Nine days, eight hours, and 24 minutes. That’s how long it took for me to relocate my family from Los Angeles, CA to State College, PA during the peak of summer 2015. Having lived within a 30 mile radius of my high school in Los Angeles my entire life, the journey was particularly momentous for me. As my husband packed our life in a black SUV that felt like we were playing a real life version of Tetris, I couldn’t help but wonder if I had made a mistake. Space saver bags stacked five high filled our car- that before that moment felt big enough for our small family of three. As the last bag went in the car, the feeling of anticipation quickly began filling my body manifesting by way of shivers and sweaty hands. Our two year old daughter, Mia, patiently watched as we secured her red tricycle to the back of the pick-up truck that would haul our SUV and where we would spend the next few days traversing the country. The summary of our trip: California to Nevada then up to Idaho and Montana to make a pit stop at Yellowstone, then back on the road through South Dakota, Minnesota and Wisconsin, down to Illinois, Indiana, then Ohio and finally arriving in Pennsylvania.

As we pulled away from the home where we’d spent the last few years, a knot quickly moved from my stomach to my throat as I realized that we were flipping the page to a new chapter in our lives. The anxiety quickly dissipated as we checked-off, out loud, all of the action items on our to-do list to ensure we hadn’t missed anything. The list that wouldn’t have been checked off so quickly without the help of 220 (as we fondly refer to our MBA administration referencing the suite number corresponding to the main office). The list included finding housing (220 gave us a detailed list of housing in the area including price, distance from the business building, and even an estimate of how much we would pay for amenities). We quickly decided on the family-friendly Cricklewood Apartments in Toftrees. When I expressed that we needed help finding employment for my husband, Stacey immediately sent me resources that we could utilize. Ann became my advocate when I expressed the need for subsidized day care. All of these seemingly small acts in aggregate showed me what would be confirmed weeks later- this was not going to be the typical MBA program, this was a family disguised as an MBA program. In what other program does the Director of Admission and the Director of Diversity Enhancement Programs skype in to your office going away celebration 3,000 miles away? Only at Smeal.

Now that I’m five weeks into my first year and finals for the first mod are a few days away, I am filled with the same sense of anticipation I felt a few weeks back. In these short weeks, I’ve already gone to three large scale career fairs, applied to more than a dozen internships, interviewed with two fortune 100 companies, and visited Florida for a national recruiting conference- all while taking five classes and maintaining a family. The seemingly impossible is happening and I no longer feel the anxiety I felt before leaving. For those of you who are out there contemplating whether or not you should take this leap; TAKE IT. I am especially speaking to those people who think they can’t do this because they have kids, or they don’t have the money, or they have too many obligations. I recited each of these excuses many times in my head and as I sit at my desk writing this blog, between putting my baby to sleep and completing my accounting homework, I am so glad I didn’t listen to that voice.

Karina Santos

I am an international student who came to the Smeal College of Business to explore new opportunities and get a broader view of the world. When I entered the MBA world, I got introduced to a new term. This term resounded in conversations with almost everyone I met. It seemed to be the predominant buzz word and I realized that it is very important for anyone who wants to pursue an MBA in the United States or elsewhere. And all this build up is for the word “NETWORKING.”

If I say that I came to know about networking only after I reached U.S.A., it would not be fair on my part. But the extent to which networking is emphasized and the context in which it is applied are very different from my previous understanding of networking.

So what is networking? Does it mean to talk with more people in a professional circle? Is networking done to get jobs? Does it mean to be active in LinkedIn and to have a lot of connections? Though there are different angles to networking, I can offer a few pointers based on how I interpret it.

Networking is creating meaningful relationships. When one tries to connect with someone in an MBA context, generally it would be for securing an internship or a job. During such interactions, one should have genuine interest and should have done some amount of prior preparation. There is so much information available in the internet today than ever before, so it is possible to gather a lot of information about the role or company before meeting a recruiter. When you do the research, you will stumble upon questions. These questions when asked during networking will have a better impact than just to simply ask ‘Tell me about your company’ or say ‘I love this role and I want to be part of your organization’. Your questions should convey to the employer that you are really interested in the company and this will enable you to have an engaging conversation. Time is of essence, especially in an MBA program, when a myriad of activities are in front of you each screaming its own deadline. So it is up to the individual to prioritize and do some company research to have a fruitful conversation.

