Class of 2015 Blogs

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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


Finals Week for 2nd Year MBAs

It is hard to believe, but the first module of courses for the year will be finished this week. The module will conclude with a three day period designated for final exams. This examination period is quite different for many second year students than students in the first year of the program, however. This is for a few reasons, but mainly because the concentration elective courses that second year MBAs are mainly taking choose alternative examinations than a single final exam.

Most classes in the first year of the program end with a traditional final exam that cover the information and concepts taught in the course over the prior seven weeks. Second year courses are less likely to give these tests. Instead they tend to utilize business case examinations or group projects as the final examination for the module. These evaluations are more interesting than typical tests and force students to work in a team and directly apply the concepts they have learned to find a solution to a business problem. Many times, the cases students are given are problems that real-world companies have encountered in the past. The Business-to-Business Marketing course concludes with a case study such as this. Possibly the most interesting part is when teams present their solutions to the class and everybody can see the variety of perspectives used to solve the problem.

Another alternative evaluation that is common among second year classes is to do a team project (not a case) and present the results of this project to classmates and professor. The Consumer Behavior marketing elective gives students this form of evaluation. Teams of 4-5 students are asked to create a small consumer behavior study to examine beliefs or behaviors that lead to product purchases. Then, these studies are conducted in Smeal’s behavioral lab with undergraduate students. Teams analyze the data that is gathered in these tests and present their findings to the class, along with a recommendation about how findings such as this could be used in marketing strategy. Interesting projects like this are very good at engaging students in the concepts that they have learned throughout the module.

-Scott Robbins, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


This summer I worked at Sears Holding Corporation (SHC) at their headquarters in Chicago. I worked as an MBA intern in their inventory management department and I should say it was one of the best learning experiences I have had since I came to the US. I had a great learning experience because of the effort their leadership put into structuring the internship and the time they invested into mentoring their interns. I was assigned two projects during the internship and they gave me good exposure to their vast supply chain network and deep insights into the working of the retail industry.

On the other hand SHC is located in Chicago which was the other best part about interning there. Chicago is an amazing place to live and especially during summer because of the many summer festivals. I attended a block party with friends and a carnival on the 4th of July.

For an international student, summer internship is not only the best time to experience the work culture in an American company but also the best time to immerse in American culture. That being said nothing is better than having your friends from MBA interning in the same city.

-Sreekanth Boppana, PSU Smeal MBA ’15


Numerous events happen throughout the year at Smeal. The South Africa global immersion trip was one of the most unforgettable trips I have made in my life, and the best event formulated by Smeal. About twenty 1st year MBA students went to South Africa to attend company visits, explore the rich culture and daily living, and interact with South African people that came from different backgrounds and walks of life. We met with executives from EY, Coca Cola, ESKOM (largest power utility company in Africa), entrepreneurs, etc. We also had a chance to meet business students from Gordon Institute of Business (GIBS). We visited a national park, Apartheid museum, learned about Nelson Mandela in a very emotional tone from the organizers, and also learned about Soweto. The trip changed my outlook of Africa in a very positive way, and it made me more confident about the rise of Africa. As an African, the trip has amplified my passion to return back home and contribute to the continent’s economic growth in the field I am studying. I also got to know my classmates more closely and created memorable times. We usually don’t have ample time and/or energy to discuss things outside school matter, and this trip was perfect in changing that. The overall experience was very positive because I got the chance to spend one splendid week with my fellow classmates while learning about a powerhouse country in the African continent.    

