Your First USD MBA Experience

Not everyone remembers their very first day of school, but I’m sure you can recall the old photo your mom took on that momentous day. You know, the one she always seems to have handy around the holidays when your boyfriend or girlfriend is visiting. As that photo seeps back into your mind you begin to remember the look on your face. For some it is the look of joy and excitement for what is to come, while others have the telltale scowl and soggy cheeks from the tantrum thrown earlier that morning. If your experience during the two weeks of MBA orientation was anything like mine, then I know you felt a version of both those extremes and just about every other emotion in between.

With the amount of information, new people to meet, and names to remember, it was no wonder the first day of MBA orientation flew by. You were probably thrilled to meet such a professionally and culturally diverse group of talented people. Maybe you felt a rush of pride as Dean Pyke nodded in agreement to the brilliant point you made during his case study workshop. Perhaps you were simply relieved that after hours of flying and more than a few layovers, you finally made it to San
Diego. For some of you, making the decision to go back to school full-time and put your career, and paychecks, on hold was probably difficult to make. In fact you may still have had some doubt as you drove up to campus that first day. But after hearing about opportunities like case competitions, student organizations, international practicums and study abroad classes, all doubts were laid to rest.

As the week went on you began to get more acquainted with your cohort. Countless minutes were spent sharing your 10428596_476013429202030_8400595339663012672_n professional and educational background and listening to the fascinating experiences of others. Soon enough you were exchanging phone numbers with your newly formed team and trying to find your identity as a cohesive work group. The beehive building activity in Rosarito and the sandcastle building activity in Mission beach taught you and your team how to work together. These team projects brought out the best in you, while revealing areas of personal improvement. Having the spotlight shown on your weaknesses was intimidating and uncomfortable, but with help from USD faculty and staff, as well as the support of your cohort, it was amazing how quickly you began taking strides towards self-improvement. After all, isn’t this why you chose the USD MBA program?

So, if you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of information being thrown at you on a daily basis, or if classes, on top of searching for internships and attending networking events, seem insurmountable, remember that this moment is yours to grow, explore, and take on new challenges. You were meant to be here. You were meant to be a USD MBA student.cohort

–Submitted by Alfred Collazo, a 1st year MBA Student in the International Business Track with a concentration in marketing.

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USD Alum Shares Lesson Learned in Capital Ventures

As I am counting down the 26 days to graduation, I am trying to get in all my “last chance” events. As such, I attended my final Ahlers Center International Business Speaker Series event as a student, featuring USD International MBA alum Michael J. Slater, the CEO and Founder of Entry Ventures, a local potential capital company.

Slater shared with us how he developed Snapseed, a world class product that received Google’s iPad app of the year award (2011) and reached six million customers in the first six months of the product launch, as well as how he sold his company , Nik, to Google (2012).

Here are few key lessons learned based on Entry Ventures Potential Quadrants (EVPQ) model:

1) Have Innovation: To realize potential you must innovate. Slater’s guiding principle is “world class.” When you innovate you must do it so well that no one questions it and you must do it so well that everyone wants to be a part of it.
2) Need Strategy: Dream backwards because you need a strategy. Strategy comes from dreaming backwards. By focusing on the end of a story, you can develop a plan on how to get there.
3) Release Investment: Look for a strategic partner to scale with you. When valuing a company, Slater uses the triangulation valuation method comprised of the absolute value of the target company, value of the target company to the purchasing company and the negative value if the purchasing company does not acquire the target.
4) Enable Scalability: Traditional marketing emphasizes market segmentation and matching products with core customer groups. In industries/products that require early stage adoption, Slater suggests turning the traditional market segmentation pyramid upside down and blending consumers into a broader market. This strategy enables Slater to go after everyone regardless of their demographic.

A final piece of advice: “to reach your potential you have to do more than decide. You must fly away. Learn to recognize innovation in people, concepts, companies. I challenge you to dream backwards and understand that value releases investment. And finally, reach the word through world class products that everyone wants to be a part of.”

–Submitted by Meghan Tracey, a 2nd year IMBA Student. Meghan recently completed an internship with Thermo Fisher Scientific in Market Analytics, Strategic Planning and Development. She will soon begin a new role as Brand Strategist for Audacity, a brand strategy agency focusing on the biotech industry.

