Cornell MBA Admission Director 2010访谈实录

13已有 1194 次阅读  2010-11-03 02:18   标签Admission  Director  实录  MBA  Cornell 

Randall Sawyer has been serving as the director of admissions at the Johnson School of Business for the past five years. Before his appointment to admissions director, Sawyer was the public relations officer for the Johnson School. Prior to joining the Johnson community, he spent 15 years in and around state government, most recently on former New York Governor George Pataki’s communications staff.

Q: What’s the single most exciting development, change or event happening at Johnson in the year ahead?

Randall Sawyer: I have to pick one? I don’t think I can. For starters, we have two amazing speakers coming in November, and our applications are up in Round 1.

On November 11th, John Bogel, founder and former chairman and CEO of Vanguard, is coming to Johnson, and Henry Paulson, former secretary of the treasury of the United States, will speak on Cornell’s campus. I am also very pleased to report that we are up 20 percent in application volume this year. In particular, we are seeing lots of international interest in Johnson.

But perhaps most important is that this will mark the second year that we are members of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an organization of business schools devoted to promoting diversity and inclusion in American business by awarding merit-based, full-tuition fellowships to the nation’s best and brightest students. Last year, we brought in 34 students through the Consortium, which raised our under-represented minority (URM) population from 9 percent to 15 percent in a single year. We are very excited about our movement in terms of campus diversity.

In addition to our membership in the Consortium, we also host “Johnson Means Business,” our annual event for URMs, as well as a two-day symposium for women at Johnson, called “Johnson Women in Business (JWIB).” We are in the process of putting together a three- to five-year strategic plan to make improving diversity part of everybody’s way of life around here in terms of the class, school, curriculum, initiatives, everything.

Q: What is the one area of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Randall Sawyer: We are a strong finance school and a strong entrepreneurship school as well. But the thing I wish more applicants knew about Johnson is that marketing and brand management is another one of our very strong suits. For the last few years we have had 100 percent placement for summer internships in marketing, and we are seeing lots of recruiters come back to offer our second-years jobs. All of the sudden, Johnson second-years are in the game for two or three offers.

When a lot of students think of brand management they think of a certain school in the Midwest. And that school is very good, certainly. But we have a strong hands-on program that allows us to be very successful in the internship space. Each year we usually have about 40 brand students. One woman recently had seven job offers when she graduated. 

Q: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.). 

Randall Sawyer: I take this aspect very, very seriously. We look at everyone twice – regardless of TOEFL, GMAT, work experience, GPA. There is nothing in your file that indicates that you won’t get read twice, except for an incomplete file.

So basically, say you hit the submit button yesterday. We take your application fee and it gets deposited. When my team came in this morning, we printed out your application and put it on the shelf. We wait for your other materials – we go online and get an official copy of your GMAT score, put your recommendation letters in your file, etc.

When your application is complete, it goes to one of two or three groups. The first read is done by either one of my readers (I have two paid readers), one of my professional team at the associate level or higher, or one of my 50 JAG students. JAG stands for Johnson Admissions Group – a select group of second-year students committed to assisting in the recruiting and evaluation of applicants. Many of them will do a first read.

We look for about 22 different variables associated with your application. One of my readers makes a recommendation – either “yes, interview” or “no” or “can’t decide.” After the first read is done it goes on a separate shelf and one of my professional team takes a second read. If they agree and both people who’ve reviewed the application say yes, we send out an invitation to interview. If they can’t agree, we take it to committee. Or we deny.

My committee meets twice a week, for anywhere from 30 minutes to eight hours. It’s a group of eight and we will come to a consensus – it is not a vote – as to whether or not to invite to interview or deny. Once there’s a decision the file goes back to the admissions staff, who will contact the student and invite them to interview. The prospective student gets to pick a slot that fits with their schedule. Once the student is interviewed, the interviewer – one of my team – makes a recommendation: don’t recommend, recommend with reservation, recommend, recommend with confidence, or highly recommend.

As a benchmark, highly recommend is maybe 1 in 50 or 60 applicants. That is literally saying to the committee, “This person is an absolute rock star. We have to have them.”  Recommend with confidence is a student saying, “Yes, I want this person in class with me next year.” Recommend with reservation is, “There’s something that doesn’t click or doesn’t sound right to me.” And don’t recommend is, “No way, no how, not a chance.”

We usually get a three- to four-page dossier of the interview with a recommendation. The interviewer picks one of the five designations and then it goes to committee and we talk about that student and decide whether or not to make that offer. I want to make it clear that there is no vote – this is not a voting system. We are going to talk about you and decide whether you are a good fit for Johnson. I think it’s fairly callous to be voting on someone’s future.

I really want to be transparent in the application process. If a student is not a good match – if he or she needs a higher GPA or GMAT score – I will tell them on the road. We are going to be completely frank. I will not say to them, “Oh yeah, you should definitely apply.” We are up in applications, and we do not need that extra $200. There are thousands of students that don’t get an offer from us each year, and that’s no fun.

Q: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? One key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write them?

Randall Sawyer: Well, we added a third essay this year that states, “If your life were a book what would the chapter headings be?” I must say, we get more consternation out on the road from students about this than anything else. It makes students crazy, and I love it. I think it’s an awesome because it allows students to be creative.

When I’m out on the road, prospective applicants drill me about it. “Should it be up until now? Is it my whole life? Do you want a paragraph, a couple of sentences, bullet points?” they ask. My answer is, “Yes!”

This is really a chance to show us your creativity. Some students submit drawings, DVDs, music, all of these great, great things where the students can be really creative. I love that. In many cases, if we are on the fence in terms of whether to admit a student we go back to the third essay and we ask ourselves if we would want that person on our team. 

More generally, when we are looking at applicants’ essays and applicants overall, we are looking to build a community of students who understand what it means to network together and work together in a team environment. I think the Johnson School is really about knowing who you are and what you bring to the table.

If there is a student out there who wants to go home and study alone and not engage with their fellow students, he or she may not be the right student for us and Johnson might not be the right school for him or her. If you are in the front space of a business, or in brand development, say – we need you to interact every day. These are aspects we want everyone to understand and be a part of.

Also, we are not looking to fill all the seats with investment bankers. When you bring an accountant, a brand manager and an investment banker together to look at a case study, the answers you get are not all the same. In tests and in some presentations you will stand on your own, but on the whole we are very team-centric.

When I ask students at Johnson how many people in your class do you know – as percentage – I have never had an answer of less than 90 percent. I would challenge other schools to match that. I think that provides a great understanding of networking. The MBA is a wonderfully analytical degree and if you go to a top 15 business school you will be well suited to go into business, but what will your network look like? How will you grow socially, personally, professionally? Other schools may not articulate that but we do because that’s what makes us different.

A big thing about us is that my team and I want to be as transparent as possible. I don’t want applying to business school to be a scary thing. This is what happens, and I don’t want to hide it from anyone. Ultimately I want 270 students at the Johnson School who really want to be here and are passionate about being here.

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