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商院访谈:Admissions Director Q&A: Vanderbilt Owen’s Christie St-John  

2017-05-12 02:08:32|  分类: 学校与选校 |  标签: |举报 |字号 订阅

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商院访谈:Admissions Director Q&A: Vanderbilt Owen’s Christie St-John

 

 

Last Updated Dec 20, 2016 by Jeanette Brown

 

 

Following up on our recent Real Humans of MBA Admissions piece with Christie St-John of Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, we are delighted this week to feature a more in-depth interview with her about the admissions process she oversees. St-John describes her career as “zig-zaggy,” referring to the fact that she started at Vanderbilt back in 1997 before zigging to Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business in New Hampshire for nine years and then zagging back to Owen, where she’s been at the helm since 2012. (As she shares below, she is not actually following Owen Dean M. Eric Johnson, even though he’s also zigged and zagged from Hanover to Nashville.)

In the interview that follows, St-John shares enthusiastically about the vibrant entrepreneurial scene at Vanderbilt and in Nashville more broadly, some of the newest centers to open on campus and a few things about Owen that not all applicants might know—including that anyone who visits campus can interview. She also provides a detailed explanation of the admissions process and how it unfolds, as well as tips on approaching the essay portion of the application in particular. Not to miss if Vanderbilt’s Owen School is on your target list.

Clear Admit: What’s the single most exciting development, change or event happening at Vanderbilt’s Owen School this coming year?

Christie St-John: There are so many things going on, but I think what stands out for me is our wonderful Dean Eric Johnson, whom I knew at Dartmouth and whom I knew even before that at Vanderbilt. We’re not actually following each other! He has wonderful ideas and vision, but the best thing about him is that he really listens to people. “Why do you want to do this? Would it be a good thing? Can we do this together? Can we do it now?” He’s very thoughtful about ideas people have. He helped open the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, which is kind of an umbrella center uniting a lot of initiatives that were going on before. Its focus is to find business solutions to social problem through work with local and national nonprofits as well as on international projects with NGOs. It has grown from just an Owen center to one that expands across the Vanderbilt campus.

The center ties into another thing that Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos has been promoting, namely more interdisciplinary interaction bringing together all of the different schools—law, divinity, education, nursing, engineering, law, medicine. The graduate students from each of these schools have access to the Turner Center and can participate in the different projects. It’s really breathed a lot of new life into programs that existed before but now are getting more publicity. It’s also directed by one of our Owen alums, Mario Avila.

The second thing that is exciting is the new Innovation Pavilion. It is primarily a thought center for people coming up with new ideas. They had their grand opening a couple of weeks ago, and I was privileged to get to go and visit. It features a space called the Wond’ry—a combination of wonder and foundry—where people are actively working on ideas. If you have a project that requires a model of something—the Innovation Pavilion has hammers, screws, tape, glue, seven or eight 3-D printers—everything you need to construct your model. The center also features local offices for executives in residence, from both startups and established firms. Owen professors are definitely involved in it, but it is also interdisciplinary center.

Nashville is also becoming known as the second Silicon Valley. The Nashville Entrepreneur Center has been going like gangbusters. There are biotech, energy, beauty, medical device startups—you name it. Our students get to be involved in that, and even if they don’t plan on being entrepreneurs themselves they can go down and talk with those working there. They have mentoring groups, as well as an advisory program where students can pitch their ideas to the entrepreneurs and get very honest feedback. Our students are very fortunate to have all this at their fingertips.

Nashville is just such a changed place from the city I left in 2002. There are so many new people moving in—an average of 87 per day—and it’s totally changed the feel of the city. It’s much more cosmopolitan, and it’s a young city. It has everything that New York has except for the terrible traffic and crime. There are art centers, local comedy, fabulous sports, ballet, 20 colleges—from tiny, tiny religious school to large universities like Vanderbilt, and fabulous restaurants. We even top Houston in that regard now.

CA: What is the one area of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

CS-J: Here again I’d like to share a couple of things. The first is the entrepreneurial focus we have now. We have received two very large gifts from alumni which help to furnish grants for students who have a great idea, pitch it and win a business competition. Those grants are each $25,000, and we award up to four every year. There was also a $1.5 million donation to keep funding the entrepreneurial ventures. People think entrepreneurship is all Silicon Valley or Austin, but Nashville is right up there, too.

We also have a great organization performance concentration. Students can go into that and are learn about not only human relations (HR) policy and benefits but also how to best structure an organization so things run better, how to get the right people in and the wrong people out. We are one of the few business schools that have that specialty, and it is certainly more strategic than it ever used to be. I know when I say HR many people think of the little blue-haired lady who works in the basement, but this is not that. It is very strategic.

