Business Analytics Students Get a Taste of the Real World With Hands-On Projects

There are a lot of group projects involved in the M.S. in Commerce Program, regardless of the track you are in. Being a Spanish major as an undergrad, I wasn’t used to working in groups; my workload back then was more along the lines of reading a book and analyzing it in an essay. That being said, learning to work in a team is by far one of the most important skills I’ve honed in these past few months and a topic that’s come up in every interview I’ve had. So without further ado, I’m going to talk about some of the projects Business Analytics (BA) students have been busy working on this semester in some of the classes that we took:

Advanced Quantitative Analysis: One major project this semester in this class was analyzing data from Hilton Worldwide, that’s right, the major hotel chain. We were given some of the company’s real data and were in charge of cleaning it up and getting it ready for analysis—changing variables, combining variables, you name it. Then comes the fun part—we were on our own to run any sort of tests we wanted, in SPSS, SAS or R, in order to glean valuable insights. We conducted a variety of tests such as one-way ANOVAs, linear regressions, clustering, and principal component analyses. After we found some interesting trends, we were in charge of creating tangible and actionable recommendations to present. We compiled everything in a slide deck, which was easy, given the variety of beautiful properties Hilton owns to use as backgrounds, and all the groups presented to Richard Netemeyer, Ralph A. Beeton Professor of Free Enterprise, and Doctor Dobolyi, post doc at McIntire Center for Business Analytics. Then, the eight slide decks prepared by the groups were sent to Hilton representatives, who chose the four they wanted to see presented. Finally, the four winning groups presented their analysis, findings, and recommendations to the VP of Human Resources and the VP of Total Rewards and HR Analytics, to name a few.

Digital Analytics: The first project in this class is social media-related. Falling in line with one of the big trends in data, we analyzed Twitter accounts and tweets. Each group picked a handful of accounts, the company they wanted to focus on, as well as a few competitors and then keywords related to those accounts. For example, one group analyzed Chipotle, Qdoba, and California Tortilla using keywords like “chipotle” and “burrito.” Then after collecting tweets for about a month, we used Tableau to analyze the tweets using graphs and created our own dashboards, which were used to visually support all of our findings. Then we developed specific recommendations to improve the companies’ social media presence, targeting metrics like engagement, impressions, and influencers. Finally, all the groups presented to the class and Professor Kitchens, who then voted for one group to present to the board of directors of the McIntire Center for Business Analytics at the Analytics Spring Symposium Friday, April 29.

Team Hotels celebrates the end of their Paid Search project but is preparing to present at the Analytics Symposium on Friday, 4/29/16
Team Hotels celebrates the end of their Paid Search project but is preparing to present at the Analytics Symposium on Friday, 4/29/16

The second project we’ve been working on in Digital Analytics is basically a real-life consulting project. Each group was partnered with one of three local businesses—Lumi Juice, Mudhouse Coffee, or King Family Vineyards—and given an issue to address such as online sales, wedding events, or driving online subscriptions (my group was assigned brand and tastings for King Family). We met with our clients to learn about their background and how the business works and then wrote a report outlining their value proposition, target consumer audience, and revenue sources. Then came the part where we got our hands dirty; we initially analyzed the website traffic and user demographics through Google Analytics after being given access to the company’s website. After determining which pages received the most web traffic, users’ geographic location and demographic information, and whether they used a desktop computer or mobile phone, we prepared our second presentation. This presentation included trends and recommendations for how to improve the website and drive traffic.

Finally, with a budget of $100 provided by the Center for Business Analytics, we all ran paid search advertisements using Google AdWords (you know, those ads that pop up on the top of the page after you search for something). We mocked up what we wanted the ad copies to look like, including links and descriptions; bid on the different keywords we thought users would be searching; and at the end of the week, analyzed the campaign using metrics like impressions, conversions, and CTR and CPC (click-through rate and cost per click). In the end, each group presented the outcome of their campaign to their clients (this included actual revenue that we generated through wine club and juice memberships for my group). It was great to see the actual value we could drive for businesses, and it’s pretty cool to see all of the changes we made to the websites come to life, such as adding new tabs or rearranging pictures.

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BA students and Professor Kitchens, our Digital Analytics professor, celebrate our final presentation
BA students and Professor Kitchens, our Digital Analytics professor, celebrate our final presentation

Customer Analytics: March was a crazy month, and not just because we were trying to get reacquainted with school after spring break. As many sports fans know, the month was consumed by March Madness and college basketball teams competing for their chance to advance in the big dance. In our customer analytics class, each group was given a March Madness region to focus on—South, East, West, and Midwest—and all the 16 teams that competed in that region. We utilized Klear, a social intelligence platform that both the Marketing & Management and BA Tracks used this semester, to monitor the social media accounts of all the teams. We input their Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter accounts, and Klear collected the data related to posts, content, demographics, and new fans generated throughout the tournament. Each group then analyzed all the data to find out best social media practices for athletics departments in relation to March Madness. Some groups even ran regressions to find out how many new fans a team gained on social media for every round they advanced in the tournament. We found out which types of posts got the most engagement from fans (usually content that shows the players as real people), that Instagram is the best platform to leverage, and that the bigger teams weren’t always the best performing.

One of  the reasons I have liked Business Analytics so much throughout this year is being able to see the value in the projects we’ve been doing. We’re generating real revenue for companies and they are actually taking our recommendations to heart, which is something that you’re not used to as a 20-something. We’ve had the opportunity to present to business owners, vice presidents of major companies, and C-level executives, and the confidence and sense of accomplishment are tremendous. I feel as though I’ve gotten a real look into the types of projects I’ll be faced with in the future, and I know that I am ready for whatever comes next!

-Written by Jordan Smith

Alumna Profile: Lisa Lundegard

Lundegard_HeadShotWe’re excited to share the story of Lisa Lundegard in our second alumni spotlight blog post! Lisa graduated from the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) Program only three years ago, in 2013, and already has an extremely impressive job as an IT consultant in London. I really enjoyed interviewing Lisa, and it was exciting to learn how the MSC Program fit perfectly with her undergraduate experience and international career aspirations.

What led you to the M.S. in Commerce Program?

McIntire was my stepping stone into the business world. I’m originally from Sweden, but I moved to the States early on. After graduating from UNC Chapel Hill with a double major in International Studies and French, I considered going into the State Department and began looking for positions in D.C. I quickly realized that I was not eligible for these roles since my American citizenship was still pending, so I began assessing different job options. I wasn’t quite ready to pack my bags and move to Europe to explore the diplomatic track, so I chose to investigate job opportunities in international business. I was so excited to find out about the MSC Program, and it’s what ultimately allowed me to follow my dad’s footsteps and work in international consulting.

Tell me a little more about your job.

I’m currently a BPM Consultant for Appian in London. I work closely with clients to develop business process management software, based on each client’s specific needs and goals. Appian designs, manages and optimizes business processes for both intra-departmental and cross-functional applications. Their customers includes Starbucks, Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, Aviva Investors, and several federal agencies. Day-to-day, I analyze business requirements and develop applications for our customers.

