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Rita Jabbouri: How to THRIVE in the Evening MBA Program

Incoming students often ask what they should do to prepare for the Evening MBA Program, and how to best navigate the three years of the curriculum while working full-time and balancing other competing priorities. Rita Jabbouri, Class of 2017 alumna, shares her top 10 tips to thrive in the Foster Evening MBA.

Rita Jabbouri, Evening MBA Class of 2017
Rita Jabbouri, Evening MBA Class of 2017

Rita Jabbouri is in Airplane Product Development Finance at Boeing where she is a trusted business partner to chief engineers, program leaders, and directors. When she’s not dreaming about the future of aerospace, she loves to run, hike, cook healthy meals from scratch, read articles from a variety of sources to satisfy her curiosity on a range of different topics, and do anything that involves making memories with loved ones. Rita spends a considerable amount of time with Foster classmates and alumni who have become close friends.

Here are my top 10 tips for successfully navigating the Foster Evening MBA. A huge thank you to classmates, professors, fellow alumni, and mentors who taught me so much over the course of the program!

10. What to read during the program (besides what’s required). If you read nothing else, make sure to review the Weekly Newsletters that the Program Office sends to all evening students. This will have the latest updates on academics and extracurricular activities and will keep you on top of administrative items such as managing your elective courses. Second, sign up for a journal subscription so you can stay up to date on business news. As a student, you get a discount through the University of Washington for a Wall Street Journal subscription, for example. Professors will often bring in news articles that apply to the course to discuss in class, and they invite students to do the same. It will help reinforce what you learn in the classroom.

Rita with her Case Competition team
Rita with her Case Competition team

9. Take time to slow down. The next three years of your life will be extremely busy. It’s important to take time to rest, to reflect, and to remind yourself why you started this program in the first place. Do whatever keeps your mind sharp and helps you manage stress. For me, it was jogging. Although I couldn’t do it as often as I would like with how crazy my schedule got, I would fit in 20-minute workouts that made a world of difference in my energy level and how alert I was in class and team meetings. Do it for you! You owe it to yourself to get the most of out of this program, and you won’t be able to do that if you don’t take care of yourself first. The basics apply more than ever during these three years- get at least seven hours of sleep per night, drink lots of water, and make sure to eat three meals a day. You would be surprised how easy it is to skip one because of back to back commitments. You will likely develop a new appreciation for Jimmy John’s sandwiches delivered directly to your classroom on those especially busy days.

Hiking with fellow Huskies
Hiking with fellow Huskies

8. Plan on everything taking at least a half hour longer than expected. Building in buffers in the second year of the program was a lifesaver for me. Whether it’s meetings running over, traffic being …well…worse than usual, parking being full, etc., you’ll save yourself a lot of worrying if you budget at least 30-minute buffers in between your various commitments. And if everything goes as planned, you’ll get to your next class, team meeting, informational interview, academic advising session, MBA Association meeting- you name it- early and can review content or grab a coffee and catch up with a classmate prior. Pat yourself on the back! You’re running your day, not the other way around.

Rita presenting to VCs, judges, entrepreneurs, and community leaders in the final round of the UW Business Plan Competition
Rita presenting to VCs, judges, entrepreneurs, and community leaders in the final round of the UW Business Plan Competition

7. Pencil in family and friend dates at least a month in advance. Expect busy weekends and plan accordingly. This might seem a little silly at first, but talk to any current students or alumni and they will most likely agree. It’s tough to schedule only a week in advance- not to mention on the spot- because your calendar will fill up quickly with MBA-related commitments, whether they’re required or you sign up for them. Life doesn’t stop during the MBA- there will be numerous engagements, weddings, newborns, career changes, etc. You will start to notice your friendship and classmate circles overlapping and this community will be your support system throughout the program.

Attempting a mid-air shot with friends at The Color Run!
Attempting a mid-air shot with friends at The Color Run!

