Most incoming students might be probing what MBA School is like? I asked the same question roughly two years ago. Here is my MBA experience and hopefully you find this helpful.

-       Know what you want to achieve out of MBA School. You won’t have a lot of flexibility in the first 3 modules in the courses you select, but you will have 5 modules to take courses that interest and challenge you. Don’t settle for the “easy A” courses; challenge yourself by taking difficult courses in areas you are focusing on, and also on courses that will help you in the future even if those courses aren’t within your concentration. E.g. you may not concentrate in finance, but taking financial valuation course will definitely help you in whatever concentration you have.

-       Decide the industry and discipline you want to focus on. You can’t blindly come to MBA and try to figure out the industry and discipline you want after you get here. Make sure to have your top 20-30 companies in the industries of your choice. Not only this, try to include (if you can) the specific functions within your choice of field. E.g. don’t just say “I want to focus in finance” – this is too broad. Try to be more specific and select the area that interests you within finance.

-       Networking is an essential skill you need to have whether you like it or not. Networking literally begins in the orientation period. This will continue in the internship and full time job process. You will even continue networking after you get a full time job. So whether you are introvert or extrovert, just be good at networking and make it seem like natural. Like everything else, it is all about practice and it is okay if you aren’t good at it initially. You will improve as time goes by if you put in the effort.

-       Try to be good at time management and prioritize things. You will have lots of opportunities and also lots of challenges – you can’t afford to do them all. You have to pass the tough first year courses and curriculum schedule, internships, full time job etc. On the other hand, you will have a once in a lifetime chance of meeting smart students from all over the world. You will have the perfect place to test your ideas and worldview. Try to take advantage of this unique opportunity and challenge your assumptions and inner beliefs.

-       In the end, MBA will go by so fast. So enjoy the challenge and moments that will stay lifetime with fellow students.

-Nahom Woldemariam, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

As January came to a close, the WMBA traveled across Pennsylvania to visit Samsung America’s headquarters. The 4 hour drive to Ridgefield Park, NJ was worth it as the group was greeted in the lobby by enormous wall displays with welcome signs that scrolled through photos of each attendee. They were also greeted by Ms. Susan Kim, a Penn State alumna whose bubbly personality and explanations escorted the group throughout the visit.

After picking up visitor passes, the group was ushered up to the 9th floor to a conference room with a stunning view of New York City for the first speaker of the day, Christina Pantin, the VP of Public Relations. Ms. Pantin focused on the newest technology coming out of Samsung and lead a discussion on women leaders in the workplace, providing valuable insights and delivering meaningful quotes from other leaders throughout history.

The WMBA was then brought to Samsung’s Executive Conference Center to see all their latest technology used to pitch Samsung products to large-scale B2B customers. Among the innovations on display were Samsung’s 105” display, a classroom setup with interconnected tablets for the students and the teacher, and medical space with digital check-in and triage with way-finding signage. Being amongst the newest technology and upcoming developments was both inspiring and a valuable glance into the future of Samsung.

After a brief discussion with two Penn State Alums currently working with retail clients on technology marketing, the WMBA was treated to a glimpse of the future with Samsung’s Virtual Reality goggles. As each attendee tried on the goggles, they were treated to virtual tours of New York City, Iceland, Vienna, and other exotic locales.

The WMBA’s visit to Samsung’s headquarters was an informative look into the technology industry and the growth patterns of an international company which has made strong progress in the U.S. and gave a deeper insight into the role of  women at companies like Samsung.

-Lauren Rizzo, PSU Smeal MBA ’15

One of the first things prospective students notice on their visit to campus is that the Smeal MBA program a very small community. Class sizes around 80 people allow students to build a personal relationship with their peers and faculty, have one-on-one interactions with corporate recruiters, and have ample opportunity for leadership positions in the nine MBA student associations.

While the small program size has these advantages, some may wonder what the drawbacks are. Are there not enough opportunities from the existing associations? Will there be somebody that shares the same interests and hobbies I do? Will I have a chance to learn a new hobby? Is there a way I can stay in touch with my native culture?

These questions can all be answered by looking at Penn State University as a whole. With over 1000 student organizations, there is sure to be something for everybody! MBA students have access to these as part of the PSU student body. Despite having a schedule loaded with class, case-competitions, homework, and searching for a job, all students should take a look at what PSU has to offer to make the most of their two years on-campus.

