Class of 2014 Blogs

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The tradition lives on!!  MBA students from Penn State again participated in the Duke MBA Games, which raises money and awareness for the Special Olympics of North Carolina (SONC).  Since 1989, teams from top business schools have enjoyed a weekend of friendly competition while positively influencing the lives of adult athletes, spending time with and encouraging them during athletic activities.

During the past 26 years, the event has raised over $2.2 million for SONC!  In 2014, the Penn State team fundraised over $2.5K.

It was an action-packed weekend.  On April 10, there was a social mixer where we could meet the teams we would be competing against during the weekend.  The schools included: Carnegie Mellon, Maryland, Duke, Rice, Babson, UPenn, Pittsburgh, Purdue, Texas A&M, and Vanderbilt.

On April 11, our team participated in the optional events (Golf outing, Hash Run) as a warm-up to the actual events.  Later that night, there was an opening ceremony to officially welcome us to the Games.  Each team also performed a choreographed dance routine.  Thanks to the direction of 2nd year MBA, Deramus Griffin, Penn State came in 4th place!

On April 12, the real fun began.  We were able to greet our Special Olympic athletes, Kristin and “Birdman.”  We were lucky to have them on our team for the 2nd consecutive year in a row.  For those going next year, watch out for these two: Kristin is the ultimate prankster, while Birdman loves to put on a performance!

Throughout the day, we competed in many fun events, such as tug of war, business suit relay, briefcase toss, dizzy bat race, soccer relay, bean bag toss, and knockout.  Penn State won the soccer relay thanks to a team comprised of Javier Bathen, Mike Bassani and Ray Banks!

After the fun-filled day, we were able to mingle and relax at a pool party before the Closing Ceremony.  During the Closing Ceremony, we were shown a video that highlighted the funniest events of the day.  We were also able to hear directly from the Special Olympians about how much fun they had with their respective teams.  Later that night, we all celebrated at the White Party sponsored by the Duke MBA Latin American Student Association.

On April 13, we were able to say our goodbyes and prepare ourselves for the 8-hour road trip back to State College just in time for class on Monday.  Remember, we’re still conscientious MBA students after all!

For more information about Duke MBA Games, please visit their website at

-Anthony Cheng, Penn State Smeal MBA ‘14


One of the main reasons for which people want their MBA is to raise their salary by either: changing careers, changing companies, getting a better position or working globally. The biggest question is how? How can a MBA program differentiate you from other master programs?  To me, “putting theories into practice” is one of those differentiating factors.  In fact, with four years of experience and a master of Industrial Engineering, I wanted a program that would help me put theories I’ve learned and all the four years of experiences I’ve gained into practical business problems.  Here at the Penn State Smeal MBA Program, most of the classes are based on real cases. You read the case, do the analysis and make decisions as if you were the manager or the CEO of that specific company. Then, even more interesting is listening to a professor with dozens of years of experience in industry describing the case for you and sometimes hearing brilliant ideas from your classmates.

After a while you realize that these cases might not exactly be the ones you’re looking for as “real world problems”. Typically a case consists of all the necessary information needed to analyze the problem, for example, information about the market and competitors, company’s financials and future plans. But how can you gather all the information needed when dealing a complicated business situation? In fact, finding and putting together the right information is one of the main problems you can face in complicated business situations. I looked for the solution and I found the answer in “Case Competitions,” in which they give you the problem which might be even less than a page.  Then you have 24 hours and a huge amount of data to review to come up with a good idea and supporting information. This is a situation you may experience in competitive global business situations.  As a Penn State Smeal MBA candidate you have the opportunity to attend case competitions that focus on many different functional business areas.   You will be working as part of a team, and competing with other teams from top tier business schools.

Another practical experience is your final project called the Applied Professional Experience (APEX), in which you have a chance to work with a company and help improve a system or solve a problem. Working in an APEX project may also help you improve your project management skills or obtain your six-sigma black belt if you are interested in those areas.

The Penn State Smeal MBA program is a demanding program that gives you many opportunities, like the few just mentioned.  It is up to you to figure out how to take advantage of those opportunities, depending on your goals. The Penn State Smeal MBA program is a great opportunity to experience necessary challenges and gain knowledge that meets your needs as you pursue a better professional career.

-Masoud Ghayoumi, Penn State Smeal MBA ’14

Rice Marketing Case Competition

On Feb 6, a Smeal MBA team that consisted of two-second year students, Effie Li and Carrie Zhou, and two first year students, David DeFlice and Nancy Nie, went to Houston, TX for the National Marketing Case Competition. Since a snow storm just hit Pennsylvania, it took us 12 hours to get Houston from State College. We attended the reception ceremony held in Johns Business School and met 15 teams that came from all over the country. During the warm up session, we played the spaghetti challenge game, and learned more about team dynamic.

