Welcome to the MBA Experience

Thursday, October 4th, 2012

It’s now nearly two whole weeks into fall quarter!  How are Foster MBA students feeling so far?

First year students are hitting the ground running!

I am exhausted, overwhelmed, excited, and hungry to learn. About what I expected coming into the program, just even more extreme. I am looking forward to getting involved in the clubs and interacting with great people.

~Dennis Grubbs, Full-time Class of 2014

I’m overwhelmed, but in the best way possible. Beyond tackling and mastering the coursework ahead, I am looking forward to getting involved in the Foster community and beginning my exploration of career opportunities ahead.

~Liza Green, Full-time Class of 2014

I keep remembering the words of wisdom from last year’s First Years during my campus visit: “You’ll be drinking from a fire hose from day one!” They weren’t joking. It’s been a great first week and the workload has been everything they promised and more.

~Dan Metz, Full-time Class of 2014

Have a great quarter, everybody!

First Year Highlights: Advice from an MBA Mentor

Friday, September 7th, 2012

The Foster MBA program provides so many opportunities to meet with and talk to people in business, from meet-the-firms to happy hours to career fairs sponsored by MBA Career Services. While all of these opportunities are excellent, the one I found the most unique was the MBA Mentor Program. I knew this program was something very different early last fall when it held an “NFL draft” of mentor meet-and-greets, only this time the mentors were the prospects instead of the students! The mentors spoke about their areas of expertise and then were unleashed to the students for more getting-to-know-you conversation before students voted for their top three mentor choices. The mentors provided such a great opportunity to learn more about an industry, gather information about what to (and not to) spend time worrying about throughout the next couple of months, and garner any wisdom that they could pass down. The meetings with mentors provided an outlet for true curiosity and learning because the mentee groups were small and people did not have to wonder if they were asking enough thought-provoking questions or smiling enough, or worry if a recruiter was interested in their types of questions.

One of my mentors was Herb Bridge, chairman of Ben Bridge, a jewelry company with stores all over the western U.S. While the jewelry industry is not at the top of my priority list, I found myself drawn to Mr. Bridge’s experience, dedication, and no-nonsense responses to questions. As a career-changer in an MBA program, I gravitated to his resolute and definitive decision-making and responses. I was the coordinator for my small group so I was responsible for setting up each meeting between mentor and mentees. This role gave me additional opportunities to speak with Mr. Bridge and pick his brain. Most mentors have one meeting with their mentee group, but Mr. Bridge held two meetings: one with him where we discussed paths, what we wanted to do, and his thoughts; the second with additional people from his office (his CFO, etc.) where we had the opportunity to gain further information and different perspectives. Each meeting was left very open-ended, with contact information exchanged and an invitation for further communication.

Thanks to my meetings with Mr. Bridge I was able to get answers to my personal questions regarding business, sacrifices, and potential opportunities. His comments were really tailored to the goals of each person. Often I find that speakers and industry representatives generalize their answers for the wide audience, but Mr. Bridge really took the time to tailor his remarks to each person.

After speaking with classmates with different mentors, my experience of multiple visits and introductions, open invitations for further communication, and definitive answers and opinions on how to achieve our desired goals was unique to Mr. Bridge. His interest in the students and successful business experience created a unique atmosphere and one that I have yet to find in any other MBA or business networking opportunity.

~ Guest blogger Jennifer Yanni, Full-time Class of 2013

What a Difference a Year Makes

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

What a difference a year makes. Last year, I completed my last tour as a U.S. Marine, moved from my duty station in Japan back to Seattle, studied for the GMAT, worked tirelessly on my business school applications, and reconnected with old friends and colleagues.

This year, I finished up my volunteer service as a writing and math tutor at 826 Seattle, rekindled my passion for jazz music and swing dance, connected with local veterans and military-friendly companies, and traveled to Eastern Europe and Scandinavia. And now, in less than a month, I will hang up my uniform and don a business suit…and this old Marine will soon become a full-time MBA student at the Foster School of Business.

