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

Network Effects: The San Francisco Road Show

Saturday, December 24th, 2011

In November, we followed up on our New York trip with a round 2 visit to San Francisco. This is a shorter trip, with just 1 full day of company visits, but just as valuable as our visit to New York City. Being on the West Coast, we have a lot of alumni connections in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

As you may have read in various articles on tips for anyone who wants to get into investment banking, switch to a new career, or relocate in general, such trips can help you access three of the most important keys to transition: connections, connections, connections.

Through in-person and follow-up interactions over time, our name and personal profile gets circulated in the San Francisco investment banker circle. The alumni connections we make on these trips are also great sources for information interviews, through which we can learn more about the company, industry and city from the inside. Moreover, alumni are often tremendously helpful in polishing a resume for the industry. Finally, they would be the perfect mock interview partner as they are often hiring managers themselves and can give pointers.

The Finance Road Shows got us the first “in”; now it will be up to us to follow through.

~Guest Blogger Kim Chan, Full-Time Class of 2013

Evening Students Feed Hope

Thursday, December 15th, 2011

Evening MBA students set time aside on the Saturday of Halloween weekend to volunteer at Food Lifeline, a local hunger relief organization in Shoreline who’s mission is to end hunger in Western Washington. The students helped Food Lifeline meet it’s commitments to donors by “debranding” bags of frozen sweet potato fries. Students used a packaging label to cover up the manufacturer’s name on the bag, a requirement of the grocer who donated them.

Volunteers had a lot of fun hanging out with each other in a non-stressful environment. And being the dorks that they are, they made multiple jokes about how they could make the process more efficient, decrease the lead-time, and implement other concepts that they are learning this quarter in their Operations Management course.

They not only felt good about helping others in need, but there were also proud that they think they had the shortest processing time out of all the groups that were there that day! The students had a great time!

~ Guest Blogger: Julie Olden, Evening Class 2013

We’re #10! We’re #10!

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Foster MBA

So proud to be a part of Foster!

Business Week just published their rankings for the top part-time MBA programs in the country and Foster is number 10! This is a jump of 30 spots since the last published rankings in 2009. This ranks Foster above other prestigious business schools such as Chicago – Booth, NYU – Stern, Indiana – Kelley and USC – Marshall!

As a current evening student, the data points that jump out at me the most are the valuations of Teaching Quality, Caliber of Classmates, and Curriculum. Each of these categories was evaluated based on student surveys. Foster achieved an A+ for each of these categories! And, I can’t argue with this at all.

  • Our professors are industry experts who not only have a wealth of practical and academic knowledge but also care about their students.
  • My classmates are a trusted and diverse set of professionals representing a wide array of companies and industries. They are my cohorts in the classrooms and have become great friends outside.
  • The curriculum in varied and challenging. The standards are high and we are driven to excel. This is exactly what I would expect from a top business school.
  • The program offers a wide assortment of career services, mentoring programs, networking opportunities, clubs, global study programs and social activities to extend the value of my education beyond the classroom.

Business Week’s rankings only confirmed what I have known since I started in the program; that Foster is one of the top business programs in the country and delivers a world class education to their students. I can’t wait until the 2013 rankings when Foster climbs to Number 1!

Proud to be at Foster!
~Guest Blogger, Mark Ninomiya, Evening Class of 2013

Foster from an International Perspective

Monday, November 21st, 2011

As an international student from India, I did not have number of channels to get firsthand information about Foster school of Business. In my experience, the very first thing international students look at is the ranking of school on different websites. I had the mindset that the better the ranking the better the school. This is true only to certain extent, but once the school is in top 30 or 40, the rank does not matter that much. What matters most is what suits you the best.

When I did my research about Foster School of Business, my only source of information was the official website. But if you take efforts to dig deep in it and read through all available content, you get most of the information you need. The striking feature of Foster is in its different outlook towards the career after MBA. Instead of telling you where you should go, you get help to understand where you WANT to go. Along with the excellence in regular topics like finance, marketing, accounting, Career Services also consider the sports/athletic industry as appealing as finance or investment banking. If you are a person who is into sustainability, Non Profit or cleantech, there are different clubs and supporting events that would help you to get a jump start into that field.

The detailed information on the site about the MBA clubs, activities, and alums helps to understand the school to greater extent. In addition, the student blogs officially published throughout the web help a lot; most often those are international students writing about their experiences in the program. This gives a personal touch and good insight as they were in the same position one/two years back. These resources, though, give only a 40% idea about the school. When you arrive here after admittance you get to know the real value of this school. School is challenging because there is so much to offer, but it’s up to you how much you can take.

~Guest Blogger Sushant Wad, Full-Time Class of 2013

Kicking off the Evening MBA program with ePRIME and eLEAD

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Remember your first day of school? Excitement with a little bit of nervousness? That’s how I felt when I got to Foster where you get an intense first few days filled with new faces, new friends and a whole lot of learning. You meet your new team and talk about all of the readings and homework assignments that you have due even before your first day of class. Your initial thoughts are: Will I like my new team? Will we be able to work together? Will I be able to get through all of this?

