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5 Questions With UC Davis MBA Admissions Senior Director Andrea Shaw

In our latest installment of the MetroMBA “5 Questions” series, we speak with Andrea Shaw, Senior Director of Admissions at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management. Shaw discusses the tight-knit culture of the UC Davis MBA program, what students can expect, and what qualities define the program.


How does UC Davis help MBA applicants who don’t come from a traditional business or quantitative background?

“Students come to us from across industries, functions, and from around the world. We pride ourselves on being a tight-knit and collaborative community where conversations directly happen between faculty, staff, and students. Our curriculum also allows students to choose between many different career paths especially given the connections we have across other UC Davis schools.

For students coming from a non-business background or who are nervous about starting, we’re a school that really fits. Many schools have 600 students in a full-time program. We only have 50 students. That allows us to personalize the journey of each student.

Also, UC Davis doesn’t believe in just throwing our students into the program. We get to know our students and their needs—what they’re looking for, their strengths, weaknesses, etc. Part of that knowledge comes from our highly robust orientation where we spend almost a month before school starts to really engage with our students.

Andrea Shaw, Senior Director of UC Davis Graduate School of Management Admissions

During orientation, we spend a tremendous amount of time learning about our MBA class. There’s a significant career focus with discussion topics focused on networking, resume building, LinkedIn, etc. However, what the orientation is most known for is helping our students understand their emotional intelligence and develop their story through exercises and experiential learning.

Students have said in surveys that it’s the orientation that solidifies that they’ve made the right decision to come here. Those first few weeks are critical for setting them up for success.”

What type of culture defines UC Davis?

“The two words that continually come up from students, alumni, and faculty are “kind and compassionate.” We are driven toward success, but nice. It’s the idea of compassionate leadership, which research has shown to be necessary for true business growth. We even have an entire series that students can take to develop these skills, including awareness of themselves and others. Kindness and compassion are woven into every aspect of our culture, starting at the top with our dean.

Our culture is also defined by our location in a college town instead of a city. I love Davis as a city, community, and a place to go to college. It’s safe, comfortable, and all the energy revolves around the college.

We’re also really focused on what we do best as a university—biotechnology, sustainability, agriculture. Those sorts of segments and industries are very tied to our culture, university, and research. So, someone interested in Wall Street finance might not fit as well as someone interested in biotech.

Finally, because we’re a small community, you can really stand out. There are not a lot of politics to hold you back. You can get very involved, and there are fewer people vying for the same positions, so you can do as much as you want. This is highly beneficial for students who have a particular passion that they want to explore. For example, I know an MBA student who started a Women in Leadership organization because that was something she was passionate about, and it happened in a few conversations.”

Can you describe the qualities that UC Davis students possess?

“Other than the typical GMAT scores, GPA, and years of work experience, we look for applicants who know what they want to do with their MBA. Candidates should have a focus for the post-MBA career while also remaining open-minded about new opportunities. After all, an MBA is meant to be a transformative experience.

We also look for highly competent individuals who are professional in their verbal and written communications with us. We pride ourselves on being able to find jobs for all our students, so there’s a benchmark we look for—well-rounded students that have many different qualities. Going back to this idea of collaborative and kind, we look for candidates who are good team players and who see the value of working in groups because we have a lot of group work.

Finally, we look holistically at the class and how everyone will learn from each other. We look for a diverse class with students from a wide variety of backgrounds and industries. Everyone should be unique while still representing the essential qualities we love: kindness, compassion, and collaboration.”

If you could give one piece of advice to an MBA applicant interested in UC Davis, what would it be?

“Confidence! So much of what MBAs lack is confidence. The problem is that if you don’t think you can succeed, you won’t.

When you fill out your application and come in for your interview, we want confidence. Confidence is doing your research (knowing UC Davis), knowing who you are, and knowing your story. It’s also about being authentic. All of that leads to being confident in who you are and what you want. That will come across with us; it will come across anywhere.

“Confidence! So much of what MBAs lack is confidence. The problem is that if you don’t think you can succeed, you won’t,” Shaw says.

Remember, first impressions matter. That’s where that confidence helps too. If you come into a situation confidently, those first impressions are strong.”

What is your favorite San Francisco-focused business blog/website?

“I would say for applicants who are looking at schools in the Davis area, Metro-Edge.org is an excellent website. This is a website for young professionals in the Sacramento area. You’ll find events, gatherings, news, and more. It’s really focused on change and responsibility, and that’s great.

I also have to give a little plug to all of our social media accounts. Follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook for the latest news and insights. We also have MBA Showcase days coming up on January 26, February 9, and Feb 23.”

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