Buckeyes, Inc.: MBA Meets NCAA

Hi, everyone! My name is Catherine Banton and I am a second year, full-time MBA candidate here at Fisher working as one of our admission ambassadors in our Graduate Programs Office for the academic year. I’m originally from a small suburb of Seattle, WA and moved to Ohio after living and working in Los Angeles, CA for seven years.

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This is me with my pal Brutus when I visited Columbus for the first time in May 2015!

When I meet new first year MBA students in the full-time program, or when I’m introducing myself to our campus visitors, I often get the question, “If you lived in Southern California, how (and why) are you living in Ohio? Don’t you miss it?!” My answer is simple: the people in Ohio make this a great place to live and work, and the opportunities here are endless. I’ve had experiences here at Fisher and in Columbus that I wouldn’t be able to have anywhere else, and I am excited to share one of those with you in this blog post!

I’m convinced that no other MBA program offers a course like the one I am taking this semester: The Business of College Sports. This class is one of the elective options in my Leadership and Organizational Behavior major. It’s taught by none other than The Ohio State University’s own Athletic Direction Gene Smith (more about him here) and his amazing wife Sheila, who runs a successful fundraising and development consulting firm here in Columbus (and is a former star athlete and coach herself). Gene Smith is arguably one of the most well-known and respected athletic directors in the nation, and has been at the helm of tOSU’s athletics for more than 10 years as programs like men’s football have made historic championship runs (Go, Bucks!). The course’s student make-up in and of itself is unique: a mix of full-time and part-time MBAs along with MAcc, SMF, MHRM, and Master of Sports Management students make the discussions and dialogue in class engaging and enlightening, and we get to work on projects in teams that mix programs to further learn from each other.

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Our fearless classroom leaders, Sheila and Gene Smith

While you might initially think, “What could college sports and business possibly have to do with one another?” this course turns that misconception on its head – and quickly. Gene and Sheila bring in high-ranking members of the athletic department to speak candidly with us about everything from trademark licensing and partnership negotiations, to coaches’ contracts and revenue drivers for the university’s athletic events. While each guest speaker comes into class with PowerPoint decks and a planned presentation, they are all very open to student questions and truly give us special insight into how the athletic department functions and what goes into keeping a multi-million dollar organization within the university functioning smoothly and successfully.

The in-class experience is fascinating, but the out-of-class activities are what make our Buckeye fans’ hearts stop and keep our camera phone snapping. Throughout the semester, our class has the privilege of visiting Ohio State’s most prized and beloved athletic facilities, including Ohio Stadium, the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, and the Jerome Schottenstein Center.

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We were surrounded by Heisman and National Championship trophies in the entry way of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center!

Long-time staff members of the athletic department take us on guided, personal tours of each venue, explaining to us the history, significance and use of each room, hallway and collection. The best part is, we also meet special, unexpected guests during our visits! We had our first tour this week – of the Woody Hayes Athletic Center – and to our shock and delight, head football coach Urban Meyer appeared on the practice turf while we were taking pictures to share with us some thoughts from last weekend’s exhilarating game against Oklahoma (remember that wrap-around catch by Noah Brown?!) and the importance of the facility in player recruiting, team wellness, and program fundraising.

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This picture was taken moments before Ohio State football head coach Urban Meyer surprised us with an appearance on the practice turf!
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Our tour guide Mark took great care of us as we walked through the facility!

Since starting this course, I’m much more aware of the use of the Ohio State brand all around me, and I find myself thinking about different things when I watch my beloved Bucks compete for their next win. How much revenue was generated from food and beverage sales at the game today? What would-be sponsors may have used the OSU or Buckeye logos incorrectly in their game day flyers or signs? How will our championship run this year affect top and bottom line growth for the athletic department’s finances? As much as I enjoy cheering on our teams from the stands or in front of my TV as a fan, my perspective is now broader and deeper when it comes to understanding Ohio State’s sports teams and the administration behind them – all because of my time spent in the Fisher MBA program and the opportunity to take such a unique class with unheard-of access to one of the most important athletic directors in the nation today.

My advice to potential applicants to Fisher is: don’t forget to consider seemingly “less important” (but equally formative and fulfilling) things like elective courses and special life experiences when looking at an MBA program. Some schools offer incredible opportunities to take part in courses or events that just can’t be replicated on another campus – like this Business of College Sports class – and if you don’t take the time to look into these things, you might regret it later on in the process!

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The coach, the man, the legend: Woody Hayes.
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THE National Champions of the past, present and future!