Each year the program has teams participate in intramural sports like flag football, basketball, and wrestling. These IM sports bring together MBAs with the same hobby or passion and give a chance to build a closer friendship through competition. While most other teams are undergraduate students, MBAs have done quite well! MBAs won a championship in both basketball and wrestling.

If you enjoy participating in a native culture or come from an international background, there are over 70 cultural associations. From the Russian Student Society to the Indonesian Student Association, students from all over the globe can feel at-home in Happy Valley. These groups hold social events and likely organize celebrations around traditional holidays.

Even if you aren’t interested in sports or a specific culture, there are countless ways to participate in any hobby you have. There is an astronomy club, a brewing club, a cheese club (not to be confused with chess, but PSU has that too!), and a gaming association. The possibilities to learn something new are endless. Access to these activities is a wonderful part of going to Smeal, you just have to go find your favorite group!

-Scott Robbins, PSU Smeal MBA ’15

The third annual Katz Invitational Case Competition was held on January 23-24, 2015 at the University of Pittsburgh’s Graduate School of Business. The competition was sponsored by BNY Mellon and focused on issues of social corporate responsibility in the energy industry. In the first round of the competition, teams had a month to prepare an essay on a prevalent issue within the energy industry in the United States. The topic was left open for interpretation so that teams could write freely on anything they considered important, given the topic. Our team focused on writing about distributed generation from the perspective of all stakeholders involved and considered its impact on the industry. Distributed generation is power generated by solar, wind or natural gas which can be used on the spot, temporarily stored in batteries, or sold back to the grid.

Twelve teams passed the first round and were invited to participate in the live case which was distributed in early January. As consultants to a relatively small Pittsburgh based fictitious investment firm, we were tasked with selecting one of three proposed energy companies for further investment. In addition to that, we were to explore current investment principles for the energy industry and propose a new strategy to grow their investment portfolio. In the next two weeks, our team worked hard on the case and explored various options and recommendations to arrive at our final proposal.

Our team presented our recommendation to a group of four judges during the first round of presentations and was selected to move on to the finals along with three other schools. Although the second round proved to be harder than anticipated, we were happy to place third overall. Additionally, two of the four presenters on our team – Dave DeFelice and Tim Sandusky – were recognized by the judges as best presenters. The second place was given to Purdue University and first place went to the University of Washington.

We are happy with our results and are excited to have been able to represent the Smeal MBA Program in this competition. A special thank you goes to our Erik Orient, Carrie Marcinkevage, and Sandy Simler as well as to the organizers of the conference for all their support and guidance throughout the competition.

-Silviya McVeigh, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


All my life, I have surrounded myself with strong, impassioned, empowered women. My mother was a staunch supporter and protester in the second wave feminist movement and our home was always filled with conversations about equality and justice and a keen awareness of the deeply embedded societal pressures which converged to make the world I lived in. When I decided to return to school to acquire an MBA, I found myself looking at the gender breakdown of many MBA programs. I had a college friend who, at the time of my application was already enrolled in the MBA program at Simmons. Similar to my undergraduate institution, Smith College, Simmons is an entirely female program and one of the few in the world that can claim that distinction. Because of my past, that of course appealed to me. However, having been in the workforce for the previous six years, I was beginning to realize that putting powerful women in roles of distinction could be achieved in many ways. I’m proud of my Smith education because it gave me confidence in my skills and abilities in a way I’m not sure I would have gained by going to a coed institution. But for my MBA, I believed that a lot of value could be realized by going to a program that was as diverse as possible.

Indeed, if the goal was to expand my network and build up my opportunities in a variety of locations, industries, roles, and interests, then it would best suit me to find a program that was as diverse as possible.

And I believe I found diversity at Penn State.

My peers consist of IT strategists and supply chain experts, biologists and military members, people who managed grocery stores and family businesses, teachers and social networking gurus. They come from Nigeria, China, India, Ecuador and many places in between. They represent a broad variety of experiences and personal insights as expressed through classroom debates and joyous ramblings in the MBA Commons. The organizations within the program allow for students to follow their passions and learn more about different academic and cultural subjects. I joined Net Impact to learn more about sustainability and I joined the WMBA to further build out my network of powerful women. And when elections were held in the spring of 2014, I was elected to post of VP of communications for the WMBA.