Another aspect that I would like to touch upon is that networking should not be viewed as just a transaction. One should understand that the person with whom you are talking to is not just a recruiter but also a human being. It should not be just a ‘question and answer session’ and it should be more of a conversation. It is good to get information but that alone should not be the focus of the conversation. One should actively contribute during the conversation rather than just getting inputs from the other person, as it makes the conversation more lively and meaningful. Once the conversation is over, it is also important to build that relationship. One simple way of doing this is to stay in touch with the person and share your experiences to develop a connection with the person.

To conclude, I truly believe that professional relationships will last longer and will be meaningful when one thinks about them beyond just a job.

-Srimaan Gurusamy, Penn State Smeal MBA ’17

My name is Henry O’Connor. I’m a first year MBA student at The Pennsylvania State University, Smeal College of Business. I am writing this blog post at the start of the second week of the program. To be clear this is the second week of classes – not the second week of orientation. While it would be interesting to compare and contrast the feelings I had at those two very different aspects of the program, my primary focus for this post is to emphasis the team aspect of the program and my team’s first couple of experiences.

There are a lot of perks in the Smeal MBA program. First, we have small class sizes. My class is just 67 hopefuls, 33/34 people per section. The day is broken down into two courses with a 30 minutes break in between called “coffee buzz”. Tea, coffee and hot chocolate are provided most days and often there are company sponsored breakfast items. Of course, by the first day you already know most of your cohort by name and a little about each of person due to the two week orientation. Coffee buzz is a great time to network and expand upon these newly founded friendships. Employers will also visit and provide networking opportunities.

Another networking opportunity and major perk of the Smeal MBA program is your assigned team. Key aspects of the program are built upon teamwork so you’re also broken down into small teams. My team is a group of five. We represent a diverse professional and cultural background. I love my team! We complement and support each other and I’m already sure we will be a great success. Speaking of success, before you know it classes are over for the day and you’re running off to events, Graduate Assistantships or maybe even dinner if you can find the time. The first week was possibly one of the busiest weeks I’ve ever had.

-Henry O’Connor, Penn State Smeal MBA ’17

O'Connor 2 9-22-15 O'Connor 9-22-15

It’s really hard to believe that we are second years now. Most of us spent the past summer interning at different companies. I spent my summer interning at AccuWeather, Inc. as a Product Management Graduate Intern in their Digital Media Department and focused primarily on setting up the end-to-end processes for partner product implementations. Below are the key takeaways that I would like to share from my internship at AccuWeather.

1) Setting up the expectations – It is essential to set up the right expectations with your supervisor in terms of the deliverables and work hours. This could also extend to the company culture and decorum.

2) Scope of the internship project – A lot of internship projects at big corporations are well defined. However, a lot of mid sized organizations do not have a well-defined internship program. It is an intern’s responsibility to seek clarification and approval on the scope of his/her project after discussing it with his/her supervisor as early as possible.

3) Not just meeting people but making a personal connection – My project at AccuWeather involved a lot of cross-functional collaboration. I was fortunate enough that whoever I interacted with was always willing to take out the time and extend help. I think the thing that helped me was that I was able to make a deep connection with the people I was interacting with. This actually helped me when the time of my final presentation came, as everyone supported my recommendations and rallied behind me.

4) Get buy-in before your presentation – The last thing that really helped me avoid awkwardness in my final presentation was that I met all the stakeholders in the final week of the internship and gave them a rough idea of what I had achieved and the recommendations that were to follow. This avoided a lot of potential confusion or embarrassment, as my recommendations did not come as a shock to the key stakeholders.

Rahul Ramteke,
Class of 2016

For a school that produces many consultants every year, it is only normal to conclude the first year of studies by organizing a case competition. The Executive Panel case competition is first-year capstone case competition, which is organized at the end of first academic year. The competition is an opportunity for the MBA students to utilize the skills that they have gained and honed in the first year of studies to solve a business case.

This year students representing 13 teams analyzed a new Harvard case study, focused on Rail Transportation in the United States. The case focused particularly on a ‘Class I’ railroad company operating in the eastern United States. The case was quite ambiguous and there was no right answer. The teams had a bit more than two days of time to work on this case. After analyzing the case for two days they had to present their business strategy to a panel of senior alumni and corporate partners.

