Interview with Sarah Ramsey - Director of Recruitment and Admissions at UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business

F1GMAT: UC Irvine Merage MBA has put emphasis on Strategic Innovation, Information Technology and Analytic Decision making in its curriculum. Tell us how the curriculum will help MBA grads.

Sarah RamseySarah Ramsey(Merage MBA): Our Dean, Andy Policano, along with his advisory board of executives, have identified these three key drivers: Strategic Innovation, Information Technology and Analytic Decision-Making as crucial elements needed to separate our MBA graduates from the competition.

We believe this curriculum separates our graduates to by teaching them to become the types of leaders that businesses now demand. Through our curriculum they learn to make good decisions with imperfect information, anticipate and capitalize on emerging trends, analyze business problems and situations, look at those problems and situations from a variety of perspectives, and develop innovative solutions and strategies. Finally, our curriculum prepares our students to incorporate technology into their ground-breaking business decisions.

Misconception about Mirage MBAF1GMAT: What is the biggest misconception about UC Irvine MBA programs?

Sarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA):The biggest misconception is that Irvine and Orange County lacks access to big business industries. That could not be further from the truth. For business students seeking to advance their careers, UC Irvine could not be better located. We have the advantage of being surrounded by a wide variety of industries including biotech, pharmaceutical, real estate, food and beverage, technology and a large entrepreneurial community as well.  In addition to the companies the Merage School interacts locally we are also conveniently located near industries in Los Angeles, San Diego and even San Francisco. Just around the corner from the Merage School are companies such as Taco Bell, Kia, PIMCO, Pacific Life Oakley, Google, Deloitte, Allergan, Mazda, Blizzard, Ingram Micro, Broadcom, Experian, Boeing and Gallup.

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

UC Irvine MBA Networking OpportunitiesSarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA): UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business offers many networking opportunities for our students from connecting with our alumni, to attending conferences within their respective industry of interest, hosting club events with business professionals, participating in mentorship programs, Career Center focused events and even MBA events focused on connecting with MBAs in other Southern California programs as well as MBAs from elite programs living and working in Orange County, CA.

Connecting with business leaders

For example, each quarter our Center for Global Leadership hosts a Distinguished Speakers Series, bringing to campus C-level executives from a variety of industries. These executives share their insights into business and leadership, and bring their colleagues with them.  In addition, alumni students and the business community attend these events. Before and after each event we offer networking receptions to encourage people to connect. Our students have a lot of accessibility to the business community at all Merage School events.

Conference connections

Networking opportunities are presented at the many conferences, presentations, mixers, competitions and events hosted by the business school and our Centers for Excellence. For instance, this year’s ProfitPlusPlanet conference focused on sustainability in business and brought together business leaders from companies such as: Honda, Wal-Mart, Deloitte Consulting, Intel, Marriott, Mattel, UPS and many green-focused start-up companies to discuss how companies can harness the power of sustainability as a driver of innovation and profit. Students attended this conference, networked and shared their thoughts with business leaders on the topic of sustainability.

Centers of Excellence

Furthermore, the Merage School offers six Centers of Excellence that provide numerous opportunities for students to collaborate, work and learn from business leaders and entrepreneurs. We offer Centers focused around Innovation and Entrepreneurship, Global Leadership, Investment and Wealth Management,  Real Estate, Health Care Management and Policy, Research on Information Technology and Organization and the newly created U.S. China Institute for Business and Law.

F1GMAT:  How is the student life in UC Irvine?
Student Life UC IrvineSarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA):The student life at UC Irvine is amazing. With around 100 students entering the Full-Time MBA program each year, the community at the Merage School is extremely tight knit.  We offer a personalized learning environment for our students to learn and grow in. Some of the benefits of this community include: personalized attention from faculty and the MBA career center, close friendships with classmates and extraordinary accessibility to the Southern California business community.

Life on and off campus

Our students develop close bonds of friendship both inside and out the classroom.  While they work very hard on their coursework and careers, they also find time to get involved on-campus, in the community, and enjoy all the amenities Irvine, Orange County, and Southern California have to offer.

Often times, students find their schedules book up very quickly with all the different activities available to them. There is something for everyone. We offer a variety of professional clubs as well as plenty of social activities. Any day of the week our students can be found participating in intramural sports and tournaments at the Anteater Reaction Center, networking events with companies, mixers for all the MBA programs on-campus and in the southern California area, charity events, poker nights, attending Angels baseball games, surfing at the beach, skiing in the nearby mountains, shopping at some of the best malls in Southern California, or attending a concert at the Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre.  

Student Life is Awesome in UC IrvineOrange County

Additionally, we offer convenient, resort-style on-campus housing to our students. On-campus housing extends the community beyond the classroom and adds a lot of value to the student experience.  Also, the UC Irvine campus is just minutes from a many popular destinations such as Newport Beach, Laguna Beach, Huntington Beach’s “Surf City U.S.A.”, Disneyland and sports teams such as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, and the Anaheim Ducks, making the Merage School one of the best places to work, play and get your MBA.

F1GMAT:  Every school promotes its MBA program based on its Accreditations, ROI, Job prospects and Unique learning methodologies. What makes UC Irvine stand out from the competition?
UC Irvine USPSarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA): At the Merage School we pride ourselves on our approach to the MBA career process. Our MBA Career Center offers a customized and personalized career approach to help our students gain the right skills to transform their careers.

