UConn's Experiential Edge

Close alliances with companiesincluding a GE project called edgelabare part of the school's learning-by-doing efforts

All B-schools talk about (or at least pay lip service to) experiential learning. But at the University of Connecticut School of Business, full-time program director Lane Barrow says close alliances with corporations like General Electric (GE) allow students to put their classroom learning to work almost immediately (see BusinessWeek.com, 11/15/00, "GE Brings a B-School to Life").

Barrow recently spoke to BusinessWeek.com reporter Kerry Miller about some possible changes to UConn's admissions policies and how the school leverages its corporate partnerships to provide experiential learning opportunities for students. Edited excerpts follow:

An interview isn't currently required for admission at UConn. How many candidates do you typically interview?

The percentage of all applicants interviewed this past year was 65%, and the percentage of admitted applicants was 87%. But actually, we have had such good success in vetting the incoming class through this interview that we would like to increase that to where close to 100% of the students who arrive in our program have been interviewed in some way, shape, or form.

Now, we have a large number of international applicants, so that becomes a bit challenging. But it's worth the challenge. Last year we instituted a program of not only interviewing these students but calling them directly and having a conversation with them on a more informal basis. So an international applicant to our program might have had one or two calls from us. Obviously, they will frequently call us to ask questions about the progress of their application and they'll talk to our staff. But our associate dean has made it a point to call them and have an individual conversation with a lot of them, as have I and other members of the Admissions Committee. We really want to make sure that when we bring someone into the UConn MBA program, they are going to hit the ground running and contribute to classroom quality from Day One.

What are some of the things you're looking for in the interview that show you someone is a good fit for the UConn program?

We're always looking for leadership potential in the student, regardless of their age or experience. We are looking for someone who has a proven history of teamwork. Teams are very, very important, not only in our program but in a lot of MBA programs, so we're looking for someone who is a good communicator, someone who has a level of maturity. These are important intangibles, but they're things that an interview will reveal to you that clearly an essay can't or the statistics on an application can't. We're a program that, basically, has a family feel to it. I know that sounds kind of corny, but a lot of students I think have a misconception about MBA programs in general, that they are cutthroat and competitive and it's every man for himself. And we try to make sure that our program is one of cooperation and friendly competition. Our dean sometimes refers to it as "coopetition." And so in that regard, we want to find people who will fit together in a cooperative environment.

What are some common mistakes that people make in the interview?

I think one thing is that people sometimes give very long-winded answers to short questions. One of the things that we are looking for is the ability for someone to quickly analyze a question that we ask and give a good, concise, and to-the-point answer. Some less experienced candidates have a tendency to think that if a one-minute answer is good, a five-minute answer is five times better, which is not necessarily the case.

Do you have a minimum GMAT score?

Up until this year, we have had a minimum GMAT requirement of...

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