Graduate Management News

August 2015

The Newsletter of the Graduate Management Admission Council

GMAC Annual Conference: More Session Reviews from Attendees (Just in Case You Missed Something!)

Were you unable to attend this year’s Annual Conference? Were there sessions you wished you could have attended, but were too busy? No time? No worries. We invited attendees to report on their favorite sessions and are pleased to present some of their session reviews here. A special thanks to all of the 2015 Annual Conference reporters who volunteered their time.

Take it from your Applicants
Session Title: Improve your Marketing Yield: Using Personas to Deliver the Right Message to the Right Audience
Presenters: Anne Daugherty, Director, School Marketing, GMAC; Paula McKay, Director, School Products, GMAC

As marketers, it is crucial to know our audience so we can deliver the right message at the right time; personas are an effective tool to achieve this goal and improve our marketing yield. With a clear understanding of what personas are, how they are structured, and how they can be used, we can develop relevant messaging to enhance our marketing strategy.

Personas are a profile of our brand’s intended customer, and they can be defined based on a variety of criteria. Generational personas have been developed by the GMAC Research team and are available at With this information, we can see the world through the eyes of our target audience, delivering timely and efficient messages that resonate with them. Using strategically segmented personas also facilitates internal communication with your team, as everyone will know that you are referring to Millennials and understand the implications when you talk about “Olivia” or think about Baby Boomers and their preferences when you talk about “Michael”.

The format or structure of personas usually includes a name, background story, and photo; demographics, psychographics, and a quote are also part of the profile to create a complete picture. Demographics include age, gender, education, family status, and interests. Psychographics include goals, reservations, and ideal experience. This is of significant value when crafting strategies, as it will enable us to make data driven decisions and avoid assumptions. For instance, it may be easy to assume that Millennials prefer online education as they are a tech savvy generation; however, research shows that since they already spend most of their time online, a traditional classroom setting is their ideal experience.

It is not necessary to develop a persona for each program. In general, a manageable number to consider is 2-6 as they may be applicable across programs. Once personas have been defined, they can be used for numerous marketing purposes. Understanding the ideal experiences of a generation helps identify new programs and services to be offered. Combining a GMASS® search with a persona’s decision making timeline and targeted messaging allows us to create better performing campaigns. Knowing the preferences of each persona serves as a guide for content development. Keeping in mind the differences among personas facilitates developing specific marketing plans for each of them.  

Whether you choose to develop your own or take advantage of the generational personas created by GMAC Research, this powerful marketing tool will help you deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.

Diana SloanReviewed by Diana Sloan, director of Graduate Marketing & Alumni Relations, Iowa State University.




Session Title: Women in Business: Addressing Three Levels of Communication By and Within Gender
Presenter: Jessica Glazer, 
Founder & CEO, Glazer Talks; Faculty, Center for Creative Leadership (CCL)

Communication differences by and within gender have an impact on how women in business are perceived. By understanding and embracing best practices, we can create an environment where happiness and job satisfaction are more prevalent. And, since we are communicating 100 percent of the time, there are three levels to focus on: societal, interpersonal, and self-directed.

At the societal level, women start with a disadvantage as displays of assertiveness such as speaking up are viewed negatively because they violate the “norm of female niceness”. However, behaviors like asking questions, smiling, and waiting for one’s turn to speak are generally perceived as mistakes women make. This puts women in the very uncomfortable position of choosing between being labeled as either power-hungry or weak. In reality, research does not support a men vs. women communication model because these behaviors are all choices people make individually and we need to be adaptive, regardless of gender.

At the interpersonal level, it is important to note that only seven percent of our communication is conveyed through words, 38 percent vocally, and 55 percent is non-verbally. Therefore, we should be conscious of our facial expressions and body language to ensure that they match our words. As demonstrated in the Pygmalion experiment, behaviors that show high expectations from an authority figure can lead to an improvement in performance. Some actionable items to work on in this area include articulation, speed, inflection, volume, register, and smiling – believe it or not, people can tell this last one even if they are not looking at you. 

At the self-directed level, there is one crucial question to ask when assessing our own self-talk: Would you be friends with someone who talked to you the way you do? Sometimes, the enemy within can be responsible for magnification of flaws and minimization of accomplishments. It is our responsibility to be proactive about empowering ourselves, perhaps starting with something as basic as power poses. Adopting a posture of confidence will effectively translate into the corresponding behavior, because our body is communicating to our mind that we capable and competent. Of course, this also works the other way around, and a low-power pose will result in feelings of anxiety or insecurity.

