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THE USA: Subject Guides

Studying Business in America: Q&A

The Dean of the University of Hartford's Business School, Martin Roth, answers some of the most requested questions from international students on studying business in America...

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Dean Martin Roth of the Barney Business School at the University of Hartford sat with us to talk about studying business in America. He speaks about the transition from undergraduate business to an MBA; the most notable business graduates the school has produced; how to successfully apply to a business course, plus more...


Check out our interview with him below:


Why should international students choose the US to study business?

"You can find such a variety of companies in terms of size, industry and where in the country they are, which will align with where you’re from or the type of place you can see yourself working."

What can students expect to cover on a business or MBA course?

"Most programmes are going to be structured as such that you will at first undertake a series of foundational courses. These are courses which will give you exposure to the functional areas of business such as accounting, finance, marketing, human resources etc."


"Next, students will then begin taking elective courses in one or multiple areas that are of a particular interest to you so you can really gain a lot of expertise in that area. You may also find a programme which can give you an opportunity to take a deep dive into a particular area. There might also be students who have a variety of different interests and they want a programme which has a wide range of electives."


"When studying an MBA, there are different types of classes. We have what we call ‘core courses’ which might be for students who haven’t had any prior business training. At the end of most MBA programmes you’ll have what we call a ‘capstone’ or a ‘final’ course which is designed to really make sure you have the opportunity to see how all the different pieces of a business need to fit together to make that business work well. Often these capstone courses will have a very comprehensive business simulation game."


What can an MBA applicant include in their personal statement which will help their chances of admission?

"Be transparent! Provide some information about why you might not have performed so well if you haven’t. Try to put in the best performance in your admission exams as you can as these are taken very seriously. You want to make as strong a case as possible to show that you’ll be able to come [to Hartford], integrate into the culture of the business school, absorb the information, interact effectively with your classmates etc.

"That’s what your personal statement needs to demonstrate: what is it that you’re looking to get out of your MBA which makes that school a particularly good fit to meet those goals. If you’ve already figured out what exactly you want to do, then your job will be a little bit easier because you can start to do some research. You can say, ‘I’m really interested in working for an insurance services company, I should be looking at locations like Hartford and Chicago which have very, very robust companies around this industry."


"It’s always a good idea to pursue your MBA in a location where there are a lot of companies, that’s going to give you a lot of advantages e.g. completing project work for companies, internships, joining an organisation in a specific functional area or leadership rotational programme. There are also advantages to studying at a school that’s in a remote, pretty location but it’s also important to think about studying in a place where business is being done; after all you’re doing an MBA to learn about business so you can practice business."


Tell us about some of the most notable graduates from your MBA programme.

"The CEO of Cigna, a global health insurance firm, is a graduate from our MBA programme. We have MBA graduates who have a variety of different leadership positions at many of the different investment banks on Wall St in New York City; at the insurance companies in Boston and Philadelphia; and the manufacturing companies like Stanley, Black and Decker, the global tool manufacturer. If you looked at most Fortune 1000 companies, you would find few of them who haven’t earned their MBA and typically that MBA has been earned at an institution in the United States.

"The MBA is a great training ground for business leaders and one of the main reasons is that you really learn about how to become an effective manager and leader, making sure that you’re focusing on interacting well with people, being an effective part of a team and practicing leadership, which involves working with people from different functional areas and geographic locations.


Most MBA programmes will not only make sure you understand the importance of those concepts; but they’re going to engage you in activities, so you really learn by doing. You’re going to be involved in case studies, simulations, projects for real companies, doing internships... lots of really hands-on activities to make sure you’re gaining the leadership, management and decision-making skills that you need to be able to work effectively with other people to help an organisation to reach its goals and objectives."


What is the transition from a business undergraduate programme to an MBA like? How can students prepare for this transition?

"I think there’s a very interesting transition that most students experience. There’s a bit of a faster pace. The information comes to you a little bit more quickly. So, you really have to start to gain the skills to process information and manage more deliverables in your classes at a faster rate than you may have experienced in an undergraduate programme.


