When Gators Go North

In December, a few of the first-year MBA students and I decided to venture north into the frozen White Mountains of New Hampshire to where I partially grew up. While visiting the backwoods of New England, I hoped to share my childhood experiences with my new UF colleagues and friends by introducing them to winter sports, visiting historic sights, and, of course, experiencing (bitter) cold.

While visiting the Franconia Notch (named for its similarity to the Franconia region of Germany), we emerged from the warmth of the house to hike around in sub-zero temperatures and snow. This included riding in the bed of a truck to trudge in the snow in the woods and fields. Needless to say, it was very, very cold!

The following day, we made our way to Loon Mountain Ski area in Lincoln, NH for an extraordinary day of skiing. Throughout the day we carved (primarily on skis but occasionally faces) through six inches of fresh snow that fell throughout the day. For two of the more southern-born Gators it was their first time on skis and it was a great sight to see them handle the new challenge with gusto.

On the final day, we paid a visit to the historic Mt. Washington Hotel, a Gilded Age resort most famous for being the birth place of the IMF and the Bretton Woods Accord. Following our visit to the adjoining town we had to say goodbye to the trip and return to warmer weather.

This was our experience and it is the best example that I can share of why I chose the University of Florida. The small program and close knit nature of the student body allows us to share our experiences on a level that really can’t be replicated at larger programs. Understanding the origins of differences of opinions in business as well as in life allows students to develop interpersonal and analytical skills beyond what they started arrived with. These skills, combined with the education of the University of Florida, are what will enable us to become leaders throughout the global economy as well as within our own communities. It’s my hope that trips like this will continue with future students because it is one of the many aspects that makes the Florida experience unique.  #whyufmba

Written by: James Mulholland, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2018

Organized Fun: Social Life at UF MBA

As a Social Chair for the UF MBA Association, I was tasked with the great responsibility of planning and executing Organized Fun—events to encourage socialization and camaraderie within our MBA community, from happy hours and outdoor field trips to holiday extravaganzas. Taylor, my co-chair, who attended UF for undergrad, was especially helpful for envisioning ideas, identifying locations, and negotiating with venues for discounts (critical for budgeting), while I typically organized the propaganda to encourage our classmates to gladly attend. This usually included creating Facebook events, engagement surveys, and face-in-hole photos featuring the administration, composing witty correspondence, designing digital invitations and Snapchat filters, and politely nudging people to RSVP. Both college cheerleaders in our undergrad years, Taylor and I worked together to enliven activities and encourage participation in social events throughout the year.

In November, we hosted our annual MBA Friendsgiving dinner. Using the dedicated funds, we supplied the turkey and the wine, and the attending students brought delicious side dishes for a potluck-style arrangement. I was amazed at what chefs my classmates are! The dishes included iterations of sweet potatoes and stuffing, various things in crock pots, roasted vegetables, fried chicken, pear and goat cheese salad, and cupcakes hand-decorated like turkeys.

Our big event for the semester was the holiday party, Sleigh Ride, hosted with the other graduate business programs. Donned in festive (read: ugly) sweaters, more than 100 graduate business students took to the streets of downtown Gainesville for the bar crawl. We combined this event with an initiative to give back to the community by donating to Toys for Tots, incentivized with MBA Cup points. From jamming with the band at Tall Paul’s, to singing along with the dueling pianos at Rocky’s, the Sleigh Ride was a wonderful end to a spectacular first semester of business school.

To kick off Mod 3, we hosted Happy Hour at the former unofficial bar of UF MBA, in conjunction with the MBA student body meeting.  Additionally, this spring, we have welcomed experts in business etiquette to instruct us in a seminar on proper professional behavior, followed by a cocktail reception to demonstrate our superb knowledge of conversational skills and ability to hold an hors d’oeuvres plate and wine glass in one hand while shaking someone else’s with the other. Thus, participating in many of the events is not only fun, but also educational!

Upon return from Spring Break, less than two months separated us either from graduation or summer internships, and each weekend brought a flurry of events. UF hosted the annual SEC Case Competition in April, where we showcased our superb programming and planning abilities. As a volunteer, I commandeered the @UFWarrington account for a “Snapchat Takeover” of the weekend and loved chronicling the joys and frustrations of competitors during the stressful 24-hour case. Additionally, I gained valuable experience representing an organization through my own viewpoint via a digital channel, a skill I will most likely utilize in my career as I pursue consultative sales in the technology industry.

In the last few weeks of the semester, we enjoyed more social events, including a trip to Ginnie Springs to float down the crystal-clear river in the Florida sunshine, a “Bar Golf” tournament, and the annual Graduation Gala. The theme this year was The Godfather—a shopping inspiration offer I couldn’t refuse.

In the past year, I have gathered that Gainesville doubles in size every Saturday in the fall, has entertaining bars featuring arcade games where I can beat my classmates in skee-ball, and, most importantly, contains the best class of MBA candidates I could hope to know. Taylor and I worked hard as Social Chairs, making my own experience even better. I am looking forward to getting to know the new group of MBA students in the fall, continuing to build lifelong friendships with my classmates, and seeing what the next year of Organized (and unorganized) Fun holds for us.

