It gives me great pleasure to welcome Alex Lawrence, Assistant Dean of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at UCLA Anderson School of Management, which just happens to be where I earned my MBA. Alex is a fellow Anderson alum, who earned his MBA in 1999. Prior to that he earned a bachelor’s and master’s in electrical engineering. After earning his MBA, he worked in management consulting for four years and then returned to UCLA Anderson as Director of the Riordan Program. In 2012 he became first the director and then the Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions. Welcome!
Can you give us an overview of Anderson’s full-time MBA program? [1:50]
It’s a great program in a fantastic location – Los Angeles – that offers so many opportunities. We have recruiting strengths in management consulting, finance, real estate, entertainment. Students have a flexible curriculum, and an amazing career services center. There are so many opportunities for those who attend Anderson and become part of the family.
What’s new or changing at Anderson? [2:55]
We’re building a new building! Marion Anderson Hall – we’re breaking ground soon and we expect it to be ready in 26 months. It will be fantastic, building on what we already have.
We have a new leadership development program, which launched last year. And our social development specialization just launched.
We changed the start of the school year for first year students. Now we bring first year students to campus in August (instead of September). They appreciate the chance to get used to the environment earlier – they take one course and have an orientation before fall quarter starts at the end of September. It also means that recruiting and info sessions are spread out over an extra month and a half.
What is the nature of the leadership development program? [8:10]
It gives students the opportunity to learn from their peers and from staff, and to build a rapport with senior leadership. They get insight on qualities they want to develop. They all take the Berkman Assessment Tool. It’s an opportunity to get feedback from a different perspective from the classroom.
In the classroom, there’s not always an opportunity for them to share all their skills – but working with the coaches they can get guidance on the opportunities they’re seeking.
UCLA Anderson is proud of its culture where students share success, think fearlessly and drive change. Let’s unwrap each of those core qualities. What do they mean? [11:10]
Share success – when you collaborate to win, that’s when you share success. We have our students collaborate in learning teams. We want them to support each other. Second year students serve as coaches for first years. And alumni remain supportive and involved – I’ve definitely been the recipient of that support.
Thinking fearlessly – our entire community is fearless in thinking about opportunities and innovations. When you look at the accomplishments of our alumni, there are countless examples of how they’re thinking of how to do business differently and respond to challenges.
Driving change – this really comes from the idea that we’re pragmatic, action-oriented. We measure ourselves against results. Being part of the community as a student, alumnus, and part of the staff, I see how these qualities come out in the community. There’s something different about UCLA Anderson.
Anderson has had a capstone project since before I got there. It was then called Field Study. It has by now morphed into Applied Management Research, and recently Anderson added the BCO, Business Creation Option. Can you describe these options? [17:10]
Anderson was the first b-school to create this project over 50 years ago. It’s a 20-week project where our students partner with a client to solve a key strategic business challenge that the client has. The client could be a Fortune 500 company, a small business, a startup, etc. It’s a fantastic opportunity to have a chance to solve real world problems and gain experience. And it’s not localized to Southern California – there are opportunities across the US and internationally.
The Business Creation Option is for more entrepreneurially-minded students. Each year 20-23 teams participate. Students get input from faculty and exposure to the VC community. We have a number of success stories. Over 50% of the BCO projects have launched! An example of a success story is Vow to Be Chic – a designer bridesmaid rental site.
You mentioned Anderson’s location – how is it an advantage? [23:20]
Many times people think automatically about media and entertainment, and that’s definitely a strength of being in LA, but it’s much more than that. The student experience is very rich – people are taking advantage of academic year internships in all industries. The classroom environment is exciting: we have lecturers who bring in their industry experience. And the Dean brings industry leaders to speak and meet with students.
Recruiting is changing. There are more recruiters, and more opportunities, but the hiring path is more diverse and splintered than it was ten years ago. How is Anderson adapting to those changes? [30:00]
The career center does over 4,000 advising sessions for our students. We have “day on the job” events coast to coast. We prep students for video interviews, and help them get their resumes ready. And we begin those relationships even before students arrive on campus.
We hear from recruiters that Anderson students are as competitive as students from other top programs, and they’re also really strong team players.
UCLA Anderson accepted approximately one out of every four applicants. Who gets the interview invitations? From those invited to interview, who gets accepted? How do you winnow it down? [34:40]
We really want to bring in individuals who resonate with our culture – people who show evidence of working in teams and being collaborative.
Our class profile is on our website. People often ask if they need to have a certain GMAT/GPA. We do admit people with lower scores, and deny some with higher scores.
We ask, how will this person perform academically and contribute to the community? We’re not looking for the “lone wolf” profile. Academically, you have to be competitive – in the range – but it’s a holistic process overall.
UCLA has a new essay question. Can you share the question and some advice? [38:00]
We have two essays this year. We’re not trying to make it more complicated – we’re just giving the applicants more opportunity to showcase why Anderson is the right choice for them.
Essay 1: Describe your short-term and long-term career goals. How can UCLA Anderson contribute to your career development?
Most people pursue an MBA to advance their careers – how does UCLA Anderson fit into your career trajectory?
Essay 2: Describe how you would contribute to the UCLA Anderson community.
The people who are most successful have done their due diligence. We’re a very open campus – visitors can attend a class, meet professors, potentially meet an admissions officer. We travel as well for info sessions. Once you start learning what it’s like to be part of the Anderson community, think about how you would fit into it.
We know not everyone can visit, but our website has a lot of information, videos, student ambassadors you can contact. Learn why they chose Anderson. Learn about speakers, conferences, etc. It’s great when you can start talking to people who’ve been there and done it – you can really visualize yourself as a member of the community.
Any other changes to the application? [43:40]
There’s starting to be a move to a common letter of rec. I can’t talk about the nuts and bolts of it now. But at the end of the day, schools all want to learn similar information from a letter of rec.
Do you have advice for people planning ahead to apply in 2018? [45:55]
It takes a while to get the standardized test score you really want – it takes some prep. So start thinking about that.
If possible, visit the campus. Starting in October, you can visit our campus and visit classes. Start talking to people who’ve gone to b-school and have an MBA – people learn about b-school from people who’ve done it already.
Start looking at the elements of the application itself – for multiple schools. Some schools have video essays and different interview formats. So it’s good to be aware.
If they’re not sure of their career direction, should they take time to clarify that direction this year, and maybe do informational interviews, etc? [50:25]
Definitely, definitely. The strongest applicants are those who have a sense of what their goals are.
Having an awareness of what the career is and the skillset it demands is very important. Go a couple of layers below the surface.
Finding the right fit from a school standpoint is important – you need to know if the school will help you get to your ultimate goal.
What do you wish people would know about Anderson? [52:25]
They don’t realize we’re not just an entertainment school. People here go into tech, finance, consulting… They start their own businesses. LA is an incredibly vibrant startup/small business scene. It’s more about what you want to do.
We have a worldwide alumni network and a strong brand.
Being in an environment where people are not just going to be part of the status quo is exciting.
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