Did you have an understanding of IT before beginning the job?

Honestly, I had very little technical IT knowledge when I started the job. Most of the learning has taken place through various on the job training and shadowing my team members. However, the MSC Program’s Project Management class did such a great job of giving me the framework to learn day to day. During the class, we were introduced to the importance of business analysis, agile methodology, and communication with customers. This allowed me to hit the ground running on day one at Appian.

Lisa with her team after giving a presentation during the MS in Commerce program
Lisa with her team after giving a presentation during the MS in Commerce program

Where did you go in GIE, and how did this impact your job search?

Exploring London during GIE
Exploring London during GIE

GIE was one of the deciding factors that led me to the MSC Program. Because of my pending dual nationality, I knew I wanted to explore career opportunities that would allow me to travel between the US and Europe. I used GIE as somewhat of a job search, so I was really glad that I was able to go on the Europe track. When I was on GIE, it all became real. I remember when I was walking around London, I just stopped and looked around in awe. At that point, I knew I wanted to live there.

What did your job search look like?

I fully committed to the job search process after GIE, and I began working as an eLearning Business Systems Analyst at VIF International Education. It wasn’t until about six months later that I began working at Appian Corporation as an Associate Consultant. One of the many reasons that I chose to join Appian was that they had multiple global offices. About a year after taking the job, I coincidentally ran into the Vice President of the London office. I told him about my background and experience, and within a few months, I moved to London to join the global team.

Lisa with fellow students in Berlin during GIE
Lisa with fellow students in Berlin during GIE

What advice would you give students considering abroad opportunities?

I think it’s impressive to be able to say that at 25, you took a chance and a company trusted you to go abroad and lead or participate in an international project. Showing that you are culturally diverse and that you can handle change is striking. Honestly, I haven’t found any major drawbacks from moving internationally. It’s important, however, to ask how that move will impact your career long term.

Also, it’s important to remember how incredible the McIntire alumni network is around the world. London has an extremely active alumni network, and it’s so nice to know that there are people you can reach out to, even across the world. I’m actually working with another UVA alum right now, and we’re always talking about UVA together.

What was the most valuable class in the MSC Program?

I found all of the classes valuable. The classes that had the most impact on me were Strategy and Systems, Organizational Behavior, and Storytelling. My favorite class, academically speaking, was Strategy and Systems. I had never been exposed to any of those concepts before, and during that class, I started to fully understand why companies do the things they do.

Organizational Behavior was incredibly useful once I actually got out into the working world. We spoke about real-life scenarios, and the class did an excellent job of capitalizing on our own unique cultural experiences. Each person on the track had such different perspectives, so it was incredibly interesting to discuss the concepts from everyone’s point of view.

Storytelling was great as well. Our first assignment was to figure out how to tell our story in 2-3 minutes. I had never really tried to put together the puzzle pieces of why I wanted to work abroad and with people of different backgrounds. This class and assignment connected these pieces for me. It was also a unique experience to tell something so personal to a group of people I barely knew at that point. It was a great icebreaker and helped our section bond as a group.

What was your favorite part of the program?

Definitely the people. It was incredible to be in a group with like-minded people who wanted the same things as me. I went to college with a lot of the same people I knew growing up, so grad school was the first time I moved by myself to a completely new place, where I knew no one. These people became my best friends, and they’re still my best friends today. We’ve even all managed to keep up since I’ve been abroad. I developed close relationships with many of the staff and professors as well, and I’m so glad that I have been able to keep up with them as well.

Lisa with fellow MSC students during her time in the program.
Lisa with fellow MSC students during her time in the program.

What is your ideal day in Charlottesville?

I spent almost every weekend hiking around the Shenandoah Valley, so my ideal day would be waking up to hike Humpback Rock for the sunrise. Then, I’d spend the rest of the morning at the C’ville farmer’s market with friends to eat crepes and drink coffee.

-Written by Katie Nell

Making an Impact…One Gala at a Time

You know that feeling of satisfaction and relief that you get when you see all of your hard work come together? That’s exactly what Marketing & Management students got to experience on  April 12th when we hosted the first annual Impact Gala.

A little bit of background: You might remember from the Marketing & Management Academic Overview blog that one of our classes this semester is called “Creating Value in B2B Markets.” In this course, we’ve learned about the ways in which we can add value to the organizations we come in contact with throughout our careers. We’ve learned the sales process: from how to build rapport with potential clients, what questions to ask to develop a better understanding of their unique business problems, and the ways in which we can pitch solutions to them in a collaborative manner.

The best part about the course is that we were tasked with applying course concepts in a real-world context. For the past four months we have been working to secure guests and sponsorships for the crown jewel of our class: Impact.

Our professor, Jeff Boichuk, described the event as follows:

Impact will bring our students together with people who inspire them for a night that both parties will never forget. But we want to create more than a memorable night. We want the atmosphere at Impact to be so infectious that it changes the trajectory of the relationships in the room. We want Impact to be an annual celebration of mentorship that strengthens the McIntire alumni network.

To sum it up for you, we used the concepts we learned in class to develop relationships with business leaders  who inspire us. Further, we managed to sell them on the idea of accompanying us at Impact, which promised to be a unique and powerful shared experience that would take our relationship to the next level. Sounds like a pretty good example of hands-on learning to me.

So how did Impact go? Great! The students and their mentors enjoyed a prolonged cocktail hour and the buzz didn’t die down once. My mentor was a psych major interested in marketing, just like I am. He is also originally from Latin America, so you can imagine I had lots of questions to ask about the places I’ll be going on GIE!

After the cocktail hour, it was time for dinner (which was gourmet btw). For about an hour, we got to sit around a table with other students and their mentors and share our unique experiences and passion for mentorship.

Then it was time for the moment we had all be waiting for: our keynote speaker. For the inaugural Impact event, we had the great fortune of having Emmanuel Jal speak to us about the power of mentorship and how having a mentor literally saved his life. Emmanuel was a child soldier in South Sudan before he was rescued by a valiant woman named Emma McCune who took him in, gave him an education and taught him about forgiveness and peace. As a result of her mentorship, Emmanuel went from a child soldier to an internationally acclaimed musician and advocate for peace.

His speech was a powerful experience for the students and mentors alike. His stories of tragedy and inhumanity were interwoven with energetic and uplifting performances of some of his popular songs. He even got us to get up and dance with him!

The overall message of the night was resoundingly clear: relationships are incredibly powerful and we can have a significant impact on the world if we invest in one another. Impact is evidence of that.