6. Take advantage of the experiential learning opportunities. Step outside your comfort zone. There are so many Experiential Learning opportunities available to you throughout your three years at Foster. Whether it’s a field study, independent study, an internship, the Business Plan Competition, case competitions, study tours, Mentor Program, consulting project with a nonprofit, leadership experience via the MBA Association—each of these will add to your education in a way no book or lecture ever can. When you apply what you learn by doing it, that’s when it truly starts to sink in. Not sure where to start? Talk to Jean Gekler and Sally Templeton in MBA Career Management, Connie Bourassa-Shaw and Amy Sallin at the Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship, or Jennifer Bauermeister at the MBA Strategic Consulting Program. They love working with students and they will connect you to contacts who can help you reach your goals.

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Rita with Business Plan Competition (BPC) partner and classmate Ellyce Shulman. As first-year MBA students, they placed 4th out of 103 teams in the BPC.

5. Be intentional. This applies to your daily routine, as well as the three-year outlook.

Daily Routine: When do you do your best work? For me, it’s in the morning- before emails, work, and before the ubiquitously connected world we live in starts to pull you in different directions. Pick one or two things you want to accomplish and commit to those before you answer any emails. Whether it’s reviewing a tough lecture, getting a heavy reading done, or researching your next career move, plan your toughest work when you are most alert.

Three-year Outlook: Be intentional in goal-setting for each of the three years. How to get started? Meet with Kara Fichthorn, the Evening MBA Director of Student Affairs. I recommend at least once a year, although I can tell you I met with staff a lot more often than that. The staff members at Foster are so helpful and they want to see you succeed. Get to know them, share your goals, and they will help you focus your energy and prioritize your time at Foster to achieve what you set out to accomplish each of the three years.

Snacks- the usual centerpiece at Foster MBA team meetings
Snacks- the usual centerpiece at Foster MBA team meetings

4. Be a “resource hog.” I can’t take credit for this one- Professor Mark Westerfield is known for this phrase, advice he shared with us at eLead. There are so many opportunities, contacts, and resources available at Foster- take advantage of as many as you can. If your team is struggling with a particular topic in a lecture, don’t hesitate to ask your questions in class. The rest of your classmates will benefit from the discussion. If you’re still struggling on a topic after working through it with your team, reach out to your professor to set up some one-on-one time to walk through your questions. Foster professors are so passionate about what they do, and they really are experts in their field- having done the research and the work in the real world that informs their teaching. They are in the business of creating futures: they want to help and are there for you when you need them.

Professor Ed Rice (Business Economics and Finance) never disappoints with his jokes
Never a dull moment with Professor Ed Rice (Business Economics and Finance)

3. Get involved. Go to Wednesday night happy hour, join a club, run for a position with the MBA Association, become a Peer Mentor, volunteer to help with Challenge for Charity, or simply spend time with classmates outside of class. Your experience will be that much more enjoyable if you get involved and make an effort to get to know the talented people around you. The network you build at Foster is priceless both during and after the program. And it goes without saying that authenticity is critical: yes, be yourself. You are supposed to be part of this program- you were selected amongst a pool of talented individuals. Be confident in your strengths and open about what you would like to improve. Your classmates can’t help you if you’re not honest with yourself first and foremost.

Rita with her #OneFoster Scavenger Hunt team!
Rita with her #OneFoster Scavenger Hunt team!

2. Invest in your teams. This is important throughout the program, but especially so in your first year as you’re still getting to know your class. Your teammates will likely become some of your best friends- your strengths and weaknesses will complement each other and you will help each other get through the most challenging parts of the program, together. Ask yourself how you can help your teammates. What do you bring to the table that is different from everyone else? And, more importantly, how will you leave Foster better than you found it?

Rita's first year team at the annual Foster Fun Run. As the MBA Association VP of Community Outreach, Rita led the planning of the Foster Fun Run benefiting Special Olympics and Boys & Girls Clubs.
Rita’s first-year team at the 4th annual Foster Fun Run. As the MBA Association VP of Community Outreach, Rita led the planning of the event, benefiting Special Olympics and Boys & Girls Clubs.

