This article was recently published on Poets & Quants, a premium online resource for prospective graduate business students worldwide. Also read the second part of the article "Poets & Quants: a Q&A with Dean Wang and Assoc. Dean Zwick."
They’ve closed million dollar deals. Started companies. Spearheaded multi-national projects. They are high potentials with successful track records. As they return to campus, many experience a sense of déjà vu — the same uncertainty they felt as college freshmen or corporate newbies. Streaming into their MBA orientation, they ask themselves the same questions:
Can I do this?
Will I matter?
The answers are a definitive “Yes” at the UC Riverside A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management (AGSM). Here, MBA students are quickly swept up with new people, new ideas, and new opportunities. It is a program that mirrors the larger Riverside institution: a program designed for first generation, international, and minority students. The AGSM differentiator: intensive personal attention to each student’s needs and goals. An hour outside Los Angeles, the school taps into the region’s diverse business ecosystem, with recent grads landing jobs in companies as diverse as Google, Tesla, Amazon, Disney, JPMorgan Chase, Hulu, and PepsiCo. For alumni, an AGSM MBA has been their ticket to the next level: authority, prestige, and security. Along the way, they enjoyed Riverside’s sunny and breezy climate (with a whole ocean just a modest drive away).
A PERSON, NOT A NUMBER
The AGSM MBA program also consists of a carefully-constructed community, one that values a variety of educational backgrounds, cultural traditions, and professional experiences. That means admissions looks far beyond the usual measures. Jordan Greene learned that first-hand before joining the MBA Class of 2023. An inside sales representative who’d studied Environmental Business as an undergrad, Greene wanted to be more than “just another test score.” Instead, she insisted on a learning community that made her “feel seen and valued.” That’s exactly what she found at AGSM.
“UCR looked at me as a whole person,” she tells Poets&Quants. “I have dyslexia and auditory processing learning disabilities. On paper, sometimes schools and companies don’t see me as intelligent because they don’t know the whole me. I am smart, but I show it in my own way, and UCR sees how capable I am.”
A sense of family: That’s what the Class of 2023 has found since they kicked off Welcome Week with a sunset hike up Mount Rubidoux and a tour of Knott’s Berry Farm. For Camila Chaves, an entrepreneur from Colombia, the program’s diversity has been AGSM’s most striking feature. It is these differences that have brought her classmates closer to each other.
“Most of my close friends at UCR are from cultures other than my own,” she writes, “which has expanded my world view and gives me the added benefit of having friends to show me around amazing places. All the students I have met are also very supportive, and we try to help each other as much as we can. It really feels like a community. I am making great connections during my time here. In my Organizational Behavior course, we studied in a group during the entire quarter. Having worked on so many projects together, we built strong connections. One of my friends from the team encouraged us to apply for teaching assistant positions. Thanks to his advice, I am now a teaching assistant.”
PULLING EACH OTHER UP
Families are often associated with homes — and “home” is the word that Stephanie Moya associates with AGSM. A tutor by trade, Moya has found that the Class of 2023 provides a “sense of belonging in a safe and welcoming environment.” To David Cooper, a UCLA-trained tax accountant and consultant, his classmates also bring a sense of drive. That has inspired him to elevate his performance to match theirs.
“They have energized me to do more and be better,” Cooper explains. “When I hear my classmates’ stories about coming from foreign countries or what they had to do to make it here, it helps me realize the importance and value of where I am and the opportunity that I have. It provides me with a stronger sense of purpose during times that I’m juggling a lot or feeling stressed.”
It is during those stressful times, adds Jashan Meet, when the Anderson community pulls together to provide a safety net. “The students and alumni I have met have been kind to me and very welcoming,” observes Meet, who managed a Google-run literacy project in his native India. “When [I was] considering whether to pursue a concentration in information systems, I contacted our student association president for support. In less than an hour, he connected me to six members, all of whom were responsive and helpful. They shared course materials and curriculum, referred me to additional learning opportunities, and made recommendations for internships. After this, I felt assured in my choice and more comfortable with the supportive UCR culture at AGSM.”
