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Real Humans of MBA Admissions: Isser Gallogly of NYU Stern School of Business

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With the first application deadline for NYU Stern School of Business coming up this Saturday (October 15th), what better time to learn a little bit more about the person in charge of evaluating MBA candidates? Associate Dean of Admissions Isser Gallogly came to Stern almost 14 years ago, and since then he’s had a hand in almost every aspect of admissions for the school’s MBA programs.

After a start in banking, he himself sought out an MBA to pivot into marketing, spending several years working for Mattel, Unilever and L’Oreal before heading into higher education. So he understands the MBA application process from both sides, as well several of the career paths the degree can help students pursue.

In our recent chat with Gallogly, he talked openly about the pressure that comes with his role. “It is a very stressful job—I have always seen it as more of a calling than a career,” he says. “You never know how the numbers are going to pan out, but more than that, you just know how important it is to everyone applying,” he adds. “It is a life-changing experience, applying is a really tough process, and we have an important responsibility to make the best decisions we can for everyone.”

To de-stress from the job, Gallogly likes working with his hands to refurbish furniture and taking before and after photographs of his work. That there are certain parallels between his work and his hobby are not lost on him. “It’s the same kind of thing, it’s about seeing potential,” he says. He often shares the “after” pictures of his handiwork with the furniture’s original owners, leading several to clamor to buy back their own stuff.

Our thanks to Gallogly for making time to share a little more about the real person behind admissions at Stern. We hope you’ll enjoy learning more about him as much as we did.

Real Humans of MBA Admissions: Isser Gallogly of NYU Stern School of Business

Coffee or tea? Neither. I drink water in the mornings.

Isser Gallogly
Mountains trump beach for Gallogly.

Beach or mountains? Mountains

Morning person or night owl? Definitely a night owl. Who wants a worm?

Pet peeve? I have a sensitivity to noise, so things like chewing gum loudly, when someone’s headset is on too loud, slurping hot beverages—anything that creates an annoying noise.

Guilty pleasure? I really like watching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Favorite virtue in others? Loyalty

Worst habit? I’m probably a little too OCD, a little too organized. Sometimes things need to be a little too set up for me.

Happy place? I’ve got a cabin up in the woods.

Comfort food? Pizza—plain. We all know that with pizza, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. I frequently quiz people to see which ingredient they think is most critical—the cheese, the sauce or the dough. For me it’s probably either the bread or the sauce. And let’s be clear, I am not talking about that Chicago nonsense. As for my favorite New York spot for pizza, there are a lot of good ones, but right now I am into Table 87 in Gowanus, Brooklyn.

Go-to cocktail? I’m a light weight, so really anything that is sweet and not strong.

Proudest moment? I have to say I don’t really live in the past, so I don’t get hung up on that stuff.

Biggest regret? Here again, I don’t really have regrets. I believe that the choices you make shape who you are today, and you make the best decision that you can at the time you make it. I’ll also point out that you can make a great decision, and it can still sometimes result in a bad outcome.

One thing you would change about how you were raised? I really can’t critique the folks—and especially not in the press! They did the best they could—there is no doubt about that.

Superpower you wish you had? Invisibility

Favorite fictional hero/heroine? Sherlock Holmes

What schools, if any, rejected you? When I applied to undergrad I submitted applications to about 22 schools. It was a lot of work and quite a lot of application fees. I don’t honestly remember all of the schools that said no and don’t hold it against them. I wound up going to Colby College up in Maine, so everything worked out.

For business school I applied to Kellogg, Duke and Michigan, and Duke put me on the waitlist. I remember Anne Sandoe was the dean of admissions at Fuqua back then, and I undertook a regular and appropriate letter-writing campaign to advocate on my own behalf. When I visited Duke it really was my number one choice. Sandoe told me they weren’t taking anyone off the waitlist, and I said I would wait a whole additional year, and that’s what I did. She deferred my admission a year.

I was really drawn to Fuqua’s medium-sized school with a team-based culture, just like we have here at Stern. Incidentally, that was what I was looking for when I was looking at places to work in admissions and why I’ve been so happy here. Many years later, once I’d been working in admissions at Stern for a while, I ran into Anne at the annual Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) conference, and I actually got to go up to her and thank her for admitting me off the waitlist. By then she had moved on from Duke to UC Boulder. It is just such a rare thing to wind up in this industry and be able to go up to someone and tell them what it means to get in off the waitlist. So I am very empathetic to waitlisted candidates because, literally, I have been there.

Now that I’m wearing the admissions hat,  I know firsthand that there is also just the reality of thousands of applications and a limited number of spots. There are great people whom I don’t have room for every year..

Which part of the Stern process would you most like to skip if you were applying today? No one wants to take the GMAT or the GRE, right? While I don’t foresee tests disappearing from our admissions process, I do think that people put way too much emphasis on it. I see applicants over-emphasizing the importance of the test within the mix—taking that single component a little too much to heart. The GMAT is an indicator of how someone will do academically only in their first year, that’s it. I haven’t seen that many correlations between how you do in your first year and how you do in life. It is just one of many components we consider in our admissions process. Particularly at Stern we place a tremendous emphasis on screening for both IQ+EQ (emotional quotient). So yes, you need to be smart, but it’s not enough.

That’s part of why we interview everyone for the full-time program—we have them come to New York. Our interviews are not blind—they are conducted by admissions staff who are trained assessors of talent. We don’t farm that out to alumni, because alumni simply are not interviewing hundreds of MBA applicants each year—they are not trained assessors of talent. You get a very different kind of conversation when you put the level of resources against the interview that we do.

What’s the best thing you read/watched/listened to recently? You mean other than Last Week Tonight? Being a child of the 80s, I really enjoyed the recent Netflix series Stranger Things.