The 11th Annual AIGAC Conference was held in Toronto, Ann Arbor, Chicago, Evanston, and Austin from June 8-15, 2018 and was our largest conference to date!
Download the AIGAC 2018 Conference Program (2MB)
Thanks to our fantastic…
2018 Host Schools
Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto
Michigan Ross School of Business
Booth School of Business, University of Chicago
Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University
McCombs School of Business, The University of Texas at Austin
2018 Conference Sponsors
2018 Conference Committee
Nupur Gupta – 2018 Conference Co-Chair
Rachel Korn – 2018 Conference Co-Chair
Faye Mackenzie – AIGAC Afternoon Co-Chair
Marissa Samuel Vecsler
After an informal (and delicious!) get-together at Her Father’s Cider Bar + Kitchen in the heart of downtown Toronto on Thursday evening, the 11th Annual AIGAC Conference officially kicked off Friday morning at the Rotman School of Management with breakfast and welcoming remarks by Jamie Young, Director, Recruitment & Admissions, and the members of the Rotman Recruitment & Admissions team. Jamie introduced us to Rotman’s new tagline “Here’s where it changes”. We spent the rest of the day seeing just how transformational Rotman is!
We started by learning about the Creative Destruction Lab (CDL), Rotman’s seed-stage program for entrepreneurs. Launched in 2012 by Ajay Agrawal, Rotman professor of entrepreneurship, CDL was formed as a way to get and keep, hot tech ideation and creation inside Canada. Since its founding, the CDL has helped launch over 50 companies and built more than $1Billion in equity value! What started as a program for second-years, CDL now selects a limited number of admits for guaranteed admission to the program, which comes with guaranteed fellowship money and internships at premier, successful startups. We heard from two current students, Zach and Rodrigo, about their experiences with the CDL. Zach was so inspired by his CDL experience that he is launching his own start-up after graduation, and Rodrigo lauded Rotman’s curriculum and its connections to start-ups that are based in Canada but are doing business all over the world.
Then, we learned about the Rotman Self-Development Lab (SDL), one of Rotman’s unique offerings. Maja Djikic, Associate Professor and the Executive Director of Self-Development Laboratory, led an interactive session on the SDL. The vision behind the SDL was to create a space for MBA students to develop the leadership capabilities and “presence” that is difficult to cultivate in traditional classrooms, yet are critical to post-MBA success. Rotman’s SDL has proved to be extremely popular with students and has expanded to include the Leadership Development Lab that allows second-year students to continue to develop their personal leadership skills. We were all incredibly impressed with Maja, in particular the video she showed us about how facial expressions can be so easily misinterpreted — for example, someone might be feeling “fear”, but their facial expression comes across as “anger”. The SDL trains Rotman students to be aware of their body language so that they can maximize their effectiveness in interactions with others. Ms. Djikic has a book coming out on this topic; we can’t wait to read it!
Next up was a tour of the Rotman campus, followed by lunch with Dean Tiff Macklem. Did you know that the Dean’s signature is on roughly half of all Canadian currency? That’s because he used to be [HAVE SOME FANCY JOB FOR THE GOVT]. He provided valuable perspective on Rotman’s growing impact and role around the world. Afterward, we were treated to a discussion called “The Case against the GMAT,” and aptly so – as has been published in the past, Rotman has discovered that the application metric most closely associated with career success is a strong A.W.A. score!
Last up was an overview of Rotman DesignWorks, led by Mark Leung, Director of Rotman Design Works, and a current student, Fi Nguyen. DesignWorks is Rotman’s experiential learning center where MBA students develop the latest Business Design skills through hands-on practice.
Our trip gave us invaluable insight into what makes Rotman the incredibly strong program that it is. We can’t wait to share these insights with our clients!
Following a lovely reception graciously hosted for us by Ross the evening before, Day Two of the conference started with everyone gathering bright and early to walk to Ross and then get breakfast as a group.
The day’s programming kicked off with Dean Scott DeRue talking about what’s new and exciting at Michigan Ross and his perspective on Ross’ recent rise in school rankings. One of the more moving moments of the conference was when we realized that AIGAC member Donna Bauman had served on the admissions committee of UNC when he had applied as an undergrad!
Next up was a session with the Ross Admissions Team where Managing Director of FT Admissions Soojin Kwon talked about what the team looks for in candidates and what makes students successful at Ross. Hearing Soojin elaborate on their selection criteria provided conference attendees with nuanced insight that will surely help our clients out even more!
We also received an overview of how Ross supports students on their career journey and provided information on where Ross graduates end up after graduating. Did you know that nearly 70% of graduates end up on one of the coasts or in Chicago and 25% of the class lands in Tech? Prospective applicants should take note and not discount Ross based on its location!
Current students and recent alums also shared their perspectives on life in Ann Arbor and the unique experiences they’ve had while at Ross. We heard heart-warming stories of classmates going out of their way to help others, and also got first-hand insight into the many opportunities there are for Ross students to enhance their careers and their leadership skills. For example, one leadership exercise puts students through the experience of dealing with a (fabricated) PR crisis, including unexpectedly needing to give a statement to the press when the “company” in question was in hot water. This sort of hands-on learning opportunity exemplifies Ross’ commitment to action-based learning.
