Interview with Heather O’Leary - Director of Admissions, UC Davis Graduate School of Management

Heather UC David Director of AdmissionsF1GMAT: UC Davis has introduced a new MBA Curriculum called IMPACT (Integrated Management Project, Articulation and Critical Thinking). Tell us how the change in curriculum will help MBA grads?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): We have strengthened our internationally ranked UC Davis MBA program with a new, innovative curriculum that further integrates globalization, responsible business ethics and sustainability.

The goal: To better prepare you with the real-world practice, analytical and technical skills, and leadership training you need to succeed.

Our new curriculum is anchored by IMPACT, a new, two-part capstone course: You’ll sharpen your writing, speaking and critical-thinking abilities and then put those collective business skills and knowledge to work on 20-week team projects for client companies ranging from multinational Fortune 500 firms to ultra-fast-paced Silicon Valley start-ups.

The required consulting projects will provide you more real-world experience that draws from the fundamentals you develop in your other courses. In addition, there is a stronger emphasis on oral and written communication, which is reflected in the Articulation and Critical Thinking course that you will take during the first year of the program. These are critical and highly-sought after business skills that will propel you forward, enabling you to tackle pressing business issues and develop innovative solutions for the companies you work for.  Team projects will be organized around industry sectors directly connected to UC Davis' research strengths and our locations spanning the Sacramento-San Francisco corridor:

• Clean technology and Energy
• Biotechnology
• Information Technology
• Healthcare Delivery
• Telemedicine
• Foods, Nutrition and Agribusiness
• Service sectors (e.g. finance and consulting)
• OneHealth (intersection of human and animal medicine)

In tandem with the new curriculum, we introduced an enhanced, two-year leadership and career development training program that emphasizes self-evaluation to improve your leadership skills and help you chart a career path for immediate post-MBA success and long-term achievement.

F1GMAT: What is the biggest misconception about UC Davis MBA programs?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): The city of Davis is not as famous as its larger counterparts of San Francisco or Los Angeles, which can lead to the misconception that because the UC Davis MBA program is not in a major metropolitan area, student access to opportunities is limited.  In reality, UC Davis offers the best of both worlds: the resources of an internationally renowned research institution and the appeal of a true college town. UC Davis’ prime location in the thriving corridor linking Sacramento, the state capital of California, and the San Francisco Bay Area, the world’s unrivaled innovation hub, opens up endless opportunities.

Our students have quick access to established Fortune 500 firms, the global technology industry, Pacific Rim trade, new start-ups and a financial ecosystem of venture capital and international banking. Our students benefit from our connections and networks in the Silicon Valley, the hotbed for high-tech, web pioneers and new venture funding, and in Sacramento region, where progressive energy and climate change policy is rippling well beyond the world’s eighth-largest economy and home to one of the nation’s top clean tech hubs.

F1GMAT: What are some of the networking opportunities provided by UC Davis?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): When you join the UC Davis Graduate School of Management’s dynamic community, you hit the ground running from orientation to graduation with a calendar packed with opportunities, many of which you’ll have a hand in creating and planning.

We open doors for you with the firms you want to meet. More than 600 top companies in major industries have active recruiting relationships with the UC Davis Graduate School of Management and the Economist ranks us fifth worldwide for the diversity of our recruiters. Our national and international alumni network is a resource that will enhance your career and give you great mobility into your future.

Our annual Peer-to-Pier networking event in San Francisco draws hundreds of students, alumni, faculty, recruiters and business leaders. Topics have included thriving in challenging times, building personal and company brands, corporate social responsibility, and innovation and intrapreneurism.

Alumni open their offices for Shadow Day, offering MBA students career advice and insider insight into their company’s operations, culture and opportunities.

To expose our students to current views on leadership, we host several Dean’s Distinguished Speakers on campus each year.   This program brings top business leaders to campus each year to share their experiences in a small, informal setting.  Students interact directly with leaders, ask questions, and probe the leadership style of successful business executives from companies that include Cisco, Chevron, Google and Hyatt Hotels.

F1GMAT: How is the student life in UC Davis?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): UC Davis MBA students recognize the importance of moving beyond lectures and case studies by taking advantage of the opportunities available to them. At the Graduate School of Management, MBA students also pour their energy into intramural sports, business plan competitions, networking events, community service and, of course, student clubs.

Students launch their UC Davis MBA experience with an intensive two-week Orientation. Bonds form quickly as students explore Northern California hotspots, recreation and world-famous destinations like Napa Valley. Highlights include a challenging ropes course that builds teamwork skills.

