When I first started to investigate b-schools for my MBA, there was a number of criteria I wanted to follow (not in any particular order):

  1. Close to home – Picture Rocks, PA.
  2. Tuition cost – Mitigation through scholarships, graduate assistantships, or fellowships.
  3. Family friendly – School and community, as I am married with two boys.
  4. Healthcare concentration – Absolutely required.
  5. Institutional ranking – Must be a well-recognized and accredited.


After I had been accepted to Penn State Smeal, I didn’t even wait to hear back from all the other schools to which I had applied. I knew it was the best fit for me, my family, and my career.


It seemed like an eternity before August finally rolled around in 2015. I was so excited to start the program after being accepted! Then almost as soon as the first semester of my graduate experience began, it was over. It seemed like time had been accelerated, just like I hoped my career would be by obtaining an MBA. My days were jam-packed with classes in the morning followed by my graduate assistantship office hours in the afternoon. But that wasn’t it. Afterwards, I would have career fairs, company information sessions, networking events, career coaching, association meetings, and many other MBA related enterprises. I was totally immersed in the program. There was no lack of activities to fill my time and prepare me for the future.


Overall, the first semester went very well. I acquired an internship for summer 2016 with Deloitte Federal – Technology Services. I did well in all my classes and in most aspects, the program has surpassed my expectations. I like the class format and the courses we take the first semester. We have great classroom facilities and ample study space designated as MBA-only space, too. If you ever get a chance to visit campus, be sure to check it all out.


I love the Penn State, Smeal MBA program and I’m not just saying that because of the generous tuition waiver or the amazing community setting that is State College. Penn State Smeal meets and exceeds all of my MBA requirements. The program is engaging, it stretches me, it enables me, and perhaps most of all, every time I walk onto this campus, I know there are over 600,000 alumni that have my back. I also know that if I give the program everything I have and properly utilize the vast resources available to me I will be successful. Thanks, Penn State Smeal for a great first semester!

Henry O’Connor
Class of 2017 MBA Candidate

O'Connor 2 9-22-15





As an international student, career prospects were an important criteria for me to select a business school. During my research I found that a number of companies, in which I am interested, recruit international students at Smeal. Theses existing recruiting relationships are one of the reasons why I choose Smeal. My preparation for the internship search began even before I reached State College. When I was in my home country, the Smeal career services team helped me refine my resume and the process took a number of iterations to transform my resume into a polished one. Career services staff also helped me to start thinking about my post-MBA goals. During the MBA program orientation, there was so much focus on helping us understand ways to secure and ace an interview. Career services also conducted mock career fairs and interviews to simulate the actual scenarios. Once career services orientation ended, the Penn State Supply Chain Career Fair took place during the initial weeks of the program. All of the prior practice made me well prepared for the career fair. It was an opportunity to put into action what I learned in a couple of weeks. I secured several interviews during the career fair and it was a good learning experience for me. As I was pulled back into the fast moving MBA world, I attended a few more interviews but did not convert any of them into internship offers.

I understood that I needed more interview practice because the interview process here is different from how it is in my country. I practiced several mock interviews with the career services team, second year students and my classmates. Practice interviews helped me to identify and concentrate on areas which I needed to improve. The practice also gave me more confidence.

The concept of “company culture” was new to me. The companies were not only interested in determining whether a candidate had the required skill set but were also gauging whether the candidate would be a good fit for their corporate culture. After knowing this, I started researching companies to learn more about their culture. I talked with employees of the organizations to get their perspectives and talked with my seniors who interned with different companies to learn from their experiences. My research and networking helped me secure an internship. My seniors were very supportive in helping me. Their input and feedback helped a lot of students in my class perform better in interviews and more importantly, helped us to understand what companies look for in a candidate when it comes to the “fit factor.” The entire experience demonstrated to me the value of the collaborative culture at Smeal. The internship search taught me that it is important to remain patient and keep trying without giving up.

Srimaan Gurusamy, Class of 2017


Celebrating Internship and Job Offers during a recent Smeal MBA Ball Drop.

I am writing this blog during our Thanksgiving break in 2015. Feels like it was just yesterday that we completed our internships and started our 2nd year but it is hard to believe that it has actually been 3 months since we started this semester. Now when I look back at the year gone by, it actually amazes me and makes me realize that everyone in my class is a changed person. Everyone has evolved both personally and professionally. Compared to the first year, the second year has been relatively much easier. By this time almost everyone is pretty certain about his or her career paths. This means that everyone knows what concentrations they will take and accordingly what classes are the best ones for them. Our schedules are not quite as rigorous as they were in the first year. Nonetheless, time really flies and looking ahead, I see that I only have 10 more days of school left before the winter break and one last semester to go before I graduate.


