2014 Annual Conference: Find Out What You Missed!

This year, we invited attendees to report on their favorite sessions. A special thanks to all of the 2014 Annual Conference “reporters” who volunteered their time. Find out what you missed at the 2014 GMAC Annual conference below.

Stacey Dorang Peeler

Admissions Analytics: No More Enrollment Surprises!

By Stacey Dorang Peeler, Penn State Smeal MBA Program, MBA Admissions Director


  • Marci Armstrong, Associate Dean, Graduate Programs, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University 
  • Gary Mangiofico, Associate Dean of Fully Employed and Executive Programs, Graziadio School of Business and Management, Pepperdine University 
  • Brad Vierig, Associate Dean, Executive MBA, Professional MBA and Executive Programs, David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah

With so much data available, an admissions professional may not know exactly where to turn when it comes to finding, parsing, and analyzing information. In this session the presenters discussed available resources, admissions metrics, and questions you should be asking.

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Marci Armstrong stressed the importance of finding trouble spots before they become real problems. With the right tools, predicting potential bumps in the road is easier. Two great sources of data are GMAC (Application Trends report and test-taker data) and the EMBA Council. Armstrong noted how crucial it is to set admissions objectives to ensure you have something by which to measure your success. Enrollment yield, admit rate and application yield are three “must use” metrics. Schools need to look not only at industry trends, but at how they are performing year over year against themselves. If there are fluctuations, it’s imperative to find out what’s happening. For example, if you have fewer applications, are they higher quality? Or if you have a larger class size with fewer applications, are your standards for admission dropping? 

Brad Vierig introduced a case study from the University of Utah for consideration. He talked about tracking data, graphing data, and the importance of communicating early warnings to your dean. They have weekly meetings about marketing with the entire program team to ensure everyone is in the loop regarding what’s happening. Vierig suggests going back two years and finding out why people didn’t apply. Was it cost/value? Schedule flexibility? What would have made them more likely submit their application? He also discovered there’s a long-term recruiting cycle—only 21 percent applied in the year they inquired. The importance of follow-up is significant, and employing phone calls (vs. email) can be a key strategy. Utah took steps to personalize events, exercised more flexibility on scholarship awards, and flexed on waiving the GMAT. They now keep people engaged beyond the one year traditional cycle. 

Finally, Gary Mangiofico talked about planning the process and determining specific points of measuring progress. He stressed that when collecting data you need to know what that data is tied to. He brought up lead entry and key elements of tracking leads. A CRM/database is necessary to monitor leads, filter data, and create tools such as dashboards. Mangiofico stressed the importance of “cleaning data” as you go and monitoring your processes constantly. He posed the questions: how is marketing doing? How is your expense to revenue ratio? What does your data look like over last year? He concludes with the takeaway that history is the best predictor of opportunity for process improvement.

Ann Mallison

Beyond the Basics: Taking Control of you Social Media Efforts

By Ann Mallison, Associate Director of Admissions at the Penn State Smeal MBA Program


  • Yvonne Martin-Kidd, Chief Marketing Officer, Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University
  • Joleen Schultz, Director of Marketing & Communications, Rady School of Management, University of California, San Diego

In this session, Yvonne Martin-Kidd and Joleen Schultz shared the social media strategies (some successful, some not) for their respective schools, as well as the process they used to implement them.

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In the fall of 2012, the Vanderbilt Owen marketing team decided to formalize their social media strategy. First they looked at what channels they should use, what content they should push and how content differs by platform. They devised three objectives, eight channels and four “buckets o’content.” Their objectives were as follows: 

  • Increase awareness of Vanderbilt and Owen 
  • Develop two-way communications 
  • Encourage others to sell for them 

They chose to be active on YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, and Instagram. The content they posted would fall into the categories of: 

  • Research and thought leadership
  • Admissions events and information
  • The Owen experience
  • Owen’s people. 

Martin-Kidd shared examples of campaigns she ran at Owen to increase awareness, engagement, and evangelism. She then shared how they measured results and how they tied specific results to specific tactics. 

