AIGAC Annual Conference 2017: Recap
The 2017 Annual Conference in California was a huge success with almost 60 members, 30 school admissions officers, and 7 countries represented! We had numerous Conference Committee volunteers involved who have crafted a variety of conference highlights to share with you.
Sunday Night Cocktail Reception – By Brett Haber, AIGAC President 2017-2018, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
All Schools Day – By Nupur Gupta, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
Berkeley Presentations – By Faye Mackenzie, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
AIGAC Afternoon – By Vince Ricci, AIGAC President 2016-2017, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
Wharton SF – By Vrinda Jalan, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
Stanford – By Hillary Schubach, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
She Negotiates – By Rachel Korn, AIGAC President Elect 2016-2018, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
UCLA – By Vrinda Jalan, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
Our 2017 Annual Conference kicked off with a first-time event, a welcome reception that brought everyone together—admissions personnel, AIGAC members and affiliates, alike! We gathered on Sunday evening in a beautifully bright room enjoying the Graduate Berkeley’s bay windows. For many of us, the AIGAC conference is like a family reunion where we enjoy the annual rituals involved in catching up with old friends and welcoming new faces into the fold. This reception, captured the camaraderie so many attendees comment on in their feedback to the conference committee.
Of course, we also walked away from this reception and early registration with plenty of fun giveaways from our conference sponsors. Thanks once again to Prodigy Finance, our reception host, as well as our other sponsors, Agos, Veritas Prep, ETS-GRE, and GMAC!
All Schools Day
By Nupur Gupta, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
On Monday, bright and early, AIGAC members and school representatives gathered at the reception of the Graduate Berkeley hotel to be escorted to Berkeley’s campus by Angela Fleekop — Associate Director of Admissions at the Haas School of Business. The group poured onto Durant Avenue, with conversation flowing freely among friends long-lost and acquaintances newly made.
Arriving at the Berkeley campus, we were greeted by the Cronk Gate, which was laced with creepers across its arch. There was a buzz in the air as we were about to commence our 10th annual conference — with the highest attendance from members and schools till date. The admissions team from Haas, led by Morgan Bernstein, played gracious hosts as attendees were served breakfast and mingled, eventually seating themselves at the roundtables.
Attendees had the privilege of learning about the millennial dilemma as the survey committee presented results from the AIGAC survey that saw participation from a couple of thousand applicants. ‘All Schools Day’ also saw a brand-new exercise where attendees and admissions officers discussed candidate profiles, selecting certain candidates over others. This was a first-time initiative, which gave attendees a front row seat into the admissions process! Next, there was a visa panel with perspectives from UK, Canada, and USA where representatives from Cambridge, Rotman, Columbia Business School and Georgetown addressed concerns and apprised attendees about initiatives undertaken by their schools to assist international students. With several programs seeing curriculum changes recently, attendees heard from Haas, LBS, Stern, Kellogg and Tuck about new majors, degree programs, student-initiated courses and experiential programs. Finally, representatives from MIT Sloan, Yale SOM, Michigan Ross and Darden School of Business weighed in on creative components such as video essays and team interviews employed in their admissions processes. MIT Sloan introduced a mandatory video essay component that very day, which we were fortunate to learn about at the conference!
A key highlight of the day was the camaraderie among consultants and school representatives. This flowed well beyond the curriculum into the evening reception at the penthouse of the University Club. The venue offered spectacular views of the Bay area through glass windows and a balcony, providing the perfect atmosphere for some good-natured bonhomie. Attendees were delighted when Dean Rich Lyons addressed the gathering and stayed on to interact with our members. Conversation, wine, champagne and exuberance flowed through the day, and unsurprisingly, attendees overwhelmingly rated the day and the evening event as “Outstanding”.
By Faye Mackenzie, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
After a networking breakfast and some informal chats with the admissions staff, the AIGAC team got further insight into the Haas experience, from the people behind the scenes and current and former students. Throughout the day, the Haas admissions team were on hand to answer all our questions, including on the new 6-word story essay. Overall, they gave an impression of a very community-oriented MBA, providing a safe and welcoming environment for students to take risks and experiment and “learn for the sake of learning”, whilst gaining a wide range of hard and soft skills. Some of the most popular classes (based on the bidding system) are Intra/Entrepreneurship, Storytelling, and Design Thinking. Student-Initiated Courses are also a pretty big deal, with over 100 independent studies every semester in addition to the student led series. For those with more specific learning goals, classes are available throughout the UC Berkeley Graduate Schools, with classes such as Cleantech to Market bringing together students from a variety of schools.
