Category Archives: MBA

Foster MBAs tapped for high-demand jobs in consumer products, technology

The Foster School is one of the nation’s top two producers of MBA graduates working in consumer products according to U.S. News & World Report data analyzed by Poets and Quants.

Eighteen percent of Foster graduates secured consumer products positions in 2014, higher than any other school except the Kelley School. And more than 40 percent of Foster graduates landed jobs in the fast-growing technology industry, where Foster and Berkeley were the top two schools for placement. More than 20 percent of Foster MBA graduates also secured positions in the high-demand consulting sector.

The Foster School ranks third of the top 25 schools in the U.S. for job placement, with more than 95% of MBAs employed within three months of graduation. Graduates earned an average compensation of $129,828 across all industries and carried very low debt, earning Foster recognition by U.S. News as the Best Bang for the Buck.

International student uses Foster MBA to test career paths

As a kid growing up in Mexico City, Pedro Del Castillo was fascinated by machines.

“I became interested in how things work and how you can make them work better,” he says. “I guess that’s what drew me to mechanical engineering. It was about looking at things and their touch and feel, putting them together, taking them apart, and putting them together again.”

This fascination with the way things work has never left him.

When he grew up, he studied mechanical engineering at Universidad Iberoamericana and went to work for GE Aviation after graduation. Later he moved back to Mexico City, worked for Chrysler and earned a master’s degree from Georgia Tech via distance learning.

Throughout his career, he had gained satisfaction through solving problems. But he began to feel that the problems were too technical, and were taking him deeper and deeper into a specialized niche.

“I started feeling like I was a cog in this huge corporate machinery,” he says. “I really wanted to take a step back, get a wider perspective. With that in mind, I started thinking about going back to school and earning a master’s in business.”

His search led him to the U.S., where many of the world’s top universities are located.

“I wanted a to be in a place that could offer a lot of different options, from very large companies that work in technology to big manufacturing companies like Boeing,” he recalls.

The Foster Full-time MBA Program’s small size, international focus, and diversity of industry contacts drew him to Seattle.

“I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do afterwards, so it was really important for me to have so many options, so many different industries,” he says.

Seattle’s natural beauty and outdoor recreational opportunities also attracted him, as did Foster’s reputation for environmental stewardship. He joined the school’s nationally-recognized chapter of Net Impact, an organization that supports social and environmental change through business, and took on a role coordinating “greening” activities with other groups across the UW campus.

As he acquired business knowledge in the classroom, he tapped Foster’s extensive network of business contacts to explore his options for a new career path. A project for Puget Sound Energy, helping the utility explore the possibility of selling solar power, let him pursue a longstanding interest in sustainable energy, but also led him to conclude that the industry was too slow-moving for him. An internship with Planetary Power gave him exposure to the startup environment, but he decided he needed more structure at this point in his career.

Eventually, management consulting began to look like a good match for his strengths. Working with MBA Career Management, he actively pursued opportunities in the industry, and ultimately landed a job with Alvarez & Marsal, a global professional services firm.

He’s still fascinated about the way things work, and how he can make them work better. Only now, he’ll be working on businesses rather than machines.

With job secured, she helps other MBAs succeed

Xiaoou (Olivia) Wang knows  the value of opportunity, and how holding a door open for someone else can change a life.

As a high school junior in her native China, a teacher unexpectedly called Olivia into her office. The teacher told her she had an opportunity to attend college in the United States, and asked her if she would be interested.

“I had never thought about going to the United States for college,” she says. “But I thought, yeah, that sounds interesting.”

Olivia wound up at Marietta College in Ohio, and later transferred to USC, where she graduated with a degree in business administration. Over the next few years, she gained experience in marketing and public relations in the U.S. and China.

Olivia saw earning an MBA at the Foster School as an opportunity to dig deeper in the business disciplines she had studied as an undergraduate, build leadership and teamwork skills, and network her way into her next career in the U.S.

Learning how to prioritize effectively and manage her time was an unexpected bonus.

