Calan Underwood, NYU Stern MBA Class of 2019
Hometown: Warren, Michigan
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Michigan State University, electrical engineering and economics
Pre-MBA Work Experience: Four years in the U.S. Military (Air Force)
Why business school? Why now? An MBA stood out to me as an extraordinary opportunity for personal growth and amazing tool to make my transition from the U.S. Air Force and into a business career. My military service commitment recently concluded, making it the perfect time begin my transition at NYU Stern.
Why NYU Stern? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? I based my decision on the program’s culture, its approach to curriculum, and the characteristics that made the program unique. I wanted to be a part of a culture that was both welcoming and close knit.
Not only would this culture be ideal for my overall experience, but also it would provide an optimal environment for my personal growth. I connected with several current students and alumni at each MBA program I was interested in during the application process as a way to further evaluate the culture of each program. The warm and welcoming response I received from the Stern community was distinct.
Stories of how Sternies looked out for one another, even if it meant going above and behind to do so, indicated that Stern was a strong cultural fit for me. A program’s approach to curriculum was also a major factor in my decision. Stern has a core curriculum with flexibility to take electives early on in the program. I wanted to be able to tailor my MBA experience and also have a fixed curriculum that ensured I gained familiarity with fundamental business subject areas. In addition, I wanted the curriculum to be taught using a teaching methodology that didn’t adhered to a one-size-fits-all approach. Stern embraces a teaching methodology that believes in multiple approaches, including the use of case studies, experiential learning, and traditional lectures. I have personally found that adapting the teaching approach to the subject being taught is most conducive to my learning of the material.
One characteristic that makes Stern unique and appealed to me was its location. Many companies that students are interested in recruiting for have a presence in New York City. This is in itself is powerful, but it also fosters a large, local, and involved alumni community within the city. These two location-based benefits allow for incredible access to networking and employment opportunities within walking distance of Stern’s facilities.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? The most valuable contribution I will make to the Class of 2019 is my passion and dedication to helping others. I hope to provide my classmates with a unique opportunity to volunteer as a mentor for high school students enrolled in my nonprofit’s mentoring program. Also, I hope to help my fellow classmates to the best of my ability during my time at Stern and beyond. Whether its help with statistics homework or conducting a mock interview, I find solace in helping others be successful.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? One fun fact that didn’t make it into my application is my love for puns, clever jokes, and plays on words.
Post-MBA career interests? I plan to transition into a management consulting career post-MBA. Down the road I hope to transition into a career in venture capital.
Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? If I did one thing again, it would be connecting with current students and alumni at each MBA program I was interested in attending. The insights you gain from connecting with them are far too valuable to pass up.
–One thing you would change or do differently? If I could do one thing differently, I would have visited more business schools I was initially interested in applying to. This would have made it easier to narrow down my list of programs to apply to. I only visited Stern shortly before applying, and it was incredibly helpful. I highly recommend making the effort to visit business schools you’re interested in before submitting your applications, permitting you have the vacation time and resources to do so.
–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? Some essay prompts were easier than others, and some required a great deal of thought in order to write anything worth submitting. There were a couple essay prompts that I wish I could have skipped. Grit and the opinions of a few brilliant friends helped me get through it and write something meaningful for my application.
Greatest highlight so far at NYU Stern? My greatest highlight at Stern is not an easy question to answer. I would have to say the opening dinner at Ellis Island ranks among the greatest. It was interesting to visit the island for the first time and have dinner in one of buildings within the complex. The event was a lot of fun and a wonderful way conclude our first day of orientation.
One thing about NYU Stern that you didn’t expect before arriving? One thing I didn’t expect before arriving to Stern was the difficulty I would face renting an apartment in New York City. There are several reasons why I faced this challenge, but in the end, I found a place to live and avoided paying a broker’s fee.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? The amount of commitments and opportunities I have this year can be overwhelming at times. I’ve always considered my ability to prioritize a natural strength, but I’m anxious I may miss incredible opportunities by over prioritizing the big picture. Time will tell how everything unfolds, but I’m hopeful that it will work out.
Thing you are most excited about in your first year? I’m most excited to see fellow classmates earn internship and full time offers, and admittedly excited to receive an offer myself. It’s gratifying to see that moment of joy.