MS in Commerce Blog
Academics

You Belong at McIntire

Daulton Roach (M.S. in Commerce ’22) discusses how the academic format of the M.S. in Commerce values and encourages a variety of perspectives.

UVA McIntire students gather outside on the steps

Will my unique educational background allow me to succeed in the M.S. in Commerce? Will I be able to showcase the skills that I developed as an undergrad? Is McIntire right for me and my interests?

These were a few of the MANY questions I had when deciding to shift from my background in Education Policy to a Master’s in Commerce, and it’s valid if you have some of the same concerns. The M.S. in Commerce at UVA is unique because it offers students from different educational majors the opportunity to combine business knowledge with their skill set to impact the world around them. Various educational majors aren’t the only thing that is key to the success of McIntire’s program. McIntire recruits a diverse array of students from different backgrounds and identities to create a community where students can maximize their learning through their peers around them. This learning goes beyond the classroom, since we’re not only learning about how different perspectives can impact the world of business, but we’re also refining our ability to interact with individuals different from us successfully. In the working world and life, these principles are so important in our development as employees and as caring human beings, which is why McIntire ensures that different perspectives are embraced in the M.S. in Commerce Program.

How McIntire Encourages a Diversity of Perspectives
Diversity is so important to have in every setting. Making sure that individuals of different identities and backgrounds have their voices heard is crucial to progress in any space and makes everyone feel more included and happy in life. McIntire prides itself on its commitment to deep-level diversity by creating a curriculum and class of students from so many different walks of life. All of these individuals must be welcomed and embraced for the identities and experiences that they bring McIntire.

Student Testimonials

Don’t just take my word on how McIntire ensures that diverse perspectives are welcomed, heavily encouraged, and embraced in the M.S. in Commerce Program. Below are testimonies from fellow students (and friends!!!) Sumukh Nori and Zaeda Meherin on how McIntire encourages deep-level diversity.

How does the program encourage deep-level diversity?
Sumukh: This program encourages deep-level diversity by actually having students from across the world! It’s amazing to hear viewpoints that are different from my own. Since people are from different countries, we get to listen to how businesses operate throughout the world.

Do you think professors do a good job of allowing students’ different interests and backgrounds to shine?
Sumukh: I believe the professors do a great job encouraging different student viewpoints by having courses in a discussion style rather than a traditional lecture. For example, in Strategy, Professor Ira Harris starts the class by opening up a dialogue on the class material.

Zaeda: I think the professors really value lots of different opinions during classroom discussions. They try to call on different people to get a variety of input, and that drives our discussion in all sorts of directions. I think they also allow different interests and backgrounds to shine by placing people in diverse groups. They put together individuals coming from different hometowns, different colleges, different majors, different tracks, etc. On top of that, they place us all in a set of general business classes in the fall semester. This really helps everyone learn from everybody else, because if we were all just taking track classes from the beginning to the end of the program, then we wouldn’t really be exposed to people who have different interests and backgrounds. We would be learning less because we’d be surrounded by people similar to ourselves, and our classroom discussions would be less rich. We’d get a narrower set of ideas and our engagement would be limited. Our learning might stagnate. Ultimately, I think it’s a combination of being put in generic classes in the beginning, being put in our groups, and also eliciting diverse opinions during classroom discussions.

How has diversity of experience and background affected your team dynamic and your team projects?
Sumukh: Diversity of experience and background has affected my team dynamic and projects because we all had different backgrounds. It helps to have different and creative ideas for a project. When the professors assign a case study, it helps to get unique ideas on how to approach the case.

Zaeda: All of our members coming from different educational backgrounds as well as having different personalities has strengthened our team dynamic. Even though all of us have different backgrounds, we’re not as susceptible to groupthink. We actively try to voice our opinions and make sure that everyone is heard to incorporate different perspectives. Even if there is a quieter member in our group, one person will ask them if they agree or if they disagree and make sure to get their ideas. If there is a dissenting opinion, we consider it seriously instead of ignoring everyone who doesn’t agree with the majority. Sometimes if someone brings up something that none of us have thought of, we’ll say, “Huh, that’s an interesting point!” I know this is a lot of OB talk, but it’s true, and I see that play out in our team. We respect each other’s thoughts, and we appreciate diversity in thinking.

It also strengthens our work across all of our different classes. For instance, when we had the cost accounting case, some of us were more mathematically inclined than others. By working through the problems together, it helped some others understand the material better. And then on other cases, the members who are more creative help drive the discussion to be innovative and unique. They help bring that out in everyone else as we all play off of each other’s ideas. Having a diverse group really balances the team across all of our classes, and it not only enhances the quality of work we produce, but it also helps us all learn from each other as well. We don’t placidly remain passive or stagnant. Working with people different from ourselves gives us an opportunity to see a new perspective and truly learn from each other.