After my deployment to Iraq, I knew that I did not want to make the military a long-term career. I joined the Marines out of a sense of patriotism and duty, stemming from the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Iraq War. I wanted to serve my country, deploy to Iraq, and, like Cincinnatus, go back home. My military experience helped me discover my personal strengths and professional interests and develop my leadership and management skills. But I knew that I didn’t know enough about business theory and practices. I was hungry and wanted to know more. And I saw business school as a way to satisfy that hunger and make a successful career transition from the military to the business world.

Having spent my entire career overseas in Asia and the Middle East, I look forward to starting business school in my hometown of Seattle. I look forward to meeting and learning as much as I can from my future classmates and professors. I look forward to making lifelong friendships and golden memories. I look forward to the parties and social events. I look forward to building my professional network and making inroads into the local technology industry. But most of all, I look forward to starting a new chapter in my life as a veteran in business school.

Every now and then, I miss the Corps. Sometimes, I wonder how the veterans of World War II, Korea, and Vietnam made the transition back to civilian life after they got back from the war. How did they cope with hanging up their uniform and remaking themselves as part of American society? Last year, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General James F. Amos, said, “A Marine is a Marine…there’s no such thing as a former Marine. You’re a Marine, just in a different uniform and you’re in a different phase of your life.” As I begin the journey of the Foster MBA program, I know that I will have to remake my identity on a personal and professional level, but I also know that I don’t have to forsake my identity as a Marine. And thanks to the wisdom of General Amos, I will stand as a proud veteran at Foster and, in return, hope to make the Corps proud someday.

~Guest Blogger Mark Bonicillo, Full-time Class of 2014

Meet Erin Ernst, Foster MBA Admissions Director

Friday, August 17th, 2012

The Foster community is composed of more than just students (though students are, of course, important!) – program staff, faculty and alumni all play a role in creating Foster’s warm, welcoming, unique and collaborative environment.  This post is first in a series highlighting some of these diverse perspectives to help illustrate the personalities and passions of our community members and the many ways different community members interact with the program. Inside the Foster MBA interviewed Erin Ernst, Foster MBA Admissions Director, to learn about how she contributes to the Foster community.  Her responses are given below.

In your opinion, what makes the Foster MBA program special?

Hands down, the people. When I started working here over 10 years ago, I’ll admit it – I had some preconceived notions about MBAs. I suppose I thought that they were all the same. Boy, was I wrong. Foster MBAs truly support one another. They genuinely want to get to know one another. They aspire to use the skills gained in the MBA to rise to the top as much as they plan to use these same skills to give back and make a difference. They astound me year after year with their incredibly diverse and impressive talents, experiences and goals. They are ambitious, humble, funny, brilliant and passionate. I feel so fortunate to know them all!

What qualities or attributes does the Foster Admissions team look for in candidates?

There are certain qualities that almost any competitive MBA program would look for – strong academic abilities, quality work experience, polished communication skills and leadership potential. Basically, admissions committees want to know whether a candidate can handle the coursework, work effectively on a team, and be successful in their career after the MBA. Foster is no exception. But beyond these basic attributes, at Foster we look for students who are passionate about their goals. People who will roll up their sleeves, dive in and soak this experience up.  We are known for our small program size, and this means that each student has the potential to contribute a great deal to the program. It is very difficult to hide here; this is not the place for someone who just wants to go through the motions and get the degree. We offer a ton of opportunities to network, to develop your leadership skills, to try new things and to put knowledge learned in the classroom to practice out in the real world; we are looking for people who want the MBA to be a truly transformational experience.

Moving on from work, what are some of your hobbies?

 I am a born and raised Seattleite, and I suppose my hobbies reflect that. I enjoy the outdoors as much as I enjoy trying out a new restaurant. I love hiking. A lot. But I love the pizza and beer after the hike just as much. I am almost always listening to music – at home, in the car, at work, on my way to work – and I particularly enjoy discovering new, obscure bands. I have played the piano since I was seven years old and find it to be a great stress reducer. If I could camp every single weekend in the summer and ski every single weekend in the winter, I would. I swim laps a few times a week and I aspire to still be doing this when I’m 85 years old. I am still friends with people that I went to kindergarten with, but I absolutely love meeting new people – I definitely found the right career for that!