Following a delicious lunch from local favorite Zingerman’s Delicatessen, we headed out for a tour of the Michigan Ross campus and were later treated to a tour of “The Big House” – a.k.a. Michigan Stadium, home of one of the country’s most iconic college football teams.
One of the highlights of the day was the ability for conference attendees to participate in Ross’s signature Team Exercise. This exercise has been a defining part of the Ross admissions process, and instead of simply having the exercise described for us, we were divided into teams and we got to experience the exercise first-hand! It really provided a memorable way for us to understand the value of the exercise!
With our tour complete, we packed up to head to Chicago for Day 3!
Stop 3 (and Day 3!) of our road trip and we found ourselves at the Charles M. Harper Center, Chicago Booth’s main campus. Located in the beautiful Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago, the campus is just a short ride from downtown and easily accessible by train (and also where former President Obama calls home!).
The day kicked off with breakfast, followed by sessions by various Booth admissions staff, including Associate Dean of Student Recruitment and Admissions, Kurt Ahlm. We got valuable insights into how applicant files are evaluated at Booth, as well as which traits Booth is looking for in its students (and therefore, presumably, its applicants)! The Booth environment thrives on hearty, constructive debate, founded upon rigorous analysis, and the admissions process is striving to find people who fit that ideal. We also were given in-depth presentations into several key facets of the Booth offering – after all, they aren’t “just a finance school!”.
We learned about how the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation is transforming how students think about social enterprise, by bringing a rigorous analytical approach to assessing the impact these organizations make. We also learned about the plethora of opportunities available at the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, which provides a number of opportunities both in and out of the classroom for students to explore new business ideas.
Thanks to Booth’s legendary flexible curriculum, students can have multiple concentrations, and the Entrepreneurship Concentration is the most popular one. Even if students do not want to pursue their own start-up immediately after graduating, many of them are considering entrepreneurship in the long run, so these offerings are useful indeed. Finally, we also heard about how the Harry L. Davis Center for Leadership is giving Booth students a number of opportunities to develop key skills in a supportive environment.
The Admissions staff then provided us with a tour of the Harper Center. We particularly loved the winter garden, a popular study and gathering place for students that always feels so bright and spacious – surely an energizing way to get through those winters!
Next up on our road trip? Heading to the other side of Chicago to visit Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management in Evanston!
Day 5 of the conference continued at Northwestern, with the morning’s programming helping us learn about Kellogg first-hand.
Kate Smith, Assistant Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, officially welcomed everyone, and then first up was a specialty panel featuring the different programs that Kellogg offers beyond the traditional 2-year FT MBA program. In addition to evening/weekend, EMBA, and one-year options offered by many schools, Kellogg also offers two different dual-degree programs (JD-MBA with the Northwestern School of Law, and the MMM program where participants receive an MS in Design Innovation from the Segal Design Institute at the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science).
The morning continued with round-table discussions on topics such as Financial Aid, Career Services, and leadership development, and then Mike Mazzeo, Associate Professor and Senior Associate Dean for Curriculum and Teaching gave us an overview of some of Kellogg’s recent evolution, such as the large number of new classes the school has introduced over the past several years.
Our morning at Kellogg wrapped up with a tour of their (still very new) flagship building that is known as the “Global Hub.” Situated right on the lakefront, the building opened just over a year ago and is a major upgrade over Kellogg’s old “home.” Our tour highlighted how the space was designed to cater to both introverts and extroverts – with tucked-away meeting spaces for solitary thought, as well as larger areas of group work. The building has been designed with flexibility in mind, and most of the classrooms can be easily re-configured for different seating styles for different course styles. Sleek and ultra-modern, the entire building is a major selling point for Northwestern!
Thursday afternoon continued at Northwestern with the agenda shifting to AIGAC, and professional development for AIGAC members.
The AIGAC sessions started with literal “speed-dating” to give us a chance to meet as many other members as possible, and then Brett Haber, AIGAC President, and the AIGAC Board presented on the state of the organization. Board members spoke about their experiences and their vision for AIGAC’s future. Those looking to get more involved in AIGAC were encouraged to do so by joining a committee!
The remainder of the afternoon was spent discussing the different aspects of the business of admissions consulting, including best practices when it comes to things like technology, marketing your business, reputation management, and professional development. It was a beneficial conversation for all!
Finally, a small panel of AIGAC members shared their tips and best practices on various issues relating to client management specifically. Everyone was reminded that the conversations and best practice sharing didn’t need to end here – it can continue in the private LinkedIn group for AIGAG members throughout the year.
We then thanked our generous hosts, Kellogg, for their hospitality over the previous two days, and quickly headed to the airport to catch our flights to Austin!