In addition to the commemorative ‘Nittany Lion’ trophies, the competition winners were awarded a total of $5,000. This competition was an opportunity for the students not only to exhibit the newly gained MBA skills but also to network with alumni and corporate partners who are generous and supportive.

Congratulations to this year’s winning teams!

-Naveen Raj, Penn State Smeal MBA Class of ’16


The MBA program is often so rigorous that at times you don’t realize the first year is going by in a flash. It is rightly said that the first MBA year is like a roller-coaster ride. There is no time for contemplation or any other type of thing. You are so busy doing assignments, taking classes or looking for an internship opportunity that when you get some time to breathe, you realize that the first year is almost over. I want to give a small snapshot of how the first year has progressed so far. It all started with an orientation that set the tone for the next two years of MBA life. Then suddenly we were all taking classes and spending most of the time doing our assignments. The first mod is something that many students felt was the toughest. Although it has a few easier classes, others such as Accounting are the ones that challenge a lot of the students. My advice for the incoming class is to familiarize themselves with the accounting concepts, so they don’t have to sweat it out once the semester starts. Mod 1 is also a time when a lot of big career fairs are offered. One of them is the NBMBA career fair. It was held in Atlanta in 2014. I had some success at this fair, as I was able to make a lot of new contacts and expand my network. My advice for the incoming class would be to start early by doing a lot of research on the available positions and companies before going to any of the career fairs. The first mod ends quickly, and by that time everyone kind of gets into the MBA flow.

The second mod started with a celebratory mood for the Indian festival of lights, i.e. Diwali. Everyone participated with great enthusiasm and it was fun to watch fellow classmates dance to some of the latest Bollywood musical hits. We took some heavy quant-based classes in this mod, and learned a great deal from the best professors around. During the second Mod, the campus recruiting process gains momentum with a lot of companies such as Dell, Deloitte, etc. recruiting on campus from the MBA class. My advice for the incoming class would be to start early by working closely with the Career Services. Half way through this mod, every one of us was already looking forward to the winter break that was on its way. A lot of people spent at least a few days outside of State College during the winter break. I went to Miami along with a few friends and enjoyed the Florida sun on South Beach. A lot of people visited the Bahamas on a cruise liner. Before we knew, the winter break was also over.

Mod 3 consisted of a few quant-based classes and it was also the mod where we could select electives. I took a Finance elective titled Financial Analysis and Valuation by Prof. Muscarella, which I enjoyed thoroughly. We also learned a lot about global business through our global perspectives class, which was a base for our Global Immersion. This was also the time when we celebrated the Lunar New Year with great excitement. Most of us witnessed the Dragon dance for the first time in our lives during that celebration. Finally, everyone from the first year class travelled to their global destinations for the global immersion program. The destinations for this year were San Francisco, Lima, Shanghai and Johannesburg. I opted to go to San Francisco, as I am fascinated by Silicon Valley. The trip turned out to be a great experience as we visited many companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook. It was an experience that I will definitely cherish for the rest of my life. This brought us to the spring break, which again went by in a flash and led us to the fourth and the final mod for the year.

We are almost half way through the fourth mod now, and the first years are looking forward to go to various locations for their summer internships. No doubt it has been a roller coaster ride but as we look back at the year gone by so far, we see that not only did we learn a lot of new information, but we also made a lot of new friends. With hopes in our hearts, we now look forward to summer and the final year of MBA life.

-Rahul Ramteke, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

On April 23rd and 24th, a group of 15 Smeal MBAs attended a leadership immersion trip to the US Marines Officer Candidate School (OCS) in Quantico, Virginia. Joining other MBA students from UPenn and Cornell, the group got to experience first-hand some of the training required for Marine officers. The immersion is designed to demonstrate some of the leadership principles instilled through the OCS, understand how decision-making is affected in high-stress environments, and teach the group more about the philosophy of the Marine Corps.

The first part of the immersion was described as “transition training” and happens at the beginning, from the moment the busses arrive on-base. Drill sergeants immediately set the tone of the evening by telling the group the expectation is that they will be referred to by their rank, as it bears the same importance to them as an advanced degree does to us. Furthermore, anytime you were addressed by a sergeant, an acknowledgement response is required. This is the idea of “manners” in the Marines, and is somewhat different than the daily interactions in the civilian world. From here, orders and directions came quicker and quicker during the check-in process and while we had to set up the barracks area for the 1-night stay. This involved gathering some gear we would need in the morning, such as helmets and canteens, and making our beds military-style. Any lapse in how the sheets were tucked or the blanket folded caused us to go back into the night air and run around a large parking lot for a while. This activity served two purposes. First, it created an element of stress for us to operate under. Second, it demonstrated the standard of excellence that is strived for in the USMC, even in activities as mundane and making a bed.