-Nahom Woldemariam, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15

South Africa Group

 


Diwali is undoubtedly the biggest and brightest of all Indian festivals. It is a festival of lights, and celebration of life and goodness. Smeal celebrated Diwali in a big way last year. It was a pleasure for me to be part of the organizing committee and also to participate in several events that were organized that day. The events consisted of dance, music, scrumptious Indian food, fashion show and the sari tying contest. I was elated to see how people from different countries with diverse backgrounds and cultures all came together to celebrate the festival. My colleagues from the US, Russia, Nigeria and China were not only eager and excited to learn the various Indian dance forms, but they also polished the dance postures. They were enthusiastic to wear the traditional Indian clothes. It was incredible to watch them dance cheerfully on Bollywood songs relish the Indian food and wear traditional Indian outfits. My colleagues in Smeal who came from different cultural backgrounds were extremely accepting and respectful of Indian traditions. And they went out of their way to support and participate in one of the biggest and most awaited events at Smeal; their actions and support made me euphoric. It was a mind-blowing experience for me. More importantly it brought all of us together and gave us the opportunity to get to know each other outside the classroom. This was one of the most wonderful experiences that I have had at Smeal where I felt extremely proud of my decision to join Penn State Smeal MBA program.

-Neha Bareja, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


Global Immersion and Spring Break – Johannesburg

I will be flying to Johannesburg in exactly 3 days and 10hrs. Yes! That’s exactly how excited I am to go on this trip. I will be flying with twenty of my class mates from New York to Johannesburg for the global immersion trip which is also part of the MBA program. In Johannesburg, we will visit many local and multinational companies, and we will learn more about their businesses and the challenges they face. This exposure will give us better understanding of how to run a business in a politically challenging and culturally complex environment. We will also visit a few local places in Johannesburg to experience South Africa’s culture.

After five days of the global immersion, I will be going on a safari for three days with fifteen of my classmates, and then fly to Cape Town for four days to do lot of fun filled and exciting stuff such as shark cage diving, wine tours etc.  I am looking forward to this trip and can’t wait to complete my finals tomorrow!!

 

Sreekanth Boppana, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


As the Vice President of Recruitment for MBA Association @ Smeal, I frequently get questions from candidates, who are struggling to decide which Business school to attend. Having seen both sides, I wanted to write a quick note on the two points that I considered in making my decision.

  • Companies that recruit in the school
  • Quality of peers and curriculum

 

Companies that recruit in the school:

One of the reasons I wanted to get an MBA is to get the job I will love. This is true on some level for everyone who is considering going back to school. Though this is painfully obvious, many of the candidates I interact with do not place enough weight on this point. It is much easier to get the job you want when you are coming out of school as opposed to work in a role for couple of years and transition into another. I cannot stress this point enough.

 

Quality of peers and curriculum:

Peers and curriculum are two important parts of the MBA experience. Almost half of the courses taught in business schools are designed to be team based. You will not learn if you are the only one pulling all the weight in your team. In turn, the activities become mere assignments rather than learning tools. Hence, it is very important that every candidate evaluate these factors before applying and/or choosing a business school. In my experience, some people like case based learning and some like lecture based learning. Every MBA program is unique in the way it is designed. This is exactly why every candidate should consider the structure, content of the curriculum and peer pool before making a decision.

 

In conclusion, I believe candidates should carefully consider and weigh their priorities and not pick a program merely based on rankings.

-Visaharaja Ravindar Bose, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15


My Experience Adjusting to Life in the US

I came to the US on August 1st, which was twelve days prior to the start of MBA program as I wanted to settle down and get over jet lag before the start of classes.  I leased a house by the end of June as advised by the admission committee and having a house leased even before arriving in US made things easier to settle down.

The biggest challenge was to get adjusted to the food. I belong to the southern part of India and being a big foodie myself, I knew I couldn’t survive for long without the spicy Indian food. So I asked second year students about Indian stores and they informed me that State College has two stores that carry exclusively Indian grocery items. The first thing I did the next day was to visit these stores and to my surprise, I was able to find every spice and items I wanted. State college also has two good Indian restaurants – Indian pavilion and Karma. They are typical Indian restaurants and serve food that is very close to authentic Indian food. I couldn’t have asked for more.

