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Admissions Director Q&A: Taylor Martini of the UCI Merage School of Business

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Located between Los Angeles and San Diego, the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business puts MBA students in the center of Southern California’s Tech Coast. In this edition of our Admissions Director Q&A series, we hear from Taylor Martini, who serves as the Executive Director of UCI Merage’s full-time MBA program. He oversees operations, including financial and strategic management, academic programming and supervision of the admissions and student services teams. Taylor joined the Merage School in June 2015, soon after graduating from the UCI Paul Merage School of Business Full-Time MBA Program. 

Taylor Martini, Executive Director of UCI Merage’s full-time MBA program

Read on for Taylor’s insights into admissions, interviews, essays and more at the California-based business school.

Clear Admit: What is the one aspect of your program that you wish applicants knew more about?

Taylor Martini: We bring in prominent resources from industry to set our students up for success.  Some of these resources include expertise in presentation skills, case interview preparation and effective team coaching.  The student feedback is so positive that some of these partnerships span almost 20 years.  Development of presentation and communication skills starts right away during orientation. Our students get group and individual coaching sessions with our experts.  Our students are video recorded while giving their first presentations and that recording is used as a baseline for improvement.  Our students have various check in and feedback sessions throughout the first year of the program.  These experts prepare our students to excel in their internship opportunities.  Employers have validated that this mechanism for feedback and individual coaching has differentiated our MBAs in the marketplace.

CA: How might the applicant experience look different this year due to COVID-19? How would you advise candidates to get to know your MBA program and student community if they aren’t able to visit your campus?

TM: All of our admissions events will be virtual through the summer and most likely fall.  We encourage candidates to connect with us online.  We are hosting digital drop ins, personal admissions consultations, information sessions, ambassador chats, and more.  Our experience page provides videos describing the culture and student experience at Merage.  Also, candidates can take a virtual tour to familiarize themselves with the campus.  We are eager to connect with you, regardless of the format.

CA: Walk us through the life of an application in your office from an operational standpoint. What happens between the time an applicant clicks “submit” and the time the committee offers a final decision (e.g. how many “reads” does it get, how long is each “read,” who reads it, does the committee convene to discuss it as a group, etc.)?

TM: Our admissions coordinator reviews each application for completeness and provides detailed status updates throughout the admissions process.  Once the application is submitted and complete (test scores, resumes, letters of recommendations), the application will be moved to the first read stage.  Our admissions officers complete two reads of the application before we decide to invite an applicant to continue in the process.  If we invite the applicant to continue, then they can expect to receive an invite for a video interview stream.  The interview stream session consists of two verbal questions and one written question.  The responses provide our team the opportunity to share the applicant with other admission committee members.  After the interview stream, we select candidates for full interviews.  Once we have conducted the interviews, the applicants go to an admissions committee that consists of the Admissions Officers, Assistant Dean of MBA programs and the Executive Director of our Merage Career Center.  Using the application, interview stream and interview notes the committee makes a final admissions decision.

CA: How does your team approach the essay portion of the application specifically? What are you looking for as you read the essays? Are there common mistakes that applicants should try to avoid? What is one key thing they should keep in mind as they sit down to write?

TM: The essays give us a chance to learn a lot about our applicants and their career goals.  The objective is to get to know our applicants outside of their test scores, transcripts, and resume.  We want to get to know each applicant as a person and what makes them unique.  Our main essay question relates to our focus on Leadership for a Digitally Driven World.  We want to make sure each applicant has taken the time to think through what trends will impact their future job function and industry.  A common mistake we see made is applicants writing what they think we want to read instead of telling their authentic story.  Applicants should think about their uniqueness and make sure that is represented in their essays.

CA: Could you tell us about your interview process? Approximately how many applicants do you interview? Who conducts the interview (students, admissions officers, alumni) and what is the nature of the interview?

TM: The interview process is an opportunity for us to meet and learn more about each candidate.  We evaluate if an applicant is going to be successful in the program, represent our school well in the marketplace and provide value to their peers.  We also determine if each admitted student will receive the tools and resources they are looking for.  We conduct full interviews with about 1/3 of our applicants.  Only admissions officers conduct the interviews, although you will meet students and alumni throughout the process.  For applicants that can make it to campus, we try to provide a sense of what the community at Merage is like.  This could include sitting in on a class, taking a tour of the school, meeting with a student ambassador or having lunch with a group of current students.

CA: Tell us briefly about two notable professors at your institution (ideally one student favorite, and one up-and-coming).

TM: The two professors mentioned below won the Class of 2020 student awards for excellence in teaching.

Chris Bauman teaches Negotiations, one of our most popular elective courses.  Each week you are given a mock negotiation exercise and compete against your fellow classmates.  When the negotiations conclude, the results are posted for everyone in the class to review.  Discussions then take place about the results and learnings from the exercise.  By the end of the course you will be a skilled and more comfortable negotiator.  Chris Bauman’s research interest includes how people make sense of and respond to their social environment, including the individuals, groups, and organizations with whom they interact.

Elizabeth (Liz) Chuk teaches Financial Reporting, one of our Fall quarter core courses.  Our students praise Liz for her ability to take complex accounting issues and make them easy to understand.  She has the challenge of teaching financial reporting to some students that may have never taken an accounting course before.  She can successfully teach those students with no prior accounting experience while keeping the course informative for those that come from quantitative backgrounds.  Liz Chuk’s research interest includes earnings management, pension accounting, and economic consequences of accounting standards.

CA: Anything else you’d like to highlight about your MBA program or admissions process?

TM: I always encourage prospective students to reach out and connect with the schools they are interested in.  How candidates are treated through the application process can sometimes be an indication of what it will be like to be a student at that school.  At the Merage School, you can have a consultation with an Admissions Officer or connect with our Student Ambassadors.  We love hosting candidates on campus, and it is one of the best ways to assess culture and community at the business school.  Please do not hesitate to reach out and engage with our community!

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.