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Annual Evening MBA Executive Keynote Dinner

“On Friday night our MBA program hosted the 4th Annual Evening MBA Executive Keynote Dinner. Current Evening MBA students, alumni and professors who were in attendance made it a great event. We were honored to have Grace Cherashore as our keynote speaker. Ms. Cherashore is President & CEO of Evans Hotels and Chairman of the Los Angeles Branch of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco.  Her overview of the tourism industry was fascinating, as was her discussion regarding the transition from a post-MBA career in banking to holding an executive position within her family business – Evans Hotels.  Ms. Cherashore highlighted the importance of autonomy in the workplace and her dedication to providing fulfilling employment to the local San Diego market with Evans Hotels.  She also shared with us her perspective on the economy from her experience working with the Federal Reserve Bank. Everyone walked away from Ms. Cherashore’s presentation having learned something new, and she and her husband were gracious enough to speak with students and faculty informally afterwards.”    Image

–Submitted by Lindsey Mancuso, a 2nd year Evening MBA Student
Lindsey worked as Account Manager/Product Promotions for the ACTIVE Network, and interned at Adobe over the summer as a Product Marketing Manager. 

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USD Graduate Students Enjoy Night Out at the Ballpark


“The Graduate Student Council hosted a night at Petco Park last Friday for the Padres vs. Tigers game.  The section reserveImaged for USD graduate students was the Western Metal Building, which provided a beautiful view of the game and a large area for socializing.  I thought this event was particularly great because we got to meet and interact with students from other graduate programs at USD such as SOLES, MSRE and the USD Law School.  The more graduate student social events I attend, the more I see how networking outside of the classroom setting adds an entirely new layer to my learning experience at USD. I’m very much looking forward to the next social event hosted by the GSC or GBSA.”
–post submitted by Lacy Bird, 1st year Evening MBA Student
Lacy is Accounts Manager at Fidelity Remarketing


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Notes from the road: USD MBA study abroad class

Latin American Business Environment, Bogota, Colombia

“We visited Juan Valdez’s HQ in Bogota to learn about globalization from the perspective of a Colombian multinational company.  Many of us could remember the ads for Colombian coffee and Juan Valdez, but what we did not really understand is that the Juan Valdez brand was born from the vision of 500,000 Colombian coffee growers – a vision that people everywhere would associate Colombian coffee with excellence, sustainability and respond emotionally to the brand.

USD MBA students visit Juan Valdez coffee headquarters in Bogota

USD MBA students visit Juan Valdez coffee headquarters in Bogota

Juan Valdez is a member of the Colombian family and stands behind the Colombian President ready to serve coffee to Heads of State. The branding was wildly successful, yet coffee consumption has changed dramatically in recent decades. Juan Valdez had to regroup because of changing consumer tastes. The challenge was “how to retain their uniquely Colombian brand while expanding globally,” said Alejandra Londono, International Business Manager.  She admits that the global expansion has not been easy.  Yet, the company’s passion for the coffee growers and their connection with consumers has propelled them forward. They now have over 200 coffee shops in Latin America, have established a solid footprint in the US and are conquering the globe!  Juan Valdez’s recipe for successful global expansion? Staying true to their Colombian roots, careful selection of new markets, and connection with local partners. They have adopted a franchise model and work only with franchisees that are passionate about Colombian coffee. The company has also deployed well-trained young Colombians to work in their stores around the globe. This includes six excited young people in the Kuwait store who act as ambassadors for half-a-million coffee growers in their home country. Let the expansion continue!”

 -Written by Annik Prasad, a second year IMBA student
Prior to joining USD Annik worked in the Finance industry. Her experience includes 2 years as Account Manager, Portfolio Analytics/Risk for Bloomberg LP and 8 years as Relationship Manager, Institutional Investments for Wells Capital Management.

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MBA Students Examine Solar Panel Feasibility in Dominican Republic Schools

Sustainability and international opportunities were two areas of interest when Mario Orozco was considering enrollment in an MBA program a few years ago. Once Orozco chose the University of San Diego’s Evening MBA program in spring 2013, he was eager for the opportunity to validate his decision. It happened in January.

Orozco was one of three USD MBA students who traveled to the Dominican Republic for an international business practicum. Along with classmates Daniel Healy and Sabrina Baby, their 10-day course with USD Economics Professor Stephen Conroy, PhD, was one of several practicums available to MBA students who participate in the Ahlers Center’s International Business Practicum courses in which students tackle real consulting projects for various international companies.