1. Remember your “why.” What was the reason you wanted to get your MBA at Foster? Write it down now. You’ll want to revisit it often to keep yourself grounded and focused. That and your teammates will help you not only survive in the program, but THRIVE in it. Don’t jump into everything because you don’t want to miss out, but don’t sit on the sidelines either your first year to “scope things out.” How do you choose where to invest your time? That brings us back to your why. This will probably evolve over your time at Foster. There won’t be an “aha” moment that will tell you exactly what you should be doing. But the culmination of the coursework, workshops you attend, people you meet, skillsets you develop, and experiences you have will point you in the right direction for you post-MBA.

Rita with her Peer Mentees at the annual Frosters MBA event
Rita with her Peer Mentees at the annual Frosters event

The Foster Evening MBA Program isn’t for the faint of heart. Getting into the program says a lot about who you are. Whether you aspire to change up, move up, or start up, embrace this opportunity! Challenge yourself, invest in your classmates, focus on shared success, and have fun along the way. Before you  know it, you’ll be a master at navigating ambiguous business problems and you’ll have a massive network to tap into. Best of luck and enjoy the program!

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Wondering if the Foster Evening MBA Program is the right fit for you? To make an appointment with the Foster MBA Programs Office, call 206-543-4661 or toll free at 1-866-778-9622, or email us at mba@uw.edu.

Get to know us!  Don’t hesitate to reach out to our Admissions Team and check out our upcoming Evening MBA Admissions Events.

Foster Evening MBA Commencement 2016

The Class of 2016 Commencement

The commencement of the Class of 2016 was bittersweet, with poignant speakers, awards recognizing exceptional students, and a general feeling of community as the graduates embark on a new chapter in their careers and lives. Above all, a common theme throughout the commencement festivities was the concept of servant leadership.

Howard Behar, Former President of Starbucks International

Howard Behar, Former President of Starbucks International, was the commencement speaker. In his speech, he recounted the story of an elderly customer who walked into the same Starbucks store every day and ordered the same coffee drink and muffin. When the customer did not show up one day, a barista on the team went to his residence to check on him and bring him his usual order. The barista was told that he had passed on. The Starbucks team went to the customer’s funeral and set up a table full of his usual order, and on each muffin bag was one of the personalized messages the team would write for the customer every morning. This story illustrates that business is not simply a series of transactions that lead to profitability and beating out one’s competition. It is about building meaningful relationships by serving others wholeheartedly. Mr. Behar models this service mindset, giving back via the Foster MBA Mentor Program and serving on several non-profit boards.  He addressed the graduating Class of 2016 saying, “What you have just given yourself is the opportunity to serve others.” By earning an MBA from the University of Washington’s prestigious Foster School of Business, all the learning the students gleaned has effectively become a lifelong obligation to serve others with their honed talents and skills.

Sheena Seibert-Nelson, Evening MBA Class of 2016
Sheena Seibert-Nelson, Evening MBA Class of 2016

Sheena Seibert-Nelson, Evening MBA Class of 2016, gave student remarks on behalf of the graduating class. Building on the service theme, she advised her peers to “remain lifelong learners and give back to the community.” Indeed, the students in the graduating class embodied this attitude throughout their three years at Foster. Dan Poston, Assistant Dean for Masters Programs, commended the Class of 2016 for standing out not just in academics, but also in the extracurricular activities through which they served each other and the community. In what was arguably the best illustration of the Foster MBA brand, he asked students to stand up who had been involved in the Peer Mentor Program, then those who had served on the MBA Association, Challenge for Charity- Boys & Girls Club and Special Olympics, the Board Fellows Program, and several other service activities through the Foster School. Dan Poston asked the students to remain standing as he listed the rest of the organizations in which students participated. By the end of the list, nearly every student was standing. It was a proud moment for the students, their families, and the Foster community.