"You’re going to see more of a focus on teamwork and collaboration. If your bachelors experience was 25% group work and 75% individual, you’ll probably find with an MBA programme that this will be more of a 50/50 split, and that more of your responsibility is going to be based on doing assignments and project work with your graduate colleagues. Part of that is the experience of learning by doing. Being an effective manager and being an effective leader means that you need to have very effective interpersonal skills.


"So an MBA programme is going to help you assess your own inventory, personality traits and characteristics and the tendencies you have in your ability to work with other people. Once you have that understanding, you’ll really have the opportunity to put it into practice. Think of it like riding a bicycle; the first day your parents took the training wheels off, you remember that day fondly as the day you learned to ride a bicycle; but you probably weren’t very good.

"But after riding your bicycle for the rest of the summer, you become a bicycle rider – you could go faster, you could go further...etc.  It’s the same thing with being a good manager: you can learn what it takes but you really need to practice what it takes, and a good MBA programme is really going to make sure there is a lot of applied and experiential learning."


"The third distinction is that the amount of material and responsibility is going to increase. Part of that is the preparation for what it is going to be like when you enter a company and become a manager for that organisation. There will be a little less structure and a little more responsibility. It will be up to you to figure out how to balance all the activities falling into your realm of responsibility.


"We want to give you the practice at managing multiple courses, projects and activities while in your MBA programme. It can be common to take as many as 5-7 courses in a semester during your MBA programme. Some courses may have extensive project work for part or all of the course. We want to give you a lot variety to different things, so you get used to managing in situations which aren’t necessarily as structured as you’re used to. That’s part of the fun of an MBA programme."


What assistance does the business school provide as far as helping students secure work experience, internships or future employment?

"It’s really, really important that when you’re going to make the investment to come to the United States to earn your MBA that you’re going to have experiences that connect you with businesses. You can study textbooks and watch online lectures from any location. But you really want to be in a place where you’re going to get direct exposure to businesses and the opportunity to meet the executives and managers. One of the things we really focus on here at the Barney School of Business is really taking advantage of our location where we have Fortune 500 companies right here in Hartford and throughout Connecticut (and we’re in very close proximity to Boston and New York City)."

"In any given week we have multiple managers and executives coming to campus and interacting with our students. They could be guest speakers, or they could be doing a “lunch and learn” session on career opportunities within their company; key challenges their organisations are facing and the strategies they’re putting together to try and overcome those challenges. Or major trends they’re seeing in the industry which could affect the type of new talent they’re going to need to bring into their organisation.


"We have symposia, panels and lectures in the evening where we get people to come to Hartford from Boston or New York. Those are really, really important experiences because you’re going to have an opportunity to not only hear from those folks but also to meet them, go up to them, shake their hand, get their business card, introduce yourself, hand them your resume, connect with them on LinkedIn and really use your MBA programme to grow your professional network.


"Talk to people who are successful in business. It’s typically not the case that they’ve stayed in the same company or organisation and have moved up a predefined career path; rather people have sought them out for opportunities because of the connections they have made throughout their career. We want you to establish those connections in the United States, here on our MBA programme.


"We’re also going to make sure you’re aware of internship opportunities and entry level positions that companies have specifically for MBAs. A lot of companies prefer not to hire students for particular positions if they just have a bachelor’s degree. They want students coming out of an MBA programme and those are the students they put into a leadership development programme where you have 6 months to a year rotating through different assignments so you can really learn that company’s business and determine where you can add the most value to the company and work with them to determine where you want to have a more permanent type of assignment."

What is an average day like for a business student?

 "The average day for an MBA student probably isn’t very average because the days are often very different. But one of the things we do which is probably a little bit unique compared to a lot of other MBA programmes is we have the majority of our classes in the evening. We want to make sure we are able to accommodate students who are working during the day so they can take classes in the evening; and it also gives us more opportunities to bring outside speakers into the classroom.


"Managers and executives are often very busy during the day but they are able to come to campus in the evening to interact with our students. So, because you will be taking most of your classes in the evening, during the day you’ll be focusing on your reading; your preparation for your classes; working on your projects, assignments, teamwork and so forth. But that also frees you up during the day to engage in internship-type work. A lot of our students will do work here on campus, working anywhere from 20 to 40 hours per week in the business community in the Hartford area.


"In a typical day you’ll have a variety of different classes. Most classes will meet once or twice a week. Each day you’ll be in a different class and you’ll be in a different mix of students.


"Each day is a little bit different. There are a lot of different activities on campus that we encourage our students to participate in."


What’s the difference between the GRE and the GMAT exams? Have you got any tips to help students prepare for these tests?

"Most MBA programmes would like to see that students applying have completed the GMAT or GRE exam. Historically most business schools use the GMAT test score because it’s an exam specifically designed for graduate management education. However, students who may be a little undecided about what kind of graduate degree they want to pursue and might prefer to take the GRE exam because it would be more widely accepted across different graduate programmes other than business.


"If your background has been working in business, then the GMAT may be a better fit for you. The types of questions will probably be a little more comfortable for you because it’s a test designed around management. However, if your work background has been in other areas, then perhaps you’ll be comfortable with the GRE. There are plenty of resources out there to help you look at the format of each type of exam, sample tests...etc.


"There is a wealth of different ways you can prepare for these exams. There are online resources, books you can buy, services you can utilise, self-study, tutoring and training...etc. If you feel like you might not be able to do as well as you’d like the first time, practice might be beneficial. So, when you go to a test centre or online when it really counts, you won’t be seeing those questions or formats for the first time. All schools will look at your best scores, not the history of your best scores."


What qualities do you look for in prospective students?

"Do students have the academic capabilities to master the material? Do they have the social skills to work effectively in teams, either naturally or as part of their MBA experience and gaining the ability to lead teams? Are they motivated? Are they coming in to our MBA programme because they have a real goal they want to accomplish? Do they know what they want to get out of the big investment they’re going to make in our MBA programme? Think of it from our perspective: we’re also making a big investment in you."


"We really want students who are going to be engaged, motivated and excited about being here and are really looking to make the most of the MBA programme. So that’s really what we’ll be trying to figure out, what type of person you are."


What are the backgrounds of the professors who teach at the business school?

"The majority of our faculty teach both our undergraduate and MBA students. The reason is we’re in an era of specialisation. We try to bring in faculty who are really, really great in a particular area and we want them to provide their knowledge, expertise, guidance and mentoring to students who have a passion for those particular areas. Whether they’re really aspiring managers like our bachelor’s students, or they’re more seasoned students looking to take their career to the next level with our MBA programme.



"The majority of our full-time faculty have the highest degree possible in their field so most have a PhD in the area where they research and teach. But they typically have even broader backgrounds than that. The majority have worked in industry. They have worked in the area where they’re sharing their knowledge. As a result, they have a lot of contacts they can leverage to bring guests to campus to help connect our students with particular companies."


"The majority continue to be engaged in either executive education or consulting work for active companies. So, you have the opportunity to interact with faculty who are trained at the highest level, have extensive work experience and continue to be engaged in the business community.


"We have about 40 full-time faculty here. The nice thing is that it’s a large enough group that we can cover the full spectrum of business and management education but it’s a small enough group that they all know each other. Just as we want a collaborative environment for our students, we have a very collaborative environment amongst our faculty and staff. What that breeds is a culture of collaboration here in the business school."


Which companies should students follow closely?

"Some firms you might want to look at on your own: Apple computers are a great example of a company who continues to push the frontiers of innovation at the interface of technology and aesthetics; who are able to identify new types of technology to address company needs and you put that technology into products that customers really enjoy interacting with. So, a great company to look at in terms of property innovation.


"General Electric have held a very, very high standard for decades now in terms of business processes. A lot of very contemporary things we teach around project management, supply chain management, six sigma etc.; a lot of those concepts either originated in or became refined in General Electric. They’re a company who for decades have prided themselves on having the best processes for managing large and complex organisations.


"Another company I’d encourage prospective students to take a look at is Nissan, a great global automobile manufacturer. They’ve done a terrific job over the last decade re-inventing their branding and product development processes and upgrading their visual identity. As a result, they’ve significantly increased their market share not only here in the United States but across the global markets."


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