One amazing thing about McIntire is its demonstrated effort to encourage diverse perspectives in and out of the classroom! Below are hallmarks of the M.S. in Commerce Program that I feel demonstrate McIntire’s commitment to deep-level diversity:

  • Global Immersion Experience: One major draw of the M.S. in Commerce Program is the global immersion aspect of the curriculum. Before students set off on their trip, we take a class in the spring semester focusing on international business trends, in which we build off the skills in empathy and cultural awareness that we learned in a class I’ll mention soon! Then, students and staff go abroad in May to learn about how businesses run in different areas of the world. The experience is fun and enriching because students get a hands-on look into how businesses across the globe and cultures different from our own are operated. This is crucial because the world of business doesn’t just span the United States, and it’s important that we can learn about other cultures worldwide to be effective global leaders and empathetic humans.
  • Team Format: The team format is one central aspect of the program that encourages students to learn from people of different backgrounds and experiences. Before even entering the program, you’re assigned to a five-person team consisting of people from other tracks, educational majors, and interests. These teams allow you to build off and learn from the strengths of fellow team members, which is super helpful in class projects and applicable to the working world. This format also challenges team members to compromise on differences in ideas during group work to come up with business solutions that appease everyone. The team format truly is a significant benefit to the program for students seeking to interact with individuals of different backgrounds (which everyone should want to seek out so that you can learn).
  • Organizational Behavior: One super obvious way the program encourages diversity of perspectives is in our required Organizational Behavior class. This class highlights psychological and sociological principles that affect team dynamics in a workspace, alerting us to possible biases and issues affecting team dynamics in specific environments. This class also highlights the importance of diversity within teams and teaches us how different cultural upbringings can positively affect a team environment. At the beginning of the semester, this class had our group work together on simulations challenging how we worked in teams. It was a great way to get an early feel for how team members worked, since the program has such a heavy emphasis on collaboration. This class is extremely valuable to prepare for any working environment.
  • Microsoft Teams: Microsoft Teams is a great way to showcase your unique perspectives and interests that make you, you! Most of your classes will have a Teams channel. In GCOM 7010: Global Strategy and Systems, students are assigned another discussion group solely over Microsoft Teams. This gives students an outlet to reflect on class material and apply it to real-world situations. It also allows you to discuss these topics with students you aren’t usually exposed to, increasing the broad network of people you get to interact with. I love that this discussion channel challenges me to offer different perspectives from the team members who replied before I did, deepening the levels at which I evaluate business problems. My favorite part about Microsoft Teams is the general channel where students highlight articles they found interesting. It’s a fantastic way to gain insight into what your classmates enjoy about business, which further proves how there isn’t a sole type of student that McIntire looks for.
  • Storytelling Choice Day: This was my ABSOLUTE favorite day in the semester so far! In our Communication course. We were asked to choose two to three choice days that focused on different topics, and I chose the one on storytelling. We spent one day learning about compelling storytelling and communicating in the business world and another presenting our two-minute story to the class. I learned so much about what my classmates were interested in and their inspiration for applying to McIntire. It was so nice to hear how many different interests, backgrounds, and experiences were represented in these stories. It also made me feel closer to these classmates, some of whom I had yet to meet.
  • Engaging and Applicable Case Studies: When I entered McIntire, I was so nervous that I didn’t have enough knowledge of big businesses to succeed in the program, since large commercial businesses weren’t necessarily my interest. I was quickly reassured when most of the case studies we did (which are a considerable aspect of our program) were on companies oriented toward the lives of college students like us. It gave students the outlet to discuss the success of businesses that we engaged with in our daily lives and made the course concepts easily applicable to our lives. A little detail of the program allows students with less business knowledge to connect course concepts to case studies successfully.

This is not an exhaustive list of all the ways McIntire does a great job of encouraging diversity of perspectives in the classroom environment. As I’ve gone through the program, I realize that there’s a reason that I’m here, and I try to lean into those unique qualities often.

Everyone Has a Place at McIntire
I can confidently say that after a few months in this program, everyone has a place a McIntire. The professors and students in the M.S. in Commerce Program fully recognize the importance of a diverse array of perspectives and do a great job of implementing the principles into the program’s curriculum and team assignments. Diversity at all levels is crucial to ensuring that, as students of business, we continue innovating and working with individuals with different perspectives so that we can all learn and grow as students, employees, and human beings.

McIntire truly values what makes students unique! If you choose to apply to the program (which we all hope you do!), lean into the things that make you special! Your story can’t be replicated, and McIntire wants to know who you are and how it impacts how you interact with others and the world around you. The program thrives when students feel encouraged to embrace their identity, which starts in the application process! I know it can feel intimidating to present the parts of your life that make you stand out. If you have any questions about the application process, the program, or student life, or would like someone to talk through your stresses with, feel free to connect with me or one of my fellow Student Ambassadors. I can’t wait to speak with you and to see your impact on McIntire in the future!

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