Our Leadership Development Program (LDP) funnels into that as well. In fact, I just got back from doing a series of women’s leadership conferences with Carnegie Mellon, MIT, Emory, and Georgetown. They drew together faculty members from the different business schools to present ways of enhancing leadership—from building your own brand to negotiating. We are very cognizant of the fact that at the age students come into our program they very likely may not have had a chance to develop many leadership skills. Our leadership program is designed to help them get to know themselves and their leadership strengths. It extends through the entire two years of our MBA program, so it’s not just a class. It’s pretty heavy duty.

I went through parts of it myself, and it was really a revelation. There were aspects where I said, “Yes, that’s me absolutely.” And then there were other aspects that were really surprising to learn about myself. I had no idea. It really helps students open up to who they are and what they want to do without surrendering to the force of the crowd or to peer pressure. Students always tell us in the admissions essays that they know exactly what they want to do when they get here, but they really don’t. This program helps them identify it.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.).

CS-J: We try to be very transparent about it all. When an application comes in I will go over it and look at it briefly to see first, is this someone who’s got work experience, and second, do they have enough of a quantitative background or at least a decent score on the GMAT quant section that they will be able to be successful. I will look through the essays briefly and say, “Yes, this is someone we want to interview.” This is not based on GMAT scores, because we know people can improve those. It’s more about what are you doing and what are you going to bring to us.

The first reader is always going to be one of our staff. We don’t use students in any part of our reading or interviewing. Then the primary contact for the person will be the second reader. For second readers, we have the world broken up into territories for each of our staff members. I know not all schools do it this way, but I think it’s a sound practice because it allows each reader to really get to know the companies in an area—we even do company visits with the Career Management Center. They are also really familiar with the regional schools, even at the high school level, and the alumni in the region.

That person will do the second read, without seeing the notes of the first reader. Then it comes to me and I will look over the comments of both readers. Then we have admissions meetings as a group—we usually have four or five in each period. The Admissions Committee consists of everyone on the MBA admissions staff and the director of the Career Management Center. Sometimes the admissions staff will all say, “We love this person,” but the career management director will say, “That’s fine, but they really don’t have the necessary experience to go into the field they are targeting, and they will be disappointed.” In those cases we will often pick up the phone and call them and say, “Explain to me why you want to go into it X. Would you consider doing this first?” And then if the student seems reasonable and coachable, absolutely, we’ll admit him or her. We really try to make sure they are the right fit and will be successful in the program.

We have the luxury of being able to admit who we want to, and we are definitely not just looking for people who have banking or consulting backgrounds. Right now, we have a young woman who used to be in charge of the botanical gardens in Boston, a Navy Seal, a pilot—in fact, all sorts of people from the Armed Forces—people who were formally teachers, in addition to the more traditional backgrounds. We really get to know the candidates while they are applying.

If they are obviously a fabulous candidate, we work out a scholarship at this point. We are also more than happy to answer questions waitlisted candidates have about ways they can make their application better. We go into detail—this is what we are looking for, tell us more about this, etc. We work with waitlisted candidates, and if they seem to be getting the idea and working with us to do what they need to do—whether strengthening their GMAT score or taking an algebra course—they have a real shot at being admitted off the waitlist. Each territory manager will reach out to his or her waitlisted candidates individually, although there is also one person overseeing the waitlist as a whole.

For candidates who are admitted, we call them personally. That’s our favorite day of the year other than orientation when everyone shows up on campus.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? One key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write them?

CS-J: We narrowed ours down to one long essay this year because we weren’t getting the answers we wanted from some of the other questions we’ve asked in the past. We also have a second part, where candidates choose two of several prompts to write a tweet response to. The purpose of that is to find out something personal about them and perhaps to make them—or us—chuckle.

The main essay is always going to be about why do you want to do an MBA, what do you want to do with it and what are the skills you have already developed. Now, we know they are probably going to change their mind when they discover all the wonderful jobs that are out there, but we want to make sure they understand what they can do already and, with that, what they are going to contribute to a classroom. I will advise that candidates refrain from writing, “My short-term goal is to get an MBA.” That is not an acceptable answer.

CA: Is there anything else you’d like to add?

CS-J: There is one more thing I’d like to highlight, which is that candidates can come to visit us and have an interview before they have submitted an application. If someone comes to campus, we will grant them an interview. If they don’t come to campus, interviews are by invitation. We feel comfortable assuring anyone who comes to campus an interview because if they have taken the trouble to come from California or Japan, then that is a good sign. We also feel like if we can get candidates to campus they will see how great Owen is and want to come for sure.

 

 

 

以上内容摘自:

https://www.clearadmit.com/2016/12/admissions-director-qa-vanderbilt-owens-christie-st-john/ 

 

 

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