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5 Questions with the Senior Director of MBA Admissions at Maryland Smith

Maryland MBA Admissions

In our latest installment of the MetroMBA “5 Questions” series, we speak with Maria Pineda, the Senior Director of Admissions for the Full-Time MBA Program at the University of Maryland R.H. Smith School of Business. Pineda talks about the ideal MBA candidate, provides advice for getting accepted, and discusses unique opportunities at the school such as the Lead Fearlessly leadership development program.


1. What are you most excited about when it comes to the future of Maryland Smith?

“Smith is becoming a hub for designing the future. Business is becoming more competitive, more complex, more global, and more innovation-driven. Information, data, and technology are driving huge societal changes, often in ways that we can’t anticipate. We are preparing students to lead fearlessly, not just in today’s world, but in the world we can’t even imagine yet.

Smith MBAs learn how to turn data into insights, and insights into action. Our faculty bring their research into the classroom in ways that make even the most complex concepts relevant to managerial decision-making. The curriculum is designed to give students a strong foundation in analytical thinking and business fundamentals, and sharpen and hone leadership skills. With those skills, they’re ready to analyze problems, think creatively, innovate, and then lead a team to execute around a solution. As the economy keeps evolving, our students will be able to adapt.”

2. What does your ideal MBA candidate look like?

“First, we want self-starters, people who will take the initiative to pursue the many unique opportunities for learning and ‘transformation that come with a top MBA program. Our MBA students have a learning mindset. They are self-aware enough to “know what they don’t know’ and are adaptive, flexible and willing to work to grow their analytical skills and leadership competencies. We’re also looking for people who will actively contribute to our diverse, collaborative community, and seek out and consider viewpoints different from their own. We know that those traits—resourcefulness, a learning mindset, and an inclusive attitude—make fearless leaders.”

Maria Pineda, Senior Director of Admissions, Full-Time MBA Program

3. What is one thing a Maryland Smith MBA candidate can do for the best chance of getting accepted?

“Take control of your story. It all starts with self-reflection—know what your goals are and what you want to do with your MBA. Present yourself as if it was a job interview. Give us a good overview of your career accomplishments so far, and a thoughtful take on what you hope to accomplish in the future. Be authentic through the process, even as you’re bringing your best self to the table.

And get to know us! Connect with members of the admissions team and interact with current student ambassadors. That will help you see where your career goals align with our program’s distinctives.”

4. What parts of the MBA program should more students know about before starting their graduate school career?

“There are so many opportunities to develop your skills and leadership abilities beyond the classroom that you’ll need to curate your experiences. At Maryland Smith, those include opportunities like the Lead Fearlessly leadership development program, where students sharpen their leadership skills through out-of-the-box experiences like a yacht race on the Chesapeake Bay or small-group sessions with an executive coach. Or students can take on a challenge at the Datathon, part of the Smith Analytics Consortium’s annual conference, which brings together faculty and students with corporate partners. And there are case competitions, club leadership, consulting opportunities, and many more.”

5. Why do you love living and working in Maryland?

“Everyone knows about the many government agencies and NGOs headquartered in Washington DC, just seven miles from campus. But there are also many companies doing exciting work in biotech, defense, and cybersecurity. The job market is always fantastic (people say our local economy is recession-proof).

We have access to the culture, restaurants, and nightlife of a big city, with world-class attractions, a varied, high-quality performing arts scene and every pro sport you can name. We have beautiful outdoor spaces that are accessible from the hundreds of miles of biking and hiking trails around the region, whether you love the ocean or the mountains. And we have a really diverse mix of people that makes for a rich and interesting environment.”

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