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Admissions Director Q&A

Clear Admit’s exclusive interviews with admissions directors at the world’s leading MBA programs.


Admissions Director Q&A: Dawna Clarke of Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business

dawna_clarkeDawna Clarke is a veteran in the MBA admissions world, where she has worked for almost 30 years. She was appointed director of MBA admissions for the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth by Dean Paul Danos in September 2005, and since then she has served as the primary point of contact for MBA applicants and worked to actively promote the Tuck MBA program to prospective students.

Clarke came to Tuck from the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, where she spent 15 years, the last five as director of admissions. And before Darden, she was associate director of admissions at UNC’s Kenan-Flagler School of Business. So she knows a thing or two about what it takes to get into a top-tier MBA program. Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A: Rupesh Bisht of the Indian School of Business

rupesh_bishtdMoving right along in our Q&A Series, we turn this week to India, specifically the Indian School of Business (ISB). With campuses in Hyderabad and Mohali, ISB features an accelerated one-year Post Graduate Program (PGP) in Management, as well as a PGP for Senior Executives, a Fellow Program, a Management Program for Family Business and several additional executive education offerings.

Against time zone odds, we were lucky enough to connect with Rupesh Bisht, ISB’s associate director for admissions and financial aid. An alumnus from the ISB class of 2009, “I am an experiencer of the product itself, which gives me some advantage in terms of knowing the product inside out,” he tells us. In addition to his admissions responsibilities, Bisht also oversees international marketing for ISB, as well as the school’s Young Leaders Program (YLP). Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A: Kurt Ahlm of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business

Kurt Ahlm, Associate Dean, Chicago Booth AdmissionsKurt Ahlm is a 12-year veteran of the University of Chicago Booth School of Business admissions office, and he has been at the helm for the past four years. During that time, he has helped welcome a new dean, Dean Sunil Kumar, and seen the school continue its international expansion.

Ahlm started his career in undergraduate admissions at Northwestern University and then spent time working as a corporate recruiter before coming to Chicago Booth. “I really liked higher education but I also liked the more professional type of atmosphere that the corporate world offered,” he says, adding that MBA admissions provides a great mix of both. Chicago Booth benefits, in turn, from his strong background in both admissions and recruiting. Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A: Stephanie Fujii of UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business

stephanie_haasAs we reported here on the Clear Admit blog earlier this week, Stephanie Fujii just stepped into a new position at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business: assistant dean of the full-time MBA program and admissions. She was appointed to this newly created role last month by Haas Dean Rich Lyons, and she now oversees both the full-time MBA admissions and the full-time MBA program offices.

A 2004 Haas alumna, Fujii knows the school inside and out. She has been working in admissions there for almost a decade, advancing through the ranks to become executive director in 2010. Between obtaining her MBA at Haas and returning to work there, she served as executive director of a San Francisco assisted living community for the elderly. Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A : Philippe Oster of HEC Paris

Philippe_OsterOur continuing series of interviews with admissions directors at top business schools takes us this week to France, where we connected with Philippe Oster. Oster is the director of communication, development and admissions at HEC Paris. In this role, he is charged with directing and coordinating the activities of all three departments, including ensuring the quality and integrity of the admissions process and attracting the best candidates to HEC from an international pool of MBA applicants.

Before stepping into his current role at HEC Paris in 2009, Oster served as the head of international admissions for the education division of the Paris Chamber of Commerce and Industry. There he had oversight of international student recruitment for France’s five top business schools, HEC Paris, ESCP Europe, EMLYON, Audencia and Skema. Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A: Alex Lawrence of the UCLA Anderson School of Management

alex_lawrence~ A CLEAR ADMIT EXCLUSIVE ~

Alex Lawrence, an alumnus of the UCLA Anderson School of Management (MBA ’99), took the helm as assistant dean and director of MBA admissions and financial aid in August 2012.

Lawrence, who replaced interim director Rob Weiler, knows the school intimately. Five years after receiving his MBA, he returned to campus to serve as executive director of the Riordan Programs, an initiative founded by Los Angeles Mayor Richard Riordan to help high school and undergraduate students attain higher levels of education. In this role, Lawrence developed programs targeting students who are the first in their family to apply to college or seek an MBA degree. Under his guidance, nearly 70 percent of Riordan MBA Fellows went on to obtain their MBA at some of the nation’s most elite business schools.

In his current role as director of admissions, Lawrence is turning his focus toward assembling the strongest and most diverse incoming MBA classes he can at Anderson.  Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A: Conrad Chua of Cambridge’s Judge Business School

conrad_chuaConrad Chua met an alumnus of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School while working in business development and was soon sold on the school’s values and ethos. In 2009, he became head of MBA recruitment and admissions.

Chua, a native of Singapore, worked in the public sector there for 10 years, but he completed his undergraduate education at Stanford and a graduate program at London Business School. “The masters I did at LBS really opened my perspective, and I decided I wanted to work outside Singapore,” he told us. He and his wife moved to the United Kingdom seven years ago. Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A: Rodrigo Malta of the University of Texas’s McCombs School of Business

rodrigo_maltaRodrigo Malta, a native of Brazil, moved to the United States for high school and college and ultimately graduated from the McCombs School of Business full-time MBA program in 2007. While a student at McCombs, he was highly involved in admissions activities, and after graduation he remained in Austin, accepting a marketing position with Dell.

