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Admissions Director Q&A: Rebecca Mallen-Churchill of ASU Carey

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Rebecca Mallen-Churchill, Director of Graduate Student Recruitment, ASU W.P. Carey School of Business

Get the dish on MBA admissions at ASU W. P. Carey School of Business, as Rebecca Mallen-Churchill, Director of Graduate Student Recruitment, shares what you need to know about getting into the MBA program in our latest Admissions Director Q&A. Mallen-Churchill graduated from ASU in 2005; while earning her degree in theatre and Italian, she also discovered her love for higher education while working for the Graduate Admissions office. After gaining work experience in the hospitality industry and traveling the world, she returned to W. P. Carey in 2013. She has led the recruitment team there since 2019. 

Read on for her insights into the MBA program, including what to expect in admissions, the interview and more.

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

Rebecca Mallen-Churchill: Our interdisciplinary curriculum.  It is increasingly standard for b-schools to tout this style of curriculum, but most often what they mean is that their business departments work alongside or with each other – finance collaborates with marketing; consulting works on projects with data analytics.  When we say this, we really capitalize on our home here at the #1 most innovative university in the country.  Our interdisciplinary learning labs pair our Full-time MBA students with graduate students across ASU.  They work on projects with students in Engineering, Education, BioDesign, Public Programs – the possibilities truly are endless.  This more accurately reflects many of the roles our students will be joining post-MBA; not everyone will work exclusively with other MBAs so our curriculum prepares our students for the real world.

CA: Will the applicant experience look different this year due to COVID-19? Will prospective students have the opportunity to visit campus?

RMC: ASU has been open for business since August of 2020 and just this past fall we returned fully to on campus learning, all of course with health and safety at the forefront.  There will definitely be opportunities for prospective students to engage with us either in person or virtually through our Fall Preview Day in October our Inclusion@WPC event in November or on welcome days for admitted students.  Business is Personal at W. P. Carey and we are committed to developing a unique and individualized visit that suits your needs and interests.  Reach out directly to me to get connected with a recruiter and they can help understand what is important to you and can personally introduce you to the right people to help you understand more about W. P. Carey.

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?

RMC: When we say business is personal, we mean it.  Every person’s application is read by no less than 8 members of our admission operations team and the admission committee.  Once your application is complete, our team first reviews for interview consideration. Not everyone will be invited to interview, but if you are – you have made it through the first round!  Our recruitment team is available to provide you guidance on what to expect in the interview and even provide coaching – we want you to be successful! After your interview, you may have to wait a few days to a few weeks depending on the round in which you applied.  At the end of the round, the admission committee (which is comprised of recruitment and admission staff, deans, faculty and members of our career management team) meet to discuss each candidate.  Then final decisions are made and, if you are in, the first step is a congratulatory call from your recruiter! 

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?

RMC: What a great question!  You’ll notice quickly that we do not ask for a personal statement, nor will we accept one.  We have crafted questions that not only will tell us more about what you hope to accomplish by pursuing your MBA, but how you will contribute to the W. P. Carey community.  The biggest piece of advice I can give here….be yourself!  Speak from the heart, don’t feel compelled to use “business” jargon if its not part of your normal speech.  By no means put anything in your essays simply because you think it is something that the committee wants to hear.  I promise – we’ll know it’s not genuine.  Proofread your essay.  Did you reference the right school?  Are there spelling errors?  Did you answer the question?  A good rule of thumb is to have someone else read your essay, cover up the prompt and have them guess it – if they can’t, try again.  Keep in mind while you’re writing this is often times your first impression to the committee – we would much rather understand what is motivating you and what your passions are than read something that isn’t really you, but you thought would be impressive.

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 (resume-based, application-based)?

RMC: We think of the interview just as much as an opportunity for you the applicant to get to know us as it is for us to get to know you.  We approach the interview conversationally and try to set you at ease at the start.  While we give advice to prepare for the interview as you would a job interview, we are not attempting to intimidate you or act as “gatekeepers.”  We are there to help answer your questions and get to know you!  Our interviews are invitation only and each year, roughly half of our applicants are invited to interview.  The interview is the applicant along with 1-2 staff or faculty members who have read the candidate’s essay and resume.  They typically last about 45 minutes with plenty of time for questions.  In addition to the formal interview, we also have many different ways for candidates to get a “sneak peek” into the W. P. Carey community.  This includes 1:1 connections with our deans as well as round tables with current students.

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

RMC: Reynold Byers and Ned Wellman immediately come to mind!  Dr. Byers has been with our program since 2007 and is definitely a student favorite.  He has taught supply chain management and statistics in the program and I can’t believe the number of students who were excited to take statistics at 8:00am, but then I heard it was Dr. Byers who was teaching it.  His students describe him as kind and outgoing, but still pushing them to challenge themselves with the high expectations that he sets.

Dr. Wellman was recognized last year as one of the top 40 MBA professors under 40.  He recently took over management of Executive Connections (a unique program connecting each student with an Executive mentor), but his most popular class by far is Negotiations.  Students say his course has prepared them for real life interactions and negotiations they have encountered in their summer internship and full-time job opportunities, but also that it is fun.  He makes learning like a game while applying lessons that have a lasting impact on our students.

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

RMC: All of us here at W. P. Carey, from the recruitment team to our incredible faculty, are here to help you.  There is no question too big or too small.  We want to get to know you and help you determine if W. P. Carey is the right fit (plus who can argue with the weather in Arizona)!

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.