What I did this summer…

Akin to the traditional elementary-school first homework assignment, I’m going to write about my summer spent in Battle Creek, Michigan, working in brand management for Kellogg’s. First of all, let me gush a little by saying that it was a fantastic experience!

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The Frosted Mini-Wheats team

I got to work on exciting and meaningful marketing projects right away. I was on the Frosted Mini-Wheats team and learned a ton about cereal (not to mention enjoyed the free cereal bar almost daily!). For one project I was able to assist with agency relations and digital strategy planning and for the other, I worked on the recommendation for the marketing communication plan for the Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats launch and also made predictions of future growth for pumpkin spice as a flavor.

IMG_3511I learned a lot about using data, coming to conclusions, making recommendations and putting together a powerful presentation. I had never worked with Nielsen data before, so learning that system was an early challenge, but also figuring out the best way to visually show data was a lot harder than I expected. Both skill sets will be needed for any brand manager, so I was happy that I was able to improve in both areas.

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My internship was Gr-r-reat!

Everyone at Kellogg was so supportive and happy to help in any way that I needed, so I got up to speed much faster than I would have on my own. (Shout-out to my roommate who taught me everything I now know about HLOOKUPs!) I reached out to the various business units and learned about their own Pumpkin Spice launches or how they handle seasonal flavors in general. It was fascinating! Now, 12 weeks later, I know more about Pumpkin Spice than anyone should, and it’s exciting to see it all play out this fall.

I’ve lived in Ohio for the last nine years, so I mistakenly assumed that Michigan summers would pretty much be like Ohio ones, but I have to say that they are way better up north! Battle Creek is four hours from Columbus, and in addition to being more north, it’s also almost as far west as you can get in the Eastern Standard Time Zone. This means that it’s light so much longer in the evenings (at the peak, it’s still light at 10:00 pm), which gives you so much more time to be outside doing things! It was sunny almost every day and living only an hour from the beach is pretty exciting.

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The four MBA marketing interns on our last day :(

I’m incredibly grateful for the opportunity that I had to work at Kellogg this summer and I truly enjoyed my experience. I have a much better understanding of what a brand manager and an assistant brand manager do at a large company like Kellogg, and I’ve worked on some of the important skills that I will need in those roles, both technical and inter-personal.

Now, who wants to go try some Pumpkin Spice Frosted Mini-Wheats? psminiwheats

Two Weeks Down, 54 To Go

Although I am in the initial phase of my MBA experience, I can report with confidence that Fisher has already exceeded my expectations in many respects. From the multi-faceted academic modules that all incoming students complete before arriving on campus to the intensive two-week Pre-Term program, the experiential learning at Fisher begins even before a candidate sets foot inside of a classroom.

As a resident of central Ohio, I was fortunate enough to not only visit the campus during my admission interview but to also take part in many invitation-only activities for admitted students after I successfully completed the interview process. At these initial gatherings that occurred in the Fall of ’15 and Spring of ’16, I met quite a few other admitted students as well as faculty, admissions, and other members of the Fisher family: an impressive group of people. However, it was at the beginning of the Pre-Term program (which all incoming students are required to attend) that I truly appreciated the caliber and the diversity in all of its glorious forms that is embodied by the Fisher MBA class of 2018. There are 14 countries represented in our class, but that is only one aspect of the innumerable dimensions of diversity that can be found in my class. Random interactions with my classmates in between lectures or at lunch have given me opportunities to learn from their experiences, and it’s only been two weeks since classes started!

MBA Class of 2018

My experience has so far been full of challenges and ‘aha’ moments. The course load is heavy and the material is challenging. Add this to all of the other wonderful opportunities outside of the classroom that a student would be remiss not to take advantage of, and it becomes easy to see why time management and maintaining an agile schedule are crucial. The first year in general and the first semester in particular is specifically designed to stretch students’ abilities both in and out of the classroom and for that reason, organization is paramount. I should, however, make it clear that a great deal of effort and thought goes into the design of the curriculum at Fisher and admitted students have already proven through the rigorous admission process that they have what it takes to thrive at this school and to represent the Fisher College of Business well in the future. Having said that, the school also does a fantastic job in the selection of core team members. No matter the subject matter or topic, there will be at least one member of your core team who is particularly strong in that area. This, I believe, forms the basis of the great student-led learning that occurs outside of the classroom and augments the structured in-class learning.

I am sure there will be many challenges ahead of me but I really look forward to taking them on, one and all. After all, challenges are nothing but opportunities in disguise!