The University of California, San Diego Rady School of Management was established in 2004, so they only have about 800 alumni. All of their marketing support is in-house. Part of the challenge was consolidation. In 2012, the school had an undefined brand, a lack of integration, no testing for campaigns, and many different voices. At that time, UCSD had 35 different Facebook accounts, five Twitter accounts and a lot of other social media outlets, according to Schultz. In 2013-2014, UCSD set goals to establish brand awareness, increase inquiries/applications/enrollments, and engage alumni as brand ambassadors. They started one universal campaign, consolidated their social media to one account per platform, integrated the campaign into their social media and did testing and refinement of the campaign. 

Schultz shared her advertising and social media strategies. She run metrics on her campaigns, and measures impressions, clicks to the website, clicks to posts, click-through rates, web page views, average time spent, and new visitors. Finally, she shared the key takeaways from their year-long campaign: 

  • Define your audience and your value proposition
  • Set goals
  • Integrate campaigns
  • Repurpose content
  • Measure and adjust

Sonia Gastaud

Content Marketing: Managing & Measuring Your School’s Social Media Performance - Show, don’t tell!

By Sonia Gastaud, Deputy Head of International Admissions, EDHEC Business School


  • Graham Richmond, Founder Southwark Consulting
  • Alex Brown, Consultant Southwark Consulting

The presenters focused on the importance of content marketing for any business school’s social media strategy. The session opened with an overview of the evolution of brand control, a definition of social media, content marketing, what is considered a ‘metric’ for success, (followers in this case) and moved onto channels for social media and measurements. This insightful session enabled business schools to consider the power of a message and showed how to approach their social media strategy.

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In the 1980s, schools believed they had to control their brand and reputation by pushing messages out without measuring the end-consumers’ feelings. In the 1990s, we saw a shift in the education world, whereby discussion boards emerged (Princeton being the pioneer in this field). From that point, the owner of a message changed. We entered into a new area of free marketing. The command and control of a brand changed and engagement marketing emerged. 

The presenters then defined good content marketing and shared tactics for successful engagement. 


Brands no longer can afford to use a “push” model and a smarter approach to messages needs to be planned, controlled, and measured. Viral marketing around six key attributes should be considered: Emotion, Social currency, Triggers, Clicks, Value and Story. 

Proactive content, value, and action-oriented messages are essential. Not only will they help expand a community, but schools will witness excitement around their brand. Provocative quotes from alumni, retweeted messages, school experience quotes, and transparent facts are some of the ways to “humanize the brand.” It also encourages social media users to connect, share their feelings and feel engaged with the school’s social environment. 

Where? Measurements? 

Social media channels to consider, according to the presenters, are Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, International channels (weibo / renren / Dkontake), discussion forums, etc. 

Measuring tools such as Google Analytics, Hootsuite, and Klout are also important to analyze the viability of the social campaign and influence of a brand. Although all platforms are important, schools should select one preferred channel where all information is centralized. 

On a closing note, the audience asked whether schools should use social media for admissions purposes, and the answer was YES! As the saying goes: “If we build it, they will come.”

Conrad Chua

Cultivating Your MBA Leadership Development Strategy and Program

By Conrad Chua, Head of MBA Recruitment and Admissions, University of Cambridge Judge Business School


  • Mindy Storrie, Director of Leadership Development, Kenan-Flagler Business School, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • Kate Tobias, Director of Academics and Leadership Initiatives, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley
  • Evelyn Williams, Associate Vice President, Leadership Development, School of Business, Wake Forest University

Both UNC and Berkeley Haas presented their individual views of what a successful leader should be or should have in terms of skills. Their programs were then built on top of these articulations. For example, UNC believe that leaders are individuals who, after choosing a direction, are able to motivate and put in place the processes to achieve that direction. Berkeley builds its leadership program based on its four defining principles: Student Always, Confidence without Attitude, Beyond Yourself, and Question the Status Quo.