“I’ve had jobs where I had to work eighty hours a week to finish all my work,” she says. “But here at Foster there are so many things going on at the same time. You have classes, homework cases, and team meetings, but you also want to talk to employers, talk to other students, and go to networking events. I finally found it impossible to finish all the things I wanted to do. I realized that, here at Foster, I really needed to learn how to prioritize my tasks, what I wanted to do and how I wanted to use my time.”

The hunt for a summer internship and a job after graduation was never far from her mind. A career coach in the MBA Career Management office helped her focus her search and provided her with contacts for informational interviews. “

By talking to different people, getting to know their experience at different companies, what their roles were, and what their work was like day to day, I got a better picture of what I wanted to do,” she says. “I decided that Microsoft was one of the companies I wanted to pursue.”

With assistance from the career coaches and peer advisors – second year students who had been through the process of interviewing for internships – Olivia refined her résumé and honed her presentation skills in practice interviews. Finally, she landed her internship at Microsoft. The fit with the central marketing unit at the tech giant proved a good one, resulting in an offer of a permanent position after graduation. Olivia leapt on that opportunity.

She was so grateful for the help she had received in her job search that she took on a role as a peer advisor for first year students during her second year.

“I helped first year students get through the very difficult time of job hunting, internship searching and interviews,” she says. “Students came to me for general advice, help editing a résumé or cover letter, and tips for interview preparation. I wanted to guide them in seeking a job they would actually like after they graduated.”

Olivia sees this impulse to help others as part of the culture at Foster.

“People who come to Foster believe in the culture here, and they learn about it before they arrive,” she says. “We are a group of people who are warmhearted, who really want to help society but are also self-motivated in our own careers as well.”

Army vet leverages MBA for shift to consulting career

A commitment to service is rooted deep in Ryan McCarthy’s DNA.

Ryan’s father was in the Air Force, and was assigned all around the world while Ryan was growing up. The family relocated frequently, but finally settled in Spokane, where Ryan graduated from high school.

Attending college at the University of Portland, he majored in mechanical engineering and joined the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Five years as an officer in the Army followed graduation. Assignments in air defense units took him to Korea and Qatar.

Next came a three-year stint with the National Guard Bureau in Arlington, Virginia, where he played a significant role in helping the Guard manage its 358,000 personnel. (He continues to serve as a reservist.)

By 2013, Ryan had married and started a family. Ryan decided it was time to leave military and government service and put his management expertise and problem-solving skills to work in the private sector. Acquiring business expertise was a first step toward his goal.

“In the military, there’s a lot of management and leadership training but nothing as far as finance or accounting or ways to help for-profit organizations,” he says.

Earning an MBA was a logical solution to this problem. Both Ryan and his wife had roots in the Pacific Northwest, so he concentrated his search for a program there and ultimately chose the Foster School.

As Ryan began filling in gaps in his knowledge of the core disciplines of business, he also learned to adapt his leadership style through working with teams in the MBA Program.

“Leadership is very different between the military and the corporate world,” he says. “In the military, a soldier or an officer can wear their rank on their chest. You know what kind of authority they have with that rank. Here in business school and in corporate America, it’s much different. You have to be convincing and persuasive without using that rank. You also have to be ready to lead not only subordinates but also your peers.”

Career search, which begins when MBA students first enter the program, was another area where Ryan knew he had to adapt.

“I think from the initial shock of leaving the military, where everything was very regimented, I had to demilitarize myself,” he says. “I had to change the way I talked about myself and my past. The MBA Career Management staff has helped me out immensely with that. They helped me communicate better with recruiters and companies.”

After earning his MBA, Ryan and his family want to stay in the Pacific Northwest. The Foster MBA Program has given Ryan a chance to explore career opportunities in Seattle and Portland.

“I’d like to be in the consulting industry,” he says. “I enjoy helping organizations out here. I’ve taken on several consulting internships to develop those skills. It has given me a perspective on how consultants with fifteen to twenty years of experience interact with their customers.”

Desire to lead and serve drives Foster MBA

Kelsey Ingram’s decision to apply to the Foster Full-time MBA Program was driven by a desire to explore new career opportunities in her hometown, Seattle.