But while others spent their time Shanghai, Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, the Dominican Republic group investigated the feasibility of installing solar panels on the roofs of small Christian schools. Many of these schools, with enrollments ranging from 100 to 1,000, consist of children from poor families and much of their struggles with education come from having limited or insufficient resources available.


“Given that electricity is very intermittent and expensive, the Dominican Republic is an excellent place for this type of project,” Conroy said. “Some schools lose power at 8:30 a.m. and don’t get it back until 5 p.m. It depends on where they are in the city, the quality of the electrical grid and hookups where they might not be set up for 24-hour electricity.”

In addition to the project’s obvious sustainability aspect, Orozco said, “there was a human component to this practicum.”

The project was made possible by a generous donation from Chris Crane, CEO of Edify, Inc. His involvement enabled USD’s Center for Peace and Commerce, which is directed by Conroy, to give the students on-the-ground work and present their findings — that it is feasible for medium and high-end electricity users to afford loans for solar panel installation at competitive microfinance interest rates — to Edify clients, Aspire and Esperanza. They’ll also present their work to Crane later this month.

The trip was a whirlwind of activity for the students: They built a survey instrument, traveled to school sites, interviewed 12 school principals in three days, met with a solar panel installer who’d successfully put them in other schools there, gathered the data, made conclusions and gave the client presentations.


While the learning was nonstop Orozco said one important lesson was how the students approached the school clients. “We knew the client was interested in us and the solar panels. That part was easy to see, but we needed to talk to the clients (principals) about it. Is it a need? Is it a priority? This part really sank in for me. It was interesting to talk to them because sometimes you might come into a situation and you think you already know what they might need, but then it’s not. It was very important to listen to what they had to say.”

Orozco said 90 percent of the school principals they interviewed were women. He came away impressed by the drive of all school leaders to do what’s best for their school. “I don’t think they see it as a business. They look at it as ‘there is a need and I want to help this community.’ Some are in the red (financially). Many of the principals we talked to weren’t taking a salary.”

Communication, especially with a tight deadline, was key. All three USD students were fluent in Spanish — Healy is from Mexico, Baby from Brazil and Orozco, though born in the U.S., grew up in Costa Rica — and that made a difference.

“When we were talking to them, we were asking for sensitive information,” Orozco said. “Perhaps in another setting, we may have not been able to do it. They were willing to give us receipts, helped us collect data and let us take pictures. We were very professional and sensitive to their concerns.”

Rachel Christensen, an Edify representative who worked closely with the USD group, was impressed with and thankful for the students’ work.

“The students are bright, insightful and passionate people and it was easy to take them to the schools with which we work because I trusted their judgment, professionalism and skill,” she said. “Our microfinance partners were very impressed with the final presentation they gave and the associated report. We hope it’s a basis for us to offer loans to schools so they can have solar panels. It’s very exciting to me to fill a very important gap in the electricity provision in the Dominican Republic.”


Finding a solution is always rewarding, but the experience of the journey has also been rewarding to Orozco.

“It is important that people come to business school with different goals. This kind of project and our exposure to it was an important reminder that we, as future business leaders, have a responsibility to society. It’s not all about making money for the company or organization. We need to make sure we’re using our resources to train and educate these small businesses that are trying to make a difference. If you can make a difference here, you’ll make a difference out there.”

By Ryan T. Blystone, photos provided by Mario Orozco (Uploaded by Prita Karanjkar upon the request of Renata Berto)

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ACG Cup- An interview with the winners at USD

The first round of the ACG Cup case study competition was held on 6 February 2014. Six teams of USD MBA students competed in the round, with each team presenting its analysis in half an hour slots . The judges were Hope Mago (Senior Associate, Huntington Capital & USD MBA alumnus), Julia Ronlov (Venture Capital and Healthcare Business Consultant & USD MBA alumna), and Dr. Marko Svetina (one of our favorite professors at USD).

The ACG Cup is a case study competition designed to give students from leading MBA programs across the country real world experience and invaluable insights into mergers and acquisitions, investment banking, financial advisory and private equity.

From left to right: Judges Dr. Marko Svetina, Hope Mago and Julia Ronlov

From left to right: Judges Dr. Marko Svetina, Hope Mago and Julia Ronlov

Below are excerpts from the interview with the winning team- Andy Altman, Dave Samuel, Derek Dahlin and Steve Theriault (All from the first year Full-Time MBA cohort).