What is most exciting about student life at UC Davis is how dynamic it is. Clubs and activities reflect our students’ interests and adapt to the changing face of business.

The Associated Students of Management (ASM) provides the framework for incorporating student ideas into the MBA program, networking with alumni, engaging in philanthropic activities, and coordinating extracurricular and social events. Its mission is to enhance the value of students' experience by creating a collaborative community that facilitates academic, social and professional growth while building a reputation for innovation and excellence.

Collaborating closely with the Career Development Center, the School's professional student groups raise awareness of career opportunities and offer services in specific fields, from marketing and finance to technology and consulting. By linking students, faculty, alumni and industry professionals, these clubs help develop future leaders, offer real-world experience, enhance career development and build connections.

One such student group is the Davis chapter of Net Impact. Net Impact uses the power of business to create positive social, environmental and economic change. Our Gold-ranked chapter has been recognized as the Trailblazing Chapter of the Year, the Best Small Chapter of the Year, and among the top four Graduate Chapters worldwide. The chapter hosts high-profile speakers, offers leadership development opportunities, sponsors courses in social entrepreneurship and sustainable business, and joins peers at the annual national Net Impact conference.

F1GMAT: Does the UC Davis Daytime MBA Program give emphasis on Entrepreneurship?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): Entrepreneurship is a vital part of modern business. Entrepreneurial skills are critical for students interested in starting or growing a small business. They are also increasingly driving the success of managers in large corporations, who must identify and pursue new business opportunities in changing technological and consumer landscapes. In large corporations and other institutions many entrepreneurial activities are called business development.

Courses such as Innovation Management and New and Small Business Ventures
offer students tools to recognize and value new business opportunities, develop and design technology-related new products and services, and effectively start and grow new business ventures or develop new products and services within established corporations.

Whether you are working for an established company or starting a new venture, chances are you will be calling on skills developed in this area. Innovation is the process of identifying and driving productive change in organizations and the market. Understanding how innovation unfolds and how it may be managed to strategic advantage are the shared focus of most of this concentration’s courses.

Students are strongly encouraged to participate in clinics and competitions involving the analysis of "live” opportunities, the development of business plans and the presentation of those plans to outside parties (e.g., venture capital firms). Big Bang! is the annual UC Davis Business Plan Competition organized by our MBA students. Now in its eleventh year, the competition promotes new business development, technology transfer and entrepreneurship on campus and in Northern California.

The UC Davis Center for Entrepreneurship serves as the nexus for entrepreneurship education and research—and as a springboard for entrepreneurial initiatives on the UC Davis campus. To accomplish this, the center brings science, engineering and business students and faculty together with experienced entrepreneurs, investors and corporate leaders in a highly collaborative environment that blends effective theory with hands-on participation and solution-driven innovation.

More than 600 scientists, engineers and business students from top universities across the U.S. and around the globe have explored the commercial applications and built lasting connections with industry and business investors through the center’s programs. Now they are putting their ideas into action. The center’s alumni have launched more than 40 companies – in sustainable technologies, foods, health & wellness, and other industries – with more in the pipeline.

Whether for profit or for social benefit—or both—the center's programs enable students to envision a better world and make it a reality.

F1GMAT:  Can you give our readers a demographic snapshot of the Daytime MBA program(latest class) ?

Class of 2012
Average GMAT: 692
Median GMAT: 700
GMAT Range: 630-760
Average GPA:3.3
GPA Range: 2.4 - 4.0
Average age: 28
Age Range: 23 - 49
Avg work Exp: 4 years
Work Exp. Range: 0–13 years
Undergraduate Institutions represented: 42
International students: 25%
UC Davis Gender Ratio

Undergraduate Major
F1GMAT: What are some of the unique courses offered in UC Davis Daytime MBA program? How will these courses help MBA students?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis):  The UC Davis MBA program takes a multi-faceted approach to teaching leadership through a range of hands-on experiences.  We believe that, in addition to our MBA curriculum, leadership opportunities must be part of each student’s overall experience, and that leadership is critical to our graduates’ ultimate success.   Our educational goals for our students are to:

Be able to work well in teams and to lead teams effectively.
Apply moral and ethical standards to management decisions.
Use appropriate models for analysis and planning, and
Understand multiple functional areas.