While I think that the PSU Smeal program could do even more to encourage and support women within their program, I do think this has been an excellent experience that has introduced me to a handful of exceptional role models and given me knowledgeable and supportive peers. I’m looking forward to having these men and women in my personal network long after I graduate and put the skills I’ve learned to good use.

-Lauren Rizzo, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

The Penn State team of Michael Abendroth, Mark Joanow, Chris Kalmar, Chris Otteni, and Peggy Schwarz was proud to earn an honorable mention at the Rutgers Biopharmaceutical Case Competition on November 14th, beating top schools like Duke, MIT, and Columbia.

Participants received the case seven days prior to the competition. Our team juggled the rigors of Finance, Risk, and Economics midterms with the challenge of the case: pricing a novel drug to enter a competitive market. We leveraged skills from our medical school training, pharmaceutical industry experience, and finance and risk classes. We researched market trends and medical outcome probabilities and costs from business and medical literature. We used this data to construct a decision tree to estimate the minimum cost that an insurer would be willing to pay for the new drug. We then considered the drug’s competitive advantages and other significant factors to reach a final price recommendation. We completed the slides on Thursday evening and then embarked for Newark, NJ. We got to the hotel at 11 PM, practiced the oral presentation, and then got a few hours of much-needed sleep.

When we checked in on Friday morning, we learned that many of the Midwestern teams had been delayed by the weather. The Rutgers crew successfully rearranged the day’s schedule to accommodate each school. We moved to a practice room that Rutgers graciously provided.

We presented our analysis to a panel of judges from Bayer, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, and other pharmaceutical leaders. They asked challenging and insightful questions. Our backgrounds in medicine and business allowed us to answer well.

After all of the teams had presented, we gathered for the awards ceremony. It was here that we discovered which schools our colleagues represented, as this info was previously hidden to prevent judging bias. There were teams from Duke, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT, Columbia, MIT, Michigan State, Georgia, Rutgers, and McGill. The first, second, and third place winners were Rutgers, Wharton, and Kellogg, respectively. We were proud to earn an honorable mention for Penn State. We thoroughly enjoyed this competition and hope to participate again next year.

snowAs many people told me, it is going to be snowy in State College. Part of me is looking forward to see the snow, and another part just hates it.

In Ireland where I used to live, people have a love/hate relationship with the snow as well. The hate part is mostly due to the immense disruption it causes to the transport infrastructure because unlike North America, Russia, Scandinavia and other places where it snows regularly, they don’t get that much snow and when it does snow they’re not prepared for it. However, that said there are a lot of things people love about the snow.

  • Watching snow fall is beautiful. Nature is best!
  • Snow settled outside looks even more beautiful; it makes the normally mundane looking countryside and lawn look even more pleasing and picturesque when it has a thick white blanket covering it.
  • Growing up as a kid I used to always wish for snow because it meant I could have a lot of fun making snowmen, snow-angels, having snow-fights with friends and toboggan run. Playing outside in the snow is the only time you feel like going outdoors during winter. (Also, most times when snow is heavy enough to affect road traffic, school used to be cancelled, another little perk of snow). So you could say that people develop love for snow since childhood.
  • Winter is always quite depressing with cold weather and early sunsets. If it wasn’t for the festive Christmas season it would have been a lot more depressing. Snow brightens up most people’s mood during these times (until the point where it causes massive disruption).
  • This may be a bit of a weird personal one but I love the crunch you get when you step into snow.

Having been born in Shanghai I can tell you a lot of people there are obsessed with snow. In fact, my relatives always used to ask me for pictures when it used to snow in Ireland. I know for a fact that there is a deep-rooted fascination of snow for people living in tropical territory where it has never snowed and snow is something that is really alien to most people. People have asked me things such as “How does it feel to hold snow?”, “Is it more beautiful in real life”, “Does it feel really cold”.
I guess it is my responsibility to collect show pictures for my friends and relatives in Shanghai this time, although I would rather stay indoors when it is actually snowing!

I hope everyone enjoys the thanksgiving break and the snow!