Core Team

Becoming Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

It’s been a while since I had my last first day of school (okay, fine – it’s been six years). I remember the feelings of anticipation and excitement, the somewhat discomforting feeling of not knowing what to expect, and the rush to prepare – everything from buying books to picking out the absolute best first-day-of-school outfit. Well, I am happy to report that the first day of grad school brings all of that and more. Classes started just over a week ago and while a week doesn’t sound like a long time, as my wonderful Finance professor explained to us yesterday, that’s actually 2% of our total MBA program (at least in terms of class time). With 2% of my MBA under my belt, I’m already feeling like I’m learning a lot every single day!

For starters, investing– not managing– my time has been key. Within the first week of class, we’ve already had two Marketing cases to analyze, as well as quizzes in Economics and Finance – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The number one thing that we were told during Pre-Term is that there is always going to be a lot going on and we need to be selective about how we spend our time. This message has proved very true; each day brings a new challenge in terms of making the best choices for what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.

Which brings me to my next point: group projects have a whole new life in business school. My core team has been instrumental thus far in supporting me to complete all of my assignments and actually engage with all of the class material in the best way possible. Our group is diverse, as all core teams are, and this diversity helps us immensely when it comes to analyzing cases or solving problems. And, they’re pretty fun to do a scavenger hunt with, too!

My core team & I at Mirror Lake during our Pre-Term scavenger hunt!
My core team & me at Mirror Lake during our Pre-Term scavenger hunt!

Speaking of scavenger hunts, business school forces you to be comfortable with the uncomfortable. Within the first few days of Pre-Term, I had already gone on a zipline, met 91 new people (my amazing classmates!) in the span of 24 hours, and then shared bits of my life story with my entire class. Each day brings something new that I likely didn’t encounter in my previous five years of work with Teach For America and while it’s still terrifying to be sitting in Marketing and having no idea how to respond to the question I’ve been asked, moments like those will certainly help me really take advantage of this experience.

I still have a lot of reading to do for class tomorrow and Mid-Terms are only a week and a half away, but for now, I’m still feeling that same anticipation and excitement as day one– only, now I know firsthand how amazing these next two years will be. And in the meantime, we have a football game this weekend to look forward to!

From Bangalore to Columbus

The feeling of leaving behind everything and everyone who has shaped you become what you are is probably the worst feelings to go through. Standing at the Bangalore airport, waiting for my flight to Columbus there were so many trains of thoughts running in my mind: if only I could get some more time to spend with my loved ones !

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Bangalore Airport : Everyone crying except my Dad LOL !

The experience of coming all the way from India to a place where you know no-one can be a bit overwhelming at first, but not as much later as you start your school with International orientation, Pre-Term and finally classes – it will leave you with no time to even contemplate!! I must say long hours at Orientation and Pre-Term can be pretty tiring and I couldn’t wait for classes to start. But I realized how smartly they are designed to bring people together as a group and inculcate the sense of belonging. One of the best part of the Pre-Term was Summit Vision as it gives you the environment to get to know your classmates beyond classroom. But one can not forget the Scavenger hunt and the Fisher challenge that gives you a taste of MBA grad life – being on the go.

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scavenger hunt @OSU with my Core Team

Like everyone else I have come here with high aspirations and an open mind to make the most of these 2 years of my life as there will no other time in my life with an opportunity to experiment and re-define myself. With my dreamy eyes and eagerness to learn I stepped into the first week of classes. I came here with a hat on my head that 4 years of working at Goldman Sachs has prepped me enough for hectic life of a B school student but i was wrong indeed! as you are not a student but an MBA professional already and you never have enough time.

I must say coming from an Engineering background and having no formal knowledge of business is quite a transition. It couldn’t get better with the difference in the teaching methodology adopted in East vs West. The level of engagement in class between students and teachers is admiring and the practical knowledge of real life examples brought in classroom has amazed me. I am super impressed with the humongous resources we have on campus to engage and refine ourselves for the only thing that could stop one here is time!   As the week of my B school classes end, I am left behind with a feeling of anxiety to perform my best and the eagerness to bring fresh perspective to the class from my experience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hello from the (Other Side of the) Classroom!

Speak to any educator and they will tell you about the most important part of their job: summer! Recharging and preparing for the next school year is critical to effective teaching. As a second-grade teacher, my need for summer was no different.

But this past summer, instead of preparing for another group of amazing students, I was preparing to be on the side of the classroom—this time as a student! While I did take some much-needed time to relax and visit friends and family, Fisher connected me with resources throughout the summer to prepare me for success in the full-time MBA program.

