Admissions Director Q&A: Soojin Kwon of Michigan’s Ross School of Business
We began interviewing admissions directors at leading business schools back in 2008, and we circle back regularly to capture changes and new developments in the dynamic field of graduate management admissions. We are thrilled to continue the Clear Admit’s Admissions Director Q&A Series with Soojin Kwon, who has led MBA admissions at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business since 2006.
She’s familiar with “non-traditional” MBA candidates, as she was one herself when she got her MBA at Ross. Prior to b-school, she used her MPP from the Kennedy School of Government to work as a budget and policy analyst on Capitol Hill and at the Department of Commerce. She’s also familiar with the private sector as she spent her post-MBA years as a consultant in Deloitte’s Strategy and Operations practice.
Kwon has maintained transparency while innovating the admissions process at Ross—embracing the perspective of an applicant along the way, as she answered the essay questions herself. She kindly sat down with Clear Admit once again to discuss all things Ross.
Clear Admit: I am really excited to get into the ins and outs of the application process that you oversee. But first can you explain to readers a little bit about how you went from being in business school at Ross to leading admissions, and what you might have done in between.
Soojin Kwon: Sure. So I joined the Ross admissions team in October of 2004. And prior to that, after getting my MBA, I worked at Deloitte Consulting as a managing consultant in the strategy and operations practice.
CA: Fantastic. And what made you come back to admissions?
SK: It was a whole host of things. One of the things that I loved doing during and after business school was recruiting. So I recruit for my undergrad alma mater, Yale, as well as for Deloitte when I was a consultant there. And figuring out ‘how do you identify the people who are a good fit for your organization, and getting them to say yes,’ was really fun for me. And I was ready for a career change. And so it made a lot of sense to come back to the place that I loved, Michigan Ross, and to lead admissions there.
CA: What are some of the unique advantages that you bring to your role by virtue of having been through the admissions process that you now are in charge of?
SK: I’m so empathetic to what applicants go through, having gone through the process three times, for undergrad, for my master’s in public policy, as well as for my MBA. And now also having a high school junior who’s about to go through the process, I have a lot of empathy for the agony that applicants can go through. And I hope to take the agony out of it as much as possible, by creating transparency, and letting applicants know that behind the veil of admissions are real people who are rooting for them, and would love to see them at the school that’s best fit for them.
CA: I didn’t realize that you’ve got a junior, yourself. That does sort of bring it home. What do you like most about your job?
SK: There’s so many things I love about it. I’ll share two if I can. Meeting great candidates and supporting their transformation and development as students at Ross, is really rewarding. There’s no other degree that connects you with people from around the world, with such diverse and interesting professional and personal experiences. The only other place you might meet so many high achieving people from around the world is a large, global company. But even then, you won’t see the kind of diversity and energy you’ll see in a top MBA program. A second thing that I love about being at Ross in admissions, is figuring out how to identify the best talent for our program. It’s so much more than test scores and GPAs. It’s more than the schools, majors, companies, and titles that they hold. It’s about trying to understand the whole person by figuring out the best questions to ask, the best methods of discovery to get a full picture, and then interpreting what we read, hear, and observe to predict a candidate’s potential for success at Ross and beyond. And then building a class that will make students say, I have amazing classmates. And make our alumni and recruiters say, your students are amazing. All of that is really fun and cool to me.
CA: What’s the most exciting change, development or event coming up at Ross in the year ahead, from your perspective?
SK: Well, in April of this year we launched REAL, which stands for Ross Experiences and Action Learning, which encompasses all the ways in which students can learn by doing at Ross. Students have the opportunity to start a business, advise a business, invest in a business, and starting this past year, to lead a business. The new Living Business Learning Experience allows students to run and manage a business unit, work with senior execs in those organizations, and do it all for credit. This past year, students led business organizations within Shinola, Forward Mobility, and NRP, which is an affordable housing developer. And this coming year we’re going to expand that list of companies to nine.