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From these principles, the schools developed certain competencies. For example, UNC develops personal, team, and organizational leadership in its students. These competencies were taught through a variety of means, including: 

  • Classes (e.g. design thinking) 
  • Simulations 
  • Personal coaching 

One important point is that leadership and development programs do not run in isolation. At Berkeley, staff who run the leadership development program sit in on OB classes to understand what is being taught, and they collaborate with the faculty to develop the leadership program. 

While it is tempting to think that there was a completely rational process of developing a school’s leadership program, the reality is that these programs evolved over time, building upon existing programs and the location of the school. Each school has its unique take on leadership and if you were tasked with developing a leadership program, you should start by thinking about what makes your school unique in the leadership space and work from there.

Charlotte Burkly

Growing Africa’s Graduate Management Pipeline

By Charlotte (Charley) Burkly, Assistant Director, Admissions, Columbia Business School


  • Ron Sibert, MBA, PhD, Africa Business Development Director, GMAC
  • Alison Knight-Oms, MSW, Director of Recruitment and Development, International School of Management
  • Olakunle Fakiyesi, CEO, Famolex Integrated Consult

Increasing African MBA enrollment has been on my mind all year, ever since I planned a trip to Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa on behalf of Columbia Business School. At GMAC, I had the opportunity to connect with likeminded colleagues and learn more about the challenges and opportunities facing business schools as we aim to increase the number of African students in our graduate management programs.

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The session shared their unique individual experiences, and also provided a substantial amount of data that confirmed the pipeline challenges while offering reasons we should be hopeful as we continue to recruit this population to our programs. 

In terms of the numbers, the presenters shared the following: 

  • 2.3 percent of GMAT test takers in 2012-13 were African citizens. This group took 5,490 GMAT exams and sent approximately 15,000 scores. 
  • The number of tests taken by African citizens is declining, as is the average score (442). However, the number of scores sent to African schools increased from 2009 to 2013. 
  • African GMAT scores are the lowest across all regions, with 61.7 percent of test takers scoring below 500 and just 16.1 percent scoring above 600. 

What is the reason for these low scores? Interestingly, the data show that the performance gap is not because of non-English language background, time pressure, or guessing. Our presenters concluded that “it is not because they are less capable, but because they are less prepared.” This lack of preparedness results from a number of different factors: traditional African learning styles, behaviors, and attitudes; limited “test wise-ness”; late test registration; less time spent studying and using free test prep materials. GMAC aims to address many of these concerns through its new Career Track program, which is currently in development and will provide mentoring and test preparation support for African students. 

The timing of this effort coincides with “explosive growth” coming out of Africa. The market size is increasing considerably, and five African countries will produce over 75,000 English speaking university graduates each year (Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Nigeria, and South Africa). In addition, with industry shifting from oil, gas, and mining toward communications and infrastructure, the need for additional management education is increasing. Although cost continues to be an issue, African families tend to dedicate more of their income to education and the middle class is growing. 

Despite the current challenges, it’s clear that many opportunities await graduate management programs and the African students in our pipeline. I’m interested to see what changes unfold as we receive applications for the entering classes of 2015 and beyond.

Diana Sloan

The Corporate Perspective on Diversity Recruitment

By Diana Sloan, Director of Graduate Marketing & Alumni Relations, Iowa State University


  • Fatimah Gilliam, Founder & CEO, The Azara Group 
  • Erika Irish-Brown, Senior VP, Enterprise Diversity Recruiting & Program Management Executive, Bank of America Merrill Lynch 
  • Jennifer Kaplan, Head of Diversity Campus Recruiting, Credit Suisse 
  • Stephanie Roemer, Diversity Recruiting & Learning Manager, Freddie Mac 
  • Moderator: Kofi Kankam, Founder & CEO, Admit.me

Corporate diversity representatives are constantly looking to attract top, diverse talent from graduate business schools. However, the definition of diversity varies by business. Across the board, it encompasses mostly gender and racial or ethnic groups such as African American, Hispanic, and Native American. In some cases, it also includes a broader range of criteria such as geography or academic background. Either way, subject matter experts agree that the scope of diversity should not be limited to representation; it must also account for the inclusion and success of underrepresented minorities.

