Mary Claire Sullivan, left, and Laura Ritter, center, are roommates and second-year MBA students at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business. They live in an apartment just off campus. Sullivan has been president of Net Impact, as well as co-president of the values committee, and she works weekly with various startups in Notre Dame’s Innovation Park. After graduation, she hopes to continue her work with startups. Ritter is president of the MBA Association and currently is on the University’s Academic Counsel. When she graduates in May, Ritter will start working at Nationwide Insurance in Columbus, Ohio.
The following slideshow looks at what it’s like to be an MBA at Mendoza through their eyes.
Mary Claire: South Bend, Ind., is infamous for its extreme weather ... both the fantastic and the not so fantastic. It might be foggy and cold in the morning and gloriously sunny in the afternoon. It has been a really interesting winter in that there hasn’t been much of one. I’m not complaining, though. Our apartment is about an 8-10 minute walk from Mendoza. It's about as convenient as it gets. The apartment complex is part of a new development across the street from campus called Eddy Street Commons, which is filled with a number of restaurants, a couple of bars, some clothing stores, a hair salon, a bank, and a few other spots. It's easy and convenient for Laura, our roommate Adrianna, and me to run down to grab dinner or a drink with our classmates and friends.
In the Classroom
Laura: The typical class size at Mendoza ranges from about 30 to 70 students. Classes are very interactive and allow us to engage with the other students and learn from our varying backgrounds. One of my favorite classes thus far is AIM, Applied Investment Management. This is an application-only course, taught by three of our most well-respected professors, in which approximately 25 students manage part of the University’s endowment. A stock is assigned to each student during the first half of the class, and we engage weekly in various presentations on the market and industries as well as fundamental and technical analysis.
Laura: One of my favorite places on campus is the Grotto. It is a replica of the original Grotto of Our Lady in Lourdes, France, and is a place where students from all faiths can come and reflect or light a candle for a special intention. I love to come here, as well, to remember my grandfather, who graduated from the university in 1950. He always told me he would come here to pray before one of his big premed tests. Now that he's gone, I like to come here to reflect on our relationship. The university has many students who are second- and third-generation “Irish,” and it is interesting to learn that some of my classmates have grandfathers who went to school and graduated at the same time as my grandpa. It's a testament to Notre Dame’s strong history and tradition.
Business on the Frontlines
Mary Claire: I am fortunate to be a part of a very innovative and dynamic MBA course called Business on the Frontlines (BOTFL). In the course, we explore the role of business in post-conflict societies through both classroom discussion and an in-country experience. The class is divided into four groups, with each group traveling to Guatemala, Ethiopia, Egypt, or the Philippines at mid-semester. At the beginning of the semester, however, each group was charged with solving problems identified by Catholic Relief Services within their respective country. My group got Ethiopia. Our trip is just around the corner, and we have been frantically preparing with phone calls and secondary research. I’ve never been to Africa, so this is going to be a life-changing experience.
Laura: Team rooms at Mendoza are always available for students to meet and discuss group projects. The rooms always have whiteboards and chalkboards, so we can work out our ideas as a team. In addition, each room has computers. Many group rooms are available on the larger campus as well. MBA students can often be found in the engineering and law buildings, as these are less than 500 feet away. In this picture, my Financing the Corporation team is working on a project regarding the best route for McDonald’s to obtain long-term financing for one of its subsidiaries in Britain. Almost every class at Notre Dame has at least one team project. This is a testament to how collaborative our student environment is. (By the way, this photo was taken on Ash Wednesday—thus the marks on some of our heads.)
Building a Community
Laura: Since business schools typically have a heavy concentration of male attendees, sometimes women can feel at a loss for community. Not at Notre Dame. The wives of many of our business students get together frequently, and I have found some of my best friends by attending these gatherings. Here I am at our monthly book club discussing Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand at the local South Bend Chocolate Factory café. I love these events, as most of these women are not only an amazing support group but are also wonderful to have in my network, as most of them have successful careers of their own.
In the Lab
Laura: Notre Dame has access to some of the best resources available for students, including Capital IQ, Bloomberg, and Morningstar, which is important to me as a business student concentrating in investments and corporate finance. All of these can be found in the Business Information Center, or BIC, as students call it, which is located in Mendoza’s basement. Due to my heavy emphasis in investments courses, I can be found most days on one of the many Bloomberg terminals. Each semester, there are several training programs so that students can become Bloomberg Certified, which is helpful to those who have no prior experience with the programs. In addition, five librarians have offices in the BIC full time so that students can always seek them out for assistance on their various projects.
Innovation & Design
Mary Claire: Another one of the highlighted courses in the MBA program is Innovation & Design. ID is an incredible learning experience that allows you to dive deeply into the design-thinking approach and innovation process. After eight weeks, including extensive secondary and empathy-based primary research (lots of interviewing), synthesizing and brainstorming, we developed and presented a unique solution to a vice president at Keurig. This is one of those classes that give you a whole new perspective and a whole new tool kit for problem solving.
Mary Claire: All graduate students and spouses are invited to take part in a Bible study every Wednesday evening from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. I really enjoy this time of the week, because I spend time with friends in a way that feeds my desire to grow in my faith. In the busyness of my schedule, this is a welcome break.
Laura: Bengal Bouts was first organized in 1920 and is a tradition at Notre Dame each winter. The student boxing tournament raises funds for the Congregation of Holy Cross in Bangladesh and assists schools, churches, and health-care facilities throughout the country. This year, several of our fellow MBA students participated. They began training in November, and the matches occurred in February over a span of a few days. A group of us went and cheered on two of my best friends who made it to the second round. Bengal Bouts is just one of the many ways that we, as MBA students, get involved with the community at Notre Dame and the world at large.
Laura: Notre Dame is known for its football, but during the off season, most students don’t let their Irish spirit fade. I have been a season ticket holder to basketball, as well as football, both years I have been in school. In addition, students are able to attend hockey games for free. This picture is at the West Virginia basketball game. Notre Dame also has intramural sports, in which most students will participate. I have played soccer and flag football while at school, and my soccer team even made it to the semi-finals last fall.
Laura: Each Monday during the winter, the Student Activities Committee (SAC) rounds up about 100 of the 250 students in our class to participate in the annual bowling league. We go to the local bowling alley for drinks, pizza, and a few games to kick off the week. Here I am at last Monday’s event, which I got my first ever turkey! My team’s name is the Tinkerballs, and our uniform does include pink tie-dyed shirts with fairies on them. The teams always have a ton of fun, and it is just one of the many events the Student Activities Committee will put on each year. Others include an MBA prom, mock wedding, tailgate parties for each home football game, Family Feud, a Halloween party, mixers with the other graduate schools, and a holiday party.
Laura: We live in a three-bedroom apartment at the Foundry, an apartment complex across from campus and about a quarter mile walk to Mendoza. Most of the business school students either live here, at the Pointe, which is further away and slightly less expensive, or on campus in the graduate housing available to both married and single students. Notre Dame provides a forum for incoming students to meet one another prior to the start of school so that students are able to find roommates if they choose. We love our apartment that we share with another business student. Most days are spent working hard so that at about 10 p.m., we're able to relax for a bit before going off to bed. Our nights are typically spent watching favorite television shows (Modern Family and How I Met Your Mother), surfing the Internet, and for me, planning my upcoming wedding. Don’t mind the usual open cupboards and the typical student area on the island!