Where is the most interesting place you’ve traveled to?

My career in MBA admissions has allowed me to travel the world more than I ever thought possible. And the more I travel, the more I want to see. I have a hard time calling one location more interesting than another. But one trip that really stands out is a vacation to Guatemala that I took a few years ago. I had never heard Howler Monkeys until I walked into Tikal National Park. Let’s just say that I thought the animal producing this terrifying sound was a lot bigger than a monkey. We also visited Lake Atitlan, and getting there involved a three hour, very bumpy ride in a van, and a very fast, rain soaked ride in a boat to get to our hotel – there are no roads connecting the villages around the lake. That night we ate dinner around a big table with all of the other hotel guests, and watched lightning strike the San Pedro Volcano from our porch. Unforgettable!

If you could go anywhere in the world, on an all-expenses paid vacation, where would you go?

New Zealand. I have a feeling that it is right up my alley!

Time for a Change

Friday, August 10th, 2012

What are your life-time career goals? Jesus, I don’t know…to retire early? I overheard my sister ask my niece what she wanted to be when she grew up and I leaned in closer to hear the answer. Maybe this six year old knows something I don’t. In case you’re wondering the answer was cashier at the grocery store or the trash guy. She didn’t want to touch the trash; she just wanted to drive the truck and operate the arm that picked up the cans. These answers did not inspire anything in me. Although the discount at the grocery store was appealing, I had little interest in wearing an apron. Also, I’m too short to drive a trash truck.

For the last ten years I have developed my expertise in a small and specialized industry, which was dying a slow and painful death. I could see the writing on the wall and needed to reinvent myself, but transitions are difficult. As my old boss was fond of saying, “change just brings problems”. This brilliant, albeit fictional, political campaign slogan was quoted ironically, but that company has since had to lay off more than half its staff.

A career change was in order. I have extensive experience in a very specific field and I didn’t think this was enough to make the career change I wanted. So, I decided to go back to school. This presents a new set of challenges, like “What are your life-time career goals?” Answering this question actually forced me to examine what I wanted as opposed to what was immediately available to me. I wanted more options and felt an MBA could help me with that.

Foster has lots of the qualities I was looking for in a school. Ideologically, the program’s very supportive and collaborative environment was a plus. I didn’t quite realize how prevalent this theme was until I arrived at the welcome weekend. It’s all anyone talks about. Well that and coffee. A good number of the students were also career changers, the class was a little smaller and more diverse, and the location was a draw. The cooperative focus was actually a really strong selling point for a career changer like me. Let’s be honest, I can use all the help I can get.

Ultimately, these little bits of information about the program and the opinions of a bunch of people I don’t know are all I had to go on. Is Foster a good fit for me? I think so, but I haven’t even started yet. My own experience will be shaped greatly by what I put into it, but I just don’t know exactly what that looks like. It may be the best decision I ever made. I’ll let you know in two years. So, right now the only thing I’m certain of is that Foster will be the best MBA experience of my life, or really, the only one. Here’s hoping I’m right and Foster is a good fit.

~Guest blogger Nicki Miyoshi, Full-time Class of 2014

A Time of Transition

Saturday, June 30th, 2012

There are a number of reasons an individual may choose to pursue an MBA.  Here is one account of how an incoming first year student found her perfect fit with Foster, and has begun transitioning to the program.

By Liza Green, Full-time Class of 2014. Upon graduating from University of Virginia, Liza moved to the Rocky Mountains. Her experience there spanned various industries, from restaurants to biotechnology and education. Liza hopes to one day run her own food-related business, and in the meantime is eager to explore marketing and entrepreneurship at Foster.

