Experience Is Key at Babcock

That's the word from Stacy Poindexter Owen, admissions head at Wake Forest's B-school

What attributes matter most in the screening of MBA candidates? Addressing this and other topics was Stacy Poindexter Owen, director of full-time MBA admissions at the Babcock Graduate School of Management at Wake Forest University (among BusinessWeek's 2002 second-tier listing of full-time MBA programs) in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Owen has led the MBA admissions office for a year, after serving as the office's associate director since 1999. Prior to moving to Babcock, she worked in operations, sales, and marketing positions for Burlington Industries' Burlington House division in Greensboro, N.C. She received her bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in management from North Carolina State University.

Owen spoke by phone and e-mail with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider about the decrease in MBA applications at Babcock, as well as her office's hunt for students with great work experience, not necessarily high GMAT scores. Here's an edited transcript of their conversation:

Q: In 2003, your office scanned about 560 applications for its full-time MBA program. How many applications did you receive by the school's final deadline on Apr. 1?


About 400.

Q: Why did the number of applications dip 29% lower vs. 2003?


There's no one factor. The difficulty international candidates have had in both their visa and job-search processes, coupled with a shaky economy, are certainly components. As existing business schools increase class sizes and new MBA programs spring up, the applicant pool seems to shrink even more.

Q: To compensate, has the school reviewed applications arriving after its final deadline?


Absolutely. In fact, if someone has everything [in the application] done, the first week of June is the latest we'll review an application.

Q: How competitive was Babcock's selection process in 2004?


Without a doubt, this is the year of the applicant. We've still been selective, but we've put less emphasis on the GMAT and focused more on quality work experience.

Q: Why is the school shifting its focus to work experience?


It has to do with our relationship with the Career Management Center, but it also came as a request from our faculty. If you don't have real-world experience, then it's hard to put class discussions into context. It's also difficult in our team environment. If one person can't contribute, then it's as if the team is one person short.

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