Business Schools

UC Irvine's Tech Appeal


Marty Bell is director of the full-time MBA program at the University of California, Irvine, Graduate School of Management, where he also oversees the school's undergraduate management program and the financial-aid and fellowship office. Before taking the helm as director, Bell was the school's director of MBA student services. He recieved a bachelor's degree in recreation administration and ran city recreation centers for several years in Irvine and Huntington Beach. He also has a master's degree in public administration from California State University, Long Beach. Bell recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Mica Schneider via e-mail and phone about his current role at UC Irvine. Here's an edited transcript of their discussion:

Q: Marty, last year the school admitted 22% fewer MBAs into its class of 2005. Why has the school allowed its full-time MBA program to lose some of its bulk?

A: It's a classic situation where quality won out over quantity. Irvine's Graduate School of Management is a young business school compared with many top-tier programs, so we can change more quickly than those staid schools. In pursuit of achieving the stature of those programs, we've made the commitment to be more selective. We want full-time MBA candidates to receive personal attention from top professors, and we expect that these future leaders will be further enriched by the high quality of their classmates' insights and experience.

The pressure on my office to enroll students with the qualities we're looking for is high, yet we don't have the reputation that some of our Top-20 colleagues use to attract those students. We're not just looking for students with top [test] scores. We're looking for people who have tangible work experience, the ability to lead, who communicate well, think analytically, and can solve problems. We think those qualities will translate well in front of a corporate recruiter and in the classroom.

Q: UC Irvine's last admissions deadline for its full-time program is May 14 for domestic applicants and early March for those from outside of the U.S. What percentage of your class will be filled by those deadlines?

A: Approximately 65% of the class will be filled by the early March deadline, and close to 90% by May 14.

Q: In general, what makes an applicant a good match for your school?

A: We look for candidates who display strong leadership and the ability to blend well into a highly collaborative environment. Also important is the ability to succeed in a rigorous MBA curriculum while getting involved in extracurricular activities. Finally, we consider both the life and work experiences of candidates. Did those experiences breed insights that will not only inform and enrich class discussions, but ultimately impress employers?

Q: UC Irvine's MBA focuses on information technology for management. Does that mean that people need not apply if they haven't worked in technology?

A: No. Some students think they have to become CIOs, or that they need to know how to write code before applying. We try to give people the ability to understand technology as a manager in order to make better decisions for their organizations. We don't want techno-dweebs. We want people to have a good, fundamental idea of how technology and information drive decisions.

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