The next challenge was the culture shock. I didn’t know how things were done here and I wasn’t aware of the culture in US. Whatever I knew of U.S. came from the news I heard and movies I watched; unfortunately such representations are far from the actual facts. 2nd year students understood what 1st year Indian students were about to go through, and they arranged a get together to make the transition to MBA program and life in America easier. My classmates were helpful and made us feel like we are at home.

The third and most important challenge was to get used to the American academic system as it was different from the Indian academic system. The Indian system focuses more on the teacher whereas the American system tends to focus on students more and it is more learning centered. I struggled a bit at the beginning, but I was able to navigate through the challenges with the help of my teammates who were assigned by the 220 office at the start of the program.

One of the toughest changes and challenges was to get an internship. The internship process followed in US is totally different from that of India. In India, recruitment is done to fulfill the business requirement, and it is assumed that everyone will culturally fit into the organizational culture. The recruitment process in U.S. is quite different. One has to not only demonstrate that he (she) is the right fit for the organization, but also show that he (she) understands the organization’s culture and fit into that organization’s culture. MBA career services and second year students guided me through every step of the search process and helped me find companies that are right fit.

I have learned a great deal and have come a long way from the time I arrived in America. Yet, I still have long way to go and lot of things to learn. I am confident that I will find the appropriate support to overcome any challenges that I will face in future, and I can say that I am at home away from home.

 

-Sreekanth Boppana, Penn State Smeal MBA ‘15


What The Smeal MBA Program Means to Me

I was fortunate to attend Penn State for my undergrad, and it was a no-brainer for me to decide to join the Penn State Smeal MBA Program thereafter. Penn State is truly like a big family. Everyone is willing to support and contribute to my growth, both academically and non-academically. Lots of resources are available to elevate one’s knowledge on a range of issues. In a lot of ways, the Smeal MBA Program is undoubtedly a perfect representation of the Penn State brand. Nevertheless, the Smeal MBA is even beyond the Penn State experience I had when I was a student before joining the MBA Class of 2015.

The Penn State Smeal MBA Program is such a special and wonderful experience. I had a non-business background and I was a little bit apprehensive in how I would perform in the MBA program. I assumed it would be a place of cut-throat competition and just an outcome of individual efforts. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Everyone is cooperative from the get go – from the students, to the 220 (Program) office, to the professors.

Students are very interactive and engaged in sharing their academic and work experience. As classes started after two weeks of orientation, everyone was assigned to a team. My teammates from A1 were awesome in supporting each other to produce great team efforts in every assignment we did. We had a smooth experience that we will cherish for years, and we likewise grew together academically and non-academically. Outside my assigned teammates, both 1st year and 2nd year students share their classroom know-how, internship experiences, Smeal MBA experiences, etc. Fellow students interview each other to give feedback and improve interview skills. Fellow students form study groups to tackle class materials and to solve the complex problems we were assigned. Other students remind classmates about upcoming internship deadlines or info sessions. 2nd year students share how they were able to secure summer internships in constructive and open ways; they also tell us about their summer internship experience. Personally, I have learned a lot from Smeal MBA students – from how they handle their academic work, to how they handle themselves inside and outside classroom and their active engagement in the Smeal community.

Furthermore, we have the best professors in every field. All professors are easy to talk to about their field expertise and their experience. Above all, they are always ready to answer any questions we have and always willing to help us succeed. The 220 program office staff are always ready to make things easier when it comes to course registration, academic concerns, career paths, etc. They are always friendly and very approachable. All these experiences in the last two modules have completely flipped the wrong assumptions I formulated before coming to the Smeal MBA Program. As a result of a once in a life time opportunity of being a member of Smeal MBA Program, I am more engaged, more confident and more optimistic about the upcoming modules. Subsequently, it is my firm belief that anyone with any background and circumstances can succeed in the Smeal MBA Program, both academically and non-academically. I personally believe that there is no better MBA school than Smeal, and I am glad to be back at home again.

-Nahom Woldemariam, Penn State Smeal MBA ‘15
P.S. – The Class of 2015 rocks!!!


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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