Career Visioning

Before students even set foot on campus, the career transformation begins with career-visioning exercises. We put a lot of emphasis on professional development and helping individuals find their career focus. Career visioning exercises help students hone in on their career interest, as well as strengths and weaknesses and are followed by a workshop to identify their career vision.

Then, our powerhouse of MBA Career Counselors work one-on-one with each of our students to develop a customized career marketing plan to help them utilize all the resources the Merage School has to offer to connect them with their career goals.

Career Success

The MBA Class of 2009, the first graduating class to complete the Career Visioning process, ranked number one in the country for employment in 2009 with 92% of our MBA students employed by 90 days after graduation. This is a testament to the Career Visioning process and the Merage School MBA Career Center’s ability to prepare our students for where they want to go in their career.  

F1GMAT:  Can you give our readers a demographic snapshot of the UC Irvine Full-time MBA program (latest class)?

UC Irvine Merage MBA Class Profile - Fall 2011

Merage MBA Undergraduate Major

Pre-MBA Experience

F1GMAT:  What are some of the unique courses offered in UC Irvine Full-time MBA program? How will these courses help MBA students?

Sarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA): We offer a number of unique courses in the Full-Time MBA program, a few of them include: Sustainability and Competitive Advantage, EDGE, Leadership Strategies, and Experiential Learning.

Sustainability and Competitive Advantage and Leadership Strategies CoursesSustainability and Competitive Advantage, a new course offered this year, allows students to understand the challenge of addressing social and environmental sustainability from a strategic perspective. This course enables our graduates to capture business opportunities in sustainability while making a difference for this and future generations.

The EDGE course explores the roles of globalization, technology, and innovation in the changing landscape of business. This course prepares our students to proactively identify opportunities and challenges presented by globalization, technology and innovation and develop strategies needed to compete and be successful.

Leadership Strategies provides students with insights and perspectives into leadership and their leadership style.  The course allows them to understand the frameworks of leadership but also how others see them as a leader. Students create a plan for enhancing their leadership and career.

UC Irvine Merage MBA Experential LearningWe also have an Experiential Learning project that many of our students like to take advantage of. This course serves as an opportunity for our students to address real-life business challenges. Students contribute to the bottom line of organizations and its good networking for future career opportunities. The companies our students work with vary from year to year but recent companies our students have worked with include: Experian, Wet Seal, Bausch & Lomb, Volcom, Taco Bell, and Marriott.

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

Sarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA): We take a holistic approach to admissions, reviewing each applicant on a case by case basis. This means no portion of the application weights more heavily than any other. We are looking for balance. Keeping in mind that admissions are competitive, I encourage applicants to look at our class profile to get a sense of the average GPAs, GMAT scores, years of work experience, etc. from the previous year. This is a good indicator of a candidate’s eligibility for admissions from a GMAT and GPA standpoint. We do not have a minimum requirement for work experience but are looking at the quality of the experience, what a person has accomplished, career progression, and whether or not they have taken initiative in the workplace. We are looking for demonstrated leadership. It is recommended candidates have at least two years of work experience to benefit from the MBA experience.

F1GMAT: What are the post-MBA opportunities available for UC Irvine MBA Grads?
UC Irvine Post-MBA OpportunitiesSarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA): Because of our MBA Career Center’s customized approach our students go into a variety of industries that suit their skills and interests.  We have seen a recent growth in interest and jobs in the areas of sustainability, operations/logistics, human resources and non-profit. However, we have seen consistent interest and opportunities in the areas of consulting, marketing and finance. Some of the companies our graduates from the Class of 2011 are working for include: Mattel, General Electric, Deloitte Consulting, Verizon, Johnson & Johnson, U.S. Airways, Taco Bell, Niagara Bottling, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Bank of America, Walt Disney Studios, Gallup and Yahoo!.

F1GMAT:  What are some of the defining characteristics that you look for in a UC Irvine MBA candidate?
UC Irvine MBA CurriculamSarah Ramsey(UC Irvine Merage MBA): Due to the intimate size of the Full-Time MBA program at the Merage School it is crucial that each incoming student fit within our culture. This is usually something candidates experience in some capacity during the MBA recruitment and admissions process. Each person brings something different to the program, and we value that diversity, but some of the defining characteristics we look for in all our candidates are that they are bright, ambitious, strong communicators, work well in teams, and optimistic. All our students are very bright and challenge each other within the classroom. A common drive and focus is key in an MBA setting. Communication skills are crucial in order to be successful in the MBA program and in the business world. We offer a collaborative learning environment and understand the importance of this in business, so we also look for a candidate’s ability to thrive within a team. Finally, an optimistic attitude allows students recognize all the resources and opportunities available to them and how to benefit from it.

About Sarah Ramsey

Sarah RamseySarah is the Director of Recruitment and Admissions at UC Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business where she focuses on the Full-Time MBA program. Sarah joined the Merage School in 2006 after working in hospitality and then advertising for several years. She completed her undergraduate degree in Communications at the University of Southern California and is a recent graduate of the part-time M.B.A program at the Merage School.

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