-Written by Ryan Riccordella

Keynote speaker, Emmanuel Jal, gave an inspiring talk about how mentorship changed the trajectory of his life.
Keynote speaker, Emmanuel Jal, gave an inspiring talk about how mentorship changed the trajectory of his life.
•Blogger Katie Nell Taylor poses with other MS Commerce students and their mentors at Tuesday's Impact Gala.
• Blogger Katie Nell Taylor poses with other MS Commerce students and their mentors at Tuesday’s Impact Gala.
Students and their mentors mingle during cocktail hour
Students and their mentors mingle during cocktail hour
Dinner was full of rich conversations about mentorship and unique experiences.
Dinner was full of rich conversations about mentorship and unique experiences.






C’ville Restaurant Quiz

According to an M.S. in Accounting blog post from a year ago, this Huffington Post article, and my own personal experience after living in Charlottesville for five years, this town knows how to eat. C’villians are discriminating but adventurous foodies, and our demand for great dishes has cultivated an enviable restaurant scene right here in the 434. While there are only eight outcomes to this quiz, there are apparently a staggering 460 restaurants in Charlottesville. That’s a lot of options for date night. And this quiz is a great place to start figuring out where you should spend your dollars on prepared food. Have fun!

Take the quiz HERE

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-Quiz by Logan Steele

GCOM Council: A Celebration of Our Representation

As we enter our final month of classes in the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) Program (whoa!), it’s certainly time that we spotlight a group of dedicated students who have truly enriched our time at McIntire. That group is the Graduate Commerce (GCOM) Council. The MSC GCOM Council for 2015-2016 is made up of Chair Jeff Sinclair, Treasurer/Secretary Graham Kirby, and Program Coordinators Brad Coyle, Shuang Shuang Liang, Kristen Parker, and Melissa Saunders. To give you a little background on GCOM Council, here’s a quick breakdown:

Who: The GCOM Council is made up of two branches (one for MSC and one for the M.S. in Accounting Program), each comprised of officers who are elected early in the fall semester each year.

What: The GCOM Council organizes educational, social, community, and cultural activities for graduate students at McIntire.

When: The community that GCOM helps foster among graduate students throughout the school year is built to last far beyond our 10 months in Charlottesville.

Where: The GCOM Council plans events for graduate students that take place both on and off Grounds (details on specific locations below!).

Why: To build a sense of community among McIntire graduate students, faculty, staff, and administration while also facilitating interactions with the Charlottesville community. The GCOM Council’s programs and events are designed to intentionally facilitate networking and professional development opportunities for graduate students.

In order to gain more insights on the importance GCOM Council and the whole group’s experience, I asked a few of our own representatives about their time serving on the Council and what it meant to them:

What were some of your favorite GCOM activities/events this past year, and why?

In the fall, we put together a trip to a local vineyard in Charlottesville called Pippin Hill. We were able to rent out an entire room where there was plenty of wine and food, and the weather cooperated with us and allowed a beautiful day in October for our program to unwind from a long week. The wine was delicious, the food was perfect, and the scenery was mesmerizing. This is one of my favorite events that GCOM Council organized so far this year! – Melissa Saunders

Why do you think it’s so important that our program has GCOM representatives?

The GCOM Council plays an important role in facilitating coordination between the faculty and students, and also successfully fosters greater connections among our classmates. Having this representative system allows us to engage in a two-way dialogue with McIntire’s administration about whatever issues our class deems important. We also have a nice budget earmarked for planning social events that allow us to bond with our peers in a non-academic setting. – Brad Coyle

What GCOM activity/event are you most looking forward to, and why?

I am most excited about the GCOM Gala, because we’ve been working with the MSA kids to develop it, and it seems like it’ll be really cool. – Graham Kirby

If you could change one past activity, event or decision, what would it be?

This is a hard question!! We’ve had a lot of fun events and in my opinion each one has been successful for different reasons. We planned several events in the fall in hopes of facilitating quick integration, and one thing I would change would be to start these a little earlier in semester to help everyone meet new people sooner. – Melissa Saunders

What are some of the skills that being on GCOM has really helped you develop?

Being on GCOM has helped me develop my teamwork skills and ablity to work with with different personalities, which is a major emphasis of this program. The Council is a team, and we have to work together to accomplish all of the things we decide to do. – Brad Coyle

What will this year’s GCOM legacy be?

I think our legacy will be the cooperation and collaboration we did with the MSA students. Hopefully in the future they do even more! – Graham Kirby

Want to decide for yourself what you think this year’s GCOM legacy will be?! Let’s go over some of GCOM’s highlights this year–there are quite a few! Read over the following descriptions and show some love for GCOM Council by voting for your favorite activity/event in the comments section below!

Fall Festival
On October 22nd, students gathered in the courtyard to celebrate autumn. Guests helped themselves to free chili and a few competed in a pie-eating contest. Other brave festival-goers bobbed for tied-up donuts. Everyone from professors to undergraduates had a wonderful time networking and bonding over a love of all things fall!

Vineyard Visit
On October 23rd, all available MSC students loaded on buses provided by the GCOM Council and scooted over to Pippin Hill for a beautiful afternoon of wine tasting! For more on this classy event, head over to a previous blog picture-post that covered the event!

Habitat for Humanity
On October 24th, about 15 MSC students spent the day building low-cost housing in the Charlottesville area. All attendees raved afterward about what a rewarding and fun time they had helping out the community–whether they were erecting walls or digging garden beds. What a great group of students!

Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn
On October 30th, GCOM Council sponsored a Lawn room for UVA’s annual “Trick or Treat on the Lawn” event. This tradition is perfect for everyone who loves candy and more importantly feeding little kids candy! Check out our blog post covering the event for all the sweet deetz.

Holiday Sharing
This year, GCOM Council sponsored a family for through Madison House for their annual Holiday Sharing program. Students signed up to bring in all types of non-perishables for our family, from whole wheat pasta to jell-o! Plus, GCOM pitched personal gifts for each family member. Way to bring a happier holiday, GCOM Council!

Lighting of the Courtyard
GCOM Council helped plan an event for the entire McIntire community, during which the Rouss and Robertson courtyard lights up in sparkling holiday glory in anticipation of the Lighting of the Lawn later that same evening. Attendees decorated cookies, noshed on other desserts, slurped hot beverages, made faces for a photo booth, and jammed out to holiday tunes!

MSC Holiday Party
On Saturday, December 5th at 9:00 PM, it was time for MSC students to get in the holiday spirit. GCOM Council rented out a restaurant on the Corner, Coupe’s, and encouraged us to let loose and wear our best tacky holiday sweater and accessories (including Santa suits/elf ensembles). The two people with the most festive outfits won $25 gift cards to a restaurant on the Corner! Add in free sliders and fries and a live band, and this was a holiday bash to be remembered.

“On the 6 days of finals GCOM gave to me…”
From December 11th-16th GCOM council provided all MSC students with presents to make the 6 days of the very stressful final integrative exam a little more bearable. Every day, the “GCOM elves” left presents in our mailboxes or in our graduate lounge! These goodies ranged from a hot chocolate kit (complete with cookie) to a Hot Wheels toy car to a huge cake on the final day! Nom.