The winning team from L to R: Andy Altman, Steve Theriault, Derek Dahlin and Dave Samuel (center)

The winning team from L to R: Andy Altman, Steve Theriault, Derek Dahlin and Dave Samuel (center)

Prita: How does it feel winning the first round of the ACG cup?
Dave: It gives me a sense of accomplishment, given the time we invested in it.
Steve: I feel very privileged.
Andy: Good, excellent! We put a lot of effort into it.

Prita: What was your strategy for success?
Derek: We spent all our non-class time working on the ACG cup.
Dave: It was the attention to detail and critical thinking. We left no stone unturned in our efforts.  Andy made a separate memo to break down what was given, and analyzed every word of the material. We drilled down on every subtlety. We wanted to avoid confirmation bias.
Derek: It helped that our team had a diverse range of skill sets.
Steve: Success was due to excellent preparation.
Dave: 24 hours prior to the competition we scattered, and each team member worked independently. We started noticing every part of the case that we had overlooked, this helped us get a new perspective.
Steve: It was good that our team had 2 law students and one management consultant. Being able to break down the pieces and outline problems was instrumental in constructing a ‘big picture’ narrative.

Prita: How many hours of work did you put into the preparation? (For case analysis and presentation)
Discussed and unanimously agreed:
Presentation (Including building slides)- 15 hours
Case analysis- 35 hours, each team member

Team presenting to the judges

Team presenting to the judges

Prita: Would you have done anything differently?
Steve: We would have recognized the split between the analytical function and sales/materials function. In the next round of the competition, we are going to spend a bit more time on the sales pitch earlier in the process, so we are not scrambling.
Dave: Experience makes us more efficient. We are counting on the maturity we gained from the first round for our next round. We are a little wiser.

Prita: How is the preparation going for the second round?
Steve: We’ve met with Dr. Svetina to review what we did and didn’t do well and get any feedback he has.
Dave: We have gathered more reading, and are spending time on more research on debt and how to finance through debt.

Prita: Any tips for future participants?
Dave: Team dynamics is really important.
Steve: Jump out on it early.
Andy: The team needs to think if they want to win, or just approach it as a learning experience. If you want to win, you need to put a lot of effort.
Dave: It’s all about managing expectations. As it was happening, this was all we focused on. It was about laser focus.
Derek: I brought the team together so I’m really proud of their efforts and I look forward to the next round!
Steve: Derek was a “fearless leader!”

Prita: Any last thoughts?
Steve: We feel very fortunate to have been selected from a talented pool of teams here on campus to go and represent USD.
Andy: The name of our team was The “Orange” Investment Group. It is very important to me that you mention this! (Smiles)

I hope that the next piece about the ACG cup will be an interview with the team again, this time as regional winners! We wish the team the very best in all their endeavors. Watch this space for more updates!

- Prita Karanjkar

(Prita is a first year Full-Time MBA student at the University of San Diego. Prior to joining USD, she worked in the taxation department with Ernst and Young for 2 years.)

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Give Thanks and Reflect

Faculty, Staff and Students Celebrate USD's Top 20 MBA Program Ranking

Faculty, Staff and Students Celebrate USD’s Top 20 Part Time MBA Program Ranking

…Thanksgiving at USD

I think all USD MBA candidates have a lot of things to be very thankful for. Let me just say in advance that I am thankful the finance exam we just took this morning is over. Now that I’m over that little hump, I can actually reflect on how grateful I am for the opportunities I’ve been given, my friends and family, and everything I’ve learned in these few short months. I originally thought of writing out a top five list of things I’m thankful for this year, but that list quickly grew well beyond ten things. So in the interest of keeping things somewhat shorter I’ve focused on school.

I have to say thank you to so many of my fellow students who have spent untold hours with me in the Crypt-like basement and the more Harry Potteresque main floor of the library coaching me through some of the tougher accounting and finance assignments. Equally, if not more important, I’ve learned so many intangible skills from my fellow students as well. Thinking strategically and seeing the bigger picture are just a few things that I’ve learned from students beyond the classroom. It would be remiss of me not to mention the hard working students, faculty and staff that kept USD’s evening MBA in Bloomberg’s Top 20 MBA Programs List. The caliber of my fellow students and professors is humbling and working with you is something to truly be thankful for.

