Feb 222016

The second semester is officially in full swing here at Smith! With elective courses underway and the internship search finally coming into fruition for many of us, the morale is higher than ever within the Class of 2017.

However, nothing has spiked the collective morale and Smith pride more so than the past weekend’s extraordinary social gathering: Monte Carlo 2016!

The gala / casino night / “MBA prom” is heralded as the the signature event of the Smith calendar year. The entire Smith community (Smith Full Time MBA, Part Time MBA, Executive MBA, Online MBA, PhD, MS, all alumni of these programs, and their dates) joined together on Saturday evening to celebrate our unified bond and to benefit our fellow Terps’ future (part of the proceeds from the night’s event goes towards the M. Scott Lamana and Eric Cranford Memorial MBA Fellowship Fund).

The Red Team 7 poses for their photo shoot.

The Red Team 7 poses for their photo shoot

This event, simply put, exceeded expectations. Festivities included an open bar, hors d’oeuvres and dinner buffet, multiple tables with various casino games, an incredible live band, and dancing like there’s no tomorrow. Hundreds of Smith Terps attended the event dressed in their finest attire, as professional photographers roamed through the crowd capturing the stunning outfits and the evening’s greatest moments. The event and its attendees were glamorous and charming to the very end.

Never before has the Smith connection felt so strong. The night was a celebration of what makes us connected, despite having incredibly diverse backgrounds and coming across five different continents throughout the world, we all fit the puzzle that is “The Smith Brand.” I couldn’t help but think that this event assuredly proves what a fine job our Admissions department does in constructing a truly unique and united community.

Simply a fantastic night, with an eclectic and incredible group of people, that none of us will soon forget.

…and did I mention the open bar?

Boys will be boys, but Smith Terps will be gentlemen.

Boys will be boys, but Smith Terps will be gentlemen.

Jan 192016

Pretty catchy title, don’t you think? No, doesn’t make sense? Well I liked it!

Winter Break has come and gone here at the Smith School. One thing I didn’t realize coming into the program was that our winter break is LONG! This year, we had over 30 days between our last final exam and the first day of the spring semester. With so much time off, what’s a Terp to do?

Here are some suggestions on how to maximize your winter break, with some additional insight into how I spent my December and January.

  • The Grand Canyon was on my bucket list before winter break, but not anymore.

    The Grand Canyon was on my bucket list before winter break, but not anymore.

    Do some traveling! You deserve it! As you can see from my last blog post, the first MBA semester is tough! You will need some time to recharge your batteries and expand your mind outside of the classroom. With 4-5 weeks at your disposal (and with the generous loans from the US Government), I highly recommend that you use this unique time in your life to go somewhere special. For example, some of my fellow classmates traveled to Chile, Colombia, Brazil, Turkey, Italy, France, Nigeria, Costa Rica, and the list goes on. If you want to stay domestic, you can plan a trip right here in the United States like I did. Bring someone you love.

  • Hit the internship search hard. You didn’t think it was going to be all fun and games, did you? With classwork on hiatus, there’s no better time to focus on your internship search. With the addition of the school’s HireSmith platform for On-Campus Interviews, many students also find their internships from the MBA-Exchange website. For what it’s worth, Indeed.com has a plethora of MBA internships as well (although some overlap with MBA-Exchange). The majority of Terps will secure their internships in January and February, so make sure all your applications are finalized in anticipation of interview season.
  • Consider taking a winter course in Baltimore or DC. The beauty of the Smith MBA program is that we have many additional outlets outside of College Park. There are part-time MBA programs in downtown Washington DC, midtown Baltimore, and Shady Grove (Rockville), MD. Not only do these classes offer some refreshing new scenery in easily commutable locations, but you also have the opportunity to meet several of the part-time MBA students (many of these part-time Terps may also be working at the companies you want to intern for!). These winter courses offer a key networking opportunity, and also allow you to ease your upcoming spring workload by completing a course in a mere two weeks. I took the “Strategic Alignment of Human Capital” course at the Baltimore campus from January 5th-13th, which conveniently did not interfere with my winter travel plans. The experience was definitely worth it.

Most importantly, make sure that you come back refreshed and ready to go for the spring semester! It was fantastic catching up with all my fellow Terps after going 30+ days without seeing each other. This school is truly a special place.

