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Real Humans of UCI Merage’s MBA Class of 2022

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Kelsey Van Hook, Merage MBA Class of 2022

Age: 26
Hometown: Phoenix, AZ
Undergraduate Institution and Major: UCLA, Biology
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 4.5 years, Healthcare Consulting & Medical Device Sales

Why business school? Why now?
I returned to business school after almost five years of career exploration in the healthcare industry. I worked in various professional capacities and ultimately decided to specialize in marketing as it was the best fit for my skills and career interests. I knew that business school would enable me to become a leader in marketing by building my foundation of core business principles, developing my leadership style, and refining my business acumen. I was also interested in the networking aspect of business school – I wanted to connect with classmates and faculty while exploring career paths of Merage alumni and the Orange County community.

Why UCI Merage? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
UCI Merage is a hidden gem. From the intimate class size to tailored career counseling, Merage’s approach to developing strong, digitally-savvy leaders is unbeatable. Merage’s location is also perfectly positioned between two major cities: Los Angeles and San Diego, allowing access to not one but three thriving cities for various job opportunities.

Merage took the time to get to know me as a candidate and provide me with endless resources to learn about their program and people. I was seeking the right culture fit for my MBA program and am grateful to have found a culture at Merage that is genuine and uplifting.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
My most valuable contribution to the Class of 2022 is my tenured experience in the healthcare industry. I bring to the table a diverse perspective that spans patient, payor, and provider. In 2016, I received a certification in medical outpatient coding, further strengthening my understanding of end-to-end care delivery and reimbursement. I aim to share this perspective with classmates and coworkers in my Healthcare Management & Policy electives, summer internship, and post-MBA role.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I love to travel and have visited over 19 different countries! One of my favorite trips was to Australia where I scuba-dived in the Great Barrier Reef.

Post-MBA career interests?
Post-MBA, I plan to become a product marketing manager or market access manager for a global medical device or pharmaceutical company. I am passionate about improving patient lives with advanced medical technology made accessible through far-reaching globalization measures. I am further excited to experience the onset of value-based care contracting and its impacts on healthcare delivery.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?

Visit campuses and meet people! My favorite part about the application process was touring schools and attending welcome weekends. I flew to Nashville, drove along the California coast, and explored new areas of my hometown. In addition to meeting future classmates, I was able to physically see myself studying, learning, and growing in a new city.

–One thing you would change or do differently?
I would have started my applications earlier in August/September and submit by R1. At the time of applying, I was unsure if I wanted to attend school during Fall 2020 or 2021. Looking back, I would have committed to applying when I started prepping for the GMAT in June. I ultimately submitted all of my applications in R2.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Studying for the GMAT and GRE was difficult on top of a full-time job. I woke up early before work to get in a few hours of studying each day. I utilized many different resources to study and master the content. I remained motivated throughout months of studying and retesting with the support of my family and friends. It’s so important to have a strong support system during this process!

What is your initial impression of UCI Merage’s students/culture/community?
The Merage culture is unlike any other – welcoming, outgoing, and energizing. Merage’s brand recognition in the Orange County community has inspired me to become a leader in my program and take advantage of every opportunity. The Merage School has been the perfect fit for my program goals and future career aspirations.

One thing you have learned about UCI Merage that has surprised you?
I have been surprised and impressed by the responsiveness, friendliness, and prowess of our Career Advising and Employer Relations teams. I am wrapping up my sixth week at Merage and have already built personal, long-lasting relationships with my career advisors. During internship recruiting, I had multiple cheerleaders that supported and guided me along my journey to landing my dream internship.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
The transition from working full-time to becoming a full-time student has had its challenges. Business school is a delicate balance that requires consistent reprioritization of recruiting, studying, socializing, and club involvement. The first quarter of business school is the toughest, but I am learning to manage my responsibilities and maintain a healthy work-life balance along the way.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Though Merage has adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by introducing hybrid courses and an advanced digital learning experience, I am most excited for our full return to campus when it becomes safe to engage in traditional MBA activities. I am eager to meet my entire cohort in-person and resume networking events, case competitions, and late-night campus study sessions.

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.