“I’m originally from Seattle, and I really wanted to build my professional network in the Seattle area, so that was a huge reason for coming to Foster,” she says. “The relationships and the reputation that Foster has with the Seattle community just don’t compare with any other school.”

Kelsey’s route back to her old stomping ground took detours through South Bend, Indiana, where she earned a Bachelor of Business Administration specializing in Information Technology Management at Notre Dame, and San Francisco, where she started her career at a major accounting firm.

“My IT management degree was a great segue into my career with Ernst & Young,” she says. “After working there for a few years I felt a bit siloed into technology and decided that I want a broader foundation of business skills. That was the main driver for going back to get my MBA.”

The process of applying for admission at Foster led Kelsey to some surprising insights about what was really important to her in her future career.

“The application requires you to sit down and think about why you want to get an MBA and what you want to do here,” she says. “And while most people’s plans change between the time they apply and the time they graduate, I really was able to use that as a driver for what it was I wanted to focus on.”

Writing her application, Kelsey found that service and leadership emerged as important themes.

“In my application, I wrote about joining a non-profit organization eventually. When I came to Foster, I realized that was more of a passion and that it might not be a career path for me, but I was able to use that passion to focus my energy on the Challenge 4 Charity organization. Serving the community is something that I’m very passionate about and something that I was reminded of looking back at my application.”

“There were also parts of my application that related to leadership development, and that dovetailed into my involvement with the Fritzky Leadership Fellows Program,” she adds.

Kelsey’s post-MBA position with a consulting firm promises opportunities to combine her passions for service, leadership – and business. With help from Foster’s MBA Career Management office, she landed a summer internship that turned into a great job after graduation.

“In the summer between my first and second year I was lucky enough to work for Point B. It’s a management consulting firm with an office here in Seattle,” she says. “I was working on an IT project for a large family foundation in the area. It was a great learning experience, and I’m really excited to go back this coming August for my full-time position.”

Friendly, inclusive Foster MBA culture embraces international student

Jessica Green’s relaxed, approachable manner might lead you to think she’s a Seattle native. You might not guess that she was born in Great Britain and has lived much of her life in London, Tokyo and New York.

“My mother is Japanese and my father is British,” she explains. “I grew up in both England and Japan in my younger years. I came to the US originally for my undergraduate education. After graduating, I went back to Japan to work for a while before getting my MBA.”

Jessica worked for four years as an equity trader for Merrill Lynch before she moved on to a sales account management job for Expedia, also in Japan. But she began to see that her career prospects would be limited without more education and a change of scene.

“Being female and in Japan, it’s a fairly traditional culture,” she says. “I felt it was very difficult to move up in the ranks. I also felt that earning an MBA would help accelerate my career trajectory.”

Jessica’s search for the right MBA program led her back to the US, with a focus on the West Coast.

“I was looking around at West Coast schools and Seattle popped up to me as a location, and Foster eventually came to be my top choice,” she says, “mostly because of the smaller school fit. It was also a smaller community, a better environment for me.”

“Seattle was a big draw for me,” she continues. “I knew there were a lot of good tech companies in the area. That industry would be an option for me going forward. But what ultimately made my decision was when I visited and met students, faculty and some of the staff at Foster.”

At a “welcome weekend” event, she made an immediate connection with current Foster students.

“I felt like I had known them for a week or two already, though it was just the first day,” she recalls.

With her diverse background, Jessica wanted a school—and a community—that welcomed international students. Foster, and Seattle, turned out to be a good fit in that respect, too.

“Foster has a very diverse student body, especially in terms of international students,” she says. “There are communities within the international student body that offer you a home away from home, which keeps international students from missing their real homes too much.”

Visiting Seattle’s International District, where she saw street signs in Japanese, and discovering a great sushi restaurant, Sushi Kappo Tamura, in the nearby Eastlake neighborhood made her feel at ease in her new community.

While Jessica ranks students and courses at Foster among her favorite aspects of the MBA experience here, leadership development has been her biggest challenge.