Dan Poston, Assistant Dean- Masters Programs
Dan Poston, Assistant Dean- Masters Programs

On a lighter note, Dan Poston also shared that the Class of 2016 was exceptional for yet another reason. Previously, the Class of 2012 held a record of 12 babies born during the three-year curriculum of the Foster Evening MBA Program. The Class of 2016 broke that record with 23 babies over the course of their studies at the Foster School, thereby “redefining productivity.” The laughter that ensued was reminiscent of the laughs that students shared during team meetings and study sessions throughout the challenging curriculum at Foster.

The Class of 2016
The Class of 2016

It is no secret that Foster Evening MBA graduates are hard-working and ambitious, and they will go on to make the niche they occupy in the world a better place. But beyond that, they understand that the greatest takeaway from the program is the network of genuine friendships they gained. They know they can lean on each other, they celebrate each other’s milestones, serve the community together, and bring others along when they find success. This, service and community, is Foster.

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Meet the Evening MBA Core Faculty: Professor Mark Westerfield

Who are the faculty who teach the Evening MBA core courses? In this Blog Series, these leading scholars share with us what they enjoy about the Evening MBA Program and provide some background on their cutting edge research.

Our first featured faculty member is Professor Mark Westerfield. Students describe Professor Westerfield’s Business Finance course as challenging, but “definitely a positive NPV project.” His dedication to his students is evident from the very first lecture when he shares the outcomes of the course and invites students to provide input on the teaching structure. Professor Westerfield welcomes questions and encourages curiosity, whether it’s in the classroom or during office hours, in teams or individually. He often makes himself available on the weekends before a group case is due for his class, popping into Paccar Hall team rooms to answer questions. Whether he is encouraging students to lead a complex case, giving an interactive lecture on the Financial Crisis, or providing an engaging glimpse into Behavioral Finance, Professor Mark Westerfield is creating futures as a member of Foster’s esteemed faculty.

Professor Mark Westerfield
Professor Mark Westerfield

Teaches: Business Finance (FIN 502)

What do you enjoy the most about teaching Foster Evening MBA students?

I most enjoy the level of professional engagement from my Foster Evening MBA students. Students bring their own knowledge and context with them in to the classroom, and they are willing to fully engage with the class material and the knowledge of their classmates. Even better, the students naturally do this with a professional manner, taking responsibility for exploiting all of the opportunities they have for work the next day or their career in ten years. The result is a potent mixture where everyone (including me) leaves with much more than they entered with.

 Why is the MBA core course you teach an important part of the knowledge base for an MBA student?

Valuing assets and decisions is important for all managers. Business Finance teaches the fundamental tools of valuation and decision making: Should we undertake a particular project or investment? What is an asset or opportunity worth? How do we assess risk and return? At the end of the class, students have a structure for thinking about potential projects and investments and the ability to analyze opportunities in a systematic way.

What is the focus of your current research? What are the key issues and questions that interest you?

My current research focuses on contracts and liquidity, particularly in settings like private equity and venture capital funds. If investments cannot be traded and there is no clear price, investors will require a return premium to compensate them for the additional risk and uncertainty; how much do they require, and how much should they require? Contracts and payment schemes provide incentives to fund managers; how do different contract forms generate incentives and how do those forms affect performance?

Is there anything else you’d like students to know about your MBA core course or approach to teaching?

This course uses a combination of lectures and case studies. The lecture is intended to provide students with rigorous analytical tools; the cases are an opportunity to use those tools in practical settings. I believe that `learning’ and `doing’ must be integrated. It is the fact that students must create solutions–rather than simply hearing and repeating what others have done–that provides the crucial link between theory and action. In combination, the lectures and cases are intended to turn students from consumers of information to producers of rigorous analysis.

To learn more about Professor Mark Westerfield and his research: http://www.markwesterfield.com/.