Interview with M.S. in Commerce alum Kalika Nowlakha


Name: ​Kalika Nowlakha

Before: M.S. in Commerce 2013, Marketing & Management

University of Virginia 2012, Spanish

After: RKG, Analyst, Display Marketing

What skills from the M.S. in Commerce Program have helped you in your current job?

SQL, turning data into actionable results for clients, professional communication and presentation skills

What brought you to RKG?

RKG has a “work hard, play hard” culture that made for a perfect transition from the M.S. in Commerce Program to the workforce. I heard about RKG from another M.S. in Commerce alum, Andrew Cox, and it sounded like the perfect fit. We work in teams and are client-facing, but also dig deep into data on a daily basis, which was a combination of things I enjoyed from the M.S. in Commerce Program.

What does RKG do?

RKG is a digital marketing agency. We create digital visibility for clients by leveraging a range of opportunities, including paid search, SEO, product listing ads, social media, display advertising and comparison shopping engine management services

What does a typical day at RKG look like for you?

No two days at RKG are the same; it really depends on what’s going on with your clients. My day usually consists of some combination of daily performance check-ins, data analysis with actionable client recommendations, client calls, team meetings, reporting, and training sessions. And, of course, lunch downtown – we’re right at the end of the Downtown Mall.

What is your favorite project that you have been a part of at work?

One of my most rewarding experiences at RKG was going on a client visit to a long-time client who is a musical instrument and professional audio retailer. It was awesome experiencing their passion and strong company values firsthand and knowing that my efforts in their display advertising are helping such a great company. It’s also always great to meet clients in person and really strengthen our relationship.

What does your evening look like when you are done at work for the day?

I’ll give yesterday evening as an example – I went to happy hour in downtown Charlottesville with some coworkers and friends, went home and took my dog to the neighborhood dog park, and then had a kickball game. RKG has tons of sports teams: I play kickball on the RKG team in the Cville Social league and go watch other RKG teams’ games. We also have softball, volleyball, bubble soccer, soccer, basketball, and flag football teams so there’s something for everyone.

Where did you go on the Global Immersion Experience (GIE)?

I went to Latin America in 2013, the first year that track was offered! I was so excited to finally study abroad and put my Spanish major to good use.

Where was your favorite place that you went to on GIE?

Peru and Chile are tied as my favorite places. I could definitely see myself living in Lima or Santiago one day. I liked Peru because of the friendly people, great food, indigenous culture and the mountains. I went skiing in Chile, which was awesome, and I also got to hang out with a friend who lives there and really experience Santiago with a local my age.

What advice would you give to prospective or current students in the M.S. in Commerce Program?

The M.S. in Commerce program is great for helping you figure out what you want to do, and how to get a job in that field. I had no idea careers in digital marketing were even a thing until the M.S. in Commerce Program. Definitely take advantage of Commerce Career Services – they are so helpful and can connect you with the right people. The program can seem like it’s a lot of work, but it’s so worth it and great preparation for the real world.

What’s your go to quick meal?

Quesadillas, tacos, or pasta.

What is an interesting fact about you?

I graduated from the University of Virginia in three years and completed the M.S. in Commerce Program my final year. Also, I really took advantage of the M.S. in Commerce Program’s long Thanksgiving break and went to Turkey for Turkey Day – see old blog post here.

What’s your spirit animal?

Alpaca – they’re gentle, curious, exotic and have a cool name.

What’s your favorite part about Charlottesville?

I love all the food and outdoorsy activities in Charlottesville. We’re so lucky to have so many good restaurants, breweries and wineries so close by. Some of my favorites are:

Written by: Kaylee Lucas

M.S. in Commerce Group Projects with Companies

At the McIntire School of Commerce, group projects are a staple of the classroom environment. The course GCOM 7070 (Seeking Authenticity and Thinking as a Leader) is no exception. In late September, groups had the choice of their semester long project.  Each group works directly with a particular company and their executives. This year, we are working with the following companies:




Sarah, a current student in the M.S. in Commerce Program, is working on the Bigelow Tea project.  She said, “Our group is so excited to work with Bigelow this semester.  We met with CEO Cindi Bigelow and learned a lot about the company, as well as the perspective from which they view their tea. Our team has had a few preliminary meetings already and we can’t wait to get started!”