“I haven’t managed people before,” she says. “In the MBA program, I’ve led more within teams, and in the various activities I’ve been involved in, than ever in my life.”

To develop leadership experience and give back to her fellow students, Jessica took on a leadership role as the voice of international students within the MBA Association and committed her second year to serving as a Fritzky Leadership Fellow.

In the classroom, Jessica developed an interest in marketing, and scored a marketing internship with Amazon.com during the summer between her first and second year. The internship led to an offer of employment after graduation.

She won’t be alone.

“As an intern, I helped organize a happy hour for Foster alumni and current Foster student interns,” she says. “Looking at the list of Foster alumni at Amazon, I just had to keep scrolling. I think that’s part of the reason why Amazon keeps coming to Foster to recruit. Foster grads stay and work and do great things there.”

For Foster MBA, practical experiences add real-world perspective

Nick Amland sees himself as a hands-on problem-solver, but he combines a practical approach to business with a streak of idealism.

Majoring in business administration and finance as an undergraduate at the University of Puget Sound, Nick developed an interest in microfinance. That led him into the social sector. After graduation, he worked for organizations involved in implementing global health programs, traveling to places like Mozambique and Tanzania. The experience opened his eyes.

“I’d never been to Africa before,” he recalls. “I’d never had any exposure to those cultures, or had the opportunity to work closely with people in those countries. That was super rewarding.”

“That motivated me to earn an MBA,” he says. “I was able to see where a broad MBA skill set could be applied, where knowing how to look at a complex problem and how to break it down could make a difference.”

Why did he choose the Foster MBA?

“One reason was that it has a very good reputation for being collaborative and entrepreneurial, especially in terms of social entrepreneurship,” he says. “I’m really passionate about that.”

“And secondly,” he continues,” the Foster program is known for having a strong network in Seattle. I grew up here, and that’s something I wanted to come back for.”

Nick especially values the opportunities to gain practical experience that a Foster MBA offers.

“You know, MBAs are ruthlessly practical,” he says. “It’s really nice to learn something in the classroom, but you really want to apply what you’re learning in a real-life setting. Foster provides lots of opportunities to do that.”

Nick lists the Applied Strategies course, the Net Impact Service Corps consulting program, and a research fellowship with the Global Business Center as practical experiences that have given him a chance to apply what he’s learning and test his skills.

“All three of those experiences put me in a consulting environment, where I’ve had to deliver results,” he says. “That has prepared me for what life is going to be like after school.”

From the beginning, Nick’s plan was to put his business knowledge and problem-solving skills to work in the consulting industry after graduation.

“I came into the Foster program really interested in consulting,” he says. “I thought that going into consulting, I could take advantage of the natural momentum that I had coming out of the program and hit on some of the skill sets that I really wanted to build.”

Nick achieved his goal, landing a job with Alvarez & Marsal, a prominent management consulting firm with offices in a number of cities, including Seattle. But he admits that he had a lot of help.

“I couldn’t have done it without support from MBA Career Management, other members of the Consulting Society who helped me with practice case interviews, and just the students around me,” he says.

Foster delivers best bang for the buck

U.S. News & World Report recognized Foster as the highest-ranked MBA program with the best bang for the buck in its recent analysis of graduates’ salaries and average debt. According to the article, Foster graduates “who were employed within three months after graduation in 2014 have an average annual starting salary of $105,680, and those who borrowed had an average debt of $29,720 for business school.” Read the full story.

Foster was also the top-ranked program listed in U.S. News’ top 10 MBA programs where grads can afford their student loans.

Veterans way

A growing company of armed forces vets is choosing the Foster School to transition from military to corporate careers, and the benefits go both ways

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Dan Boirum

Dan Boirum was leading a search-and-destroy operation up the remote Arghandab River valley of Afghanistan when a 100-pound improvised bomb exploded under his armored vehicle, wounding four crewmen, one critically.

