In 2004, students and recruiters ranked Maryland's placement office third worst among BusinessWeek's list of top MBA programs. Graduates criticized the school ineptness in helping first-year students find summer internships, and said recruiters were indifferent to the program. But Richert says things are already improving at Maryland's career-services office. She recently spoke with BusinessWeek Online reporter Francesca DiMeglio. Here are edited excerpts of their conversation:
Q: What's your reaction to the criticism in BusinessWeek's 2004 business school rankings?
A: Frankly, we were surprised at some of the findings, but we do take these rankings seriously. We need to do away with past perceptions about our lack of service. We're building an excellent career program, and the placement data speaks for itself. [About 65% of MBAs had at least one job offer by graduation, and that number rose to 91% three months later.]
Q: What are some of the services you offer MBAs?
A: We've forged a number of first-of-a-kind partnerships, including one with Stanton Chase International, an executive-search firm that trains Maryland students and introduces them to potential employers.
This week also marks the first Career and Communications Boot Camp, a series of intensive programs to improve first-year students' business-writing and oral-presentation skills, personal and professional polish, and research proficiency. For example, students are delivering impromptu speeches that we're videotaping for critique later. All of these workshops are being delivered by outside partners who usually work with corporations on boardroom-level issues. The idea is to provide students with survival skills they'll need to become true leaders.
Q: What's your philosophy on building a career?
A: When MBAs arrive at Smith, they have a lot of preconceived notions about what they can and cannot do. They need to recognize their weaknesses and take advantage of every opportunity we offer them to improve in those areas. Ultimately, they must take ownership of their job search. They need to take a long, hard look at themselves and be open to the possibility of change.
Q: How do you market your students to recruiters?
A: We're one of the few schools that weaves supply-chain and logistics elements into core courses. Also, our marketing department is world-renowned for being at the leading edge of customer equity and relations.
Q: What recruiters are you attracting?
A: Our No. 1 recruiter in 2004 was Avaya, which placed a number of our students in its leadership-rotation program for tech-savvy MBAs with the potential to become great general managers. The presence of a number of manufacturing companies, such as General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Philips, and Delta, was new for us. Intel scooped up a number of our graduates and brought them to the West Coast. Financial-services employers -- Wachovia, the World Bank, and UBS -- rounded out our list of top 15 recruiters.
Q: Do you offer any perks to recruiters?
A: On-campus recruiters enjoy 16 beautiful, fully networked interviewing rooms and a separate employer lounge, thanks to a recent $38 million expansion. We also make every effort to market our employers to students because we realize that it works both ways.
Q: How did the Class of 2005 fare with summer internships?
A: About 75% had summer internships, according to a recent survey we're conducting internally. Nearly half of them reported that they obtained their internship through the career-services office. Those numbers might be higher, considering not everyone has responded yet.
Q: Do you offer any special services for international students?
A: We focus heavily on the international population [because they account for nearly 40% of the incoming class]. In addition to providing specialized workshops for international students, Stanton Chase, which has offices in China, India, Eastern Europe, and Latin America, introduces MBAs to potential employers abroad. About half of our international population chooses to work in their home country. The remainder were either company-sponsored and have to return to prior commitments, or are absorbed into U.S. rotation programs for a year, after which they usually return to their home countries.
Q: What services do you offer part-time students?
A: In September, we rolled out the Smith/DBM Online Career Center, a Web site that delivers career services to the more than 1,000 part-time MBA students scattered across four campuses. The virtual center includes a powerful online job-search engine, and a team of DBM-employed staff that schedule live Webcast seminars on everything from structuring your job search to r?sum? writing.
Q: What advice do you hope to pass to graduates?
A: Work hard, do your time, and understand that succeeding in business is all about building relationships.