Lunar New Year Drawing/Coloring Contest
In February, it was time to ring in the Year of the Monkey! MSC students grabbed the free crayons and paper in the Grad Lounge to draw their best monkey OR decorate one of the coloring sheets that GCOM Council provided. Contest winners received a Starbucks gift card courtesy of GCOM Council. Ooh ooh, ahh ahh! :)

McIntire Graduate Gala
After tremendous hard work and planning, on Thursday, March 24th, GCOM Council members threw a formal event for MSC and MSA students and guests! The gala went down at Paramount Theatre on the Downtown Mall–a top notch venue for a top notch night. Master’s students were decked out in their best “formal cocktail hour” attire and danced the night away to the music of a wonderful live band. With free food and a cash bar, this was definitely a highlight of the entire year.

MSC students gathered together to celebrate all the wonderful friendships they’ve made over the past eight months!
MSC students gathered together to celebrate all the wonderful friendships they’ve made over the past eight months!
Classy ladies! I’ve never seen formal cocktail hour attire done so well.
Classy ladies! I’ve never seen formal cocktail hour attire done so well.

Foxfield Races

This annual horse-racing event has become a tradition ingrained in the UVA experience, and Master’s students are no exception to that tradition. The GCOM council has rented a bus and purchased 2 plots in the green section so that MSC and MSA students may cheer on the competing riders. GCOM also provided breakfast, lunch, snacks, and nonalcoholic beverages at no cost to students. Do they take care of us, or what?! Personally, I think this will be one of my favorite events yet.

Thank you so much for all you do, GCOM Council! MSC appreciates you so much–you’ve made this year unforgettable! And I can’t wait to see what all you readers thought of GCOM’s events. Don’t forget to comment below!

-Written by Logan Steele

Spring Break Career Exploration Trip

 A few weeks ago, 12 excited McIntire students (third-years, fourth-years, and M.S. in Commerce students) had the incredible opportunity to visit companies all throughout the greater Washington, D.C., area and network with alumni as part of a brand new career exploration spring break trip sponsored by Commerce Career Services.

Just like the Winter Break trip to NYC, CCS organized this trip to give students a firsthand understanding of various of roles in marketing, analytics, consulting, and finance. Because of these visits, students can better identify what type of industry, position, company size, and culture suits them personally. All in all, we had an amazing few of days visiting around the District and discovering new career possibilities! Here’s a quick overview of a couple of our visits:

Wednesday: Tysons Day

  • OmniTek Consulting: After a few days of well-earned relaxation, the students in our visiting group started off our company visits in the Tysons Corner, Va., area that’s abuzz with corporate offices. Stop #1 was OmniTek Consulting, a growing management consulting and technology services firm. We were greeted with coffee and bagels—definitely off to a great start. After only 11 years in business, Founder and CEO Chris Lien has taken this organization to the top by building a reputation of hands-on excellence. The heads of recruiting and HR gave the group a detailed explanation of the OmniTek’s DNA, explaining how its dedication to respect, integrity, humility, and positivity make its process unique. New hires and young alums of McIntire and Maryland explained their positions at OmniTek, answering any and all questions we had with warmth and enthusiasm. One thing that really stood out to me was that because of OmniTek’s relatively small size and mindset for expansion, all employees have the power to voice where they want to take their careers. Management—from intermediate managers to Chris—all operate with a wide-open door and are incredibly responsive to input from all employees. As if they didn’t leave a good enough impression on us, OmniTek also gifted us with mugs full of candy. We left wondering how any other company could impress us more!
  • Cvent: After a quick lunch, we scooted on over to the Cvent office. For those unfamiliar, Cvent is an event management technology company whose integrated software solutions for event planners offer online event registration, venue selection, event management, mobile apps for events, e-mail marketing, and web surveys. Founded in 1999, Cvent has grown internationally to almost 2,000 employees, but still commits to keeping an entrepreneurial spirit throughout the office. With its casual dress code and constant hum of new business, we easily picked up on Cvent’s self-proclaimed “work hard, play hard” vibe. We got to hear the stories of the MSC alums—two Cvent-ers who work on the account management side (one from hospitality cloud and one from events cloud) and one Cvent-er who works on the account acquisition side. Then, we had the privilege of taking an amazing tour of all the floors and wings of Cvent’s impressive headquarters. An eye-catching detail was that in each department, the conference rooms were named after different themes. For example, one department’s theme was famous musicians. How cool would it be to say, “Should we move our 2:30 meeting to Elvis or Frank Sinatra?”
  • AddThis: For our final stop that first day, we turned to the AddThis office in Vienna, Va. Have you ever seen a strip of widgets that allow you to share an article or a web page to Pinterest, Google+, Facebook, Twitter, and more? That’s AddThis’ handiwork. And AddThis is on over 15 million websites! The company strategically takes advantage of its Internet prevalence by collecting data on who shares what, carefully curating different segmented audience packages to then selling them to marketers around the world. So cool! And it turns out Cvent wasn’t the only office to have some cool quirks: We found awesome nerd culture at AddThis. Each of the company’s conference rooms were named after famous robots like C3PO and Baymax. And every department had a different banner from various Game of Thrones families—e.g., accounting was obviously House Lannister. A Lannister always pays his debts.
  • Alumni Mixer Event: Although I was unable to attend this fabulous event at Mission in historic Dupont Circle, I heard all the lucky attendees had so much fun. Everyone enjoyed Mission’s famous chips and guacamole while chatting away about life in D.C. Alums were very generous with their time and excited to share stories of both their professional experiences and of their fondly remembered days in the M.S. in Commerce Program. The conversations reminded everyone to cherish these last few weeks in the program! We can’t believe they’re almost over, and we’ll all certainly miss this place so much.