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In this session, the presenters identified the main drivers for diversity recruitment as a combination of business-guided decisions as well as ethical reasons. In other words, diversity recruitment is pursued by corporations because it is the right thing to do, but it is also necessary to have data that supports these efforts to ensure buy-in from a business standpoint. For instance, diversity is a recruiting edge when approaching Millennials because they expect a diverse environment and are attracted to it. 

Beyond relying on rankings, business schools can take alternative approaches to attract diverse candidates. The alumni network in combination with the MBA office staff is an invaluable resource to achieve first hand connectivity and present the endless opportunities that become available by being part of that community. An additional item of note for business schools engaged in diversity recruitment is that candidates must be able to see diversity within the current community, including students, faculty, staff, and student organizations or clubs. 

Besides looking internally, it is helpful to institute mentorship or coaching programs within the business school to help diverse individuals succeed. On-campus programs and conferences are also an excellent opportunity to show prospective students the strong ties between the school and businesses that represent potential employers. And, for those schools with smaller programs that may not be able to attract corporate recruiters on their own, the recommendation is to form partnerships with other similar programs in the area in order to make larger recruitment events possible. 

Business schools ranked outside of the top 50 can make sure that their best candidates are found by corporate recruiters. Strategies to accomplish this include building a targeted pipeline aligned with company needs, getting visibility by partnering with diversity organizations, and having alumni become advocates for the school at their company. It is also crucial for non-target schools to prepare candidates well in advance of having them meet with corporate recruiters, and making sure that only top talent will be representing the program. 

Regardless of their ranking, business schools can help students succeed by following best practices that will attract corporate recruiters and create strong long-lasting relationships with companies.

Donna Armbruester

The Future of Business Education: Experiential Learning: A Pedagogy Innovation (CFP)

By Donna Armbruester, Assistant Director, Student Services, Indiana University, Kelley School of Business, Kelley Direct Online Programs


  • Rukaiya Joshi, Professor and Chairperson at S. P. Jain Institute of Management and Research (SPJMR)

Presenter Rukaiya Joshi provided an overview to the Leadership Development Program, which incorporates five different projects and what I perceived as a very enriching, rewarding, and valuable experience for participating students. The projects are unique in that they provide MBA students with an opportunity to learn through experience in the areas of personal growth, learning from their diverse peers, spiritual introspection, and intelligent living to promote successful leadership.

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The presentation focused on a 1.5 credit hour project called Abhyudaya in which first year MBA students participate in a year-long mentorship project that places them in a role where they are responsible for disadvantaged children in grades 7-10. The mentee’s are very hopeful and bright individuals who are referred to as “Sitaras,” which means “Stars.” One of the videos shown during the session presented the students and mentee’s working together in a manner that exemplified intelligence, ambition and strength. 

The motivation for each mentee is to promote an attitude of working beyond just providing bread for his or her family. The attitude of the mentee surpasses this stimulus by speaking about how he or she want to go on and do big things such as becoming a robotics engineer as well as other noble professions. As Adam Grant spoke about givers and takers in the opening session, this presentation tied in perfectly to this concept. Both the mentor and mentee are playing the role of giver and taker in tandem. For example, the mentor is giving the mentee a potential capacity to take away from the experience the opportunity to become self-sufficient all while the mentor is provided with a chance to take away from the experience the joy of giving to someone less fortunate. 

The success of the program has not only been exemplified by the demonstrated success of the mentee’s in the presented video, but also by the awards received. The Abhyudaya project earned the GMAC MET Fund 2012 award, which is presented to schools who demonstrate innovative ideas to enhance graduate management education. Read more information regarding the Abhyudaya project.


Rethink the Admissions Interview: Are You Getting the Most Out of it?