A year later, when then-Director of MBA Admissions Tina Mabley contacted him about a job opening with her team – as associate director of admissions focused on diversity recruiting – he jumped at the chance to return to campus and work on something he was really passionate about. Later, when Mabley was promoted to assistant dean for the full-time MBA, Malta applied for and got the admissions director’s position. Continue reading…

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Admission Director Q&A: Amanda Carlson of Columbia Business School

amanda_carlsonAmanda Carlson was named assistant dean of admissions at Columbia Business School (CBS) in September 2012, and we recently had the opportunity to learn from her about some of the things that sets the school apart.

A member of the admissions team since 2002, Carlson knows CBS admissions inside and out, and as assistant dean she oversees both the MBA and Executive MBA programs at the school. Continue reading…

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Admissions Director Q&A: Pejay Belland of INSEAD

pejay_bellandMoving right along in our Q&A series, today we feature an interview with Pejay Belland, director of marketing, admissions and financial aid for degree programs at INSEAD.Belland worked in the pharmaceutical and music industries before entering higher education at INSEAD,where she has spent the majority of her career.

Since joining INSEAD in 2007, she has held roles in career services, MBA marketing and program management. She was appointed to her current position as director of marketing, admissions and financial aid for INSEAD’s degree programs in May 2011. The British-born Belland is based out of France but manages a global team that extends to INSEAD’s campuses in France, Asia and the Middle East.

We’re grateful to Belland for making time to shed some light on the admissions process at INSEAD, including each stop a candidate’s application makes before the Admissions Committee makes its final decision. She also shares some of the ways INSEAD plans to mark the 10th anniversary of its Global Executive MBA and alludes to some new initiatives on tap for the MBA program. Though it’s too early to provide details on those, her office promises to fill us in once they’re finalized.

Clear Admit: What’s the single most exciting development, change or event happening at INSEAD this coming year?

Pejay Belland: On the program side, we’re excited to be celebrating another milestone in INSEAD’s history, the 10th anniversary of our Global Executive MBA. Celebrations began this summer as alumni from five and 10 years out came back for their reunion and to attend electives of the current EMBA class. They will culminate with the GEMBA 2014 Graduation in December.

It’s amazing to see how the program has grown over the past decade, with classes now run in Europe, Asia and the Middle East. We’re also looking forward to taking the program into the next decade now, as we prepare to onboard our new classes of 2015!

We also have a couple of new initiatives coming up for our MBA program, but it’s too early to talk about these yet.

CA: What is the one area of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

PB: Our applicants are usually pretty well informed about the program, but one area that I find particularly interesting is the number of ventures that start out as a result of Entrepreneurship class projects. Our entrepreneurship electives are extremely popular and, although the percentage of students who become entrepreneurs after graduation is relatively small at around 5 percent, we estimate that up to half of our alumni become entrepreneurs at some point in their career.

Of those students who do choose the entrepreneurship route shortly after graduation, there are many success stories resulting from ideas or projects in our start up or acquisition classes: the Frog chain of pubs, BlaBlaCar and American Haircare to name just a few. This testifies to the inspirational environment of the program both from a learning perspective and, of course, also from a peer-to-peer perspective, as many students meet their future business partners during their time here.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.).

PB: Sure. Well, all of the applications submitted are first checked for completeness, and then they are passed on to a reader for a first evaluation. We have a team of readers who work with INSEAD. Most have been with us for many years so have read thousands of applications! The readers now read and evaluate the applications online, and every application is read thoroughly (readers may spend up to 45 minutes on some applications).

A small pre-selection committee then convenes to look at the readers’ evaluations and make a decision whether to invite the candidate to interview or to reject. If a candidate goes through to interview, once the interviews have taken place, the application is read (along with the interview reports) a second time by a different reader and sometimes even a third time. The final evaluation and an overview of the application is then presented to the Admissions Committee for a final decision.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? One key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write them?

PB: The essays help us to understand who a candidate really is and to get a glimpse into their personalities through their stories. One of the most common mistakes an applicant can make is to tell us what they think we want to hear.

There’s no magic formula. We’re just genuinely interested in understanding a candidate’s motivations for doing an MBA, as well as understanding who they are and how they are likely to contribute to the program.

Candidates should bear this in mind as they sit down to write their essays – we value honesty and sincerity, and preparing the essays is a great opportunity for self-reflection.

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Admissions Director Q&A: Sherry Wallace of the University of North Carolina Kenan-Flagler Business School

sherry_wallaceToday we hear from Sherry Wallace, director of MBA admissions at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler Business School. We are grateful to her for making time to share some of the things she’s most excited about in the year ahead – not the least of which is welcoming a new class of students to campus today for orientation.

But that’s not all. With a new dean at the helm, Kenan-Flagler is in the midst of wide-spread growth and improvement. Increased application volume, record numbers of job postings, a new energy concentration and continuing emphasis on leadership are just a few of the things you’ll learn about in the interview that follows. Continue reading…

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