Thursday: DC Day

  • Atlantic Media Strategies: To start off Day 2, we met in the heart of the city at the famous Watergate offices, right next to the Kennedy Center. It couldn’t have been a more quintessential D.C. location or a more beautiful morning, weather-wise. We walked into Atlantic’s glamourous offices and were immediately swept away by office’s breathtaking interior design, including a grand spiral staircase right in the center of the lobby. Our hosts led us to a magnificent conference room with an unbelievable view of the harbor. We shared our stories with two awesome MSC alums, who walked through how they got to AMS and their day-to-day work. Self-described as the consultative branch of Atlantic Media that brings various large organizations into the digital age, this four-year-old company is growing like mad. Next, we got to speak with the president, Jean Ellen Cowgill, who generously took time from her busy day to answer several rounds of questions from us eager students. Finally, three established employees from a variety of departments (including creative, editorial, and strategic) took us through a detailed behind the scenes look at several case studies. I’ll just tell you now to go check out the very impressive, interactive, and informative “Cancer Atlas” that AMS created for the American Cancer Society!
The group enjoyed a wonderful visit at the Watergate in the offices of Atlantic Media Strategies
The group enjoyed a wonderful visit at the Watergate in the offices of Atlantic Media Strategies
  • International Finance Corporation (World Bank):
    • How does the company describe itself?
      • “IFC, a member of the World Bank Group, is the largest global development institution focused exclusively on the private sector in developing countries. IFC applies their financial resources, technical expertise, global experience, and innovative thinking to help their partners overcome financial, operational, and political challenges.”
    • What positions IFC hiring for that we could apply for?
      • While there are several investment and IT analyst positions open in the D.C. office, there are also plenty of international opportunities posted on IFC’s website!
    • Fun facts
      • IFC impresses me with its commitment to aid and dedication to “innovation, influence, demonstration, and impact.” IFC’s goal is to end extreme poverty by 2030 and “boost shared prosperity in every developing country.” Seems like a mission that would be an honor to help tackle.
Visiting the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank was such a treat!
Visiting the International Finance Corporation of the World Bank was such a treat!
  • Booz Allen Hamilton:
    • How does Booz Allen Hamilton describe itself?
      • “Today, Booz Allen is a leading provider of management consulting, technology, and engineering services to the U.S. government in defense, intelligence, and civil markets. We also serve major corporations, institutions, not-for-profit organizations, and international clients.”
    • What positions is BAH hiring for that we could apply for?
      • Too many to count! Jobs are listed in almost all 50 states, in the UK, in Germany, in South Korea, and more. Start your search today!
    • Fun facts
      • Booz Allen Hamilton is the real deal—a Fortune 500 company! The company has been in the strategy and technology consulting business for more than 100 years. The company’s impressive clientele includes the Department of Defense, every branch of the U.S. military, the Department of Homeland Security, and many more.

Friday: Maryland Day

  • WeddingWire:
    • How does WeddingWire describe itself?
      • “We create products that change the way the event industry works. From helping connect the millions of engaged couples to event merchants to helping merchants grow their business online, we are passionate about leveraging technology that powers the largest marketplace for the weddings and event industry in the nation.”
    • What positions is WeddingWire hiring for that we could apply for?
    • Fun facts
      • Like any good start-up, WeddingWire began in the founder’s living room with a couple of buddies. The founder had a hectic wedding planning experience for his own wedding but was a technologist and knew that he could do better. Just look at him now!
  • rp3 Agency:
    • How does rp3 Agency describe itself?
      • “RP3 Agency’s capabilities run the gamut from strategy through implementation with a holistic approach that never loses sight of your big picture business goals.” Essentially, rp3 is a creative agency that also specializes in brand strategy, connections, and digital.
    • What positions is rp3 hiring for that we could apply for?
      • Account executives. Check out the dynamic and exciting job description here!
    • Fun facts
      • Although rp3 started just five years ago, the company already has big-name clients like the Children’s National Medical Center and Honest Tea. Very impressive!
  • GlobalGiving:
    • What is GlobalGiving?
      • “GlobalGiving is a registered 501(c)3 nonprofit organization that enables you to fund the underdog. We make it possible to support creative ideas that might never be funded through traditional development and philanthropy approaches….GlobalGiving connects organizations to resources that help them continually learn and improve. As nonprofits become more effective, they have a far-greater impact on social problems.”
    • What positions are they hiring for that we could apply for?
      • Program Associate. “From crafting communications, tools, and trainings to creating system improvements, the Program Associate takes a lead role in getting current and prospective nonprofit partners excited to participate in campaigns and be successful in doing so.”
    • Fun facts
      • GlobalGiving is the first and largest global crowdfunding community for nonprofits. Since 2002, GlobalGiving has raised almost $211.9 million from more than 516,000 donors who have supported more than 14,000 projects in countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

I’ll sign off with the link to GlobalGiving’s cause-finder page. Happy Giving, everyone!

-Written by Logan Steele

Alumna Spotlight: Juliet Wiebe-King

Often emphasized in the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) Program is the fact that business is increasingly operating in a global context. This means that, as tomorrow’s business leaders, McIntire students must understand how to navigate international markets and cultures in order to be successful. In this blog we’re introducing you to an MSC alumna Juliet Wiebe-King (M.S. in Commerce ’15), who is excelling in this regard and who has used the business acumen she gained at McIntire to land a job internationally. Juliet’s McIntire journey took her to Bali, where she landed the role of a lifetime.


Talk to us a little bit about your path to McIntire.

I attended the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. There, I decided to study anthropology and international studies, with a focus on Latin America. I also had a minor in Spanish. Different cultures have always fascinated me. I had a pretty diverse upbringing myself: My mom was born in the Congo in Africa, and my dad was born in Cuba and raised in Mexico City. I did lots of traveling around growing up, so when I went to college, I wanted to study all things international.

When graduation came around, I had no idea what to do with my anthropology degree. I knew I didn’t want to be an archaeologist or a professor, but I wasn’t sure what was next. One day, a friend who went to Chapel Hill told me about the M.S. in Commerce Program and how you didn’t need to have any background in business; you just needed to take a few prereqs. That sounded great, but I was nervous because I had never taken anything remotely close to business. But just talking to McIntire’s Director of Graduate Recruiting Emma Candelier and a friend of mine who had completed the program got me really interested. So I signed up for the prereqs at a community college, applied, and got in!

When I applied, I applied on the Marketing & Management Track. One of the reasons marketing was intriguing to me is that there’s so much anthropology in it. It’s all about ethnographics and understanding your target consumer so you can cater your message to them.

How would you characterize your MSC experience?
Juliet presenting with fellow MSC students
Juliet presenting with fellow MSC students

It was very difficult for me to be honest. At the beginning I was stressed and thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this.” I had only taken one math class in college, so the finance classes and the quantitative courses were a challenge.

But it ended up being the best experience for me, and all of my classmates felt the same way. We were thrown in the deep end, but we learned how to swim. It’s hard to master a large quantity of brand new information in a year but you have really supportive professors and amazing groups of students you work with who make it a million times better. I think that’s one thing a lot of people don’t admit off the bat. It’s difficult, but I got a ton out of it and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

What surprised you most about the MSC Program?

I would say how supportive the professors were. That was a huge surprise, because I knew UVA professors would be amazing, but I expected them to be more hands-off, almost as if it would be on you to figure it out for yourself if you didn’t understand something. But when I had any questions, every single professor I had would bend over backwards to make time for me, and that made a huge difference, especially in those finance classes.

Where did you go on GIE? What lessons or experiences from GIE have helped you in your career?
Juliet in Turkey during GIE
Juliet in Turkey during GIE

I went to Europe for GIE. We went to London, Berlin, Bucharest, Bratislava, Istanbul, and Athens. I would say in general it helped me gain an overall understanding of how much a business needs to change depending on the culture you’re in and made me very aware of that fact that you can’t do a one-size-fits-all approach. For example, we went to Google Slovakia, and it was fascinating to see how differently they operated there compared with other parts of the world. I wrote my final paper on how, in a globalized world, we can’t use a one-size-fits-all model. In Strategy & Systems, we read a case study about how Walmart plopped the American model in China and failed because the company didn’t do the research and cater the business to the different market.