By Oliver I. Fabricante, Manager, Student Services, Admissions and Registration, Asian Institute of Management


  • Nick Barniville, Director, Degree Programs, ESMT European School of Management and Technology 
  • Tiffany Gooden, Director, Recruitment and Admissions, the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania 
  • Shane Moore, Associate Director, Admissions and Recruitment, Sauder School of Business, University of British Columbia 
  • Moderator: Anne Coyle, Vice President, Storbeck/Pimentel & Associates, LP

The session opened with the following remark: “Interviews must be structured.” In an interview, a holistic image of the student applicant is generated by the interviewer. As a natural consequence, the interviewer would have his or her first impression of the candidate in their initial interaction, but this may not be necessarily relevant. Instead, and more importantly, one must look for specific data points about the candidate in order to aid them (i.e. Admissions Committee) in the selection process. One aspect that should not be taken for granted is that “what the candidate did in the past” is the “best predictor of future behavior.” Aside from asking relevant questions on past experiences, follow-up questions must be incorporated in the course of the interview process.

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Moreover, the interview must be used as a recruiting tool. The interviewer must align his or her interviewing approach with their brand. Three different types of interview methods and their advantages were enumerated, namely: 

  • In-person interview: the closest approximation of a job interview 
  • Virtual interview: advantageous for its global reach to distant candidates 
  • Group interview: assesses how teamwork and interpersonal skills of candidates are manifested. 

One of the interesting parts of the session focused on the key questions the interviewer must bear in mind while he conducts the interview, such as: 

  • How open or willing is the applicant to share his or her experiences? 
  • What are the expectations of the candidate in the MBA program? 
  • How open is the candidate for feedback? 
  • How realistic are these expectations by the candidate? 

The answers to the questions would set the expectations for the entire program experience. Subsequent discussions dealt with the different ways of conducting an interview. One of the most striking methods is to conduct a virtual interview. If this is chosen, the interviewer can maximize the result of the interview. This is a pre-recorded interview (where a link is provided) which may be helpful for the interviewer to decide if a candidate is qualified to go on a live interview. 

In-person interviews have distinct advantages. To name a few, the candidate’s body language can be seen and communication skills are evidently assessed. On the other hand, group interviews allow the interviewer to supplement or validate what he/she have read about the behavior of the candidate. 

In closing, the interview is not only a process whereby the interviewer can evaluate a candidate’s behavior and expectations on the program but also provide an avenue for the school, through its admissions representatives, to reinforce the brand they would want to imprint upon a candidate by the kind of interview methodology the school adopts.


Creating Sustainable Business Leaders

By Lisa R. Davis, associate director, MBA Programs, Lee Business School, University of Nevada, Las Vegas


  • Giselle Weybrecht, Author and Advisor, The Sustainable MBA

What is your school’s sustainability story? Giselle Weybrecht, the author of The Sustainable MBA: The Manager’s Guide to Green Business, discussed many options for incorporating sustainability into business schools through curriculum, teaching, student experiences, and partnerships.

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Many programs have started to provide options to address sustainability. Schools are creating MBA programs and certificates that focus on sustainability, infusing sustainability across their curriculum, or creating interdisciplinary certificates in sustainability. Other schools are creating focused areas within sustainability. These focus areas depend on their existing strengths created by nearby industries or location. They vary from social health, energy, green buildings and cooperatives. There are also executive education programs to teach employees about sustainability in the workplace.

Business partners looking to hire students are looking for employees with knowledge in sustainable practices. The problem solving set of skills that students learn within this area makes them valuable as employees. These skills can be obtained through the curriculum, involvement and experiential learning.

There are several things to consider when looking at adding sustainability program options for your school. It does not matter where you start, just start a program and test ideas out. Find out what is happening on campus in the sustainability area and use these successes to create your story. One size does not fit all. Do it your own way. There is not a checklist or a template on how to create a sustainability program. There are a number of schools that have programs that can be used as examples. Learn from them and then differentiate your program with a sustainability focus that works for your school. Make sustainability useful and relevant. Do not just throw it in to have it. Look at all areas, from curriculum, career services, offerings and faculty. Everyone needs to be involved to make it successful. There are so many opportunities for business schools to get engaged.