Written by: Joseph Labetti

2015 GIE Reveal

The M.S. in Commerce Program finishes every year with a required 4-week abroad component called Global Immersion Experience (GIE). GIE gives students an understanding of business on a global scale. Every year the tracks abroad are in different places and some tracks will vary more than others from year to year. Last year, the GIE tracks were:

Europe: London • Berlin • Moscow • Istanbul • Athens
Latin America: Panama City • Buenos Aires • Santiago • Lima • Cusco
East Asia: Tokyo • Kyoto • Seoul • Beijing • Shanghai • Hong Kong
Southeast Asia: Singapore • Yangon • Bangkok • Ho Chi Minh City • Jakarta

IMG_1846 copyOur class has been anxiously awaiting the reveal of the locations designated for the 2015 GIE. On September 29th, we received word that the tracks were set and the reveal was only one short month away. At 3pm today the class gathered in 120 Rouss & Robertson Hall ready to hear the track destinations and faculty leads. Once the eager chatter subsided, Professor Peter Maillet took the stage to set the context of GIE. After a short pause for dramatic effect, announced the tracks for 2015:

Europe: London • Berlin • Bratislava • Bucharest • Istanbul • Athens
Latin America: Panama City • Bogota • Lima • Sao Paolo • Rio de Janeiro
East Asia: Tokyo • Kyoto • Seoul • Beijing • Shanghai • Hong Kong
Southeast Asia: Singapore • Yangon • Bangkok • Ho Chi Minh City • Jakarta • Bali
Middle East & India: Istanbul • Mumbai • Delhi • Bangalore • Dubai • Abu Dhabi

We could not be more excited to take part in one of these amazing experiences May through June. We will each submit our track preferences by November 20, and find out December 4 our track and groups. Each track will provide an exciting hands-on learning experience. Now the countdown begins!

Written By: Ellie Reed

Student Spotlight: Kate Donaldson


Name: Kate Donaldson
Concentration: Marketing & Management
Undergraduate Institution: University of Virginia
Undergraduate Major: Environmental Science
Hometown: Newport News, Virginia

How would you compare the M.S. in Commerce Program to your undergraduate studies?

I think the biggest difference is the level of involvement I’ve seen from the faculty and staff at McIntire.  Even though I have only been at McIntire for a few months, I already feel like all of my professors know me personally and genuinely want to see me succeed.  The level of support students receive from both professors and the Graduate Programs Office is rare and something I did not experience until graduate school.

What’s been your favorite part of the M.S. in Commerce Program so far?

I love feeling like I am solving real business problems instead of just reading about business in a textbook.  To be honest, in the beginning of the program I felt overwhelmed by the level of analysis I was expected to perform given my limited business background, but now I am so grateful that McIntire pushed me to start thinking like a manager instead of a student.  I can see the real-world value of the work I am doing in the M.S. in Commerce and that is what makes this an invaluable experience.

You have a unique past experience in that you participated in the McIntire Business Institute (MBI) before joining the M.S. in Commerce Program. How would you compare what you learned in MBI to what you have learned so far in the M.S. in Commerce Program?

MBI was a fantastic introduction to business and covered the very basics of accounting, finance, marketing, management, and information technology.  The main difference between MBI and the M.S. in Commerce Program is that the focus of MBI is exposure to business knowledge while the focus of the M.S. Program is building a set of tangible skills that allows you to tackle complex business problems.

What are the benefits of completing the MBI prior to starting the M.S. in Commerce Program?

For me, there were two main benefits of completing MBI before starting the M.S. in Commerce Program.  First, I had been exposed to business terms and concepts, which was extremely helpful in the first few weeks of the M.S. in Commerce Program when we were being inundated with new information.  Having previous experience with some of the terminology helped me process information more quickly.  Second, I knew which business topics were going to be difficult for me.  I was able to identify the courses that would require extra work, and knowing that before starting this fast-paced program was very helpful.

