Building a dynamic MBA cohort amidst a global pandemic

Moira Rosek, Director of Admissions for the full-time MBA program at University of Connecticut School of Business explains how they continued building a dynamic MBA cohort despite COVID-19.

At the University of Connecticut’s School of Business, building a dynamic MBA cohort means no student is just a number. 

As one of the smallest top 100 ranked MBA programs, the program’s intimate 45-50 person class size is one of its biggest differentiators.  By offering real-world, project-based learning opportunities for students, the MBA program’s ability to foster meaningful connections between tomorrow’s leaders is paramount. 

Moira Rosek had worked in the School of Business for a few years when she took over as Director of Admissions for the full-time MBA. With a new role comes new responsibilities, and Rosek found herself constantly in between video interviews with students from across the globe. 

“Quickly, I realized this was not an efficient use of our team. It was taking away from the bigger picture, strategic work we needed to be doing,” she said. 

Seeking a better way to build an MBA cohort

In 2019, the school adopted Kira Talent

“In my research, the trend I was seeing is that the future of admissions was online interviews. And to be perfectly honest, I wanted to get ahead of the trend.”

Not only would the adoption of an online admissions assessment help UConn’s team use their time more strategically, but it would also be aligned with the school’s mission to ensure real-world experiences for students.

“As I was chatting with students and they were graduating and getting their first jobs, their first round of interviews with companies were being delivered in a similar format,” said Rosek. 

“If we’re telling people we’re giving them real-world experience, offering a similar online interview format matched up with what they’d be facing,” she said.

Rosek had some initial concerns about whether or not applicants would be fearful of the experience, causing them not to complete the interview and rendering them inadmissible. It turned out that it couldn’t be further from the truth. “People are more comfortable in this environment than ever in history,” she told us. 

Spring 2020: A pandemic strikes 

Despite every school’s best efforts to keep on top of contingency and disaster planning, no one anticipated the impact of COVID-19. The Spring of 2020 rolled in and disrupted every routine. 

Fortunately for UConn, their online assessment through Kira Talent kept processes moving forward. 

“It happened really fast. Between March first and March fifteenth, our world just dropped out. Applications dried up. But the one thing that remained really consistent was Kira,” said Rosek.

“That was the one thing that felt like business as usual. It felt like something we could rely on.”

In light of COVID-19, UConn’s MBA team pivoted to make submitting GRE or GMAT scores optional, they accepted new and alternative language assessments, and they offered deposit refunds for admitted students. With shifting requirements, the Kira assessment was one of the only aspects of building an MBA cohort they didn’t have to change. 

As many prospective students were pausing to reconsider pursuing graduate education, UConn’s Full-Time MBA saw a jump in interest. 

“We were seeing quadruple what we’d normally have at online events from students all over the world. So, we started really verbalizing how well we were equipped to carry students through the process,” said Rosek.

“If I could shout it from the rooftops, I would. Kira Talent has been an absolute gift and the people I have worked with have been top-quality. Every experience has been easy and enjoyable, it checks all my boxes.” – Moira Rosek, Director, FT MBA and EMBA Admissions

Empathy and human connection becomes an even more critical factor in building an MBA cohort

Creating personalized, human connections has always been a best practice, but as of late, it’s been a competitive edge for programs that do it well. 

With COVID-19, fear, anxiety, and uncertainty are at an all-time high among applicants. This new time brought dozens of new questions and new application challenges for UConn.

“So many students are unsure about their future. A lot of what I’m doing is responding to people’s fear and concerns, and putting them at ease,” said Rosek. “It’s just a total state of feeling unsure.” 

Being there to listen and provide information can make all the difference to an applicant on the fence about the timing of their MBA degree. It isn’t an easy time. 

As with nearly every aspect of this virus, there is still too much unknown. 

“We’re trying to think about what this means socially, educationally, what it means from a space and safety standpoint, certainly financially,” said Rosek. 

Looking ahead to the fall

There are still too many unknowns to predict what the fall will look like for business schools or for higher education as a whole. 

As colleges and universities spend the summer focusing to ensure they can deliver student safety and quality education, UConn’s admissions team can take solace in knowing they’ve done their due diligence. 

Our applications have been through the roof [for the full-time MBA]. So, we’ve never needed Kira more, and it has been here when we’ve really needed that extra help,” said Rosek. 

“The gift of Kira, this time around, has been efficiency and normality. It allows everything to flow the way it should be in response to COVID-19.”

Thank you to Moira Rosek for taking the time to speak with us!


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