Applying to boarding schools at the age of thirteen was as rigorous as the processes I would later experience for college and business school. I recall writing numerous essays and completing short answer questions in the style of Mad Libs, albeit a bit more serious. One that I distinctly remember was “What I like most about myself is that I am ____.” My answer: well-rounded. To this day, I would probably answer that question the same way, as I have worked in real estate, education, biotechnology, retail, restaurants, and more. But, I might also give the same response if asked what I like least about myself.

I recently started to feel that I was not only a jack of all trades, but also possibly a master of none. I realized I wanted something different, something more; I wanted an expertise and a committed direction. I had billed myself as an administrative specialist, and while I had contributed significantly to various organizations, I was having difficulty taking my career to the next level. I knew I had a lot to learn, so my natural decision was to return to school.

Having grown up back east, my over-generalized image of MBA students consisted of little more than i-bankers in business suits. I had lived in the mountains for years and had never once donned a suit, so when I visited schools on the east coast, I wasn’t quite sure if I fit in. I wanted to be around people whose experiences were as diverse as mine, whose perspectives were as unique, and whose motivation and goals were as individually-driven and tailored. In my search process, Foster emerged as the only school that truly excited me. What I found is a community that I believe will allow me to excel while pushing me to develop the skills that I need. The energy at Foster seems contagious, and my own excitement about the program is reinforced by every interaction I have with students, staff, and alumni.

When I first committed to Foster, the start of school could not come fast enough. I was ready to quit my job, pack a UHaul, and get to Seattle. Thus far, I have only made the first step in that transition – quitting my job. I am now heeding the advice of current Foster students as I relax and spend time with family and friends. I have recently returned from two months with my family in Virginia and New York. Soon, my boyfriend and I will depart on a two week trip to whitewater raft, hike, camp, and recharge in the mountains of Idaho.

Yet behind all of this leisurely personal time lurks an ever-expanding to-do list. I have been out of school for nine years and I was a History major in college, so my prep list might be a bit more extensive than most: purchase and complete online coursework in Accounting, Finance, and Statistics; do some soul searching to better direct my studies and focus at school; research potential careers and employers; schedule and complete informational interviews with potential networking connections found on LinkedIn. On top of that, I need to ensure my financial aid is in order, rewrite my resume yet again, find a place to live, and possibly transition to the world of smartphone users. The list goes on, and I will do my best to manage it all while making sure to enjoy the calm before the storm.

Foster on Two Wheels

Friday, May 4th, 2012

I live in a great part of town called Fremont.  It has three things that are important to me.  It’s near the water, it’s near about a dozen great bars, and it’s near the Burke Gillman trail.  I’ve been biking since I was a child.  Before my legs could reach the pedals my old man would sit me on the cross bar and ride us along hopping curbs and “stump jumping.”  Needless to say, biking is and has been an important part of my life.

Seattle is the most bike friendly city in the world.  They literally rip streets up and put in bike lanes.  Cars don’t run you off the road, and most of the time you don’t need it because of wonderful trail routes.  I’ve been riding my bike to school since starting at Foster. It’s about 2.5 miles and my only concern is not getting so hot that I’m a sweaty mess in class.  Waking up on a crisp morning and riding to school has been more effective for me than the liter of coffee I consume regularly.  Getting out of class and bombing down the University hill is the best part of my day.

~ Guest Blogger Charlie Northrop, Full-time Class of 2013

How It All Gets Done

Monday, April 9th, 2012

Ever wonder how Foster MBAs gear up for a new week of classes, manage their career searches, and manage to keep themselves sane?  Here is one account.

By Gwyn Gaubatz, Full-time Class of 2013.  Gwyn graduated from Smith College with a double-major in Computer Science and American Studies.  After teaching two years in rural Mississippi with Teach for America, she spent five years in the educational testing industry before her interest in organizational behavior and development drew her to business school.

It is 9:30 Sunday morning when the homework panic hits.  Over coffee and an English muffin, I start running through the present status of my weekend To Do list. Due to surprisingly gorgeous weather, I only completed one assignment on Saturday, a review and self-evaluation of a speech I gave last week in ‘Finding Your Voice,’ a business communications course…which means that I have a lot to do on Sunday.