With flights (and flight delays) behind us, we made it! Friday, and the last day of the 2018 conference, we woke up in Austin, Texas at the huge AT&T Hotel and Conference center that is conveniently connected to Rowling Hall, the brand new headquarters for The McCombs School. Having just opened in February, folks are still settling in and this year’s incoming class will be the first to kick off their MBA experience in this gorgeous new building. It’s bright and modern and has several spaces to facilitate creative discussions and group collaboration. A lot of thought clearly went into planning for the building and is sure to make the already-strong McComb’s experience an even stronger one for its students!
After a delicious burrito bar for breakfast (hey, it is Texas, after all), we had an opportunity to hear from several members of the admissions staff. Rodrigo Malta, Managing Director, MBA Recruitment and Admissions, shared with us on a personal level what the supportive McCombs family means to him. We heard from Emily Reagan, the CMO of McCombs, how McCombs plans to increasingly get the word out about its amazing program, and Tina Mabely, Assistant Dean of the program, expanded upon what some of those offerings are. McCombs benefits tremendously from being part of the broader UT system – one of the most cutting-edge universities in the country, and many students take advantage of this to cross-register or enroll in a dual degree. There are also many hands-on learning opportunities, such as the Fellows Program, which gives a select number of students a chance to intern at an Austin-based company, or the student-run investment funds.
We were also given a very illuminating overview of the various different MBA rankings from Matt Turner, Market Researcher and former Director of International Admissions – how each ranking is calculated, and what the pros/cons are of each methodology. This will surely help us guide our clients in navigating the different rankings, which I’m sure we can all agree, they place a bit too much emphasis on!
Programming at UT-Austin wrapped up with a road trip to Capital Factory, the largest startup incubator and co-working space in Austin. Austin has been one of the top-producing cities when it comes to new start-ups for years now. Capital Factory’s mission is to be the “center of gravity for entrepreneurs in Texas” and offers startups of all stages a community, as well as resources and connections to help them get to the next level. There’s no doubt that job opportunities for tech-minded MBAs will only increase as Austin’s star continues to rise!
We concluded the day (and the conference) with dinner and Austin-style entertainment (live music!). Exhausted but energized and enthusiastic about the upcoming admissions season, I know I for one found the whole conference to be extremely valuable and I look forward to seeing everyone again in 2019!
All Schools Day
All Schools Day was hosted by Northwestern University and saw over 20 schools in attendance! Following breakfast and a short welcome from AIGAC President, Brett Haber, we dove into a packed day.
First up was a review of the results of the annual applicant survey. Scott Edinburgh and the survey committee shared a number of different insights with admissions officers, and a spirited discussion regarding some of the applicant feedback ensued.
From there we split up into breakout groups for the applicant case study, moderated by Faye MacKenzie. This was a popular session at last year’s conference that returned this year, and it was easy to see why – in groups, we analyzed several hypothetical candidates’ applications to a fictional MBA program and the exercise generated lots of discussion about the different nuances in evaluating applications. By sitting in a room with different admissions officers from different programs, we were able to learn subtle nuances in how different schools view candidates. For example, a candidate with a low GMAT score was almost immediately rejected from one AdCom member, while another focused more on this person’s entrepreneurial success. The AdCom members also learned from us as well, since they got an insight into the sorts of guidance we would give these hypothetical clients.
Next up was an “Ask Anything” panel with a panel comprised of both Adcoms and Consultants. AIGAC Board members Andrea Sparrey and Vince Ricci engaged in a thoughtful and revealing two-way dialog with admissions officers from Rotman, Columbia, and Duke. While I can’t reveal what was discussed, I can say that the candor from all parties made this panel a stand-out, and these insights are exactly what make attending the conference SO valuable!
After lunch, where discussions on the morning’s topics continued (no rest for the weary!), it was time for another panel with Adcoms from Kellogg, Ross, McCombs, Stanford, and Wharton entitled “Beyond the Basics.” Questions for the panel ranged from topics such as “The most over-used word in Admissions” and “What code-word do you have for star applicants?”. The participating Adcoms provided very candid views of both their programs and some of the challenges they face in their roles. We were also treated to some light-hearted stories, such as when a waitlisted candidate found out that he had been accepted – while on a road trip with his fiancee, who had already been accepted to the same program!
To fight the afternoon fatigue that everyone was starting to feel at this point, conference organizers smartly designed the next session to involve getting up and moving around. Different tables were assigned different themes (such as “Student Life”, “International Students”, “Academics”, “Admissions”, and “Scholarships and Financing”). In “speed dating style,” AIGAC members rotated through the different tables to meet AdCom members from the different schools and learn more about specific areas of their programs.
Following a short break to allow everyone to re-group, I had the pleasure of moderating the next panel “Beyond the Application.” With panelists from MIT Sloan, NYU Stern, Vanderbilt, Georgetown, and IESE we discussed everything from video interviews, to how not to be a pest at MBA fairs, to advice for managing being on the waitlist.
The day wasn’t over yet! The evening included a reception at Kellogg (where plenty of healthy discussion about the day’s topics continued!) and then we all headed downtown Chicago for dinner on Navy Pier, one of Chicago’s tourist hot spots.