The blast knocked Boirum unconscious. But he recovered to resume command of his US Army Stryker platoon and its mission: stabilize this volatile region at the front lines of the war on terror—a task that required a precarious balancing of military might and cultural diplomacy that is perhaps unprecedented in wartime history.

Today, just a few years removed from the dust and dangers of Kandahar Province, Boirum is back in his home town of Seattle, learning to manage in a very different context at the Foster School of Business. His combat experience and leadership credentials aren’t exactly typical at Foster. But he’s hardly alone, either.

In the past few years, a growing cohort of veterans of the United States Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard have come to Foster, looking to power their transition from military to corporate careers.

“I came to Foster hoping it would give me the ability to learn about the various aspects of business and then give me a path to a new career,” says Boirum, a first-year student in the Full-time MBA Program. “I didn’t come in with a plan. I came knowing that it would be a place where I could figure it out in a safe environment and with all the support I could possibly ask for.”

Back to school

Foster is part of a nationwide surge of military veterans flooding into colleges and universities to plot civilian careers. Recent troop withdrawals and military budget cuts are expected to send 1.5 million service members into the civilian workforce by 2019.

At the same time, the education benefits available to veterans and active duty military have never been better. The largest is the Post-9/11 GI Bill, which covers tuition, books and housing costs.

“The GI Bill made all the difference to me,” adds Matthew Nutsch (TMMBA 2014), a recent graduate of Foster’s Technology Management MBA Program who served in the Navy as an electrician on a nuclear-powered submarine and is now a senior management systems analyst at Seattle City Light . “It’s an amazingly good deal and the TMMBA Program is so dynamic that it would feel wasteful not to take advantage. The education has changed my life.”

Tony Casement, lead counselor at the University of Washington Veterans Center, says that’s a common sentiment: “Instead of getting out and trying to go straight to work, many military vets are taking advantage of the benefits to advance their education and enter the workforce with a better job.”

A great place to restart

It happens that one of the best places to advance that education is the UW. U.S. News & World Report named the UW second nationally in its 2015 ranking of Best Colleges for Veterans.

Casement believes the reasons for the ranking begin with proximity to multiple military bases, including Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the Whidbey Island, Kitsap and Everett Naval Bases. He also factors the university’s generous tuition waivers and other assistance for veterans; a proliferation of military student organizations; and a high-functioning Veterans Center that advises students, offers career counseling, and removes the pain of finding and applying benefits so veterans can focus on their studies.

The university’s sterling international reputation doesn’t hurt, either. “The UW is not only military friendly, but also a great name academically,” Casement adds. “It makes a lot of sense to go here.”

He says that more than 1,500 students at the Seattle campus are receiving some form of military benefit, which is transferrable to dependents. Of that number, around 700 are veterans or active duty service members. And nearly 80 of them are enrolled at the Foster School.

Finding Foster

Casement believes that business is a popular field of study for veterans because it opens doors to so many lines of civilian work, and because many of the management and leadership skills mastered in the military—especially by officers—are transferrable.

This may explain why the largest jump in military enrollment at Foster is occurring in the MBA programs. The Full-time MBA has seen a doubling of veterans and active duty officers in the past couple of years alone.

Why Foster? Start with its reputation and ranking in the upmost echelons of American b-schools. Add its personalized approach to teaching, advising and career services, plus its long tradition of assisting dramatic career transformations.

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Norma Domingo and Chris Wigley

But the thing that seems to appeal most of all to military veterans is the school’s genuine culture of collaboration. “There is definitely a different culture at Foster,” says Chris Wigley, a second-year MBA who has compared notes with Army buddies studying in MBA programs across the country. “For me, the collaborative environment here has been enormously beneficial.”

It’s familiar territory for anyone who has served in any branch of the military where, as Boirum says, “everything is a collaboration.”

The full package

Collaboration goes both ways. And Foster veterans give as good as they get.

According to Dan Poston, assistant dean for masters programs at Foster, students with military backgrounds add immeasurably to the shared learning environment.

“We’re looking for classes with a diversity of perspectives,” he says. “Military students bring a facility with structure and organization to get things done. These are very positive traits to have in any team. Plus, they share their leadership training, both formally and informally.”