I have to:

  • Update my resume and draft and submit cover letters for 2 internships
  • Review the speech of one of my classmates and provide peer feedback
  • Read Bill Gate’s Harvard commencement speech as a sample exhortation to ‘Change the World’
  • Read 2 assigned articles for my Ads & Promotions class
  • Complete an online problem set on MyAccountingLab
  • Complete a case write up for Managerial Accounting
  • Prep for a 5 PM team meeting on our first Operations case of the term
  • Write a personal statement and submit my scholarship application for the coming school year

Oh, and also:

  • Clean my apartment
  • Do two loads of laundry
  • Go grocery shopping
  • Prepare dinner and fix lunches for the beginning of the week
  • Go to bed on time!

My mind spinning, I feel myself getting sucked into an anxiety-driven negative feedback loop.  How will I get everything done?  There are not enough hours in the day!

And then I remember that I have given myself a mantra to get through days like this: I can only do one thing at a time, and it is going to be OK.


First things first, I run my laundry down to the basement.  Easy. Done.


In sequence, over the next few hours, I diligently work my way through my chores and most of my homework assignments, and even manage to submit my scholarship application.  Every time my mind tries to distract me with dire warnings – you have so much more to do! Don’t forget you have a meeting tonight!  And there is no food in the fridge! – I remind myself: I can only do one thing at a time.  It is going to be OK.

And so, one step at a time, I work my way through the afternoon, completing my course work.

An hour into my team meeting, my colleague and I are stuck with only two out of three case questions answered.  Reviewing the case and our class notes illuminates nothing, so we agree to break early. He makes plans to follow-up with our professor the next day while I agree to turn our preliminary notes into workable text; we will reconvene with the rest of our team Monday evening.  Sometimes, the best solution to a knotty problem is to know when to take a step back.

I stop by the grocery store to stock up on food for the week and when I get home I decide to take an hour (or two…or three!) off of work to make myself dinner, watch some TV and browse the Internet.  At 10:00 PM it’s back to work to finish off the night with my Managerial Accounting write-up.  But wait – have I forgotten something?

The internships!

I check the Foster MBA Jobs website and confirm that two internships I have flagged as possibilities have applications due tonight.  Do I have time to write both cover letters AND finish my case?  I certainly don’t have time to panic, so I set to work.  After checking in with some friends online and getting both advice and encouragement, I return my attention to the two internships.  One of them, I realize, was flagged in haste; the job description matches neither my background nor my interests.  Well, that’s one less thing to do!  In the next hour I shine up my resume and craft a new cover letter, with notes I saved from the Career Center to serve as reminders of format, content, do’s and don’t’s.  After reading through my materials twice, I submit my application just under the wire.  Phew!

I quickly shift gears back to my Managerial Accounting case and begin to work on my write-up but find myself struggling to make simple connections.  I look at the clock and have to acknowledge that I am pretty much useless this close to midnight; if I keep plugging away it will be nothing but diminishing returns for the rest of the night.

And so I go to bed.

At 7:30 Monday morning, I return to the task at hand.  Over coffee and an English muffin, I work my way through a comparison of a traditional costing system and activity-based costing at a small commercial bank.  In less than an hour I’ve completed the case and posted responses to the course’s page on Blackboard.

The sun is shining yet again as I head out of my apartment towards the bus.  I can tell that this week is off to a great start!  I can only do one thing at a time, and right now I’m going to enjoy blue skies above my head and the blossoming trees that line my route towards town.

Working as a TA

Monday, February 13th, 2012

A handful of MBAs typically become Teaching Assistants – most do it primarily for the compensation, but in my case it was a mechanism to gain valuable experience in my post-grad area of study, accounting. Because of the time commitment, TA’ing is generally a 2nd-year MBA activity, but three of my classmates actually did TA as first years (with very little sleep, no doubt!). There are a variety of departments that hire MBAs as TAs – international business, statistics, accounting, marketing, etc. I have colleagues who TA’d for an MBA course they had previously taken, for a Technology MBA course where they had previously earned a top grade in the comparable MBA course, and for a variety of undergraduate courses. To gain a TA position, depending on the class, you must either contact the professor or the department you are interested in TA’ing for. Then, they usually collect resumes and hold interviews to make final selections.