Dec 182015
My Instagram skills have also improved at Smith.

My Instagram skills have also improved at Smith.

In many ways, the past 21 weeks have been the most excruciating, challenging, and frustrating days of my entire life. The core curriculum, depending on who you ask, can be rather uninspiring. The sheer number of deliverables due on a daily basis can be flat-out overwhelming. Worst of all, the ongoing coursework challenges, accompanied with an immediate and rigorous internship search, can be deflating in times of defeat and damage your ego if (when) you hit rock bottom.

Apologies for the melodramatics, but these feelings were real! Luckily there is a light at the end of the tunnel. More specifically, there was an essential personal evolution that I needed to go through in order to survive the first (and most difficult) MBA semester. The first MBA semester in many ways is like a boot camp; it whips you into shape, it does not accept mediocracy, and it pushes you far outside of your comfort zone, perhaps further than you once thought you were capable of going. But here we are 21 weeks later, with each and every one of us standing tall, proud, and (relatively) unscathed. How did we manage this?

While I’m sure every student will have their own individual answers, here are my Top 3 Tips on Surviving the 1st MBA Semester:

  1. Andres Gonzalez essentially taught me Financial Management, and I am forever grateful.

    Andres Gonzalez essentially taught me Financial Management, and I am forever grateful.

    Study with your fellow Terps. This one took me awhile to realize (probably longer than it should have). Everyone who enters the Smith MBA program, or any MBA program for that matter, is smart. We all feel capable, or else why would we be making such a large investment in ourselves? In my case, I wanted to prove to myself that I could “get” everything on my own. I vowed to prepare and study more effectively than I had in my undergrad days, and with enough hard work I was bound to understand anything and everything. The problem is, the MBA core curriculum encompasses a variety of teachings that can be quantitative, qualitative, analytical, innovative, strategic, etc etc etc in nature. My point is, no one “gets” it all. About half-way through the semester, I realized that although many of my peers (particularly the international students) were more advanced in their quantitative and analytic skill set, I was able to assist them in their strategic and qualitative thinking. I also helped several classmates fine-tune the writing in their course papers, cover letters, and LinkedIn bios. In return, my peers took time out of their schedules to help me finally understand how to value a company’s stock, price a product accurately using marginal cost and revenues, and understand what the heck Professor LeLe was talking about in Data Modeling (mostly).

    Here at Smith, we have a phrase called “Terps Helping Terps.” This motto is stressed during Orientation and rings true throughout our program. Best piece of advice I can give you is: when in doubt, drop the ego and seek some help from your fellow Terps.

  2. Ace the previous exams. Hallelujah. When your professor gives you the old mid-terms or final exams from previous years (which they all do), KNOW HOW TO ACE THOSE BAD BOYS INSIDE AND OUT! There will still be some curve balls in this year’s exams, trust me, but if you can ace the actual exams from the past 2-3 years, then you will pass this year’s exam. You might even get an A if you study your notes as well.
  3. Go to the T.A.s’ office hours and professors’ study sessions (consistently and from the get-go). This one might seem a little obvious, but its easier said than done. There will be times when you are mentally fried, when all you want to do is go home and get some sleep, and you still have a huge workload of deliverables to do too. However, when your T.A. is holding office hours and/or your professor is holding a study session, you must resist the temptations and make sure you’re there. Its simply not possible to learn any course’s curriculum in one week before the final. The key is to learn gradually. Time goes fast in the MBA world, and the material builds on itself each and every class. If you’re playing catch-up from Day One, you’re toast. Do yourself a favor and become friends with the T.A. (after all, they’re the ones grading your exams, wink wink). In many cases they will tell you what they’re looking for. Go to the professors’ study sessions too, and don’t be afraid to ask the dreaded “what is going to be on the exam?” question. The answer might be more revealing than you’d think.

That’s enough secrets for one blog post! I’ll end by saying this: although the first MBA semester is at times brutal and always challenging, the feeling of exuberance and accomplishment when you’re finished really makes it all worth it. In just a few months, I have redefined what I am capable of learning and achieving. The benefit of a Smith MBA is more than just a degree, it’s a personal transformation.

Nov 022015

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Hello again! The first semester here at Smith is already half through and “Term A” has reached its conclusion. While our coursework and career searches are certainly time consuming, the benefits of overcoming the obstacles and achieving our goals are crystal clear.

