Interview with Rabia Ahmed, Executive Director of Strategic Marketing and Admissions at NYU Stern School of Business [Show Summary]
NYU Stern is always on the cutting edge, and their new Change: Studio branding reflects that. Executive Director of Strategic Marketing and Admissions, Rabia Ahmed, shares details of the new program as well as what else is new at Stern.
At NYU Stern, change is in the air! [Show Notes]
It gives me great pleasure to have on Admissions Straight Talk for the first time, Rabia Ahmed, Executive Director of Strategic Marketing and Admissions at NYU Stern School of Business. Rabia attended Montclair Sate University and earned her MA in International Education from NYU. She began working at NYU Stern in 2005 and in 2006 became the Assistant Director of MBA Admissions. She has been climbing the admissions office ladder every since, and while this is Rabia’s first time on AST, NYU’s Isser Gallogly has been on several times. I don’t usually like to have school representatives on year after year. However NYU Stern always is innovating and changing things up, so I’ve needed to invite someone from NYU Stern to the show year after year. Indeed NYU Stern’s focus and brand are synonymous with change. We’re going to learn more about that from Rabia.
Can you give a brief overview of the Stern MBA program focusing on the more distinctive elements? [2:25]
I would highlight three main things – our location, our attitude, and our people. We are located in the greatest neighborhood in the greatest city in the world, we are able to bring in amazing adjunct faculty, and have partnerships with organizations for recruiting but also for experiential learning projects in our backyard. We are also on the move, unbound by tradition, and always thinking about where business is going to make sure we stay in front of it, innovate, and experiment. Finally, people you meet at NYU are really special. When you meet the people you can see how incredible they are. Our faculty is one of the largest, and runs the gamut of industry and function.
My next question is usually “what’s new?” but there is so much new at NYU Stern that I’m going to change things up. Last month Stern announced a re-branding focused on embracing and initiating change. We’re going to explore some of the elements in the program that really reflect that brand starting with Change:Studio. What is Change:Studio? How is it going to work? [5:31]
We want students to leave with preparation for the future. When thinking about how quickly things are changing – technology, how people work – we think about how we prepare students to embrace that change. Change: Studio brings together leadership, experiential learning, and entrepreneurship in co-curricular programming to provide a structure with which to drive change in an organization. The curriculum overall is called Dare It, Dream It, Drive It. Dare It is focused on leadership, Dream It on experiential learning, and Drive It on starting something new. Everyone goes through the beginning stages of Change:Studio with orientation in the leadership simulation and then they can opt into the Change:Studio program.
NYU Stern recently started allowing its applicants to submit the GMAC Executive Assessment in addition to the GRE and GMAT. Why? How is the EA different? [11:25]
We have always been an early adopter – we were one of the first schools to accept the GRE. We know testing is very stressful and wanted to make sure students had options. When talking to GMAC we felt this exam could be a really good one for our fulltime program to assess for academic readiness. It is designed for professionals, is shorter in duration, and takes less time to prepare for, so thought it could be a good option for some. We have no preference over which test you decide to take.
NYU Stern also released a stellar employment report. Can you go over the numbers for the FT program? [13:13]
Our median salary is an all time high and increased by 12% to $140,000. We also had the highest employment three months out, which is 94.2%, and the top three areas were consulting, banking, and technology.
How did the graduates of the two specialized MBA programs, the Andre Koo Technology and Entrepreneurship MBA and the Fashion & Luxury MBA, fare last year in the job market? [14:44]
We launched the two new programs three years ago and have graduated the first batch of students. They are both one year programs and are for those who have a passion for those particular industries. For the technology MBA, roles have been very wide, like data analytics and program management at places like Amazon, Amex, and Uber, so really, really strong placement. On the fashion side that industry tends to hire just in time, so it’s a slightly different process and timeline. The people who join the program want to work in a variety of different industries. We have students who have gone to work in beauty, retail, and consulting at places like Coach, L’Oreal, and Macy’s. A lot of these organizations aren’t necessarily set up for traditional MBA recruiting, so a lot of emphasis is put on networking and building connections so students can get the jobs as they become available.
How is the new specialization in healthcare structured? [17:17]
It is one of over 20 specializations we offer. You can specialize in up to three or none at all, it is up to the individual. Specializations are cross-disciplinary and we also have a partnership with NYU Wagner, which is the School of Public Administration. To take any specialization you must take three courses in that area.
Before we turn to admissions and the application, what verb best describes Change at Stern to you? Why? [18:57]
For me, it’s “Change: Inspire It.” Whenever I experience inspiration it is when I am looking at something a different way – while I’m on a walk, or listening to music, or talking to someone else. We have 350 students from so many different countries, backgrounds, and experiences, and we bring them together to inspire each other.
Stern innovated in the admissions arena with its focus on EQ and its Pick 6 essay. What’s your best advice for those two distinctive elements in Stern’s MBA application? [21:14]
For EQ, it is about finding someone who can talk about your emotional intelligence, your self-awareness, how you are in terms of having difficult conversations, onboarding someone with a very different background, and interpersonal skills.
For Pick 6, we are living in a visual world right now – a picture tells a thousand words. Rather than use another essay of words, we really wanted it to be visual. This helps show uniqueness, and we see so many great things – travel, family, challenges, and it is a fun way to see their story come to life.
What do you look for now or emphasize more now when evaluating applications than you did 5 or 10 years ago? [26:36]
We look for people who share our values, and understand who we are and what we are about. EQ is something we have always looked for. We want people who want to be part of the NYC landscape, our urban advantage. We look for those with an understanding of what good business can do for society, not just looking at the bottom line. That is built into our culture. We are a school of excellence unbound by tradition. We are not going to limit ourselves because of what is expected – we are going to continue to experiment. These things are reflected in our students – they embody the values at Stern as students and as alumni.
What is the biggest challenge applicants face in presenting a compelling case for acceptance at NYU Stern’s MBA programs? [30:50]
Being their most authentic self. We often see people who feel they need to fit into a persona or there is a certain type of person we are looking for. Our program is so rich because of so many different kinds of people with different “superpowers.” Be true to yourself. In the essays be honest about what you want to do. People get stuck on averages, rather than ranges with our stats. Ask the questions of the schools, talk to students, alums, and if you want to apply, present your authentic self.
What would you have liked me to ask you? [37:04]
What I’d like people to know is that the school really is on the move. We are always thinking about what’s next, how to better prepare our students, soliciting ideas, having town halls, and welcoming students at the highest level into our offices. Combine that attitude with our location and the people that make Stern what it is, we are truly investing in every single student that comes through the door.
Linda: Many times I get a notice that a school rebranded. After 25 years as an admissions consultant, I am often skeptical or don’t really “see” the change. When I got the press release about NYU it struck me less as rebranding and more as a true reflection of the school Stern truly is.
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