Soon after my admission to Fisher, The Office of Admissions put me into contact with a current student as well as an alumni. I got to learn about course options, career paths, as well as skills to brush up on before the start of class. As the fall semester inched closer, I received access to a plethora of information. From academic modules to career and strength assessments, Fisher made sure I hit the ground running before the first day of class.

About two weeks before class, all full-time MBA students participated in a “pre-term” program. Pre-term is an all-encompassing experience that gives you a taste of what the next 18 months is going to be like. We got to meet with faculty, participate in case discussions, and meet with alumni and recruiters from every industry—from consulting to marketing. The highlight of pre-term was meeting my “core team.” Your core team is a diverse group of four to five students that will work alongside you during your first year in the FTMBA. We spent a morning at Summit Vision (picture below!) completing team-building activities. It was truly amazing getting to know everyone and just having a fun time.

With the first week of classes officially DONE, I can ecstatically say that Fisher has done a great job of connecting everyone with resources to help ensure success in the program. I cannot wait to see what the next 18 months will hold. Stay tuned for more!

My Core Team at Summit Vision!
My Core Team at Summit Vision!

 

Better the Devil You Know…


In the weeks leading up to my arrival at OSU, I was filled with a potent mix of anticipation and anxiety.

The anticipation came from the nerdy schoolboy in me jumping for joy at the prospect of being back in a classroom. “Imagine all I’ll get to learn!” “I wonder what interesting people I’ll meet!” “I can’t wait for football games!”

The anxiety came from my inner skittish recluse pulling his hair out at the prospect of being back in a classroom. “What if I can’t keep up with what they’re teaching?” “What if people don’t think I’m interesting?” “I don’t even like sports!”

I suppose this anxiety would be a little more palpable if I explained my background. I graduated with a Bachelors of Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts’ School of Filmmaking in 2014 with a focus on film directing. I moved back home to Youngstown, OH after graduation where I did a mix of videography, editing, volunteering at a ballet company, participating in community theater both on- and off-stage and working a variety of part time gigs. I decided an MBA was the right choice after my experiences told me that my passion for film had grown to all arts. I decided I wanted to be the guy who could talk to the stuffy suits as well as the airy artists.

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My mom made me take this photo!

No time in a big corporation. No use of what math skills I had. No sports. Does that anxiety make sense now?

Fast forward two weeks and that potent mix has been replaced with something much more powerful.

Coming back to school has felt more like a coming home. I had been to OSU only twice before, but within 48 hours, I felt like a prodigal son returned to his joyous father. Being here has felt like digging an old baseball glove out of a dusty attic and finding that it still fits after all this time (sports!).

I don’t know what a pivot table is or what exactly a consultant does, but orientation at Fisher has made me feel like I’m going to be the best businessman the world has ever seen. The faculty and upperclassmen have not been stingy in telling me how hard I’m going to have to work to make it through the next two years, but without attending a single class yet, they’ve managed to make me feel like I’ve learned a lifetime’s worth of information.

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My core group and I during our preterm scavenger hunt.

Adoration has replaced anticipation and until class starts, the anxiety still exists. Now, though, I know better what I’m getting myself into. I know who to turn to for help. I know what boundless resources I have at my disposal. I know who Urban Meyer is (sports!!).

I feel I’m staring into the abyss and the abyss is staring back, hungry. You know what I have to say to it, though?

Bring it.

 

The Year is Coming to an End

Technically, there are two days of class left in the semester. For the sake of this post, let’s say classes are over and all that remains between the student body and summer are those pesky exams.

Here in Gerlach Hall, there are two camps. First-year MBAs are eagerly preparing for GAP assignments and summer internships that will hopefully turn into full-time offers. Second-years are staring employment directly in the face. Try and picture the fleeting look of carefree senioritis on a 28-year-old’s face as she realizes winter break, spring break and Fridays off will forever be in the past. I fall squarely into the anxious, exhausted first-year camp. In less than two weeks, I’ll be in Tanzania working with the Global Water Institute on a water well program. In less than six weeks, I’ll be interning with The Wendy’s Company in its marketing division. Bring it on!
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On one hand, I cannot wait to ditch homework for four months. No more late nights at the kitchen table with a strategy case for a company. On the other hand, I’m essentially going back to work for 13 weeks. Work stress and effort are totally different than school stress and effort. Grades and participation points are great, but real life company-related implications and a paycheck are vastly more important in the long run. A dumb answer or a half-hearted deliverable will not ultimately sink a ship here in the safe classrooms of Fisher. Not so in the real world. All the theory and case studies will finally be put to the test. I’ll let you know how it goes!

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Fisher Follies Variety Show 2016

Fisher Follies is honestly one of my favorite organizations here on campus, even though I am unfortunately not directly involved with it. Follies was set up with the purpose of raising money for students who may come across an unexpected need during their time here at Fisher. The major fundraiser put on by the organization is our Follies auction, which is held each year in November. The auction features items to bid on in both a silent and live auction.  Everyone from faculty and staff to students can donate items to auction off and there are always such great items (think an all-expenses paid trip to California, the chance to drive a classic car or a signed OSU jersey). While I love the auction and especially love the cause we are raising money for, I couldn’t possibly forget to mention another recent major event Follies puts on: Fisher Follies Variety Show 2016!

On Friday, March 4th, we had our variety show, which is essentially our year-end celebration for the successful auction put on back in November. The variety show is a mix of filmed and live skits/performances, which are 100% produced and run by our students. I am sure that many of you participated in variety shows in high school or at other times, but I have to say, Follies put on quite the production this year.

We had two hours of skits, many of which tied together with a great overarching plot line and were produced with some ‘real deal’ video equipment. There was a 007 spoof, a Pure Barre class taken by some lovely gentleman at Fisher, a live serenade of songs about our faculty director and many more amazing videos. The great thing about Follies is that every graduate program can, and does, get involved. Most of our skits had actors/actresses from all of the Masters programs and featured jokes and story lines that everyone in the audience could relate to. Quite a few of our professors and staff members also participated and it was amazing to see the culture and friendships here at Fisher come to life on the “big screen”.

The variety show was hosted at our student union in its U.S. Bank Theater by two “MCs” from our second year class. Students and their friends/family, faculty and staff all came to watch and we had quite a large turnout. There were even a few awards handed out for things like best Facebook post and the acceptance speeches for these were just as entertaining as some of the skits. While the variety show really is just an opportunity for everyone to have fun and sometimes, poke fun at our life as grad students, it always reminds me how great life is here at Fisher. We all become such great friends during our time here and these student-run skits truly bring that to life. Now that I am a mere 6 weeks from graduating, events like this really make me appreciate my two years at Fisher and everything I have gotten to experience. Here come the graduation tears….

Rounding Third

It’s hard to believe that we only have five weeks left of our time at Fisher, which is both exciting and sad. This is my second graduate degree, so I knew it would be fast, but somehow, I’m still surprised to find myself this close to graduation. So here is my advice to the current first year class and the incoming class of Fisher MBA’s, as the Class of 2016 rounds third base and heads towards home:

1) Do you. I said this in a post I wrote last year, and I stand by it. You will be in class with people who are brilliant, people who already have established careers, people who have started successful businesses, and people who already have graduate degrees. There won’t be anyone who is exactly like you or who wants the same things, and if you find that you’re on a more non-traditional career-path like I was (non-profits) that’s perfectly okay. Don’t compare yourself to others. Twirl down your own road. There are opportunities at Fisher and ways you can network to get yourself where you want to go. I joined Fisher Board Fellows simply because it was something I loved, and that’s how I got my job.

2) Find kindred spirits. They will advocate for you harder than anyone else. I doubt I would have made it through my program without Dr. Shashi Matta, Michelle Petrel, and Professor John Barker. They are wonderful human beings and I am so grateful for them. If you aren’t finding help through what seems like the more traditional pathways, start knocking on office doors and see who will sit down and talk with you.

3) Never stop asking for help. Ask for help from your teammates, from your friends, from professors, from staff, and from alumni. People are much more willing to help than you think they are, because everyone had someone to help them (or several someones). So ask. And make sure to follow through with a thank you and maybe some chocolate. Everyone likes chocolate.

4) Learn how to be a team player. Work hard to learn how to work with other people. This doesn’t mean be a pushover or a people-pleaser, it means learn how to work together to accomplish a goal. Be a leader when you need to be, but know that the best leaders know how to step back and let others lead, too.

5) Network. Look at everything as a networking opportunity, and a way you can meet new people. Don’t think of it as work. Don’t think of it as asking someone for a job. Think of it as making friends. And you can never have enough friends.

6) Take a leadership position in a student organization. My time on a leadership team pushed me in ways I didn’t expect it to, and it taught me how to adapt to the very different needs of the people on my team. I learned the most about leadership by being on that team, and I’ve seen the most growth in myself because of it.

7) And last, but not least, try not to stress out too much. Two years goes fast, folks. So go to follies, go to girls’ night, and hit all the happy hours. Because the work will be there, whether or not you panic. So try not to panic, and enjoy the time you have at Fisher.