After signing on to intern for an accounting firm, a friend who had TA’d in the undergraduate accounting department his entire first year, asked if I’d be interested in TA’ing as a 2nd year. There were several other activities and leadership positions within the MBA program that I was planning to apply for, and so TA’ing meant that I would have to forego those opportunities. Time is always a huge issue as an MBA student – you have to choose your obligations wisely! So, after much thought, I decided to do it – one – because I love teaching and may have an interest in lecturing in the future, two – post-grad I would work in accounting, so it would be a great way to brush up and acquire new knowledge, and three – TAs are compensated with a full tuition waiver, medical benefits, and a monthly stipend (which covers most of my rent and necessities like food). The worry of accumulating more debt would be over!

Therefore, I approached my ‘job’ with full energy and commitment. I balanced out my schedule so that each quarter I could take 3 full classes + TA, while still meeting all of the Foster graduation requirements. I think of TA’ing as about a class and a half’s worth of work. TA’ing for Financial undergraduate accounting requires: attending lecture (3 hrs a week), teaching section to two classes of 80 students (4 hrs a week), holding office hours (2 hrs a week), and the remaining hours prepping, grading, and answering all those student emails. In total, it’s about a 20 hr/wk commitment. TA’ing for other classes/departments require different amounts of commitment – in many classes you don’t actually have to teach students, so the teaching section component would be eliminated. Again, it all depends on the department, the class, and the professor.

All in all, I love the experience, and wouldn’t trade it for any other activity that could have been. It does take time & work, but TA’ing was the right decision for me experience-wise and money-wise. Having to get in front of 80 students weekly means you have to develop command of the subject matter, establish a presence where you are respected but also approachable, and learn techniques for proper classroom management to engage the students. I find each of these challenges rewarding, particularly in the instances when students tell me how helpful I was in enabling them to understand the material. I am lucky enough for my post-grad career to perfectly align with an accounting TA position that gives me a glimpse of what it would be like to potentially teach full time as a lecturer, while at the same time paying my bills. Depending on one’s objectives and obligations, becoming a TA isn’t for everyone, but it is a position worth considering.

~By Guest Blogger Catherine Chin, Full-Time Class of 2012

The Board Fellows Program

Monday, January 16th, 2012

As actors performed the play Robin Hood at the Seattle Children’s Theatre, I stepped backstage, watching the performers change costumes and prepare to step back out in front of the curtain. This backstage tour was part of my orientation to the Board of Directors. As this year’s Board Fellow for the Seattle Children’s Theatre I’ve had some unique opportunities to see the inner workings of the theatre and gain insights into the world of nonprofit boards.

I applied last spring to be a Board Fellow because of my interest in serving as a nonprofit board member after graduation. During college I studied drama and continue to be interested in the local arts community, so I sought out theatre and arts boards from the list of potential Board Fellows positions. After interviewing with a couple organizations I was happily matched with the Seattle Children’s Theatre.

In addition to attending regular board meetings I am also participating in the Development Committee. This involvement allows me to utilize my marketing background to brainstorm strategies aimed at bringing new patrons to the theatre.

As a Board Fellow, we are supported with a bi-quarterly workshop. The workshop introduces information on the various board structures and common challenges for nonprofit boards. As a part of the program we will use the information presented in the workshops to compile a research paper for our organization based on the organization’s needs and challenge areas we identify.

Overall, I am enjoying my involvement in the Boards Fellows program. I love the Seattle Children’s Theatre and am happy I can contribute my knowledge to help the organization. I am also enjoying the unique opportunity to “preview” what it means to be a nonprofit board member.

~Guest Blogger Sherry Gardella, Full-Time Class of 2012