Most of the 2nd years returned from their summer internships with full time job offers. This means we have so much more time on our hands to actually do the things we like. Also, the class schedule is much more flexible as all the classes in the 2nd year are electives and you just take the classes that interest you or the classes that count towards your choice of concentration. We also get the choice of making our own teams. This means we can team up with other students who are more compatible with us. This year we also played mentoring roles for the incoming batch of first year students. It has been a rewarding and a satisfying experience. Similar to the last year, this year also included its fair share of activities and festivities. We have celebrated Diwali and Thanksgiving had many other fun activities such as a football game between the 1st and 2nd years.


Looking back at the time passed so far in the MBA program, I realize that I have learned so much, made so many new friends and most importantly identified and worked upon the weaknesses that I never knew I had. It has been a long journey but it has also been a satisfying one and the more I look back, I feel that it was just yesterday when it all started and think about the days to come. However, we still have a long way to go.


Rahul Ramteke
Class of 2016


Thanksgiving Dinner 2015

In b-school, I find myself fluctuating between various ups and downs. You have to catch up when you fall behind on your homework; keep up in class as the professor teaches a new concept and you may look up to those who have gone before you. There are also downs. We take down time each week, we down our lunches quickly to get to the next assignment, and don’t worry about anyone looking down on us after completing this rigorous program. So how do we keep track of it all and balance the ups with the downs?


One great way to prevent the need to catch up is by keeping up. In the MBA program the one thing we all wish we had was more time. Alas, time is finite. We all run out of it at the same pace day in and day out. Nothing can stop it. The best way to deal with this is by keeping a schedule. Whether you keep a printed day planner or a digital calendar make sure all of your waking hours are accounted for. In fact, it’s probably a good idea to track your resting hours as well. By scheduling everything you need to accomplish, from breakfast to bedtime, you can allocate the right amount of time for each task.


In the MBA program I constantly find myself making trades. I will trade breakfast for a little more sleep in the morning, or trade study time for career research, and I often find myself trading homework for family time. All in all, it’s about trading up to ensure the time is optimally spent. This system of trading can lead to the best or worst results. Because I was hoping to capitalize on the best results, I decided to find a way to keep up.


In order to keep up so I don’t have to catch up, I track my progress through a master assignment spreadsheet (see below). Each column represents a course. The assignments along with their due dates are listed in chronological order. If I need to mark something important, I highlight it. When something is finished, I check it off the list and move on to the next assignment based on the corresponding due date. See schedule below.


There are obviously many other methods that may work for you, but the important thing is to keep track of everything so you don’t get behind. By keeping up you can have more down time and much less stress. Stress is a down-er, don’t let it ruin your MBA experience. Keep your Ups and Downs balanced.


Henry O’Connor, MBA Class of 2017



(Adapted from a template posted by Matthew Kuo on MBAExcel.com)

Diwali for Yufei's BlogOnce the new semester begins, so does the festival season! The first two festivals are very exotic. In September, we had the Mid-Autumn festival which is celebrated by the Chinese, followed by Diwali which is celebrated by the Indians.

Chinese people value family reunions. In many Chinese festivals, children go back to their parents’ home and celebrate the holiday together, like the spring festival. The Mid-Autumn festival is another such festival shared with family and it normally takes place in the middle of September, August 15th in the Luna Calendar. Chinese people believe, and also supported by science, the moon is the roundest and biggest on that day in a year. “Round” also means reunion in Chinese. It’s such a sweet and warm holiday! In the Mid-Autumn festival, Chinese people also eat “Moon Cake”, a round and sweet pancake made of flour, sugar and five kinds of nuts. Although they are not at home, the Chinese Smeal MBAs celebrate the holiday together. They bought Moon Cakes from a local Chinese grocery store and enjoyed the moonlight during the night. This year, the moon was even bigger than before!

Diwali means the festival of the lights. In India, people light millions of lights and fires to celebrate the holiday. At Smeal, each year, a party is hosted by the Indian MBAs and all students will contribute and join. This year, the party was in the Hub. It started with traditional Indian appetizers. We all enjoined the delicious and flavorful food so much! Then the Indian cultural program started. There were dances, songs and a fashion show. The Indian students are so good at dancing and singing. They dressed in traditional Indian clothes and accessories. All Smeal MBA students joined in on the dancing and the fashion show. During the show, we also enjoyed an Indian buffet catered by local Indian restaurants. For our second year MBAs, this was our last Diwali festival which we will ever celebrate with our classmates. We will miss it so much!

Soon after Diwali, we celebrated Halloween, in which we’ll have the best costume of the year award. Soon we will be celebrating Thanksgiving and then Christmas. This is the best season in a year! Most importantly, we enjoy the season with our classmates and these memories are so precious to us.