What do you hope to do after you graduate from McIntire?

My goal is to combine my passion for environmental science with the business skills I have learned in McIntire to work in environmental consulting.  Environmental consulting supports firms by advising them on environmental compliance issues and helping them map project proposals that cause the least impact to the environment.  Being a project manager at an environmental consulting firm would be my dream job because it incorporates environmental issues with client interaction, and having that human connection in my future work is very important to me.

Do you have any hobbies?

It may not be surprising with my background in environmental science, but I love hiking and being outdoors.  Central Virginia has some of the best and most popular hiking in the state, so I try to get outside as often as I can!

Are you a part of any extracurricular activities at U.Va.?

As an undergrad I was mainly involved with two organizations: Pancakes for Parkinson’s and my sorority, Pi Beta Phi.  As a graduate student, I continue to support both organizations through both volunteer and advisory roles.

What is it like to live on The Range at U.Va.?

Living on the Range has been an incredibly valuable experience that I know I’ll remember forever.  I love the historical aspect of the Range and that I am continuing a tradition that has been a part of the University for over one hundred years.  The thing that I value most about the Range is the community of bright and engaging graduate students because it is easy while in graduate school to get tunnel vision and only focus on your own program.  Living on the Range has given me the opportunity to step outside of McIntire and connect with people I would not have otherwise known.

Written By: Ellie Reed

The Inside Scoop: Group 1B

(From Left to Across)

Name: Jordan

Concentration: Marketing & Management

Undergraduate Institution: University of Virginia

Undergraduate Major: Foreign Affairs, Spanish

Name: Matthew

Concentration: Financial Services

Undergraduate Institution: University of Virginia

Undergraduate Major: Classics

Name: Keenan

Concentration: Marketing & Management

Undergraduate Institution: College of Wooster

Undergraduate Major: Business Economics

Name: Andrew

Concentration: Financial Services

Undergraduate Institution: James Madison University

Undergraduate Major: International Affairs

Name: Katie

Concentration: Marketing & Management

Undergraduate Institution: University of Virginia

Undergraduate Major: Economics

Name: Cleo

Concentration: Financial Services

Undergraduate Institution: Beijing Institute of Technology

Undergraduate Major: International Economics and Trade

One key component of the M.S. in Commerce Program is group work because, in the workplace, teams and task forces come together regularly to tackle big projects. On the first day of orientation, each student was placed in a group with four to five other students for the semester. Our first assignment as a team was to come up with our team name.

How did you pick your team name?

Keenan: We decided to call ourselves the SWOT Team because we often use the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunity, Threats) model to assess companies when we are writing reports.

Could you do a SWOT analysis on your own team?

Andrew: Strengths: Everything! Weaknesses: We are too nice and work too hard. Opportunities: Become business leaders. Threats: Staying awake during 8 AM class.

What types of projects do you work on with your group?

Jordan: We just finished a big report on Comcast. We did a giant analysis of their key competition and made recommendations to the company going forward. We included a lot of exhibits in our report using a program called Visio.

Where do you usually meet?

Matthew: We usually meet in the McIntire school because there are study rooms with TV screens that you can connect to your laptop. It’s really convenient for group editing.   Once we met in the firehouse because Jordan is a volunteer firefighter. She was on shift and we even got to ride in her fire truck.

What happens at a typical group meeting?

Cleo: Keenan plays electronic music to wake us up. Then we get to work. Normally, the meeting evolves into Katie and Andrew making snarky comments to each other.

Katie: It’s playful banter. Andrew teaches Cleo difficult new vocabulary words when we take breaks. Matthew never has a backpack. Jordan is our calm rock. She always encourages us when we are getting close to a deadline.

How do you think working as a team contributes to the learning process?

Katie: It gives us the opportunity to learn about ourselves and gain a new perspective on how other people think. We challenge each other’s ideas in a respectful way, which is good practice for the workplace. It’ll be helpful in our future careers because we are learning how to work with different personalities, manage our time, and divide the work efficiently.

