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Real Humans of UCI Merage’s MBA Class of 2022

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Vince Biondo, Merage MBA Class of 2022

Age: 30
Hometown: Detroit, MI
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology, BS in Chemical Engineering (class of 2012)
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 8 years of experience as an active-duty Army logistics officer.

Why business school? Why now?
I have just completed my time as a company commander and had the amazing opportunity to receive a graduate degree that is fully-funded by the Army. With my background, I have developed hard skills in operations, logistics, and supply chains. I wanted to return to business school to develop my marketing and finance skills and propel my career to the next level. I want to be able to integrate operations and logistics into a cohesive vision and develop strategies to improve businesses in the digital age.

Why UCI Merage? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
First and foremost, UCI Merage has felt like a family from the moment I started the application process. Between the admissions team and student ambassadors, I felt like I always had a direct line to the school and I never had an unanswered question. Second, the small class sizes make the education that much more personal. My undergrad had a similar focus on engineering, and I thrived in that environment. Finally, with a focus on digital leadership, I feel that the course work at Merage is not reacting to changes in the economy and business practices, but rather it is forecasting the future and preparing us to be proactive and forge the new processes that a global and digital economy require.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
While I do not have a business background and rely on my classmates to help me navigate new business concepts, I have management experience that is unique to the military. Leading Soldiers in combat has taught me very valuable lessons in risk management, agile decision making, and strategy development that I hope to pass on those lessons and best practices to my classmates so that we can all improve together.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I brew my own beer, kombucha, and hard cider. It was a hobby that I learned seven years ago while stationed in Colorado and I have continued it throughout my travels across the country.

Post-MBA career interests?
I plan to utilize my MBA to lead a business that gives back to my community. Serving in the military has been a huge honor in my life and I want to be able to continue serving my country once my military service ends. Managing a non-profit or charity that provides health or education benefits to underserved Americans would be a passion project for the rest of my life.

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

Not be afraid to showcase exactly who I am in my essays and interview. There is no formula that says “the perfect MBA candidate has x, y, and z” so there is no right answer. Business is all about people and schools need to see your uniqueness and see how you fit the culture of the school holistically.

–One thing you would change or do differently? 
I would have studied for the GMAT more. It was a harder exam than I expected and even though I took 5 practice exams, I still feel as though I could have prepared more.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Coming from a background that doesn’t use them, I would have skipped writing a resume. It took a lot of work “translating” my skills while still showcasing my accomplishments. Fortunately, the Army transitions program assisted me in preparing my resume, and several drafts later, I had a civilian ready resume that was ready for applications. I would highly recommend using an external service like that to really help your resume shine.

What is your initial impression of UCI Merage’s students/culture/community?
My initial impression was that the school is a family. Everyone in my class has a unique background and perspective and we all help each other succeed both in the classroom and in life. I truly feel like I have developed life-long relationships in only the first month of classes.

One thing you have learned about UCI Merage that has surprised you?
While I know the school advertises its focus on leadership in the digital age, I was absolutely blown away by the quality of online learning. I was worried that COVID-related restrictions would diminish my educational experience, but all of the resources the school has (green screen rooms, Canvas, live-streaming synchronous lectures, etc.) have really made the experience more immersive. While I cannot wait for in-person classes to resume, I do not feel like I am going to an online school.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
The summer internship search has been daunting to say the least. As an industry switcher, it is a challenge trying to market myself, but the Merage Career Center has been amazing. From resume review to mock interviews, there have been minimal surprises from the application and interview process.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? 
Building stronger relationships with my classmates and professors. I have learned so much from everyone already and I cannot wait to see what else we are able to accomplish as the year progresses.

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.