Today I will discuss a unique quality of the Smith Full-Time MBA: Brand Identity. Every MBA program has their own “brand”, which includes how the school is perceived by both external onlookers as well as internal students and faculty members. However at most schools this brand identity is already written in stone, passed down from one cohort to the next, with an established reputation and an untouchable list of norms. For many MBA candidates, this scenario is just fine! At Smith, we think a bit differently.

Let’s look at the business world as a whole. Many of the most successful brands on Earth (i.e. Apple, Google, etc.) have evolved considerably over time. Apple once put nearly all their focus on computers, however it wasn’t until the company shifted towards consumer products that the brand truly exploded. Google was a mere search engine before it became… well… GOOGLE! In a nutshell: evolution is good (just ask Darwin).

At Smith, we take that concept to heart. “We” can include everybody, whether it’s the Dean, Masters Program Office, Admissions Team, professors, and most importantly- the current students. The Smith brand is constantly evolving, and we believe evolution leads to improvement.

I come from a startup environment. While working for a previous startup company, our teams constantly discussed ways to improve our internal processes, external brand image, and core business offerings. Our ideas were then recorded, solidified, and executed. When I visited the Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland, that same incredibly passionate startup vibe rang true throughout the program.

At Smith, your voice matters. After every day of our 2-week MBA Orientation, each student completes an in-depth survey in order to collect data on the day’s workshops and enhance the experience going forward. Throughout the ensuing semesters at Smith, there are countless community meeting lunches that are designed to allow anyone to voice their opinion and suggest a way we can improve the program (these lunches also include FREE BUFFET FOOD!!!). At the very beginning of our Smith experience, the legendary Professor Lele led a group discussion with our entire cohort to define what this year’s “norms” will be and to share with all program executives what we as students expect to gain from our MBA experience. From top to the bottom, each person at Smith is striving to evolve and improve.

lifeatsmithLastly, I cannot discuss the Smith brand identity without mentioning our positive and collaborative culture (yes, “CULTURE”, that same word every school claims is their greatest asset, but let me explain). Here at Smith, when one of us succeeds, all of us succeed. The Smith brand has evolved and improved drastically over the years (as the school rankings would suggest), and the most evident proof that we can showcase to the world is the continued success of our fellow classmates. There is no inner-competition in this program, because we know that every individual victory makes each one of us more attractive to employers, gives us another esteemed connection within our closely knit network, and most importantly, continues to improve the Smith brand. Every school is different, but I can assure you that after completing my MBA school search, only Smith captured my passion for evolution, change, and collaborative success.

For more info on my Smith experience or to ask me any and all questions, please email me at brendan.beichert@rhsmith.umd.edu. Thank you for reading and (with basketball season just around the corner) LET’S GO TERPS!

Sep 182015

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It’s the first major decision every MBA student must make: “Which school should I attend to earn my MBA degree?”

Every program has their pros and cons, specific attributes that make them unique, and opportunities that differ from all other schools. That being said, each individual MBA candidate must select the right fit for him or herself. With literally hundreds of Full-Time, Part-Time, and International MBA program options to choose from, the decision can appear quite daunting.

For me, the right school was Smith. The Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland offered the collaborative community, the network opportunities in the US Northeast corridor, and the remarkable focus on YOU, the student, that convinced me that Smith it was the right choice for me (I was right). I found the ideal fit, and I’m both lucky and thankful that I was able to make the correct decision for my life and career.

Screen Shot 2015-08-26 at 9.34.16 PMBecause I feel so confident that Smith is also the right fit for countless of other MBA candidates, I decided to focus this blog on answering one main yet simple question: “Why Smith?”

As this blog progresses, I’ll discuss some of the actions and decisions I made to ensure that I’d find the right school for me. I’ll also include insight from my fellow classmates in order to share their perspectives on why Smith was right for them. Most importantly, I’ll tailor this blog towards helping the next wave of prospective students as they weigh their options and decide which program is right for them.

My name is Brendan Beichert, and I am a proud Full-Time 2017 MBA Candidate at the Robert H. Smith School of Business at the University of Maryland. Join me as I discuss what events and revelations brought me to Smith, and hopefully, as I help you on your MBA journey as well.