That training is the best in any business, according to Bruce Avolio, director of the Foster School’s Center for Leadership and Strategic Thinking and author of multiple studies on military leadership.

“What you see in our military is what we expect from our leaders in business: authentic, ethical, adaptive, agile role models who focus on development and put collective interest above themselves,” Avolio says. “This comes from a program of training and development that exceeds any business organization in the US or likely on Earth.”

But leadership is not the only asset that veterans bring to the management classroom. Avolio adds that they offer wisdom from having dealt with the most difficult decisions in life. They are comfortable working in hostile environments and ambiguous situations. They have a deep sense of team and self-sacrifice. They appreciate the ultimate importance of ethics. And they bring a learning orientation that challenges others in a respectful way.

Brave new world

So why do they need a business degree? Part of the value is simply in the time and opportunity to figure out what to do with the rest of their lives—especially for people with little work experience or professional network outside of the service.

“It’s hard for military people to start over,” explains Norma Domingo, a former aircraft mechanic in the Navy now studying human resources management in Foster’s Undergraduate Program. “You’ve earned a rank and a name for yourself. But that doesn’t carry over to the civilian world. I’m the same as every other Foster undergrad. We’re all here to start something new.”

Beyond career discernment and the acquisition of technical knowledge in the business disciplines, many veterans use Foster to “demilitarize” themselves, as Ryan McCarthy puts it. “In the Army we wear our rank on our chest, so you always know a person’s level of authority,” says the former artillery officer now pursuing his Foster MBA. “Here in business school and in corporate America, you have to be persuasive without the rank.”

Transferring soft skills is only half the battle. The other half is translation. “Bragging about your accomplishments is frowned upon in the military,” says Wigley. “But when you interview with a company, that’s exactly what you have to do. When you’re not used to telling that story, it can come out raw and unrefined.”

Poston says that Foster’s program staffs and career services excel at helping veterans communicate the assets they bring to any organization: “We help with the meat and the message, framing their experience in a way that has relevance to a recruiter.”

Nested networks

Military and ex-military students at Foster report a kind of sixth sense (or is it radar?) for finding each other in class. Maybe it’s their age. Or something in the way they speak, or carry themselves. Whatever it is, the bond is inescapable, the product of a shared experience, whichever their flavor of military service.

Now Foster vets have a more formal place to find each other. The student-organized MBA Veterans Association is only a few years old, but it’s rapidly evolving from social club to network hub.

The current officers are working with undergraduate leaders to charter a BA chapter of the organization. They are advising prospective students, coordinating with the Husky United Military Veterans organization (HUMV) to create a mentor program, hosting career development and networking events, and connecting with military bases and area employers to develop a military-to-corporate pipeline.

“The MBA Program administrators talk about how we have a golden ticket as a student,” says Veterans Association president Wigley. “I think we have a second golden ticket as veterans. If you reach out to vets at all kinds of companies, they’re usually more than willing to help.”

An old habit that dies hard.

Dan Boirum describes the connection between veterans in familial terms. He recalls suiting up for an interview with Liberty Mutual when a couple of classmates stepped in to perform an informal class A uniform inspection—even swapping watches so he’d look sharper. “It was just an instinctive thing,” he says. “Your buddy is going into an important meeting, so we’ll look you over, straighten you up. There’s a definite brother/sisterhood here—all within the larger Foster family.”

Passion and purpose

That’s the ultimate expression of the Foster student experience.

Matt Pescador, an executive officer in his 20th year with the Navy, enrolled in Foster’s Executive MBA Program preparing for an eventual second career, ideally at a comparable level of seniority. What he’s found is the definition of a symbiotic relationship. And endless inspiration.

“I have deep experience in leadership, and the executives in my program bring a fast-paced technocracy that I’m not familiar with,” he says. “The relationship between what they learn from me and what I learn from them is exactly what the program is trying to foster.”

For Boirum, those relationships—with people from every background who share a genuine passion—are the keys to his transformation to a successful and meaningful civilian life.