PURSUING THEIR DREAMS
Careers are extensions of passions. You learn much about a class by what they hope to achieve someday. Stephanie Moya, for one, hopes to become a program manager at Google or Meta after earning her MBA. A first generation college student, Moya is accustomed to beating the odds. To her, these companies represent a platform where she can harness her leadership abilities into making a deeper impact.
“I want to gain a deeper understanding of the market, competition, and user requirements. I also want to help launch new products and features while testing their performance. I like being part of a team and working collaboratively to create the best products.”
You could describe Franchesca Jefferson a Renaissance woman. A Human Biology major with a black belt in tae kwon do, Jefferson veered into social media. In her spare time, she became a filmmaker. With an MBA from AGSM, she plans to carve out a career where she can unleash her artistic passions while enjoying financial stability.
“I’m passionate about filmmaking and marketing because both fields allow me a creative outlet in the way that I plan, produce, and present promotional materials,” Jefferson explains. “The artistic freedom and conveyance of messages that capture the essence of people, stories, and brands are what drives me. After graduation, I hope to work in the entertainment industry as a talent or casting agent, or in talent acquisition. I’m excited about the perpetual change in the entertainment industry, and it encompasses many forms of media that require innovative marketing methods.”
AN INTEREST IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Some students are pursuing an MBA to achieve aims bigger than themselves. Case in point: David Cooper. His interests, he says, lie in “health and wellness, food, nutrition.” After graduation, he intends to connect these interests with the business tools he gains at AGSM to support populations that lack access to healthcare that many take for granted.
“I would love to develop the ability to put marginalized people and people of color in positions of influence and power around the world,” Cooper writes. “I would also like to see a dramatic increase in the importance of health and wellness in the U.S. within communities of color. I have seen marginalized communities suffer from health issues, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. These can be attributed to many factors, but can be traced back to these marginalized communities that do not have the appropriate resources…After graduation, I hope to go into business consulting, preferably for companies aligned with my personal interests, and eventually build a strong business of my own.”
Chances are, Cooper has met with Camila Chaves on how to do just that. With COVID producing a surplus of time, she helped launch homekreate.com, turning her love of digital marketing into an online marketplace. “Along with my team, we contacted small entrepreneurs in Colombia and helped them expand their online presence via our website. We used the dashboard I built, which includes sales, Google Analytics information, Google ads, supply chain, and other areas; I gather information in Excel, take it to SQL, and study it with Tableau and Power Bi. Therefore, our marketing campaigns and the budget have been better allocated.”
GIVING BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM
The Class of 2023 also hails from 12 countries,. Living in Taiwan, Ruby Young majored in Social Work before entering the logistics field working in finance. In contrast, Leonardo Targia moved from Milan to California to earn his undergraduate degree at UC-Riverside. And he loved his time at UC Riverside so much that he returned to AGSM after working as an analyst at one of Italy’s top investment banks. By the same token, Sweta Mulji grew up in Tanzania before earning a degree at UC’s San Marcos campus and carving out a career in technology — an area where Chang Deng worked as a project manager for HUAWEI.
“I spearheaded a core project for NFV Volte and 5G, and completed it in a short period of time, exceeding quality parameters, which resulted in exceptionally high client ratings by the Unicom group,” Deng tells P&Q. “Consequently, I received the Excellent New Staff of Global Technical Service Award.”
Jashan Meet found his calling in social activism. Growing up in rural India, Meet experienced how underprivileged communities endured a shortage of educational opportunities and supplies. In response, he joined the non-profit sector to boost financial and digital literacy where it was needed most.
“In 2017, I started free coaching for high school students, and I joined the NAANDI Foundation and Sshrishti India Trust in project coordinator positions,” Meet says. “I also started my own organization in the education sector, and our team created engaging, inclusive, and individualized learning experiences for more than 300 high school students. We provided basic supplies to students, including books, school bags, shoes, socks, sanitary pads, and other items.”