Next, we had the option to choose whichever round-table discussion we liked, including Student Affairs, which partners closely with Academic Affairs to support students in extracurriculars, life, and experience outside the classroom, particularly in terms of encouraging ownership (e.g., for student-initiated culture) and developing leadership.
An introduction to Career Management was next: Split into 3 main areas of Coaching and Advising, Industry Readiness, and Employer Engagement, the Career Management team includes Industry Marketplace Experts and Peer Advisors. Every year sees increasing opportunities for students, and the team work hard on strategic employer engagement, driven by the very diverse career interests of the MBA students.
Finally, we heard very honest and moving accounts of the MBA experience from current and former students. One shared their experience of being on academic probation, and the great support available from faculty, office, and fellow students to get back on track. Another shared that the program holds a mirror to your life, and whilst it’s not always comfortable, it develops self-awareness and improvement and helps develop empathy. The recurring idea of meaningful work was raised again, and another speaker shared their experience of breaking into a new industry and how the alumni network helped. All shared their experiences with clubs, including the race inclusivity and gender diversity initiatives.
All admissions staff and student panelists kindly stayed for lunch to answer further questions.
By Vince Ricci, AIGAC President 2016-2017, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
Vince and Brett kicked off our AIGAC Afternoon Professional Development with a “State of the Organization” update. Vince shared Shiela’s data from headquarters showing member growth. Then, Brett assessed our financial health, which has never been better. We are on track to have secured a year’s worth of operating expenses, which is a best practice for similar organizations managed by Shiela and her team. We look forward to reinvesting any future surplus back into the organization.
Second, Emily led members in getting to know as many people as possible. Through our first-ever AIGAC Speed Dating activity, we demonstrated that agility is a core skill for admissions consultants.
Third, Shiela and Lori from HQ showed members how to update their profiles to attract client referrals. By updating our directory to reflect the modernized look and feel or our website, we hope to help members continue to attract prospects, thereby leveraging the AIGAC brand and network effect to stand out from non-AIGAC members.
Fourth, we gave committee chairs a chance to update members on recent activities, upcoming initiatives. We heard from Survey Committee Chair (Scott), Communication Committee Chair (Maria), and Conference Committee Co-chairs (Rachel and Nupur). In addition to taking questions, Committee Chairs reached asked for volunteers to join their committees.
Fifth, Governance Chair Andrea led members in an open discussion of the origin and applications of AIGAC Principles; members suggested ways to use the Principles to distinguish ourselves from others who don’t join AIGAC
Finally, in another conference first, Faye and Vince helped members gather into groups to share best practices regarding consultant and client well-being, business and reputation management, and unique cases. As many of the case management and self-care issues we face are universal, members can identify thought leaders and resources within the organization, and conversations can continue via the private AIGAC LinkedIn group throughout the year.
By Vrinda Jalan, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
Our first stop as part of our “road trip” was Wharton’s West Coast campus in downtown San Francisco. Located in the beautiful Hills Bros brick stone building and overlooking the ocean, Wharton SF offers both, the EMBA and a semester for the full-time MBA students, with top faculty from the main Philadelphia campus flying in.
Our session started with a warm welcome by Barbara Craft, Director of Admissions – Wharton MBA Program for Executives who shared insights on the Wharton EMBA program. With its EMBA Fellows program, Wharton offers a unique program for applicants with less than eight years work experience, as long as their company can sponsor them, opening up the program to young yet accomplished leaders.
With a quick overview on the EMBA, we then moved to an interactive session with Frank DeVecchis, Director of MBA Admissions and other members of the admissions team logged in from Philadelphia.
With more MBA graduates looking to found their own venture or join a startup, the team highlighted how Wharton provides various resources for applicants’ with entrepreneurial interests including mentoring opportunities through the Entrepreneurs in Residence program.
Frank and his team also delved into the key admissions criteria for the full-time MBA program : Academic preparedness, Career Impact and Community Impact.
Though the application and essays have not undergone any change since last year, the school has overhauled the questions for the letters of recommendation. Like most MBA programs, Wharton is moving away from a traditional application and truly “Getting to Know” applicants. Recommenders will now need to comment on two aspects – 1. The applicant’s fit for the program and ability to thrive in the Wharton classroom/community 2. The applicant’s ability to succeed in their career.
The last segment included advice for the school’s unique interview mechanism – the team-based discussion (TBD). The team recommended that applicants should reflect on their experiences – both personal and professional and be aware of the typical roles they play and follow the same in the TBD.
On the whole, the Wharton admissions team conducted an interactive information session and we left the Wharton SF campus with a better understanding of what Wharton is looking for in applicants.
By Hillary Schubach, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
Our visit to Stanford began with a session with Mike Hochleutner (Director, Stanford MSx) who gave us an informative look at the MSx program—the only other offering at GSB besides the MBA program.
