Interview with Erin Ernst - Foster MBA Admissions Director

F1GMAT: Foster Full-time MBA focuses on building a strong business fundamental before allowing students to pick their elective courses. How is the curriculum structured to help MBA students?

Erin Ernst Foster MBAErin Ernst (Foster MBA Admissions Director): The first-year integrated core curriculum provides students with a strong foundation in business fundamentals and, most importantly, shows students how these fundamental business concepts interrelate.  The core is designed to give students the tools they need to solve complex problems by drawing upon multiple areas of expertise. The second year of the program is primarily comprised of elective coursework, and is highly customizable. By choosing their electives, students are able to develop greater expertise in the areas directly related to their post-MBA career while continuing to increase their ability to take on cross-functional assignments. In addition to the core and elective curriculum, students are required to complete three practical experience activities (such as a project for a company, an internship, participating in the business plan competition, etc.) Students are also required to complete two international perspective activities, such as participating in a study tour, completing an internationally-focused project, or studying abroad.

F1GMAT: How is the student life at Foster School of Business?

Student Life at Foster School of BusinessErin Ernst (Foster MBA Admissions Director): The Foster MBA has a small class size (on average 100-120 students each year), which encourages collaboration and an extremely supportive environment. Our students truly get to know one another on a personal level. This not only creates a close-knit environment while students are in the program, it also provides for an outstanding network well beyond graduation. Foster MBAs maintain very close relationships with one another long after the program ends.

Students are highly involved in student organizations, which provide an opportunity to develop leadership skills and to interact with classmates who share common interests. Life as a Foster MBA is extremely busy, but students make a point to divide their time between academics, professional development, taking time to give back to the community and, of course, having fun. Seattle offers incredible culture, entertainment and outdoor activities and students have a great time experiencing all that Seattle offers during their time here.

A great way to get to know our students and our culture first-hand is to connect with our Student Ambassador Program. Current students are happy to chat with you over e-mail and answer any questions you might have about student life. When you’re researching programs, students are often your best resource!

F1GMAT: The Foster MBA Mentor program looks interesting. Will the students get the opportunity for one on one mentorship?

Mentor Program Foster MBAErin Ernst (Foster MBA Admissions Director): The Foster MBA Mentor Program offers an incredible opportunity to interact on a personal level with executives from the Seattle business community. On average we have around 75 mentors participating in the program each year, from a wide variety of industries and organizations. During the first year students are matched with mentors in groups. During the second year generally three students are assigned to each mentor. Despite how busy these executives are, we have found them to be incredibly approachable and giving of their time. Some mentors may offer time to meet one-on-one, and many students in the past have developed lasting relationships with their mentors, and have continued after the program to seek their advice and guidance as they advance in their careers. 

F1GMAT: What are some of the post-MBA opportunities available for MBA graduates?


Post-MBA Foster MBAErin Ernst (Foster MBA Admissions Director): The Foster MBA Program is unique in that our students tend to have a very wide variety of interests and land at a very wide variety of organizations post-MBA, from large companies like Microsoft and Amazon, to small local startups, to non-profit organizations. Our career center offers personalized, one-on-one coaching, skills workshops, resume reviews, mock interviews and a multitude of networking opportunities, all designed to help students develop the tools they need to move closer to their unique post-MBA goals. You can review our recent employment statistics, including a list of our most recent hiring companies.

F1GMAT:  Can you give our readers a snapshot of the latest class?


Class 2013 Foster MBA Profile
Class Statistics - Foster School of BusinessGeographical Distribution

F1GMAT:  What are some of the unique courses and activities offered in the MBA program?


Erin Ernst (Foster MBA Admissions Director):  One of the most popular opportunities to take advantage of at Foster is the Entrepreneurship program offered through our Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, which offers courses, workshops, networking opportunities and mentorship opportunities, as well as the chance to participate in our annual Business Plan Competition. There are a number of outstanding electives offered through CIE, including Entrepreneurial Decision-Making and Venture Capital Investments.

Another unique elective at Foster is “Women at the Top”, which offers dynamic sessions focusing on the exploration of issues related to female leadership. Students hear personal accounts from accomplished women who have been making their own kind of difference in the world.

Throughout the two years at Foster there is a strong focus on practical, hands-on learning opportunities, ensuring that students understand how to apply the skills they are learning in the classroom to real world issues. During the first year core, students take a class called “Applied Strategy” which involves teams of MBAs working on projects for real companies. Students can opt to participate in another project during their second year through our Field Studies Program. Other opportunities to put your skills to the test include:

• The Board Fellows Program
– a unique opportunity for students to sit on the board of a local non-profit as a non-voting member.

• The Leadership Fellows Program
– offers second-year students the opportunity to mentor first-year student teams.

• The India Global Consulting project – gives students hands-on strategy consulting experience with the Self-Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), using business principles to make a difference in the lives of poor women in India.

• The Entrepreneurial Law Clinic – a joint venture between the UW School of Law and Foster’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship (CIE), the Clinic teams law and business students with pro bono attorneys and business advisors to provide critical early stage legal and business counseling to local start-ups and small businesses.

These are just a few examples of the ways that students at Foster can specialize their studies and gain hands-on experience that will bolster their resumes and better prepare them for post-MBA job opportunities. For a complete list of electives click here, and for more information on project and other hands-on activities click here

F1GMAT:  What are the entry criteria in terms of the number of years of experience/GMAT/GPA for the Full-time MBA program?

Erin Ernst (Foster MBA Admissions Director): We do not have minimum requirements for work experience, GMAT or GPA but our averages tend to be quite competitive – the average work experience is generally around 5 years, average GMAT around 670 and average GPA 3.4. In terms of work experience, we are looking at both the quantity and quality of a candidate’s professional background, as well as how much thought they have put into their post-MBA goals and how realistic these plans are considering their pre-MBA work experience. In terms of GMAT and GPA, we use these to determine whether a student can handle our rigorous coursework. We do not require students to come from any particular academic background, and we do not have any specific course prerequisites. For this reason, the GMAT is particularly helpful in determining whether a candidate is capable of MBA-level academics and, in particular, some of the more quantitative aspects of the curriculum.

F1GMAT:  What are some of the defining characteristics that you look for in a Foster Full-time MBA candidate?


Unique Courses Foster MBAErin Ernst (Foster MBA Admissions Director): Like most top level MBA programs, at Foster we are looking for students who have the academic capabilities, professional experience, employability, communication skills and leadership potential to succeed in our program and beyond.

More specifically, we are looking for students who genuinely want to engage with the Foster MBA community – this is a highly interactive program that works best when students are involved in and out of the classroom, learning from one another and supporting one another. Foster MBAs must be able to work effectively within their study teams and within a very diverse community. We are looking for candidates who show curiosity and drive – a willingness to ask questions, step out of one’s comfort zone and try new things. We are looking for candidates who have a history of successfully balancing several different demands at once – the MBA is so much more than class assignments and tests. We are looking for people who are passionate about their careers and about business in general.

Finally, we are looking for people who want to make a positive influence on their community – at Foster we believe that business leaders have an incredible opportunity to enact change and to make a difference, and it is important that our students embody this during their time at Foster and well into the future as alumni of our program.  

About Erin Ernst

Erin Ernst Foster MBA
Erin Ernst is the Director of MBA Admissions at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. After earning her bachelor’s degree in Economics from Western Washington University, she joined the Foster School of Business in 2001. She has been serving as Director of Admissions for the past four years. Erin is a Seattle native and enjoys taking advantage of the many outdoor activities the Pacific Northwest has to offer year round.