After the opening session, we got the case at 8pm and spent 6 hours at Rice MBA meeting room to solve the case problem. The case was about new marketing penetration in oil and gas manufacturing industry, and the team was expected to give recommendations on entry decisions and marketing mix strategies.

The case scenario was new to us, but we did broad research on company website and industry report. As a result, we got enough information and data for solid analysis from financial aspect as well as practical marketing strategies. The following morning, we came back to the meeting room, and completed the slide deck by noon. The presentation took place in the afternoon and each member of our team participated. We did a good job in the Q&A session, and the judges gave us positive feedback for our performance. Finally, our team’s presentation score ranked second place, and the sponsor company representative gave Penn State great recognition.

In the evening networking session, we had wonderful opportunity to talk to MBA students from many different programs. We exchanged about each other’s MBA life and job searching strategy. The best part of case competition is making new friends and also broadening our views and perspectives.

-Effie Li, Penn State Smeal MBA ’14

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The Final Stretch

I can’t believe how fast time has gone by in business school. Just a year and a half ago, I was beginning a journey that felt like the next two years of my life would be long and challenging. While there have been numerous challenges in business school, “long” would be the wrong description. The first year flew by while I was just getting used to the business end.  Since I was coming from a science background, lots of things in the business school were different for me. Prepping for interviews, searching for internships, and taking part in case competitions along with the numerous hours spent in the business building for team meetings and class work were some of them. I thought the pace would slow down once I finished my internship and returned for the final year and my full-time career search.

The second year started off a bit slow. Yet, once the career fairs came and job interviews started lining up, the pace picked up once again. I enjoy the fact that most of the classes we take in the second year are our choices, unlike the first year where the majority of our classes were core classes. It was fun being able to fly around the country for interviews, but I began to get tired of it after the first four or five flights. By Thanksgiving break, I had accepted a job offer and was glad that I could cross that off my to-do list. While the fall semester was wrapping up, I thought the spring semester would get much slower as I was done with my job-hunting. Furthermore, I would be taking less classes and my extra-curricular duties would be passed off to the next MBA batch. It hasn’t’ been as slow as I imagined it to be.

While my course load decreased in the spring semester, some courses such as financial modeling are very time-consuming. However, it is definitely worth the time since I am learning a lot of valuable material. Besides the class-work, our APEX projects which pair us up in teams of five to do project-work for real companies are quite time consuming as well. It’s great to be able to wrap up the final semester by using tools and analysis techniques we have learned over the past year and a half. I am sure before I know it, it will be time for graduation. While I am ready for the real-world, I will certainly miss my time here at Smeal and the many memories developed over the course of the MBA program.

-Yasar Awan, Penn State Smeal MBA ‘14

Some of us in Net Impact are doing something very different. Ten of your fellow students and dedicated Net Impacters are taking an extra course over Mods Two and Three. This is going to be difficult, and it may sound a little crazy. But like many sustainability ideas, we think this is worth it.

We are partnering with the Sustainability Institute on a project to help various Penn State business units (think Smeal, Office of the Physical Plant, satellite campuses, etc.) define and reach their sustainability goals. The university business units are currently developing their five year strategic plans and they have been tasked with including sustainability goals in those plans. We’ll help them do more than check a box. We’ll work with them to consider how sustainability goals can be a part of, and improve, their overall strategic plans.

We divided ourselves into three teams, and each team has been assigned a business unit: the Schreyer’s Honors College, the University IT Department, or the College of Communications. We’ll walk them through a strategic process that the Sustainability Institute has developed to assist business units write meaningful Sustainability Plans. Each piece of this process will look different for each business unit. But our goal is to develop an overall method that can be applied to all future sustainable planning at Penn State.

To conclude the project, we’ll be working with the Sustainability Institute to refine the tools of its packaged planning process.  This project is a major way Smeal MBA Net Impact is able to do more than talk about sustainability. We are going out and making an impact.

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This summer I had the opportunity to intern for Dell in Austin, Texas. I worked in GSD (Global Support & Deployment) organization for Technical account manager (TAM) group. This was my first time working in the IT industry, and in the service department. The role I took with TAM was as an internal consultant, in charge of projects that are related to internal process improvement. One of the main projects I worked on was the TAM hiring & training funding project. The scope of my project was to evaluate the cost of internal training and hiring as opposed to direct external hiring in current circumstances.  I was able to apply a wide range of knowledge I learned in the MBA program. BA 517 is for sure the on the top of the list, the various communication skills we learned.  The class does not only help on the project presentation, but also helps in the day-to-day communications on different levels with global teams to gather helpful information for the projects. The knowledge I learned from the finance class was also helpful to evaluate the project recommendation in a more tangible way.