The UC Davis MBA Curriculum includes several courses that focus on leadership:

• Corporate Governance
• Executive in Residence
• Executive Leadership Seminar
• Leadership
• Managing People in Modern Organizations
• Power and Influence in Management

There are a as well as a dozen additional courses which further support and reinforce these leadership ideals.

Students have the opportunity to further develop their leadership abilities in our Lam Research Leadership Skills Program.  This program makes our graduates more effective in the workplace and more competitive in the job market by exposing them to very hands-on, rigorous training for key leadership skills. Taught by experts from the leadership field, workshops include topics such as communication, giving and receiving feedback, coaching for success, emotional intelligence, strategic thinking, values-based giving impactful presentations, and time management.  These carefully selected sessions offer elite leadership training in an interactive format where student are challenged to stretch themselves.

Our students lead through a myriad of elected positions with student government and professional clubs.  Students participate in many volunteer opportunities, and serve on local community and national boards for prominent non-profit organizations.  Finally, they lead teams of their peers as part of Consulting Center projects for clients ranging from Genentech and Intel to Beringer Blass Wine Estates and the American Red Cross.

Numerous leadership opportunities and activities await you at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.  You decide how you want to embrace these opportunities.

F1GMAT:  What are the entry criteria in terms of the number of years of experience/GMAT/GPA for UC Davis Daytime MBA program?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): Admission to the UC Davis MBA Program is highly competitive. The Admissions Committee selects those applicants whose academic background, intellectual capability, work experience, demonstrated leadership, and communication skills meet the challenging demands of the MBA program and a managerial career.

Class Profile: Your classmates will come from large research universities, small liberal arts colleges, private institutions and military service academies. They come directly from undergraduate programs and from the workplace with decades of experience.

Admission Criteria: The Admissions Committee considers academic potential, professional promise and personal qualities in making admission decisions. Admission is based on the demonstrated strength of your work experience, previous academic work, performance on the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or Graduate Record Exam (GRE), personal essays and recommendations.   

Work Experience: Full-time work experience is considered an asset in the admission evaluation but is not a requirement. No particular area of undergraduate preparation is required, but a standard UC Davis requirement is the completion of a four year bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university.

GPA: There is no minimum score or GPA requirements for admission, but given the competitive nature of the UC Davis MBA program, candidates should review the student profile to assess their own strength in these various aspects of the application.

Pre-MBA Course Requirements: The UC Davis MBA Program seeks students from diverse professional and academic backgrounds. Entry-level as well as mid-career applicants are welcome. Although the program has no specific subject prerequisites, it is strongly recommended that you be proficient in the use of various computer software, such as Microsoft Word and Excel, and have completed the following coursework prior to enrollment:

• Accounting - Introductory course in financial accounting
• Economics - Introductory courses in micro- and macro-economics
• Mathematics - Introductory course in calculus
• Statistics - Introductory course in statistical analysis

F1GMAT: What are the post-MBA opportunities available for UC Davis MBA Grads?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): Our mission is not just to help you find your next great job, but the right job. We provide students with the tools they need for a fulfilling career.

The UC Davis Graduate School of Management Career Development Center is dedicated to helping you in every phase of your career planning endeavors. Our students take advantage of our many services, including:

• One-on-one career counseling with a career development expert
• Career workshops and panels that will help you identify potential career areas, develop effective job-search strategies and improve interviewing skills
Career achievement is one of the Graduate School of Management's great strengths, and our graduates find success in many fields—finance, consulting, marketing, healthcare, technology and entrepreneurial opportunities. Our alumni rise to the top of their organizations: more than 70 percent achieve top management positions, such as CEO, CFO, partner, managing director or owner.

F1GMAT: What are some of the defining characteristics that you look for in a UC Davis MBA candidate?

Heather O’Leary(UC Davis): We look for candidates with excellent communication skills, strong motivation, clear goals and a demonstrated track record of success. We have found that our most successful candidates are those who have determined their next career step, understand how an MBA can help them take that step and can articulate how their past experience will help them.

Heather UC David Director of AdmissionsAbout
Heather O’Leary

Heather O’Leary is Director of Admissions at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. She is responsible for the management of the Office of Admissions, serves on Admissions Committee and hosts various recruiting events.   Prior to joining the Admissions team ten years ago, Ms. O’Leary worked in marketing for several organizations, including Hasbro and the March of Dimes. Originally from Rhode Island, she holds an MBA in marketing and strategy from the UC Davis Graduate School of Management and a BS in psychology from Roger Williams University in Rhode Island.

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