Written By: Kaylee Lucas

Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn

The University of Virginia’s annual trick-or-treating on the lawn has been a tradition here since the late 1980s. Hundreds of families dressed up in costumes and came out to the lawn where students handed out candy from their rooms, as well as, from tables representing student organizations and clubs. We had so much fun seeing all of the cute costumes while working a table for the McIntire School of Commerce!Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 1.27.44 PM

Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 1.28.51 PM Screen Shot 2014-11-01 at 1.28.41 PM

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3 lawn serious 2-2 copy


Written By: Ellie Reed

The Inside Scoop: Pippa Mason


Name: Pippa Mason
Concentration: Marketing & Management
Undergraduate Institution: University of Virginia
Undergraduate Major: English
Hometown: Plano, Texas

How would you compare the M.S. Commerce Program to your undergraduate studies?

Since the M.S. Commerce Program has an integrated curriculum, a lot of our assignments have components that are grades for as many as three or four different classes. Instead of just doing a Strategy & Systems assignment and just doing a Communications assignment, you’ll compile a memo that counts for both classes. That’s a huge difference from my undergraduate studies, where my classes had little direct relationship to one another. It’s a really cool way of learning that’s more representative of how you work in the business world.

What’s been your favorite part of McIntire so far?
I love the real world connections. We talk about things that we read in the Wall Street Journal all the time, we get to work on extended projects for real firms, and there are always impressive speakers coming in.

What are your plans after you graduate from McIntire?

I accepted a full-time offer with the Dallas office of the Boston Consulting Group, which I am super excited about!

Where are you from originally?

My family moved from England when I was three for my dad’s job and we became American citizens when I was in the 7th grade. I think growing up as an ex-pat definitely made me aware of the diverse opportunities available abroad and open to working in new places. I’m also excited for the sky miles I’ll hopefully earn doing consulting so I can make more frequent trips back to the UK to see my extended family!

Do you have any hobbies?

Now that I’m finished with my English undergrad, I get to call reading and creative writing hobbies again! My other hobbies include avoiding getting roped into sunrise hikes and attempting to finish school without touching an oven.

Are you a part of any extracurricular activities at U.Va.?

I’ve stayed involved with an organization called Sustained Dialogue that I’ve been passionate about since my first year as an undergrad at U.Va. Sustained Dialogue brings together diverse sets of students in small groups of about 15 to talk about more personal subjects like race, class and gender. It’s a great space to share and challenge your opinions and experiences. I also am a member of the Jefferson Literary and Debating Society and my sorority, Chi Omega.

What is it like to live on the Range at U.Va.?

I live on the Range this year, which is the graduate portion of the “academical village”. In exchange for having to wear a bathrobe in the snow to take a shower (there’s no bathrooms in our rooms), I get to live in one of the original rooms from when the University was first built. Living on the Range is a wonderful experience because it lets me connect and socialize with graduate students from other programs. A group of us went skeet shooting together this past weekend, and a few weekends before that we all attended a polo match at King Family Vineyards.

Written By: Ellie Reed

The Importance of Stories

As a part of GCOM 7070, Seeking Authenticity and Thinking as a Leader, we learned how valuable storytelling can be when you meet new people and start to form relationships. Storytelling is also important in the job search process when you have limited time during an interview to make an impression on someone you don’t know.

To help us with this skill, we were tasked with figuring out our own transition story, to help our classmates and professors learn about the key influences in our life that ultimately brought us to the McIntire School of Commerce. Learning about each other really brought us together as a class and helped us understand each others backgrounds, as well as our goals for the future. Here are two transition stories from the M.S. in Commerce Class of 2015, so you can get a sneak peak into the interesting lives of our classmates!

Name: Annie
Concentration: Marketing & Management
Undergraduate Institution: Duke University
Undergraduate Major: Public Policy
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas

Name: Dave
Concentration: Financial Services
Undergraduate Institution: College of William & Mary
Undergraduate Major: Chinese and Neuroscience
Hometown: Sewell, New Jersey

Written By: Ellie Reed

The Inside Scoop: Cleo Chang

Cleo standing at the top of a mountain
Cleo hiked Humpback Rocks with her MS Accounting roommates

Name: Cleo Cheng

Concentration: Financial Services

Undergraduate Institution: Beijing Institute of Technology

Undergraduate Major: International Economics and Trade

Hometown: Beijing, China

How would you compare the M.S. in Commerce Program to your undergraduate education?