Outside office hours, I also had a great time exploring the city of Austin. Austin is a very fun city as there were lots of events happening and it was very outdoorsy. The interns went out for canoeing in Austin River, went golfing and attended musical events. To sum up, the internship experience helped me a lot to further apply the knowledge I gathered from the Smeal MBA program to the real world working environment. It also helps me, as an international student to further understand and adapt to American cultures.

-Cindy Wang, Penn State Smeal MBA ‘14


Yasar_NYCI grew up in New York City and I didn’t know when I would get the chance to come back and live there after my family and I moved to Philadelphia. This summer I had the opportunity to go back “home” and intern for Colgate-Palmolive in New York City.


I was an intern in the Global Indirect Procurement organization, and this was my first procurement experience. I had previously worked in a logistics role. Knowing that I wanted to broaden my supply chain career, I felt that procurement was another area in which I would find great fit. It certainly was. I was given two projects that had a significant impact in the company, and it was an excellent experience to know what goes on in procurement. I managed an entire Request for Proposal worth millions of dollars, and I also worked on a supplier reduction project that was delegated to every business category from the CEO. It was a good feeling to know that a lot of what I had learned in the first year of MBA classes such as regression analysis from the business statistics class and spend analysis from supply chain classes were applicable to the work I was doing. To top it off, BA 517, our yearlong communications class, was certainly one class that I used on a daily basis in the many meetings and presentations I had to give.


Aside from the work I was given, I had the opportunity to visit other Colgate sites in New Jersey and also see their Morristown Plant. Being able to see how they make their products really allows you to appreciate the final product a lot more. We also were given the opportunity to go sight seeing in the city and visit the Top of the Rock – an amazing view if you haven’t been there before. If you are a foodie like me, there are so many places to try all kinds of food in the city. I wish I had more time to try the many places I wasn’t able to. To sum it up, I had an excellent experience in New York City (aside from the crowded subway), I learned to use many new tools, and I learned that I do like procurement.

-Yasar Awan, Penn State Smeal MBA ’14


The start of the second year:

Coming back to state college is a lot easier in the second year. You know the expectations, you already have a friend base, and there is a lot less stress. What never gets easy is the fact you are coming back from an awesome summer internship to being a poor student again. Thank goodness the cost of living in State College is cheap; otherwise I don’t know how I could do it.

The responsibility of a second year is also different. Being on the MBA Association board makes things a little bit busier, but everyone in the second year feels the change. There is almost an unspoken oath that you will look out for the first year class, and help them get integrated into the school and town. It is crazy to think that just a year ago we were the same bright eyed group. Now we all feel like seasoned veterans. We supported the MBA administration a lot with orientation and the early career development activities. It’s so important, even if you are holding offers from your summer job, to get started in the career search right away. You need to be sharp right out of the gate as companies start recruiting early on. We already had two career fairs, multiple on campus info sessions and two corporate-sponsored tailgates just even before hitting October.

It’s a frantic pace but it is a lot easier the second time around. Cheers to being less than a year away from Graduation.


-Mike Bassani, Penn State Smeal MBA ’14

ISBM 30th Anniversary Meeting attracts marketing students in Smeal MBA

The Institute for the Study of Business Markets (ISBM) is a center of excellence in the Smeal College of Business at Penn State. It is networked with researchers, educators and practitioners in business-to-business marketing in companies and universities throughout the world. Founded in 1983, ISBM celebrated its 30th anniversary last week, and held series of activities to attract both member companies and MBA students with a Marketing concentration.

The Executive Director, Ralph Oliva, and Research Director, Gary Lilien, encouraged all students who take the B2B Marketing class to participate in ISBM activities since it is a great chance to gather insights, tools, cases and perspectives. At the reception event, we network with people in this industry and get first hand experience. On the CMO and CEO panel, we collect their foresight on the most important developments and points of focus going forward.

At the event, I met the Marketing Directors from the companies I have cooperated with during my summer for ISBM projects, and we exchanged each other’s updated stories. To my surprise, I also saw the alumni who graduated this year representing their companies to participate in the ISBM event. It was a beautiful moment as we worked for an ISBM project in my first year and got together again.

The 30th Anniversary has enabled ISBM to invite a spectacular suite of senior executives, thought leaders, and ISBM researchers together. The gathering provided some perspective and also created a means to share tools, cases, and concrete lessons on what has worked for them over the past few years. We learned the key developments on their “radar” and their key priorities such as “What do they want their teams to focus on—and NOT focus on—moving forward?” It was such a unique opportunity to gain insights and perspectives. Most importantly, it provided guides and principles that enabled us to focus our efforts through the imperatives, challenges, and opportunities coming your way.

-Effie Li, Penn State Smeal MBA ’14

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