MOMENTUM ON CAMPUS
Sure enough, the Class of 2023 has built on these achievements since they started class. Camila Chaves has continued to deepen her analytics skills in the most unexpected place: the student volleyball team. “Sports have always been part of my life, and I was on the women’s soccer team during my undergraduate years at Harris-Stowe,” she explains. “Data analysis for volleyball is a great opportunity for me to combine my new passion for data with a life-long love for sports. I analyze game and practice information in Data Volley 4 to understand trends and advise actions, helping improve decision-making, players’ performance, and team cohesion.”
Franchesca Jefferson has been channeling her energies into the Graduate Student Ambassadors program, where she heads up its marketing committee. “I help current and prospective graduate business students excel during their time at UCR. I lead the ambassador’s marketing committee, providing outreach and resources that help students navigate the bridges between the personal, academic, and professional worlds.”
Alas, some achievements can be bulleted or quantified. Certainly, that’s true for Spriha Kumari, a dancer, painter, and workout junkie from India. For her, the MBA has been an exercise in building confidence. “I now know how to represent and distinguish myself from the crowd and have become good at what I do. I have excelled in my courses while working a dining shift, participating in programs and dance clubs, and staying healthy. I’ve also been offered a teaching assistant position.”
EXPANSIVE AND INTIMATE AT THE SAME TIME
The 56-member class is diverse to say the least. International and female students account for 48% and 45% of the class respectively. Among Americans, 55% of the class identify as part of an underrepresented racial or ethnic group. As a whole, the school accepted 60% of applicants, with the class possessing 31 months of professional experience before enrolling.
Academically, the class averaged a 3.59 undergraduate GPA, which was reinforced by a 632 average GMAT and a 317 average GRE. Business and Commerce majors comprise 45% of the class. The remainder of the class includes students who hold degrees in Social Sciences, Engineering, Economics, Computer Science, Humanities, Science, and Law.
The AGSM MBA program may be small and intimate, but it also draws resources from one of California’s largest and most prestigious public institutions. As a whole, UC-Riverside is home to over 26,000 students and 1,100 faculty members — including two Nobel Laureates. Even more, MBAs can join any of the program’s 400 student organizations. Over the years, UCR has racked up plenty of recognition, such as being honored as a Best Value College by The Princeton Review and among the best universities for financial aid by Business Insider. In 2021, U.S. News & World Report again ranked UCR as America’s top university for social mobility — an honor recognizing schools that raise the standard of living for low income graduates.
AGSM itself has been spotlighted by outlets like U.S. News and University HQ for excellence in areas like undergraduate teaching and marketing and finance programming. AGSM also ranks as the largest business school in the UC system. This enables MBAs to draw from a wide range of expertise and opportunities on campus and network with 20,000 alumni worldwide. AGSM’s reputation has also sparked a surge in enrollment. To accommodate this growth, the school is building a new business complex that’s slated to break ground later this year. Spacious and state-of-the-art, the facility will bring the entire faculty and undergraduate and graduate student bodies under one roof — creating new opportunities to connect and collaborate along the way.
Faculty and classmates aren’t the only support networks at AGSM. The school also maintains an Executive Mentor Network, which pairs MBAs with executives who operate in their chosen industry or function. Not only do students gain access to successful practitioners, but exposure to insider knowledge or opportunities that aren’t found in textbooks or job boards. In addition, AGSM holds global immersions. Last year, for example, students can spend a week learning about public policy in Washington, DC. Another trek focused on entrepreneurship is slated for later this March at the renowned University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
5 REASONS TO CONSIDER THE AGSM MBA
1) Career Opportunities: “During the admissions process, I had many questions, and the admissions team answered all of them. The people were the key to choosing UC Riverside. Location and connection with major companies was also important to me: I will soon begin an internship as part of the business intelligence team at Fox News, Fox Business, and Fox Weather. I was living in San Diego when I decided to get my MBA, and I found Riverside to be an ideal location. Being close to Los Angeles, Orange County, and San Diego is perfect for me because there are major companies across Southern California.”
Camila Chaves (’23)
2) STEM-Designated MBA: “UCR offers a STEM-designated MBA, which is the main factor for choosing this business school. It is important for me to maintain and strengthen quantitative and technical skills while pursuing my MBA as my background is in computer science. The STEM designation also provides the added benefit for international students to stay in the U.S. to work for up to three years on optional practical training. Apart from this, the responsive and helpful nature of the alumni and the professors I interacted with when I was applying for admission also convinced me to select UCR.”
