is very involved in Obama's cabinet and getting things done there. There are also several entrepreneurs who have come out of Anderson. I put together a "Women in Entrepreneurship" brunch last year where we had a woman who had started a business doing artisan crafts in India, from her hometown, and selling those. There is a lot of support for that here, a lot of panels. There is no way that I could attend every social entrepreneurship event on campus and it's an interest of mine. We also have Net Impact Consulting Challenge that happens in the winter quarter that I'm putting together this year, where students have a chance to consult for a finite period of time with non-profit or social entrepreneurship type organizations and have a true impact through a competition with prize money as well.

Mae Jennifer Shores: In addition to what Joanna mentioned, there are some other additional resources where we have a Cyber Center that you find at a lot of schools, which has actually worked with an AMR project on a sustainability area outside of the US. We do have a Leaders and Sustainability program that highly involves social entrepreneurship that is a cross disciplinary program that includes not only people from the business school but law school, public affairs, public health, engineering, applied science, arts and architecture, geography. Virtually any graduate program student who would be interested can join that.

Linda Abraham: I have a question. Joanna, you are graduating. You are a second year student, so how are you and your colleagues facing the job market? Are you facing it with trepidation or with confidence, or perhaps cautious confidence? And MJ, how did the class in 2010 do in the job market, and how are interview sign-ups, and how is recruiting looking for the class of 2011?

Joanna Schochet: I'll start from a student perspective. I believe that a number of my classmates left their summer internships with offers. That's my understanding. Another quality of Anderson students is that they tend to be pretty modest, so you often don't know unless you ask your friend, point blank. It's surprising how often the answer is, "Yes, I did get an offer." They are just too modest to say so. I took a job that I knew wasn't something that would lead into a full time offer. It was just a finite summer long program. I know that I want to pursue something in a smaller company with an entrepreneurial focus. So for me and a number of my classmates, we understand that our recruiting will be more, just in time, because companies like that don't hold jobs from October until June for you. I still feel optimistic. And the resources that are out there at Anderson have prepared me enough about it. It's not something that I'm feeling more concerned than anybody would be, just knowing that you're going to need a job in the summer. I think people who left prepared for their summer internships, impressed their employer and left with either offers or a great network to continue on from that. But that's not based on any statistics.

Mae Jennifer Shores: From an administrative point of view, I work very closely with the Career Center and we are actually melding more and more bridges between admissions and career services. What I can tell you is that we had 100% placement in internships this past summer which really bodes well for graduating students. I would say we are cautiously optimistic. The economy is still bumping along, so I think at any MBA program it's still going to be a bit of a challenge this year. I think people can get jobs, they just have to be a little more flexible and realistic. And instead of saying, "I want this one position in this one company", as long as you are flexible, you can get jobs. We are bringing a number of new companies on campus. In terms of the class that just graduated, we are still collecting data on it. Career report data is normally finalized in October, across MBA programs and submitted to the Central Repository site for programs, and that should be coming out in the next few weeks.

Linda Abraham: What role does hire- ability play in admissions? You mentioned the importance of flexibility. Do you like to see or do you not like to see a plan B when you ask about goals in one of your questions?

Mae Jennifer Shores: That's a very good question. There is a very spurious correlation between what you write in your application and what you actually end up doing. So for us when we think of employability, your exact career goals are as important as your general sense of direction of where you want to go. If you've never done investment banking, you've never studied finance, you didn't have any math in undergrad and you suddenly think that the MBA is the hot ticket into a finance career, then that might have some implications for your employability in terms of the goal not being very realistic. Employability for us is a lot of intangible skills. What we hear from recruiters is that they know you got into a top MBA program, so they know you are going to graduate with functional skills across areas. So the things that can differentiate you is your ability to be nimble, to be analytical, not just to be one of those drones that can crunch out a lot of data without independent analysis. And then there is the communication skills which is why we've built that into the curriculum. If you have the capacity to grow and learn, the abilities to communicate as well as other areas, then I think that makes you employable. So that's sort of a long convoluted way of saying that if you have the capacity for growth and you have the ability to be introspective, then those are great qualities in terms of making you employable.

Jessica Luchenta: I would echo absolutely everything that MJ said, but I would just put in a small mention that for the purposes of the application, when we do ask you about career goals, we are asking that question for a reason. And we do want you to be as specific as you can be at this time, knowing that that might change radically once you get to an MBA program. So don't forget to answer that question to the best of your ability and to really think about where you've been and where it might make sense for you to go, given the resources of our school.

Mae Jennifer Shores: I was just going to add really quickly that this is a rare time in your life when you can actually sit back and really reflect on where you've been, what you want to do. And I've heard more people tell me that independently of the admissions' decision they received, it was a wonderful exercise. We often think about meditating on our lives and thinking about where we want to go, but in practice it's something we seldom do.

Linda Abraham: I suspect that some people may be wondering that since you know the goals are going to change, why ask the question? I would suspect that what you want to see is the ability to analyze what you've done; look at the marketplace, look at opportunities in the marketplace and say based on what I've done, what I expect to get out of the Anderson program, this is where I want to go. The ability to make that analysis is what you really want to see. That the analysis may change, you are willing to deal with. Is that a fair comment?

Mae Jennifer Shores: Yes, that is actually an excellent way of explaining it. What we are trying to shy away from is someone who says, "Well, I just don't like my job and I think I'll spend a couple of years exploring." Because then you don't really fully utilize the program. Or "I'm in an industry where it's expected that after two or three years, I get an MBA. I don't really know why, but I'm just going to do it." So your explanation is perfect.

Linda Abraham: Any last minute tips for the class of 2013 applying now?

Joanna Schochet: In terms of admissions, I don't know what happened over there, I just know I wound up here! But if you want an experience where all you do is study and it's not about interacting with your classmates and it's not about forming relationships, then this probably isn't the school for you. If you want an experience that is really holistic, that is top notch academics, that asks you to be generous of spirit and sharing your skills, then this is a great program for you.

Jessica Luchenta: I would echo what MJ said earlier about being genuine and authentic in this space of the application, and really using that true voice, and not trying to create an application that you think is what the admissions committee wants to see. We actually are interested in getting to know who you are on a number of different levels. So take the time to do that. Once you've got things like the GMAT out of the way, really focus lots of attention on the essays and managing the letters of recommendation. The essays do force you to be reflective and introspective and they take time to do them well. So don't forget and shortchange yourself there.

Mae Jennifer Shores: Remember that we are interested more in substance than in form in anything you present to us. Apply when you are ready; any of the three rounds is fine. Related to that is- avoid all of this buzz you will hear on a lot of discussion boards like Business Week or from well meaning alumni who may not be aware of our policies and practices. Listen to what the admissions officers tell you or what you hear on our website. And then the last tip is- have fun! Enjoy the process and remember that none of you walk on water so there will be an area or two where you feel relatively deficient. It's okay. That's why you are coming for an MBA!

Linda Abraham: Thank you all again for participating today. Special thanks to Mae Jennifer, Jessica and Joanna for joining us today. If you have additional questions for MJ or Jessica, please email them to mba.admissions@anderson.ucla.edu. Please also remember to fill out the survey when leaving the webinar. We highly value your feedback. We look forward to seeing you at future chats, and here is a list of the upcoming scheduled chats:

Chat with Current Consortium Members and Alumni
Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Wharton Q&A with Tiffany Gooden
Thursday, October 14, 2010

Cornell Q&A with Randall Sawyer
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yale Q&A with Bruce DelMonico
Wednesday, October 27

And Michigan Ross, CMU Tepper and Columbia are scheduled in November.

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Good luck with your applications!

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