“When you transition out of the military, one of the things you’re most concerned about is finding another place where you belong, where there is a shared sense of purpose to make the world a better place. I was afraid that I’d leave the Army and be lost,” he says. “But at the Foster School I’m surrounded by people who want to be part of something special together, something bigger than themselves. I never feel lost here.”

The version of this article that appears in the spring 2015 issue of Foster Business includes profiles of six additional Foster veterans.

Historic MBA class gift seeds Foster’s first student-run investment fund

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Senior lecturer Lance Young and portfolio managers Brennen Ricks, Tristan Toomey, Aalok Shah and Brett Schulte.

Lance Young is not afraid to wield a sports metaphor when it’s warranted. And to describe the Foster School’s new MBA Investment Fund, his game of choice is baseball.

“It’s like AAA ball,” says the senior lecturer in finance who serves as faculty advisor for the nascent student-managed fund. “We play the game to the best of our ability the way it’s played by research and money management shops, applying all of the frameworks we learn here at Foster.”

That is to say, the school’s “minor league of investment management” is educational, but not academic. The fund is a serious venture led by portfolio managers and informed by research analysts, each following a disciplined and rigorous strategy.

And now, they have real money to invest.

Funding

That money originated with the Foster MBA Class of 2011 which dedicated its outgoing class gift toward creating a live investment fund for future students to manage as an indelible learning experience and a pipeline to the majors, so to speak.

“We wanted Foster to develop more opportunities for MBA students with an interest in finance, and also improve the competitive positioning of the school,” says ringleader Andrew Parcel (MBA 2011), now a vice president and private wealth advisor at Goldman Sachs. “This seemed like an obvious way to add a tool for recruiting students and improving the chances of finding work in the investment community.”

Under the guidance of Thomas Gilbert, assistant professor of finance, leaders of the MBA Finance Society began drawing up structure, policy and procedures for the fund. The subsequent MBA Classes of 2012 and 2014 dedicated all or parts of their graduation gifts to the initiative. Dean Jiambalvo added to the account.

And late last spring, well ahead of expectation, the fund reached its trigger point of $100,000. Go time.

Founding

With Gilbert away this year as a visiting professor at the University of British Columbia, Young stepped in. And Tristan Toomey stepped up.

Toomey, this year’s Finance Society president, recruited fellow second-year MBAs Aalok Shah, Brennen Ricks and Brett Schulte to serve with him as portfolio managers. They “hired” 13 first-year students as research analysts and commenced building a boutique investment fund from the ground up.

This has required discipline and patience. Before a cent of capital was invested, the team established a viable organizational and spent most of the academic year systematically populating a massive matrix of market data that will become a library for future MBA fund managers.

This analysis trickles down from economy to industry to firm. “In the next stage we’re looking at particular companies that present real alpha because they’re doing something innovative that can provide positive returns in the long term,” Toomey says.

Young adds that the experience has been a de facto capstone of the entire Foster MBA experience.

“If you want to find alpha, you have to understand a company’s business better than the rest of the market does,” he says. “That takes an analytical capability that comes from all the disciplines we teach at Foster. Every one of those checkmarks on the matrix is a framework applied.”

Future

This year’s portfolio managers have made their first investments of the fund—now over $300,000—just weeks before they graduate. “We knew that building continuity was the most important thing this year,” Toomey says.

The legacy will be both a working fund and a class outside the classroom—to be passed like a torch to future Foster MBAs of the finance persuasion.

“If we had done this in a theoretical setting, we could never achieve this level of reality and practical learning,” says Toomey.

“But because we have real money and report to real ‘shareholders,’ ” Young adds, “we have to follow a rock-solid investment thesis that makes sense and has the Foster brand on every trade.”

Dan Poston, assistant dean for graduate programs, notes that the fund, from concept to execution, is an exemplary collaboration between former, current and future Foster MBAs.

“As a sustainable, practical piece of the Foster education,” he says, “the way the fund mimics reality in its design and its management is a beautiful thing.”

Maybe even a grand slam.