After about 3 hours of sleep, we were greeted by our drill sergeant “hosts” for the morning routine of folding the sheets and blankets perfectly to be turned in. We had some light training as we ran back to a central building with an auditorium. There were sighs of relief as we found we would be sitting for a few speaker sessions about the Marines’ war philosophy and a preview of the day’s events. For us, this announcement meant that there would not be yelling or running, at least for an hour or two. The commanding officer of the OCS talked to us about the significance of the immersion, both for us and them. For us, it was a rare glimpse into the live on-base that most civilians never get. Then he stressed how valuable it was to the Marines that we have that inside-perspective due to likelihood that many of the attendees may be working in the government sector and influencing decisions that affect the USMC in our future careers.

After the morning sessions, the group realized the events for the day would be a great experience, regardless of how much sleep we were working on. We would get to experience the ropes course, a combat-style obstacle course, and a series of scenarios designed to test leadership reactions under constrained time and resources. We were placed on small teams of 4-5 MBAs with 1 Marine as an instructor and mentor for the day to give us support and instructions as we completed the challenges. The ropes course was much as we could expect. We worked our way through a series of obstacles like climbing rope nets and shimmying across a line from platform to platform.
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Any mistake could lead to a 10 foot fall into a safety net below us. The combat course was much more unique. We were geared up with helmets and training rifles as we moved through waist deep water, under barbed wire, and slid through narrow cement tubes. The team moved through as a cohesive unit, just like a team of Marines would.
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The third event for the day was called the Leadership Reaction Course. This was referred to as a “playground” by a couple of the Marines but proved to be a challenging, and sometimes frustrating, experience! As a team, we were given 10 minutes to solve whichever scenario was given to us by our instructor. Although they seemed easy enough, each was made more difficult by the lack of resources needed to complete the task and the mental fog from sleep deprivation. It was designed to test our leadership instincts in areas such as delegation, motivation, and problem-solving.

The immersion concluded with a reception at the USMC museum outside the OCS. This was a great opportunity to talk casually with the new friends we had met from other schools and the Marines that had facilitates such a unique and valuable 2-day immersion. We shared our stories of the day over food and drinks and heard from the various organizers of the trip before everybody parted ways back to our respective cities and schools. The ride home was quiet as everybody slept after an exhausting day, but there was no doubt about the excitement present whenever we discussed this trip. A majority of the attendees will finish our MBA in just over a week, and the Quantico immersion was a perfect chance to make another life-long memory with classmates and friends.
group photo

The 9th annual ACG Cup is a competition for graduate students focused on the field of mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advising, and private equity. ACG stands for The Association for Corporate Growth and is a global organization with over 14,000 members that is comprised of middle-market dealmakers and business leaders who invest in growth and build companies.

In order to qualify for the Cup, our team initially had to place first in a local competition among Smeal MBAs. We were given approximately two weeks to work on this first round case, which centered on evaluating a number of strategic alternatives for a company composed of media and apparel segments. Activist shareholders were pressuring the parent company to divest their apparel section and focus on media, while, at the same time, there was internal interest in making an offer for an outside apparel company. After numerous valuations and scenario analyses, our team ultimately recommended making an offer for the outside apparel company. Following valuable feedback from this round and a first place finish, our team took on the regional challenge in Philadelphia along with finalists from Wharton, Temple, Delaware, Drexel, LaSalle, and Villanova.

The final round took place a month later, and we were given new information about a series of events that had occurred since the first round case. We were also given a new angle to examine the case from, as we were now to take on the role of a private equity firm tasked with making a decision about whether to make an offer for the parent company. Our team recommended a leveraged buyout of the parent company, and provided information about price, the structure of the deal, expected returns, and exit opportunities for the private equity firm. We also evaluated the earlier strategic alternatives discussed in the first case based on the new information we received. Our presentation was well-received by the judges, who were impressed by the range of valuation methods used, our consideration of both quantitative and qualitative factors, and our sensitivity analyses that modeled returns under a range of scenarios. We received constructive feedback as well about areas of our presentation we could improve. At the end of the day, the judges announced the three finalist teams, which were Temple, Wharton, and our team.