Written by: Adair Tigert, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2018

UF MBA Outreach

Being a student in the UF MBA program is an excellent opportunity for networking and career development. Most of the events coordinated for students are designed to help develop skills necessary for success in corporate America – ranging from data visualization to public speaking – and to give us access to a vast network of successful UF MBA alumni and friends. However, this is not all we do. UF recruits a group of students with diverse backgrounds and interests. My classmates are engineers, professional athletes, teachers, military intelligence analysts, doctors, and entrepreneurs with various levels of experience working in corporate America. This diversity is an intangible quality of the UF MBA program that won’t be reflected in rankings and has immeasurably enhanced my experience thus far.

I mentioned that most of the events fall in line with what one would expect an MBA program to provide, but it’s in the remainder of the events – the ones ideated, planned, and executed by the students – where much of the personality shines through.

One of the most personally rewarding of these events occurred just before Thanksgiving. Incredibly, 1 in 4 children in our community is food insecure and experiences hunger regularly. In an effort to alleviate some of this hunger and in the spirit of Thanksgiving, UF MBA Outreach hosted an event in collaboration with First Magnitude, a local micro-brewery, to help support Bread of the Mighty, a Gainesville food bank.

The main attraction was a college football watch party for the Florida vs LSU game at First Magnitude, which was shown on First Magnitude’s 12-foot TV located in front of the brewing equipment, and picnic tables were lined up for seating. There were various smaller TVs throughout the taproom and outdoor picnic and lawn games area that meant one could wander throughout the venue without missing a beat. First Magnitude was gracious enough to offer discounts on their beer to anyone who donated money to Bread of the Mighty, and funds were also raised via a halftime raffle.

The atmosphere was great. Gator fans were able to enjoy the game on a huge screen, drink great beer, and support local business with the added satisfaction that our fun was also helping strengthen our local community. The energy of the crowd crescendoed all the way to the end of the game. In the last 3 seconds, Florida beat LSU to win the SEC East with a fourth-down, goal-line stand, and we announced that we were able to provide 4,690 meals for hungry members of our community during Thanksgiving, a time when food and fellowship are especially important.

Written By: David Lee, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2018

Case Competitions from a UF MBA’s Perspective

If you’re reading this, you’re probably either in the UF MBA program, considering joining the UF MBA program, or in some other way interested in finding out more about the UF MBA program. No matter which of those categories you fall in, it’s important for you to know one thing: the UF MBA program loves case competitions.

A case competition is a trial-by-fire way of applying your MBA knowledge to real-world problems. Although they come in varying lengths (24-hour, one week, three-week, etc.), the underlying format is the same: a company will provide a team of MBA students a problem that the company is currently facing, and that team of students will develop a recommendation and present that recommendation to executives from the company. Simple, right? The catch: there are typically 10 or more teams from other schools that have all received the same problem and will be presenting to the same company, which is where the competition part comes in.

As of writing this, I have participated in three case competitions: the 2015 and 2016 UF MBA Internal Case Competitions, and the 2017 Katz Invitational Case Competition at the University of Pittsburgh. I have been fortunate enough to be on the winning team for all three of these cases, which I attribute to great team dynamics and great people around me. The part I want to emphasize, that you probably wouldn’t realize if you haven’t competed in a case competition, is the hard work that goes in to a successful case presentation.

Take the Katz Case Competition for example. The actual competition was the last weekend of January, and the case was released 3 weeks prior at the beginning of January. For prep, I figured we would do some general industry research prior to the case being released, and then have a few weekly meetings during the time we had the case. Boy, was I wrong.

Before even getting the actual case, our team did a full-scale practice case on the energy industry, which we presented the first week of January. If you’re doing the math at home, that means that we were working on a case over the holiday break, facilitated through Skype and coffee. And when we got the real case, we would rarely go a day without at least a quick get together. Most days, we would have a meeting that would start at 6pm and last anywhere from 9pm to midnight. All told, we probably invested around 60-80 hours each in to the case, but in the end it was all worth it to hear our name called at the awards dinner and receive a giant check for $10,000!

Overall, case competitions have been a highlight of my MBA experience. They are not for everyone, but for me I love the journey from initially getting a case and knowing nothing about it, to presenting a sound recommendation and defending it with a 70+ slide appendix. The best part, though, are the friendships you develop with your team after struggling through the long nights in small study rooms, and ultimately celebrating your successes. Because of all that, I’m already looking forward to my next competition!

Written By: Ryan O’Farrell, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2017

On Being a “Nontraditional Candidate”

So you’ve made that first decision that it’s time to go back to school and pursue a Master’s in Business Administration; congratulations!  But, there is a nagging suspicion in the back of your mind that your “nontraditional” background is going to hold you back.  Don’t worry, I was you.  With a degree in Political Science and career as an intelligence analyst, my path to business school is not typical.   In all honesty, the summer leading into my first semester, I was a little intimidated.  I had excelled in my undergraduate studies, but the vast majority of my courses were qualitative in nature.  I was worried that I would be behind my classmates and wondered if I was at a disadvantage.