My undergraduate major was more theoretical. Here, we work with real companies. We look at what’s actually happening in the business world.

Is the classroom environment different?

At Beijing Institute of Technology most of the classes were lecture based. At McIntire there’s a lot more participation and group work. My classmates all have different backgrounds and this makes the group work really interesting.

What’s been your favorite part of McIntire so far?

Free food! I’m kidding. But I’m also kind of serious. I’m pretty impressed with our professors—how passionate they are about their work and their approachability. They are great resources not only for coursework but also the job search.

What do you hope to do after you graduate from McIntire?

I was hoping to be a financial analyst at first, but since coming to McIntire I’ve been exposed to new career options I hadn’t even heard of such as business analytics. I really hope to work in the United States after graduation.

Do you have any hobbies?

I really love to hike around Charlottesville. Right now I am also pledging a business fraternity (Alpha Kappa Psi).

What’s the pledging process like?

I’m not allowed to tell you, but I will tell you why I decided to join Alpha Kappa Psi. I wanted to apply because I love the M.S. in Commerce program. I’m gaining so many skills—memo writing, networking, etc. As an international student, there are some linguistic and sociocultural barriers. Being part of a sorority will help me practice these skills. Plus, in China, there weren’t any sororities! Mostly, I’m just looking to get out of my comfort zone and take advantage of all the opportunities McIntire has to offer. I’m trying to get the most out of this experience by becoming friends with people different from me. I want to immerse myself in this environment.


Get to Know Our M.S. in Commerce Students

Without a doubt, UVA’s McIntire School of Commerce is renowned for its undergraduate program; in 2014, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked McIntire as the #2 undergraduate business school in the nation, making it the only program to be consistently ranked either first or second in the nine years the publication has ranked undergraduate programs. But did you know that we have a successful graduate business program as well?

The one-year, 40-credit-hour M.S. in Commerce Program at McIntire is tailored for recent liberal arts, science, or engineering graduates who are looking to develop the skills necessary to succeed in a dynamic business environment. This program offers specialization in Finance, Marketing & Management, and Business Analytics, and concludes with a month of global immersion in Europe, Latin America, East Asia, or Southeast Asia (M.S. in Commerce students in Bangkok, Thailand, pictured above).

Each year, our M.S. in Commerce graduates secure full-time, entry-level positions in the consulting, finance, and marketing/sales industries. Employers are consistently impressed with these graduate students’ solid foundational knowledge of business, gained through comprehensive, case-based education characteristic of the McIntire curriculum, and vividly contextualized in the international marketplace through the global immersion program. As a testament to the competitiveness of M.S. in Commerce students in the business world, 38 companies, including Bain & Company, comScore, Ernst & Young, and Morgan Stanley, have hired two or more students from this program since its launch in 2008.

Since M.S. in Commerce students studied non-business subjects in college, they are able to supplement their business acuity with rich and varied backgrounds in engineering, health sciences, liberal arts, or social sciences. As a result, M.S. in Commerce students make for some of the most versatile hires in that they arrive on the job with multidimensional, problem-solving skill sets.

Another unique element of the M.S. in Commerce degree is that since it is only a one-year program, unlike our two-year undergraduate degree, students are typically looking for full-time positions in both the fall and the spring. In other words, M.S. in Commerce students are a great fit for companies with more flexible or less traditional recruiting schedules.

Think our talented M.S. in Commerce students might be a good match for your company? Learn more about the program on our website, and get the student perspective on the popular M.S. in Commerce Student Blog. If you’re interested in opportunities to engage with our M.S. in Commerce students on a deeper level through targeted sponsorships, contact us!

This blog post was reprinted in its entirety from the Corporate COMMunity Blog. To view the original click here.