It can be daunting for female UVA students interested in applying to McIntire to be sure that they’re taking the right steps toward reaching their goal of pursuing a B.S. in Commerce. It’s for that very reason that the School’s Office of Undergraduate Admission created Days at McIntire, an in-depth and stress-free opportunity for first- and second-year female students to get familiar with the Commerce School’s academic environment, curriculum, and community.
On Oct. 26-27, 2021, the third annual installment of the event featured a variety of interactive sessions that offered a chance for participants to engage with the format of the School’s hallmark Integrated Core program while learning directly from the experiences of alumni, faculty, and current students who clarified details, answered questions—and perhaps even helped to alleviate any anxiety—about the McIntire application process.
Women Who Have Been There
Days at McIntire began with an alumnae panel hosted by Commerce School Dean Nicole Thorne Jenkins. The virtual discussion featured insights from Janet Arzt (McIntire ’07), CEO of 0704; Lauren Fogel (McIntire ’18), Product Manager at The New York Times; Jennifer Lendler (McIntire ’86), Managing Director of Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning & Emerging Tech at PwC; and Shannon Nash (McIntire ’92, Law ’95), CFO of Reputation.com.
Dean Jenkins interviewed the panelists, discussing their paths that led from the Comm School to their current positions. The conversation touched on the alumnae’s experiences on Grounds, the strategies they learned during their time at McIntire, and how they still leverage the network they cultivated as undergraduates.
Supporting the importance of making connections, the panel concluded with networking breakout sessions, where students were able to speak with the panelists themselves.
Second-year student Emily Orscheln (A&S ’24), who attended the event for consecutive years, says she found hearing about the diversity of career journeys to be a particularly informative aspect of the virtual panel.
“The most insightful moment from the first night was the breakout room part of the panel session; I was lucky enough to be in a room with Janet Arzt, who has had a very successful career in investment banking, private equity, and beyond,” says Orscheln. “As someone who is very interested in a career in finance, I found it to be very inspiring to hear her story from McIntire to the various stops along her career.”
Mock Cases, Real Intros to the Integrated Core
Day two brought a pair of important activities for prospective students: working on a mock case with the guidance of Comm School faculty and a session on admissions myths geared toward demystifying the admissions process.
McIntire Ambassadors began the second day by providing a bit of background about themselves and introduced the professors taking part in the case exercise. Faculty members representing Accounting, Finance, IT, Management, and Marketing explained the structure and purpose behind the School’s Integrated Core.
Finance Professor David C. Smith, who believes the event has helped to increase the number of female students in his classes, presented participants with a taste of his fourth-year Corporate Restructuring and Distressed Investing course by dipping into the push-and-pull that comes with negotiating the restructuring of a financially distressed company.
“Whether it occurs outside of bankruptcy or within bankruptcy, restructuring of a company requires that parties come to the table to figure out a solution. You don’t just shut a company down. It’s very strategic, it’s very competitive, and it also can be somewhat contentious, with parties fighting over control of the company,” Smith explains. “But getting to the stage where we can actually think through a negotiation—even in a mock situation—typically requires a lot of background information about contracts and law and how they work, which is what my course is about. But I felt like I could hold a negotiation session for students to get a sense about what these parties do and how there could be tension.”
The case, which Smith wrote with two attorneys who are regular guest speakers in his class and which is the first he assigns to students in his course, was presented in a shortened version with the help of three Class of 2020 women graduates: Riley Casey (McIntire ’20), formerly of Guggenheim, who is an Associate for private equity fund Monarch Alternative Capital; Vaidehi Shah (McIntire ’20), a Financial Restructuring Analyst in Houlihan Lokey’s restructuring group, who will be going to Diameter Capital in 2022; and Sophie Wilson (McIntire ’20), an Investment Banking Analyst at Lazard who will be working at TPG next year.
Smith says the participants tackled the material with great success and seemed to have fun with it. Orscheln’s response confirms that assessment, and she says she found being able to witness the alumnae guests debating and working through the mock bankruptcy case particularly engaging: “I most enjoyed sitting in a real McIntire classroom and indulging myself in financial concepts.”
Busting McIntire Myths
The other Day Two session focused on myths about the School’s admissions. McIntire Ambassador Kalkidan Woubishet (McIntire ’22) says that most in attendance were eager to speak with her, her fellow ambassadors, and Comm faculty to get at the truth. As she and her fellow ambassadors helped to knock down some false narratives, which included myths such as needing to be in a McIntire-affiliated organization, earning a high Accounting grade, or holding a minimum 3.7 grade point average, Woubishet was taken aback by misconceptions about the culture.
“Attendees explained that McIntire students were known for being more competitive and privileged in comparison to students from the rest of the University. This surprised me because I feel as though the McIntire classroom is probably less competitive than other places on Grounds. Our individual grades are tied so strongly to the group’s success that it creates an environment of collaboration. Furthermore, most McIntire students were UVA students before anything else; they bring their same experiences and perspectives from the College to McIntire, making the School similar in culture to any other on Grounds,” she says, noting that with every rumor prospective applicants told her, she relied on either her own experience or that of a friend.
She emphasized to attendees that applicants are more than a single detail or grade listed on their application. “They have a story to tell and a unique perspective to bring to the classroom, and that is what they should focus on.”
Reflecting on her time offering advice to prospective students, Woubishet says she stressed that one of the most important components of the application process is simply to focus on the reason that they may be applying in the first place and how they hope to apply the knowledge they will seek to acquire at the Comm School. She also shared that it’s important for students to avoid measuring themselves against others while embracing their own strengths and failures.
Woubishet told them plainly, admitting her own early academic shortcomings, “When you find yourself falling into comparison, remember that another young woman who is the complete opposite of what may be considered the typical Comm student is not only in McIntire, but also an ambassador. Find peace and comfort in that.”
A Rewarding Opportunity
Orscheln’s feelings about Days at McIntire reflect the practical advice and experience the event is providing to all female students taking part in the event, giving much-needed access to information, faculty, the School’s unique curriculum, and more. She mentions finding great value in being able to connect in person with Accounting Professor Roger Martin and what she learned during the myth-busting session.
“Hearing testimonials from a diverse mix of current students proved to me that McIntire is unlike other business schools,” Orscheln says, pointing to the intensity of its courses but a singular “commitment to diversity, integrity, and building team-oriented skills that foster collaboration over competition.”
“In the end,” she says, “these qualities are what set McIntire students apart from others and allow them to thrive in future careers. Days at McIntire showed me what it takes to be a Commerce student and that I can be that student.”
For Professor Smith, who was part of the event for the first time this year, he found it to be an overwhelmingly positive way to introduce female applicants to the School and his subject of expertise. “I just love the energy and seeing young students interested in finance. I believe that one of my endeavors as a professor is to try to attract as many people who weren’t normally in this field—women and people from underrepresented backgrounds—so to help with Days at McIntire, with a group of bright, young women, was great.”