Spriha Kumari (’23)
3) Networking: “A beneficial aspect of UC Riverside’s MBA programming is the opportunity to network with professionals from all over the world. This is important because I learn about different jobs and industries. By networking with professionals from varying fields, I expand my perspective and understanding of the economy and job market. As a graduate student exploring job opportunities, I appreciate the chance to learn from successful professionals with several years of experience. Because UCR stresses the importance of diversity, in the last quarter I met students from India, China, Bangladesh, Brazil, and Taiwan, and I’ve built meaningful relationships and learned about how different economies impact the world.”
Leonardo Targia (’23)
4) Diversity: “What really drove me to attend UCR’s MBA program was the diversity within the program. Not just the diversity in the coursework and instruction, but the people and their diverse life stories, backgrounds, and knowledge. This is important to me because early in my undergraduate career I struggled with the lack of diversity around me. I know that kind of environment is not in direct alignment with who I am and how I want to live my life.”
David Cooper (’23)
5) Wide Selection of Clubs: “UCR has so many opportunities to stay healthy and be part of building something new. I really enjoy UCR’s Tennis Club and the Dance Club. I am a professional dancer (classical Indian dancer and Zumba instructor). Dancing and playing sports provide me with lasting energy and are healthy outlets. I’m also involved with two new student-led clubs at the School of Business: the Programming Club and the AGSM Women in Business Club. The Programming Club caters to students like me interested in keeping up with the latest technologies. We meet each week to learn SQL and Python programming languages. The club is supported by our information systems professor, Rich Yueh, and includes members who tutor club members in these programs. The AGSM Women in Business Club is also an exciting new opportunity. The group plans to provide role models and facilitate connections with women leaders in the surrounding community.”
Spriha Kumari (’23)
ADVICE TO PROSPECTIVE AGSM APPLICANTS
“Never take the power of education for granted. Start your MBA application as early as possible so you have enough time to prepare throughout the entire application process. I started my application eight months prior to the deadline. A lot of research went into picking the right university, and it came down to finances, scholarships, available resources, and the best education. By starting early in the process, you will give yourself time to make the right decision.”
Sweta Mulji (’23)
“I would advise anyone looking to gain admission into UCR’s MBA program to get outside of their comfort zone. Try new things: a job that wasn’t initially interesting, a new class, volunteering somewhere, or just pushing one’s self to grow. The more you know, the better you are. Comfort is one of the biggest obstacles in the way of a person’s success. So, get comfortable with being uncomfortable!”
David Cooper (’23)
“For international students, UCR offers the STEM program, which is a valuable opportunity to gain work experience in the United States following graduation, and it’s important that applicants understand that program. And, during your admissions interview with UCR, just be confident and be yourself.”
Ruby Young (’23)
Please click on a student's name to view the individual student's profile:
Undergraduate Alma Mater
|Camila Chaves||Medellín, Colombia||Harris-Stowe State University||University of California-Riverside Volleyball Team|
|David Cooper||Ladera Heights, CA||UCLA||AT Cooper Enterprises|
|Chang Deng||Ningbo, China||University of Science and Technology of China||HUAWEI|
|Jordan Greene||San Mateo, CA||University of Redlands||Esri|
|Spriha Kumari||Ranchi, India||Kalinga Institute of Industrial Technology||HPE Aruba|
|Jashan Meet||Firozpur, India||Dr. B.R. Ambedkar National Institute of Technology, Jalandhar||Sshrishti Organization|
|Stephanie Moya||Corona, CA||University of California, Riverside||Self-Employed Tutor|
|Sweta Mulji||Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania||California State University, San Marcos||Synergy Zone|
|Leonardo Targia||Milan, Italy||University of California, Riverside||Mediobanca Private Banking|
|Ruby Young||Taipei, Taiwan||National Taipei University||Korchina Logistics Group|
|Franchesca Jefferson||Corona, CA||University of California, San Diego||Troy J. Andreasen, M.D.|
Read the full story on Poets & Quants:
Top banner image: