MBI Student Profile: Grace Kiernan (Religious Studies and Archaeology ’22)

UVA student Grace Kiernan talks about her experience in the MBI program and how she plans to leverage the certificate in her future career search.

Grace Kiernan

Grace Kiernan

As a Religious Studies and Archaeology major, what prompted you to apply to the MBI program?

I have a wide range of interests, but no set career path. I applied to MBI because I wanted to better clarify my career options and learn business skills that would be applicable in any field. While my interests lay in the arts and humanities, I have realized that the majority of professions require a certain level of business knowledge. I believe that having experience in finance, marketing, accounting, and strategy will give me a competitive edge in the job market.

Has MBI been helpful in exposing you to potential careers in the business world?

Yes! Before MBI, I believed that all business careers looked the same: people carrying briefcases full of papers, hurrying to conference meetings to negotiate make-or-break company deals. However, to my relief, there is so much more diversity of careers in the business world. I’ve enjoyed learning about business functions, such as marketing and strategy, that focus more on innovative thinking rather than numbers. This differentiation was helpful to me because it introduced me to a side of business that I did not know existed.

The MBI students just finished Professor Amar Cheema’s Marketing unit. Did you find that the unit met your expectations of what marketing is, or were you surprised by any elements of the curriculum?

While I did expect certain elements of the Marketing unit, I was surprised by the breadth of the marketing field and how much of it we were able to cover in class. Professor Cheema taught us everything from how to analyze consumer buying habits, to ways to effectively brand a product. For example, if you want customers to see your company as being bold, make your logo red! This unit taught me that marketing is not just about creating commercials or billboard advertisements, but it is a holistic process that begins with understanding customers’ needs and leads companies to find out how best to promote their products to consumers.

What did you think about Professor Cheema’s teaching style?

I found Professor Cheema’s teaching style to be very effective. He started each day by outlining how he would break up our three-hour class with different activities and lectures. Many of our activities were based on videos, like TED Talks, that we would view and discuss as a class. These videos gave a great overview of new topics we were discussing, and because I am a visual learner, they helped me understand some of the more abstract ideas of marketing. Professor Cheema always provided time for students to ask questions, and he used breakout room activities to foster group conversations among students.

Did you have a favorite lesson from the unit?

My favorite lesson was the concept that not all consumers share the same preferences and that the market must have a variety of products. This lesson was brought to life by Malcolm Gladwell’s TED Talk that used an anecdote about spaghetti sauce to demonstrate that customers have different preferences. He surveyed how a spaghetti sauce company was polarizing consumers by providing only one type of sauce consistency. Gladwell’s sampling data showed that while some consumers liked the existing consistency, other individuals preferred either a more chunky or light sauce. After this TED Talk, the gears in my mind were turning all day! I had seen focus groups on television shows before, but it never occurred to me the process that went into understanding what type of product a company should produce based on consumer preference. Of course, now, it makes sense that consumers will have a range of preferences, but it was enlightening to see how Gladwell observed individuals’ preferences and used his data to recommend that the company sell a multitude of sauces with varying consistencies.

How has MBI better prepared you for future internships and jobs? Do you think MBI has made you a more competitive applicant?

After participating in MBI, I feel ready to dive into any type of business-related project or assignment. I consider myself a more competitive applicant for jobs and feel confident in my business skills and vocabulary. I feel like learning about the business world can only help, not hurt. Overall, I am very happy that MBI has given me a chance to sample and explore a wide variety of different careers in business. I feel ready to tackle anything, whether it’s creating or managing an Excel spreadsheet or designing a company logo!

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