Juliet in Slovakia during GIE
Juliet in Slovakia during GIE
Juliet in London during GIE
Juliet in London during GIE

Now that I’m working for a company that operates in all of these different markets, I’ve kept that lesson in mind, and we’ve adapted our product offerings and advertising as we market around the world.

How did you get your job out of the MSC Program?

I think it was only a month or two from GIE. I had interviews for the more traditional consulting and marketing roles, but I just didn’t see myself fitting in or enjoying any of them. Then one day, I got an email from Denise in Commerce Career Services about this marketing internship with East Bali Cashews (EBC).


EBC is a company founded in 2012 by an American on a medical mission trip to one of the poorest regions in Bali (people were living on as little as $2 per day). Everyone in the area was cashew farmers, but the nuts were being shipped to places like Vietnam to be processed. Our founder had the idea to build a factory in Bali, keep jobs local, and provide opportunities for people, especially women, who previously hadn’t had any employment prospects. There’s even an on-site preschool so that the kids can get an education while their moms work in the factory. (Click here to learn more about East Bali Cashews.)

EBC is a for-profit company, but it’s really involved in the community, so it sounded right up my alley. In undergrad, I worked for five nonprofits: three in Guatemala and two in the United States. In fact, one of the reasons I did the M.S. in Commerce Program was to get a strong background in business because that’s something nonprofits really struggle with.

EBC2The one issue I had was that I didn’t want to take an internship after getting a master’s degree. But the opportunity kept nagging at me because it fit me so well. So, I decided to email the founder and set up various calls to learn more about the company, and as I did, I got even more excited. There was only a two-month minimum time period to be in Bali, which I figured would fly by, so I decided to go for it. Within the first week, I knew I wanted to stay longer. I ended up staying for a little over five months and then returned to the United States to lead the company’s U.S. expansion, working with one of EBC’s largest stakeholders, Red River Foods.

What did you do in your role in Bali?

In Bali, I did a little bit of everything. I was the one marketing person. The company had grown so quickly that almost everyone was involved in sales, but there was no one to back up those efforts in marketing. So I was doing things from running Facebook ads and EBC’s social media profiles to redesigning the company’s website. I enjoy photography, so I took a lot of pictures and wrote the copy for company’s ads. I also created a media kit and met up with local press to start relationships with them. That way, whenever we had news, we could contact them and get our message out there. Another interesting opportunity I had was compiling and presenting research about retail markets in Singapore. EBC has now entered that market, which is pretty awesome. Like I said, it was a whole lot of everything!


How do you think MSC Program prepared you for your role?

I think even just gaining basic business vocabulary—terms I would have had no idea of—was really helpful. I also gained a lot of “soft skills.” For example, you get great practice doing presentations throughout the program, and I got so much better at it. My writing skills definitely improved too. As an anthropology major, I wrote papers all the time, but they were very much a different style. They were more academic, whereas the assignments in the M.S. in Commerce Program helped me become a stronger business writer.

Do you think having a liberal arts background coupled with a business degree has set you apart in the workplace?

Definitely. When I was in Bali, I was contacted by an ad agency for two different positions and got an offer, but I decided to stay at EBC. One of the biggest things they were interested in was my background. They didn’t want employees coming in with only a marketing background. Everyone was really intrigued by my combination of degrees, and having a master’s in business really set me apart.

It also shows that you’re really adaptable. Employers love that you can go from having never taken a business class to doing well in a program like MSC.

What advice would you give to current MSC students who are considering international opportunities?

I would say 100% go for it. I know a lot of people are iffy about it and it isn’t the norm, but I found it absolutely rewarding. It was the best experience of my life and the best choice I’ve made. I felt a lot of pressure to go with more traditional consulting roles, but I would recommend that if you’re interested in other things, pursue them. I think working abroad strengthened me a lot more than working in the United States would have because I was pushed out of my comfort zone.

What is the most important thing you took from your time at McIntire? What would you want a prospective student to know about the program?

Allow yourself to adjust to McIntire. There was such a push at the beginning to find a job, but for the first semester, I just focused on school. It was a big change as it was, and so to throw the whole job search on top of that would have made it that much more difficult. Focus on getting acclimated to McIntire and then worry about your job.

There you have it folks! A big thank-you to Juliet for taking the time to speak with us and share her enthusiasm and experience with the MSC Program.

-Written by Ryan Riccordella

Academic Overview: Business Analytics

Here’s the third and final of our academic overview blogs for the M.S. in Commerce’s newest track: Business Analytics. Analytics positions are on the rise, making them one of the “it” jobs (not to be confused with IT jobs, but that difference will be described below). They are growing as companies increasingly recognize the importance of data-driven decisions. There are currently 34 of us in the track. Lucky for you guys, I’ve been your guinea pig and am here to shed some light on the newest track.

What is business analytics?

Ahmed Abbasi, Associate Professor of Commerce; Director, Center for Business Analytics; Murray Research Professor
Ahmed Abbasi, Associate Professor of Commerce; Director, Center for Business Analytics; Murray Research Professor

To give you guys a big picture overview of business analytics, I sat down with Professor Ahmed Abbasi, who is the Director of the Center for Business Analytics at McIntire. We’ll start off with defining business analytics, which Professor Abbasi boiled down to: “Business analytics is the use of statistical and other analysis methods to drive insights for data-driven decision-making to gain business value.” The whole field of business analytics really isn’t as complex as its usually made out to be. It’s simply solving classic business problems, except now we’re using some more powerful tools.

Why was business analytics added as a third track in the MSC program?

Why exactly is business analytics popping up in publications like Harvard Business Review and MIT Sloan Management Review? Why is it becoming the next craze to sweep across industries? More importantly, why is business analytics a good field or track to consider? Competing on data and analytics is no longer enough to differentiate companies in their competitive space. On the contrary, data is becoming the language or currency of the business world. It is a necessary means of transmitting ideas and concepts across the world. As businesses are increasingly seeing the shift from intuition to data-driven decisions, it is important to teach people how to interpret the data to find meaningful information to help businesses make sound decisions.

What is the schedule like for a business analytics (BA) student?

One of my favorite things this semester is that your schedule is a lot more stable. Unlike fall semester, when it seemed like every week was different, there is now a much bigger sense of consistency. As Ryan mentioned in his post on the Marketing & Management track, all BA Track students are signed up for same classes and have the same schedule. So without further ado, here is a sample BA schedule* for the first part of second semester:

BA Image 2

*After spring break Cloud Computing and Customer Analytics courses replaced Advanced Quantitative Analytics and Big Data, so the schedule changes slightly

What courses do BA track students take?

Here are the descriptions of the classes we’ve been taking second semester (these will most likely vary slightly each year):

  • Digital Analytics: This course is all about how online relationships and platforms affect business and focuses on web analytics, social media analytics, and paid search. Professor Brent Kitchens teaches the class; he also taught our Introduction to Business Analytics class in the fall. We spend about half of the classes in the lab working on different programs, including SQL (which everyone is introduced to in the Systems course fall semester) and Tableau. We’ll even be developing our on dashboards so that we can analyze Twitter accounts for one of our projects.
  • Foundations of Global Commerce: This is the only class shared by all three tracks and is taught by Professor Peter Maillet. This class has a different feel from the other BA classes, for obvious reasons, but is really good at challenging you to connect everything that’s happening in the world and get a better handle of how to interpret the news and what is happening around you. In that regard, it actually fits in nicely since it’s expanding on the analytical skills you’re developing in the other courses.
  • Advanced Quantitative Analytics: Professor Rick Netemeyer teaches this class, which is held in the computer lab and is a continuation of the Quantitative Analytics class taken by all students in the fall semester. We are expanding our experience and knowledge of different analytics tools such as R, SAS and SPSS. I would say that this is the most technical class that we take, but it does offer practical applications, using tools that many companies deal with on a daily basis. Our major project this semester is working with a major hotel chain’s employee survey data. We’ll be analyzing company data to find insights and then presenting our business implications and recommendations to the hotel’s executives.
    • Customer Analytics course took the place of this one from spring break through the end of the year. This is a research-oriented class that examines how firms can use analytics to gain actionable insights about customers both internal to the firm (employees) and external to the firm (consumers) to create, manage, and grow their business and brands.
  • Big Data: Here come the buzzwords. Taught by Professor Li, whose impressive resume includes helping to develop the recommended system for Xbox 1, we’re learning how companies are dealing with all the new types of data (social media, tweets, and likes) and the immense amount of data being generated (all that real-time data coming from your Fitbits). One of the main goals is understanding the trend of data technologies and the different software vendors. This way, we have a better idea of the types of solutions we will be recommending to companies and clients in the future. We’ve also been able to discuss Netflix, self-driving cars, and artificial intelligence.
    • A Cloud Computing course took the place of this one from spring break through the end of the year.
Building customer journey maps in Customre Analytics class
Building customer journey maps in Customre Analytics class


Who should apply to the BA track?

Usually when I hear people talk about business analytics, they think you have to be some sort of tech genius, and I can’t tell you how wrong this is. I have never considered myself to be tech-savvy. In fact, I consider myself the opposite; I’m usually the one who needs help figuring out why something on my phone or computer isn’t working. Yes, you will be working with computer software, but the majority of students in the class haven’t used the software before, so you’re all learning step-by-step together. I’ve really enjoyed challenging myself by learning something new, and I think instead of being a tech whiz, you just need to have patience, know how to problem solve, and enjoy learning new skills.

Wondering if you would be a good fit BA track? Time for a little personality test:

  • Do you have a core foundation in business skills? Check. After all, that’s what the entire first semester in the M.S. in Commerce Program provides. The rest of the questions you’ll have to answer on your own!
  • Do you have strong communication skills and do you enjoy communicating with a variety of different audiences?
  • Do you enjoy finding evidence for your ideas and solving problems?
  • Do you get excited about driving valuable insights or making discoveries?
  • Do you want to be able to use a lot of buzzwords and sound smart? Just kidding—although you will be throwing around terms like “big data,” “cloud computing,” “Hadoop,” and “NoSQL.”

If you answered “yes” to some of those questions, it’s definitely worth checking out the BA track.

Where do business analytics students typically end up?

There really is no set career path for someone studying business analytics. After all, think of how many job titles contain the word “analyst” (hint: It’s a lot). Opportunities to use business analytics are abundant in almost every field. Market research is an example of how marketing firms use business analytics. Financial services companies use analytics to improve fraud detection, as well as to evaluate loan customers. In health care, big data is being used in disease management and to improve health outcomes and accuracy in diagnoses. Business analytics skills are highly transferable, as you are learning ways to identify and solve problems. Communication skills are a key component of the track and a large part of what makes BA students good consultants (many current BA students have already accepted offers in the consulting field).

A common misconception that I hear a lot is that you’ll end up working in IT or as a data scientist. Most likely, you won’t be doing either of those. Studying BA doesn’t mean you’re studying IT or data science. There are already programs out there for that and graduates from those programs to fill those positions. Data science and IT work are more about methodologies and solving data and IT problems; there is a lot more emphasis on programming. What you will be doing, on the other hand, is learning how to interact and mediate between the IT and data scientists and another audience. You’ll be explaining the importance and meaning behind the data to managers or other business-minded individuals to enable them to make more informed decisions. You’ll be a professional problem solver, and excellent communicator.

How do I learn more about the business analytics track?

Business Analytics is all about data-driven understanding and making more informed decisions that lead to action. If this sounds like a field that interests you but you still want to learn more, I recommend scheduling a visit to sit in on one of the Business Analytics classes. During your visit you’ll also have the opportunity to meet with current student ambassadors in the track to learn about their experience so far. Can’t find a class visit date that works for you? Reach out to Kelsey Stone to set up a custom visit.

I am so happy that I chose this track and I cannot recommend it enough. Thanks for reading!

Jordan Smith

Ready for the Big Time: M.S. in Commerce Program’s New Business Analytics Track Prepares Students for Outstanding Careers in One of Today’s Fastest-Growing Fields

How can a Kinesiology major with a passion for health and wellness help millions of consumers make better choices at the grocery store?

Answer: by spending a year in the McIntire School of Commerce’s top-ranked M.S. in Commerce Program, completing the program’s new Business Analytics Track, and landing a plum job with a cutting-edge customer analytics organization.

“I’ll be working in the data analysts program at 84.51—Kroger’s analytics arm—where I hope to support Kroger’s health and wellness initiatives,” says former long-distance runner Susannah Derr (A&S ’15, M.S. in Commerce ’16), a Kinesiology major as an undergrad, of her post-graduation plans. “I’d love to start uncovering new ways to encourage consumers to make more healthful purchasing decisions.”

Real-World Ready
Thanks to the track’s intensive real-world curriculum, Derr isn’t just excited about her new job—she’s also incredibly well prepared for it. “I think that whatever they ask me to do, I’ll be able to say, ‘Yes, I can do that—I have those skills,’” she says.

That feeling of preparedness is the result of the track’s carefully crafted curriculum, including 17 credit hours of critical foundational coursework in such subjects as finance, strategy, marketing, and organizational behavior; 14 credits hours of specialized coursework in business, web, and customer analytics, as well as a deep dive into quantitative analysis; and 9 credit hours of global immersion experience coursework.

Brent Kitchens
Brent Kitchens

“We’re trying to give students a comprehensive understanding of the different types of analytics and how they can be used to help make smart business decisions,” says McIntire IT Professor Brent Kitchens, who teaches the track’s Introduction to Business Analytics and Digital Analytics courses. “We want them to understand what all the possibilities are, so that they’re able to speak the language of analytics—and add immediate value to their employers.”

Outside In
To this end, Kitchens and track colleagues Jeff Boichuk, Jingjing Li, Rick Netemeyer, and Jason Williamson have incorporated a broad array of real-world analytics projects into their coursework. After introducing students to key analytical concepts, methods, and techniques, as well as to the technological tools (Rapid Miner, R, SAS, and SPSS) they’ll likely encounter on the job, the professors set them the task of unearthing valuable insights from real corporate data-sets, then communicating those insights, consultant-style, to students and faculty members.

“We’ve done so many interesting projects already, looking at real data from companies like Hilton, Chico’s, McDonald’s, and Anheuser-Busch,” says Shuang Shuang Liang (A&S ’14, M.S. in Commerce ’16), an Economics and Psychology major who recently accepted a job as an Analyst with powerhouse professional services organization EY. “We were given these enormous sets of data, then asked to find correlations within them. The professors didn’t tell us what to do, whether we should run a factor analysis or a cluster analysis: It was up to us to look at the data, think about all that we’d learned, and figure out the best course of action—which is just what we’ll have to do in our jobs.”

Similarly, Liang and Derr say the real-world insights they gained from the outstanding corporate speakers who visited their class—including from such leading organizations as EY, CapTech, Red Ventures, and 84.51—helped bring alive the aims and enormous possibilities of business analytics. “When Shannon Hoyer (McIntire ’10) came to speak to our class, I found it so fascinating,” Derr says. “She talked about all these different ways 84.51 processes data to improve the customer experience—everything from the geography of a grocery store, to changing customer incentives.”

Likewise, says Liang, the one-on-one interaction she had with Yang Shim (McIntire ’96), Ernst & Young LLP Principal, Financial Services Organization, helped convince her that EY would be a good fit for her. “We had a fascinating conversation not only about the future of big data, but also about Yang’s experience and perspectives,” Liang recalls. “After talking with him, I really felt that EY would be a great place for me to put my skills to use.”

More Than Just Talk
Indeed, Liang and Derr report, the track’s emphasis on communication and presentation will help to ensure that they’re able to clearly and effectively convey their ideas—and the data-borne evidence behind those ideas—to their colleagues. “Every time we did a project, we also did a presentation,” Liang says. “It was great practice in organizing your ideas, recognizing different audiences, clearly communicating the hard data behind your conclusions and recommendations, and working with your team.”

Put it all together, Liang says, and the results are tremendous. “When I look back over the past year, I’m amazed by all that I’ve learned,” she says. “The M.S. in Commerce Program has not only given me an amazing new set of skills, but a new confidence in my abilities to solve problems and overcome challenges. Honestly, I feel like a new person.”


Academic Overview: Finance

Here is the second of three academic overview blogs, which will provide an extensive overview of what life is like is like in the Finance Track in the M.S. in Commerce (MSC) Program. Guest blogger, Alex Lopez, a current MSC student in the Finance Track discusses the answers to all the big questions she had had before starting the program:

How does the second semester compare with the first semester of the program?

The fall was much more fast-paced, with reports and presentations throughout the semester, and we were taking classes with students from all three tracks. This semester, however, is drastically different for those of us in the Finance Track. All finance students take the same four finance classes, described in detail below, as well as “Foundations of Global Commerce,” which all MSC students take.* Our schedule has been much more routine and predictable this semester. And another added bonus—no Friday classes!

Here is an example of a typical week during second semester in the Finance Track:

Finance image 1

GCOM 7730: Investment Banking – 9:15-10:30 a.m.

This course is designed to provide insight into how and why investment banks and bankers operate in the manner in which they do, through methods such as “financial engineering.”

GCOM 7750: Asset Management – 12:30-2:00 p.m.

This course focuses on building and analyzing various investment portfolios for a wide array of investors.

GCOM7720: Informational Management for Financial Services – 10:30-11:45 a.m.

In this unique and interesting class, students learn how to code and use Visual Basic in-depth. At the end of the semester, our track will compete against M.S. in Accounting and undergraduate students in a hedge tournament that combines the software tools we learned in this class with the financial information in our other three.

GCOM 7510: Special Topics in Finance – 12:00-1:45 p.m.

Taught by three rotating professors, this class provides depth and breadth, and includes such topics as leveraged buyouts, bankruptcy and restructuring, and mergers and acquisitions. Weekly cases are completed by small, assigned student groups throughout the semester.


Can you describe the transition from being a non-business major as an undergrad to a finance graduate student?

Even though I attended UVA as an undergrad, this year has been so different from my undergraduate years. The difference I appreciate the most is the small size of this program. You really get to know your professors and all 110 students incredibly well. Also the classes are case-based which leads to a very discussion-based and participation-centric classroom, which is very different from the typical pure lecture classes I had grown accustomed to as an undergrad.

The fall semester really helps you transition from being a non-business major because you take just two finance classes, which then prepares you for the almost entirely financed-focused spring semester. The first semester was especially valuable, in my opinion, because it really helped me build a strong foundation of business skills and increased my comfort level with the business world—from learning how to write memos to giving presentations to company executives. This semester, on the other hand, is much more quantitative and less focused on group projects and presentations. Although we still have presentations (mainly in the Global Commerce class), as compared with the other tracks, much more of our work in groups is case-based and quantitative.

What type of student should consider choosing the Finance Track?

There are 35 students in the Finance Track, and while many of us (myself included) were economics majors, that doesn’t mean you can’t major in something else and still apply for this track. There are students with a variety of majors, including, engineering, communication, politics, history, and Sanskrit.

If you would describe yourself as a quantitative person and see yourself entering a career that involves the financial sector, this track is the best choice and provides the best preparation. You can learn more about the Finance Track here. If possible, swing by for a class visit and experience it for yourself!

What types of careers are students from the finance track entering into next year?

Students in the Finance Track have been recruiting for a variety of careers in finance, including, corporate finance, private equity, investment banking, asset management, real estate and financial consulting. For complete employment statistics for MSC Finance graduates, take a look at the Graduate Placement Report.

What is something you wish you knew before starting the program and the Finance Track?

Many people think finance students all have jobs lined up before students in other tracks because of the recruiting timeline, but that is not entirely true. Some of the Finance Track students are interviewing now for positions, so don’t feel as though if you choose this track, you will have to know what you want to do as soon as the program begins! For me, it was much better to wait and see what interested me in finance, and I didn’t determine that until the second semester. Although it is true that many financially-related companies recruit in the fall, I underestimated how many opportunities and recruiting would take place in the spring.

 If you have any questions about the Finance Track, or the MSC Program in general, don’t hesitate to reach out to Assistant Director of Graduate Recruiting, Kelsey Stone !

-Written by Guest Blogger, Alex Lopez

**Foundations of Global Commerce is an intensive course that encourages students to understand the global economy via class discussion and reading current events. After completing the course, all students will be much better prepared to understand the role their GIE regions play in a global context.