Georgia's Quality Ties

Partnerships with nearby universities and Atlanta businesses boost job prospects for MBAs, says David Waters of the Terry B-school

David Waters is co-director of the career center at the (University of Georgia Terry College of Business (second tier on BusinessWeek's 2004 MBA Rankings) in Athens, Ga. A 2000 Terry graduate, Waters joined the staff in July, 2002, as an assistant director following two years as a business analyst with Home Depot's global sourcing group in Atlanta.

Waters says students at Terry develop vital job-search skills, such as résumé writing, interviewing, and networking, that make them well-equipped to find their dream jobs. He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: Since 2002, the average salary for Terry grads fell from $70,000 to $60,000, and the number of job offers from 1.5 per student to 1.1. How do you explain this trend?


We have seen a number of students accept more non-traditional career opportunities in the nonprofit sector or government. Also, another group moved into sales positions where the base salary is lower, but there's potential for commission.

Things are picking up. We've seen a shift away from the acceptance of jobs in the Southeast. Already this year, we've had students accept jobs in New York. Now, the economy as a whole seems to be looking up. Also, students have changed. When they get a job offer, they stop their job search. They seem to be tailoring their search to programs that are a good fit, instead of wanting to get multiple offers.

Q: What are the strong suits of the Terry program?


Our core strengths are risk management, real estate, and entrepreneurship. One of the biggest benefits we offer is small class size and the personalized attention it affords. I like to call the culture at Terry "collaboratively competitive," where people will help each other, but remain focused and goal-oriented. We try to align all of our course offerings and activities with our leadership development focus, which benefits students in management positions.

The career center has implemented a program in conjunction with Stanton Chase, an executive-search firm out of Atlanta, to coach our students on the finer points of the job search -- résumé writing, mock interviews, etc.

Q: How do you market your students?


Mailings, recruiter guides, job boards. One full-time staff member concentrates on employer development. We also try to build effective partnerships with other campus organizations, including undergraduate career services. I also work closely with Georgia Tech, Georgia State, and Emory to pool our resources or hold joint career fairs.

Our main recruiters have been regional companies, as well as GE, FedEx out of Memphis, IBM, BB&T, SunTrust, and Wachovia. We're trying to attract some top-tier investment banks like Goldman-Sachs and Lehman Brothers, as well as some of the large consulting companies like Ernst & Young.

Q: How much time do you spend working with alumni in Atlanta?


When our new dean arrived in 1998, one of his biggest goals was to get better connected with the business community, and the best way to do that is through the alumni network. Off campus, we have a monthly speaker series in Atlanta, and we're about to open some new space in the city to hold alumni events and activities. On campus, alumni visit us about once a month.

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