University of Utah 

Managing Up: The Art of Influencing and Persuading Others

By Mallorie Mecham, senior graduate admissions coordinator, David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah


  • Allan R. Cohen, professor of Management, Babson College

According to Professor Cohen, the secret to the universe can be found in six simple words: everyone expects to be paid back. Nearly everything done in life requires some type of reciprocity. It’s the glue that makes things work, built into our genetics, one of the basic building blocks of our social existence.

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The best way to keep relationships, particularly professional relationships, working smoothly is to make exchanges which create win-win results. This balanced exchange of currencies shouldn’t ever be used to make ourselves bigger, primarily because people tend to remember when someone who isn’t willing to make concessions and avoid working with those people again. In order to be truly successful, it’s essential to create a balance of give and take in working relationships. Reciprocity is an inherent capacity, said Cohen, something that is so easy a child can do it naturally.

The Cohen-Bradford IWA model, which Cohen used to illustrate the pattern one should follow when properly learning professional reciprocity, indicates that one must first determine what has to be influenced. Next is assuming each potential partner and determining their power, after which comes figuring out how to gain access to the possible currencies and identifying what can actually be offered. Lastly, one must work out a strategy for the exchange and create a lasting influence through continued give and take. The most important part of effectively influencing and persuading others is to start from a place of understanding their position before making offers. Being a giver and making sure everything is focused on those being helped (as well as the positive effect on the group as a whole) is what will ultimately make a successful negotiator. 

 Karen Sung

Marketing in the Digital Age: Tradition in New Media

By Karen Sung, marketing manager, Morning & Evening MBA and Master of Finance, Rotman School of Management, University of Toronto


  • Lynda Oliver, assistant dean, Marketing and Communications, Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University
  • Melissa Rekos, senior vice president, Digital Services, Carnegie Communications
  • Kerri Terrell, marketing director, MBA Programs, Terry College of Business, University of Georgia

The fundamentals of traditional advertising 101 still apply in the "digital age." The exciting thing is that now we have access to powerful online channels with the ability to target messages to intended audiences so that they receive information that is most relevant and helpful to them in a timely fashion.

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Who? What? When? Where?

These basic questions still need to be answered in the digital age:

  • Who? A Part-Time MBA, working professional audience is very different from that of Full-Time MBA.
  • What? Is the message program specific or is it school branding?
  • When? How timely is your message, and how often will it be changing?
  • Where? Is your audience local and are they familiar with your school brand?

Some broad areas to investigate in the digital landscape include:

  • The impact of mobile: More and more prospective students are using mobile devices for research. Information must be accessible and immediately available, or they will simply move on. Does your website display beautifully on desktop and mobile devices? Your call to action must be prominent and easy to find. Your contact forms should be easy to complete.
  • Online display advertising: Use online display advertising networks to target your audience by geography and behaviour. For example, while business websites are obvious platforms to reach EMBA prospects, did you know that this audience represents a key demographic on dating websites? Think holistically and consider what captivates people outside the context of their profession.
  • SEO & paid search: What key words do your prospects use? Your website should be optimized to organically match those search terms. To complement your web presence, pay-per-click paid search is critical. Supplement your presence by purchasing online real estate. “Flank” your brand by buying your competitor’s names so that you also become top of mind.
  • Retargeting: Typically, it takes multiple site visits before a prospect reaches out and converts. Retargeting is a method of advertising that takes over where our own marketing ends – through small bits of tracking code embedded in your prospect’s browser, your audience will continue to see your marketing on other web spaces they visit even after they’ve left your website.
  • Social media: Social media takes resources to generate content, and to engage and manage a thriving online community. With the diverse social media outlets in the market, the task is daunting. It doesn’t have to be though - leverage your students, who can be your best brand ambassadors, and reach out to the very community that you’re managing to help out.

Utilizing the plethora of data analytic tools to measure the success of your digital marketing efforts is key, and will help navigate the direction of your future efforts. Get access to your website’s Google Analytics if you haven’t already.

Typically, the cost of entry into digital marketing can be low when compared to traditional media. Tactically, digital media allows you to drill down to the audience you want and refine your messages. Strategically, think audience first, and then set your strategic plan to align with their information consumption behaviors.