Now, with less than a semester left until I graduate, I can proudly say that I haven’t failed out yet.  Just joking.  Actually, I’m doing quite well, and while it hasn’t always been easy, I feel proud of what I have accomplished.  Sometimes being a liberal arts student in a business world can feel daunting, but I have picked up some tips and tricks to help me keep it in all in perspective.

1) Manage Time

While my essay writing skills from undergrad haven’t been particularly useful, my ability to manage time has been crucial.  Nothing independently about our curriculum is impossible.  The most difficult thing is balancing all the demands: recruitment, extracurricular, social, and networking, among others.  I thrive with structure, so I keep a weekly planner and write monthly goals in addition to the daily tasks.  Quantitative classes are all about practice, so keeping up with the work on a daily basis makes a huge difference for me.

2) Be Responsible for Your Learning

In my senior year of college, I had found my groove.  I felt confident in my Poli Sci classes and largely knew what I was doing.  B School is a new ball game, and each class has had a little bit of a different twist.  If there is a concept I’m just not getting or a problem that is particularly difficult, I make sure to pool my resources by reaching out to classmates, finding more information on the internet, or going to a professor’s office hours.  Additionally, I am aware of the gaps in my technical skills, and I am taking classes, both through my program and in my free time, to bridge those gaps and prepare me for success in the business world.

3) Focus on Development and Growth

They told us from day one not to obsess about grades, instead placing grades in context with everything else we are learning beyond the classroom.  Confession: that is still difficult for me to do.  We have been told in every academic environment that grades equal success, but in business school, that isn’t always true.  Whenever I am feeling frazzled about a quiz score or upcoming exam, I try to take a step back and focus on the skills I am developing and how they will help me in the longer-term.

I’ll leave you with one last parting thought.  Those of us who are “nontraditional” are increasingly common for business school.  My classmates are teachers, lawyers, doctors, and veterans, in addition to the more traditional professions.  In a competitive and globalized job market, quantitative acumen is not only important but many times a prerequisite.  Students from all walks of life and backgrounds can benefit from a business education.

Written By: Katherine V. O’Hara, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2017

Dublin GIE 2016

One of UF MBA’s Fall Global Immersion Experience trips was to Dublin, Ireland. After a steep decline during the global recession, the Irish economy and business environment have rebounded well. With the UK’s looming departure from the European Union, Ireland will soon be the only English-speaking country in the EU making Dublin an attractive location for businesses and investors. Ireland, acting as the gateway between the US and the EU, has benefitted greatly from foreign direct investment from Large American companies like Apple, Google, and Pfizer. The goal of our trip to Dublin was to better understand the dynamic business environment in the city and how global and regional trends have shaped it. We were also able to absorb an incredible amount of Irish culture in such a short period. We attended cultural trips to Dublin Castle, Trinity College, and Howth. My favorite, of course, being the interactive tour at the Guinness Storehouse.

Companies Visited: Treehouse, Grid Finance, KPMG, Central Bank of Ireland, Ipsen Pharmaceuticals, Havas Worldwide, Google (EMEA HQ), and Teeling Whiskey.


Company Highlight: Havas Worldwide

Hidden in a traditional Georgian-style house with a bright red door, Havas Worldwide is a full-service marketing firm serving the greater Dublin area and part of one of the largest marketing companies in the world. The Dublin office of Havas works with a wide range of companies including Hyundai, Microsoft, and Heineken. The goal at Havas to make creative and innovative work that disrupts the market and adds considerable value for their client. They achieve this consistently by pushing boundaries and working tirelessly. One example we saw was footage of a larger-than-life metal tiger they helped create to promote Tiger Beer. They walked the tiger through the streets of Dublin and into crowded bars to capture the attention and awe of Dublin’s nightlife. Campaigns like this one consistently provide boosts to sales or awareness for Havas’s clients.

Written By: Brendan O’Rourke, Two-Year Full-Time, Class of 2018

A Message from Lexie Cegelski, 2015-16 UFMBAA President

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Your career as an MBA student in Gainesville begins with a flurry of meeting new people, a sweaty obstacle course, an NFL draft of choosing teams, scavenger hunts and presentations. You (try to) perfect your 30 second elevator pitch, plan your weekends around football, and spend your first week figuring out whether First Magnitude, Oozoo, or Cantina will be the default hang out location for your peers.

You’ll fly through recruitment, willingly – for some – compete in case competitions, network more than you ever knew you could.  You’ll meet lasting friends to spend spring break with you, be a support system to your team as your peers have kids, weddings, and mostly interviews.  This small program brings people together from totally different backgrounds to gather for a Friendsgiving dinner, and to paint the 34th street wall, to dance the night away at graduation Gala.

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As a former president, with graduation in the rearview mirror, it’s hard to believe how quickly our time in Gainesville as full-time UF MBAs has flown by.  As the first years become second years, and new students arrive on campus, the UF MBA family grows that much bigger.  All I can say is, get ready for an amazing year and some of the most memorable times of your life.  I challenge you to make even bigger & better memories than the class of 2016 – but as you can see from these pictures, it is going to be hard to beat 😉

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