Both MBA and MSx are full-time, residential programs, focused on general management studies. Both offer immersive programming and a small class size for an intensive experience, and their students graduate with full GSB alumni status. The key differences are that MSx is only 12-months long, and students graduate with a Master of Science in Management rather than an MBA. It therefore attracts more experienced, proven leaders with clarity of purpose (a key differentiator in the admissions process), rather than those seeking career shifts or extended time at b-school to try, test and fail. By combining core business fundamentals with a focus on career growth and the “art and science of leadership,” for the right candidate, MSx offers the best of what GSB and the greater university have to offer.
Mike then walked us around Stanford’s gorgeous campus, with highlights including the luxurious new dorm, Highland Hall, and the D School—both inspiring enough for us all to consider re-applying to GSB.
We then regrouped for a session on the MBA program, led by Kirsten Moss (Assistant Dean and Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid). Fresh in her new job, Kirsten shared an honest and truly inspiring perspective on what makes Stanford MBA students unlike any others. She discussed how during the admissions process, Stanford looks for students with deep intellectual curiosity—striving to to understand what they love to learn about, and how they have demonstrated that in their lives. They look for students who are going to have significant positive impact in the world, as evidenced more by their past actions than their IQ. They want to understand where they get their energy from, what is important to them (besides themselves), and how they’ve gone above and beyond. They value persistence, initiative, developing others, and perseverance despite challenges. And they seek students who not only understand their “true north” but also believe they can do it today.
We finished our afternoon with a casual dinner on campus, sponsored by GMAC. And just before the bus set off for San Luis Obispo, we gathered for a group photo to commemorate the end of a fantastic chapter in San Francisco.
By Rachel Korn, AIGAC President Elect 2016-2018, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
At UCLA in the afternoon on Thursday, Lisa Gates from SheNegotiates, an executive coaching firm, led our first-ever conference professional development session. Professional development will now be a part of conferences to come, with the aim to offer such skill-building opportunities as an important AIGAC member benefit.
Lisa’s session focused on how to better market ourselves and how to negotiate with clients and employers. First, we must better understanding our personal superpowers, the ways in which we stand out and our exceptional competencies.
Lisa started the session by encouraging us to write website copy with a client-focused approach. The goal of this tactic is to draw in the audience, allowing them to see themselves as our partners and people interacting with us. Talking exclusively about ourselves in our promotional material is less powerful and less effective in inspiring potential clients to reach out.
She then presented a 7-step guide to conducting a negotiation, from beginning with small talk to reaching a conclusion. She walked us through the steps that emphasized an approach engaging negotiation partners. For example, ask open-ended questions to listen, learn and uncover others’ interests and pain points to be able to position an ask – and later reframe the ask if we hear “no.” Trade things of value. Such strategies increase the potential to reach a happy agreement.
Overall, Lisa advised employing a “conversation formula” to advance our aims, which can show a genuine interest in and empathy for a partner’s needs and help us creatively strategize to reach “yes.”
By Vrinda Jalan, AIGAC Conference Committee 2017
The morning at UCLA Anderson was kicked off by Ilana Van Allen, Associate Director MBA Admissions who spoke of the “Limitless Access” that LA and UCLA stand for. As an alum of the school, Ilana shared her own experiences at Anderson while she touched upon the program’s core principles – Share Success, Think Fearlessly and Drive Change – parameters the admissions team is assessing applicants on, to determine fit. She also discussed the full-time MBA program’s wide curriculum and changes to the application this year.
Next, our group got a feel of the school’s learning environment, through a class with Professor Jeff Scheinrock, who teaches the capstone Applied Management Research program.
We then spent our afternoon gaining insights into Anderson’s career resources and recruitment efforts. The session was conducted by Chris Weber of the Parker Career Management Center, a group that works closely with the MBA admissions team. Chris highlighted that there has been an overall increase in the number of Anderson MBA students being hired by industry, with the drivers being technology and consulting jobs. With over 160 companies coming to campus, some of the biggest recruiters for the school are Deloitte, Amazon, Nike and Mattel. Additionally, he highlighted that Anderson is a great fit for career switchers – 96% of the Class of 2016 switched either industry or function whereas 76% of the class switched both industry and function.
We ended our day with a keynote address by Dean Judy Olian who shared the school’s vision and plans for the near future. Dean Olian spoke of Los Angeles being the “future epicenter of innovation”, where technology meets content and how UCLA has a futuristic outlook, bringing new and current concepts into the classroom. The Dean also highlighted the school’s emphasis on bringing the “money making” side and “caring side” of investing together to create impact.