Yufei Han, Class of 2016

The second year of the MBA program, I feel, is more fun than the first year of the program. The start of the year is exciting as we get to reunite with our classmates, whom we did not see during the summer internship. We also get to meet a bunch of new program candidates. The classes in the second year are more focused towards each student’s area of interest so the courses are more interesting.

We just completed our negotiation immersion between the modules five and six. It is a one week (four days) course that provides more insights into negotiation. This course was more of a preview to the elective course “Complex Negotiation” offered in module six. During the course, we had very interesting discussions about several aspects of negotiation. Before coming to Smeal, while working within the procurement function of my company, I had negotiated various business issues with external stakeholders. However during the course I learned several new techniques through which the negotiations could be made more effective. During this short course, we got to undergo several practical exercises on negotiations with our other class members through which we could apply some of the newly acquired knowledge in negotiations.

Courses in the strategic leadership concentration helped me learn more about the finer aspects of organizational behavior which are essential to master in order to be successful as a business leader. The subject matter is also very difficult to learn quickly outside of the business school. I would highly recommend that all the aspiring candidates dive deep into this concentration while in an MBA program.

Varun Tiwari
Class of 2016

Entering into the second year of my MBA journey, I now have some flexibility and time in my schedule to enjoy the beauty of State College along with the surrounding area. In my opinion, State College is one of the most beautiful college towns in the United States. The American Institute for Economic Research ranks State College #5 for Top 20 College Towns.


During my first year of the MBA program, I didn’t get to see how beautiful the campus and surrounding area was probably because I was too focused on my academic work and my personal career development. I spent most of my time in my apartment and in the business building. I should also include the CATA bus, which linked the two places where I spent most of my time.


Returning from my internship to State College this fall, I was simply amazed by the gentle and golden sunshine that poured onto the lush green lawn. The lawn and the bright sunshine made the business building even more inviting than usual.


I’ve taken more time to explore the area beyond campus. The MBA program staff held an orientation event at Stone Valley, which is about 20 miles away from campus. My classmate and I were able to go back to visit and explore Stone Valley on our own.


I didn’t expect such a nice place to be so close to where I have lived for one year. Words could not describe how enjoyable it was. I’ve included a picture for your reference. The longer I stay in State College, the more I am into this beautiful college town.



Stone Valley

Hao Wang, MBA Candidate, Class of 2016

As obscure as it may sound, I believe this is knowing what success should be in the most definitive way, creating the most deliberative path towards achieving it, and then using the best of resources available to you towards those ends. The intentionality of success—put in other terms—is knowing what you want, going for what you want, all while having the unrelenting support and faith of a dedicated personnel behind you. It will be a lot of hard work still getting to the success, but it should or might feel effortless.

When Stacey called me with my prestigious Smeal MBA admittance, what I knew was that I had achieved something that had been a long sought dream of mine, from when I was a researcher at Harvard and through my stint in the Army. What I didn’t know was how dedicated 220 was to my success and to the success of every single person walking through the doors as a MBA candidate. It almost feels as though one’s very own success is 220’s success.

Actually, it is. 220 has not been secretive about this. My success as a student and as an eventual Smeal alum, in unfettered ways, is everyone in 220’s success, ultimately. I am sure 220 enjoys this place of influence—220 houses the core of the Smeal MBA program by the way, from Sandy to towering Mike to Emily to mention but a few.

Two weeks of orientation and two weeks into classes, everything seems very well planned and intentional. The few classes in MOD I all tie into each other one way or another. There has never been a better time or place to discover and learn how deliberate one can be about success. The support of 220 personnel allows you access to a wealth of industry knowledge and experiences that includes the successes and failures they had along the way. You are made aware of what success looks like in your chosen career that you are not paralyzingly consumed by the idea, but encouraged by the possibilities that abound.

Before orientation, a few things seemed impossible. A few days into orientation, what seemed crazy suddenly became doable—built on straws and ropes of confidence and a team of people willing to work regardless of limited resources. A few endeavors like dropping unboiled eggs from unbelievable heights without breaking them, teach you the value in possibilities and having the right attitude, stemming from a team building activity. It is apparent to me the message behind the fun tasks: engage, cooperate and conquer. The best minds can be at your beck and call and should in fact be recruited. That’s leadership in essence.

I am oblivious to how other programs run, but what I do know is my success and the success of every Smeal MBA student is guaranteed. With the dedication of 220, the backing of 630,000 strong Penn State alumni, and that Smeal education, success should be taken for granted. Now ask me again in about 2 years what the intentionality of success is, and it will be even clearer.

Bisola Taiwo

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

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