The next week, we travelled back to Philadelphia for the award ceremony to hear which place we received. After a networking session and panel on exit options, the results were announced and we took home the 2nd prize award. Wharton received the top honor, and Temple was given 3rd. We were very happy with the results, as, unlike some of the other teams, no one on our team had any private equity experience. We learned a vast amount as a team in a short amount of time, and are incredibly grateful to the sponsor KPMG, the judges, our ACG coordinator Jen Simons, and Penn State’s MBA office for the support. A special thank-you goes out to our finance professor, Chris Muscarella, who provided guidance throughout the competition. We hope a team from Penn State returns for the 10th edition of the ACG Cup next year and exceeds the precedent set by our group this year!

-David DeFelice, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15ACG photo

Weather is an unavoidable topic if you live in State College. I was born and raised in a small city in northeastern China that shares the same latitude with State College. It was a small and cold city with lots of snow in the winter. When I came to State College, I had heard a lot about how much snow State College receives from December to March. As a child, I thought I had seen enough snow until I spent my first winter in State College.

I remember the first snow came in late October. It was a pleasant day in the morning but suddenly got colder towards the afternoon. At that time I was working at the MBA program office and heard people cheer about the first snow. I went to the window and saw small snow flakes flying in the air. When I went downstairs to the MBA commons, I saw my classmates who had come from India and they were so excited and showed me the pictures of the snow. I realized how exciting that moment was to them as it was the first snow fall for most of them. Although I thought I had seen enough snow earlier in my life, I still felt happy because of the excitement.

From December, the snow started to get thicker. I still remember the day we had the heaviest snow in Eastern America. When I woke up in the morning and looked outside, everything had turned white! It was an amazing sight. I almost felt as if I was in a scene from the movie “Frozen” and Queen Elsa was somewhere in State College. Many students in the MBA program gathered together for snow fights and also made snowmen. These have become great memories for me.

However, despite the beautiful scenes, the snow made our lives a little harder. From December to February, I clearly remember the first thing most of the people did in the morning after breakfast was to dig their cars out; people wore heavy boots that were wet and salty. But one thing really impressed me is the professionalism of people who worked even in the snow. For example, the buses were never late for long even in the most terrible days. Also, the snow was removed really fast and clean by the professionals. These made our lives much easier.

Spring is almost here now. As we will spend another year in State College, I will definitely miss this snowy and beautiful winter till the next one. For next winter, I plan to enjoy the snow by taking some photos, and I will absolutely be more professional walking and living around.

-Yufei Han, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

The 2nd annual Deloitte Supply Chain Challenge is a case competition sponsored by Deloitte Consulting each year. It is a two round structure, with the first round taking place on your individual campus. In the first round, you compete against other teams from your university, with the winning team going forward to the second round facing other universities. This year seven universities participated; Georgia Tech, University of Tennessee, BYU, Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, and Rutgers, hosted at the UT campus. The first round was a classic Harvard Business School Case focusing on a Waste to Energy Plant on the West Coast. Our team gave a strong presentation, using data only where available, and building a recommendation on how to proceed. After taking first place here at Penn State, we prepared for two weeks before flying down to Knoxville, TN for the second round. The second round started off in an unusual manner. We went down expecting another Harvard Business School case, but we were handed a 2 paragraph Request for Proposal Document. The case was designed as a consulting simulation with Deloitte consulting practitioners acting as supervisors and company executives while checking in with us throughout our efforts. We were tasked with providing a response to a request for consulting services from Vitamix, a personal blender company looking to take advantage or current market conditions in the European Market. We had several deliverables throughout the 16 hours from receiving the case until final copies were due. We worked to find as much relevant outside information to pair with the information we were able to extract from “company executives (Deloitte Consultants). Our final presentation was successful, with our team approaching the pitch with a “This is what we would like to explore for you” method as opposed to making a recommendation. This ultimately helped our team place 2nd overall above The University of Tennessee, BYU, Arizona State, Carnegie Mellon, and Rutgers while placing behind Georgia Tech. It was a honor to represent Penn State and the Smeal MBA program in front of one of our programs largest employers. We would like to thank all of the staff in 220, especially Erik Orient and Sandy Simler, for their support throughout the whole process.

– James Donato, Penn State Smeal MBA ‘16

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