Faculty, Staff and Students Celebrate USD's Top 20 MBA Program RankingSome of the things I might normally overlook must also be mentioned. A big thank you is due to my wife who puts up with my long hours away from home while I’m studying at night. I’m sure many of your significant-others can relate. I’m thankful for the campus tram drivers who are always up beat and friendly no matter how early or late it is. We all have to be thankful for beautiful sunny days and incredible sunsets on campus, even if those sunny days sometimes make it hard to sit in class. Don’t forget about the people back home who are rooting hard for you and love you no matter what you get on that finance exam. If there is one thing we should all learn as MBAs it’s to never forget those that help you along the way.

Written by Paul Pintek, 1st year IMBA student. Prior to enrolling at USD Paul served for 7 years as an Officer in the US Marines.

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Practice Makes Perfect: USD’s Management Consulting Association Prepares Students for the Future

"Crack the Case" with Dean David Pyke

“Crack the Case” with Dean David Pyke

Can you crack the case?…

“Your nephew runs a lemonade stand. Yesterday was Monday and he was open from 2pm – 5pm, and sold 2 cups. What should he do differently tomorrow? “ This is an actual question McKinsey and Company asked interviewees. It seems that this question is exceedingly simple to answer at first glance. In truth, it is very easy compared to some exceptionally complex case interview questions that many management consulting agencies ask. That being said, the answer to the lemonade stand conundrum must be structured, convincing and rooted in hard analysis. Consulting agencies expect their employees to be analytical, effective communicators that are able to solve complex problems on the spot.  The case interview is a method of screening people that don’t demonstrate the requisite skills sets needed in the consulting industry.

USD’s Management Consulting Association (MCA), lead by Michael Ellison (evening MBA), is helping students sharpen the skill sets that top-level consulting agencies such as Accenture, McKinsey, KPMG and Deloitte are looking for in prospective employees. To develop it’s members, the MCA offers students an inside look at consulting through the eyes of highly successful industry consultants, professors and our very own business school chief, Dean David Pyke.

Events such as “lunch and learns” with the above mentioned experts, mock case interviews with consultants, and networking opportunities on and off campus are ideal for students hungry for knowledge and seeking self-improvement beyond the class room.  The MCA has grown it’s membership significantly this fall semester as a result of the association’s hard working board members who have put together a robust schedule of events for students. The events add value to students looking for a consulting career and students like me that just want to learn more about a dynamic and challenging industry. Additionally, the case interview preparation that I do with fellow students helps me sharpen my business acumen, analytical skills and interview skills. In just a few lousy attempts at cracking a case interview question, I’ve improved my ability to break down a business problem within minutes, engage the interviewer and present a viable solution. That in itself has been valuable to me as a member. For further information check out MCA on facebook ( , LinkedIn (Management Consulting Association-USD) or email

Written by Paul Pintek, 1st year IMBA student. Prior to enrolling at USD Paul served for 7 years as an Officer in the US Marines.

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Finally, Finals Are Over…For Now

Finally, finals are over…for now

group studyWhat’s been on every first year MBA student’s mind for the last month? Well, other than internships, projects and the daily grind of class, it’s been final exams.  For most of us, this was the first time we’ve taken final exams since our undergraduate days.  To reveal my age, that was about 7 years ago. I started to really feel the squeeze about two weeks when I took a peek at our financial accounting sample exam.  That squeeze got tighter when I hesitantly looked at our economics study guide questions the week after that.  At that point I had an easy choice to make; tough out all the studying by myself or join forces with some fellow students and really learn the material.

Luckily, fellow first year students like Melissa Canet, who are much smarter than me, are eager to help out their cohort during study sessions.  Melissa comes from an accounting background and has been an invaluable resource to so many students like me who have a hard time in accounting.  She spent at least 10 hours a week, hosting group study sessions to prepare us for the final.  This selfless approach to developing fellow students is what keeps our cohort motivated, prepared and passionate about our MBA experience.  The studying, in this case, wasn’t a burden but more of a shared experience that has helped everyone improve on his or her weaknesses.

photo 1

That being said, we haven’t gotten test scores back yet in any of our classes.  So I don’t want to jinx it.  But I’m feeling fairly confident that the cohort as whole did well.  I know I made some mistakes in my exams, but I feel like I did better this time than I did on my midterms.  Now the rest is up to fate.  Either way, I’m proud of everyone for helping each other out and buckling down for the bumpy finals ride.  More than anything, I’m glad finals are over and we can start with a fresh round of interesting courses next week.

Written by Paul Pintek, first year IMBA student



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