You start to relax as ePRIME begins with opening presentations from Dean Jiambalvo who talks about our state-of-the-art building, Assistant Dean Poston who entertains you with the hustle and Associate Dean Turner who makes you laugh. You sit through more presentations and introductions, have lunch with your team, take pictures as a full class and end your day with drinks, appetizers and networking with current students and alumni.

So you survived the first day and now it’s time to meet your new professors for eLEAD, Morela Hernandez and Greg Bigley. You are immediately impressed with their backgrounds and style of teaching. You stay completely engaged throughout class because the discussions are actually interesting. You find that the readings on building teams and leadership development are not that difficult and you actually start enjoying them. You quickly learn how to work with your new teammates and apply your learnings to everyday work life. eLEAD classes make you feel empowered and even more excited to begin your education at Foster. It’s a great way to kick start your MBA experience at Foster!

~Guest Blogger, Rose Tucker, Evening Class of 2014

A Message from the MBAA President: The Airport Test

Monday, August 29th, 2011

Back when I was working in management consulting (wait, was that only a year ago?), when we were hiring someone one of our main criteria was called “The Airport Test.” Eventually if we hired this person someone was bound to be stuck with him or her for an extended period of time at an airport, and it was important to decide if the resulting conversation would be exciting or vapid. Basically we wanted to hire interesting people.

Well I’m delighted to report that after spending a year with my classmates, it is my conclusion that the admissions office has the same test. I am constantly amazed at how many different interests we have. We have runners, climbers, cyclists, hikers, ultimate players (Frisbee, not creepy), movie buffs, poker enthusiasts, volunteers, foodies, gamers, techies, fashionistas, and many more. That’s not even counting our wide variety of business interests, from marketing to finance, start-ups to Fortune 50, non-profit to investment banking.

What makes Foster such a great place to be is that not only do we have so many diverse interests, but we all want to share them with each other. There are so many different small groups that have formed, each with a specific interest, and each excited to share that interest with the rest of the class. Together with the formal MBAA (MBA Association) clubs, these informal social clubs form the real glue of our school by bringing people together.

As the president of the MBAA, my job is to empower and enable students to create both the formal and informal clubs, and to be sure that we are sharing our interests with the community at large. At the risk of sounding a tad conceited, I want the world to realize what I have: that Foster students are pretty darn awesome people, and the world-at-large would be lucky to have us in their companies, on their boards, or just at their parties.

So here is my challenge to next year’s class, which I issued at the admit weekends. Over the summer, think about how you want to be involved outside of the classroom, where you want to contribute. What gets you up in the morning? What is your passion? And most importantly, how will you share that passion with the rest of Foster? When you arrive in the fall, look me up and tell me what you decided. That’s what the MBAA is here to help you do.

~ Guest Blogger Jason Rankin, Full-Time Class of 2012 and MBAA President

Evening Program Events

Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

I can’t believe Spring quarter and my first year in the Evening MBA program are coming to an end. Thinking back on the past year, so much has happened that my head is still spinning:
– Meeting future classmates at Evaluation Day & EPRIME
– 6 rigorous core courses and 5 amazing professors
– Weekend study group sessions with 4 exceptionally talented and smart guys
– Participating in mentoring events at Russell Investments and SeaBear
– Flying off to Peru for the best study tour Foster students have ever seen
– Meeting future Foster hopefuls at campus night events and class visit
– Not to mention all the extracurricular fun like playing on two Foster intramural volleyball teams, happy hours, TG’s and the Fall Ball

Through it all, the one common aspect that made everything enjoyable and the experience invaluable was that I connected with so many different people in the Foster community. Everyone from the professors, faculty & staff, classmates and especially my study group members have made the journey thus far, an incredible one. And, now that I am able to serve as the Evening MBAA VP of Membership, my goal is to help build the MBAA community that will further bring everyone together and add value to everyone’s educational and career goals.

This Summer, the MBAA will be looking to plan events that will strengthen the connections made over the past year. Some events that have already been calendared are:
– The Evening MBA End of Year Celebration & Leadership Recognition on Saturday, June 4th 7PM start at Woodshed Studios in South Lake Union
– 1st Annual Challenge For Charity Walk on Wednesday, June 8th, 6PM start at the Greenlake Community Center
– Death Spiral’s last stand – The MBA Band’s last performance on Thursday, June 8th, 10 pm start at Rendezvous/Jewelbox Theater

Additional events that are being planned include:
– Summer BBQ
– Mariners/Sounders Game Night

So, as I look forward to closing out my first year in the program, I am even more excited to find out what lies ahead in the second year. And, these Summer events will be the perfect springboard to dive in!

~Guest Blogger, Mark Ninomiya, Evening Class of 2013 and Evening VP of Membership