-Shuyuan Ling, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

The GOC case competition is part of the Global Operations Conference, organized by the University of Michigan each year. The cases introduce students to the world of operation management, with content ranging from detailed process flow improvement to high level strategic recommendations. This year, the case was a disguised version of a real life project in one of Alcoa’s divisions. The company, facing increased demand for their products, was building a new factory and needed to make sure it had planned effectively. Specifically, we had to examine process flows, calculate if the planned capacity was sufficient, estimate inventory levels, and create rules for workers so the process would remain optimized and in control. Forty-five teams from US and international universities submitted their solution for the first round. From this group, five finalists were selected, including our team. The final round took place during the conference in Ann Arbor, MI and consisted of a 30 minute presentation to a panel judges from Alcoa. The case was data driven and, without complete knowledge of the industry, took us some time to understand the process. Given that Penn State won this case competition last year, we had the extra pressure to defend the title, and the pressure increased when we realized the Alcoa judges were the same form last year and they recognized one of our team members, raising their expectations. Fortunately, we were able to put the pressure aside and present a compelling presentation. The success we had in this case competition made us realize how good the preparation is that we receive in the MBA program, as the judges (one of them actually worked on the real project) were surprised that we did not receive assistance from any faculty members to arrive at our solution. We are happy we were able to represent the Smeal MBA Program and Penn State in this competition. We want to thanks Carrie Marcinkevage, Erik Orient and Sandy Simler for their support in our participation in this event and to the organizers of the conference, who were very supportive of our team during the competition.

-Tatiana Kuzmenko, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

Case PhotoI never imagined myself in taking part in case competitions. I was fearful in participating for two reasons. Firstly, I had a wrong perception about the judges. I thought they would just grill us in the Q&A section of the case completion. Secondly, I felt I didn’t learn enough to tackle the case competition complex problems. I was wrong in both instances. I took part in two case competitions – National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and Howard case competition prepared by LMI consulting. Both were the best experiences I have had and I will look for more case competitions in the spring. The judges were kind, but also wanted to understand the logic flow in our recommendation. They also gave us tough questions to make sure the recommendation was solid and understand some things they didn’t understand. Secondly, I am very confident that the first year courses have prepared students to handle most MBA case competitions. Work experience, research experience, library resources and discussion with case teammates would fill the rest of the gap. Here is my final take on why students should take part in case competitions:

You get to apply the core and elective course materials you have learned in first year. It is exciting to apply all these “fragmented” knowledge into a real world complex problem.

You will develop your communication and problem solving skills. You present a solid recommendation to experts in their field and still defend your recommendation.

It is fun and exciting. You get to spend hours analyzing a big problem and conceptually fight with teammates to come up with a solution. The discussions I had in case competitions were the best I had and I learned a lot from my teammates.

It is always exciting to represent Penn State, especially at big stages. It is a huge responsibility, but it has a huge reward as well.

If you aren’t convinced by the non-monetary incentives so far, go for the monetary incentives.

-Nahom Woldemariam – Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


As a first year MBA student, the past week has been both very useful and fun-filled. Our first module ended last week giving us the long weekend to enjoy before starting off with the Career Immersion Week. The timing of this week was perfect as it provided us the much needed pause from a whirlwind module of studies to actually reflect back on our internship search.
The Career Services department, Mike Brown and Emily Giacomini, used the inputs from the previous years and customized a short but power packed week that targeted specifically to help us out with our preparation for internship.
The first day included a range of simultaneous sessions including Simulated Interview Processes and personalized career sessions that helped us iron out any creases that we had with our resumes, cover letters, elevator pitches and networking techniques. On the second day we had a networking round robin in which we were divided into small groups. The idea was to leverage the vast network of our colleagues for getting contacts and internship opportunities. Many of us found good contacts in their target companies through other classmates.
We had a very interesting session about story telling on the third day. During this session we learned about effective techniques that we could employ during our interview to tell more impactful stories. This was followed up with an etiquette session. Many earlier doubts that we had about appropriate table behavior were cleared off by this one session. The fourth day was packed with interactions with the second year MBA students who talked about their own internship projects and experience.
To wrap the week up, we had our own Diwali celebration in the Business Building. Many of us participated in Bollywood dancing, singing and sari wrapping activities.

-Varun Tiwari, Penn State Smeal MBA ’16

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