A "Socially Conscious" B-School

Involvement in the community is something UMich's Ross School looks for in applicants, says admissions director Jim Hayes

Jim Hayes has been the director of Admissions & Financial Aid at the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan since 2000. Before that, Hayes worked for accounting firm Coopers & Lybrand. In 1998, upon the merger of Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand, Hayes moved into the role of director of minority recruiting and retention for PricewaterhouseCoopers.

His background in human resources, recruiting, and diversity made him a good fit for the Ross School's admissions office. He recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online's Jeffrey Gangemi. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:

Q: What's the culture like at Ross?


We attract many people who focus on not-for-profits, corporate social responsibility, environmental issues, and other issues of that nature. So we try to build [those subjects] into the curriculum so we get a good mix of views.

It's also collaborative and is characterized by teamwork. The 40 or so student clubs drive the environment. Students are, therefore, closely involved in determining what goes on at the business school.

We also have a very diverse student body that's composed of about 34% to 35% international students and 31% women, 23% minorities, and 11% underrepresented minorities. We think that helps our graduates when they go back into the workforce because they not only learn how to manage diversity but to value it.

Q: How can an applicant stand out to you?


First and foremost, the background is very important -- what have they been doing before they got here? For example, we have had a diverse range of backgrounds -- from a project manager for the San Francisco Ballet to someone who taught English in Central America. We ask applicants to try to find something that distinguishes them from their fellow applicants.

Q: What are your admissions deadlines, and how is the volume of applications this year?


We have three decision rounds. The first deadline is Nov. 1, and we get decisions out by the middle of January. The second round has a deadline of Jan. 7, and we turn those decisions around by Mar. 15. The third deadline is Mar. 1, and we get those decisions out by May 15.

Rounds one and two have the same deadline to give us their decision as to whether they will matriculate -- Apr. 30. But for round three, we give them until June 1. Applicants are at a disadvantage to apply at round three. We're substantially completed by then and are a lot more selective. Plus, for international students, if they want to be considered for scholarships, they must apply for round one or round two.

We're up about 3% year to year. We're pleased with this, especially because of what I'm hearing from other schools that are still taking some pretty substantial hits. A reason for our steady increase in applications is our improvement in the rankings. We also made news because one of our alums made a $100 million gift to the business school.

Q: Are interviews mandatory, and how can I have a good one with you?


We interview all of our admitted applicants. It isn't required to apply, but if we're going to admit you, then we'll need to conduct an interview. First, I look at the quality of the work experience. Have they had the opportunity to work in teams, lead teams, and have the opportunity to advance in their career? They need to show me that they're focused on a particular goal. I want to know why they want to get their MBA from Ross.

I also want to see that they've been involved in the community. We believe that past experience is the best predictor of future behavior. Also, we pride ourselves on being a socially conscious institution, so we're trying to groom leaders who believe that each of us has the responsibility to make the communities in which we live and work better places. It's a commitment we take seriously.

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