Although it is necessary to be aware of our role in society and the business community, the first step is being kind to ourselves. As leaders, we must also have the ability to recognize communication differences and balance them to foster an inclusive environment where the prevalent feeling is eudemonia, the joy one feels while striving towards one’s potential.

Diana SloanReviewed by Diana Sloan, director of Graduate Marketing & Alumni Relations, Iowa State University.




Session Title: How Collaboration Can Improve Your LGBT Recruitment Efforts with Matt Kidd of Reaching Out MBA
Lance Bennett, Director of Diversity Admissions, Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University; Erin Kellerhals, Executive Director, Full-Time MBA Admissions, Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley; Penny Momon, Director of MBA Diversity Recruitment and Inclusion, Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota; moderated by Matt Kidd, Executive Director, Reaching Out MBA

Diversity recruitment, including LGBT-focused efforts, should be done not only because assisting underrepresented minorities is the right thing to do, but because having a diverse class is good for both minority and non-minority students. Non-LGBT students benefit from working with “out” LGBT students—it increases their cultural competencies, providing importing soft-skills for their future careers. Corporate partners have found that MBA graduates who are out are more likely to stay. Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) found an average of four percent out LGBT students. Of these, LBT women account for less than 25 percent, and the slight majority of these are Caucasian.

The panel discussed some of the issues surrounding recruiting LGBT (and ally) students into MBA programs and their presence in programs.

One challenge that still exists is that many students still have the perception that they have to be closeted in business schools because of the business environment and because they believe being out could hurt their future employment chances. Schools that want to have active LGBT and ally students and student organizations should stress that clubs and being out are not just politically positive, but good for careers. From small beginnings with even one out student, they will begin to self-market their perspective on your program in the same manner as other minority groups (race, nationality, etc.)

The panel also discussed various ways admissions staff identifies incoming LGBT students since schools that ask the question as part of an application are in the minority. Panelists and audience members suggested other ways to identify incoming LGBT students such as club-interest questionnaires; diversifying club pages on the website, including “Should I be out in my applications?” as a FAQ question; and essay prompts that might encourage applicants to share how they are diverse.

Reaching Out MBA Resources

Reaching Out MBA provides support for LGBT students and has resources for admissions offices trying to increase LGBT representation in our business programs. Resources for admissions offices include the Reaching Out Fellowship, Reaching Out MBA Admissions Summit and ROMBA Conference, and online resources including an LGBT MBA blog, LGBT MBA calendar, student interview video library. See the Reaching Out MBA website for more information.

Michael CuneoReviewed by Michael Joseph Cuneo, assistant director of Admissions, The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.




Session Title: Time, Talent and Treasure:  Tying Alumni Engagement Into the Life Cycle of the MBA Experience
: Corey Dortsch, Director of MBA Programs and Rebecca Sandidge, Assistant Director, MBA Admissions, Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Corey and Rebecca were very effective in sharing the Goizueta story of alumni engagement as well as fostering an atmosphere that allowed for audience sharing and interaction on the topic.  It was clear that definitions of alumni engagement vary widely even within departments of business schools.  For instance, MBA Admissions offices value recent graduate involvement in recruitment activity while MBA Career Management offices value assistance with mock interviews and a willingness to provide informational interviews or assistance in opening doors that lead to the hiring of interns and full-time employees.  At the same time, other offices within the school value donations or attendance at events.  As was discussed, a complicating factor is that in many schools the definition of engagement is often left to development and alumni relations, which, in turn, means that messaging on web pages and social media carry that office’s expectation, vision, and definition of alumni engagement even if all other offices/departments are not on board. Effective business schools devise strategies for alumni engagement that meet school objectives and set the school apart as a leader for alumni engagement.

The presenters shared three key areas of defining engagement, including:  financial contributions, referring students for admission, and hiring students. They mentioned that each of these engagement areas are highly quantifiable. In addition, they suggested that each office create its own strategy for alumni engagement as long as it is supportive and consistent with the school’s strategy. Thus, multiple offices should be involved in determining how to track and report the key measures of successful alumni engagement.

Attendees broke off into small groups to consider the challenge of creating a definition of engagement by virtue of being labeled “admissions,” “development,” “career,” or “student services.” Additional small group discussion centered on best practices of engagement.  A number of tactical ideas were generated about leveraging alumni.  Some of these included featured speakers at events, mentoring, career coaches, social media bloggers or respondents, assisting with recruiting events, providing and coaching students through consulting projects.

Blair SanfordReviewed by Blair Sanford, assistant dean, University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Business.