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Admissions Director Q&A: Amber Janke of The University of Washington Foster School of Business

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Amber Janke, Director of MBA Admissions (Full-time MBA and Evening MBA) at Washington Foster School of Business

Rolling along with our Admissions Director Q&A series, we hear from Amber Janke, Director of Full-time and Evening MBA Admissions at the Foster School of Business of the University of Washington. Amber has pursued a career in higher education for the past 15+ years, working with faculty and student affairs at universities in California and New York before moving into her passion – admissions. Janke obtained a Masters in Higher Education Administration at New York University and spent 10 years in various roles at NYU before returning to Washington and joining Foster in 2016. Janke cites the “authentic and compassionate” culture and community at Foster as a key reason for her passion for working with the Foster community. Read on for her insights into what else stands out about the Seattle-based b-school, what to expect during admissions and more.

Washington Foster MBA Admissions Director Q&A

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

Amber Janke for Foster MBA Admissions: The Foster MBA faculty! Not only are they thought leaders in their fields, but they also are involved members of the community, attending fundraisers, joining in the annual polar plunge to welcome the new year, participating in (need another thing here).  Given our comparatively small class size to other top programs, Foster faculty are very accessible to current students and alumni. While Foster is often known for its strong job placement and connections to the tech industry, what really stands out to me is our close-knit and genuinely collaborative community, and our faculty are an integral part of it.

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

AJ: The University of Washington welcomed our current students back to campus on September 10. However, we are not able to guarantee that we will have on-campus visits available to prospective students at this time, given the changing pandemic situation. Safety is of the utmost importance, and we will open up our events and campus to prospective students as soon as it is safe to do so. 

The University of Washington is one of the most beautiful campuses in the U.S., so I encourage you to check out various photos, videos, and tours online. We welcome all outreach from prospective applicants and encourage you to set up a time with an admissions counselor for an informational interview (please email us to schedule: [email protected]). You can also attend virtual events, including information sessions, student connections, and other upcoming events. I always encourage prospective students to reach out to our student community, and Foster has many student ambassadors that volunteer their time to share with prospective students. To connect with current students, email [email protected] and share a bit about yourself and what you hope to learn. We will connect you with a current student with similar interests or background. We hope that we will be able to welcome you to campus as a visitor soon!

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?

AJ: I’m happy to demystify the admissions process. We have a holistic review process at the Foster School of Business. Our admissions committee will begin to review applications after each admission round deadline.  A few days after the deadline, we will send a video interview request (via Kira Talent) to all applicants. Once we receive all required application materials, an admissions committee member reviews the application file, writes a review of the applicant file, and submits a recommendation on whether to invite an applicant to interview. The application is then reviewed by multiple admissions committee readers for an additional holistic application review.

If you are an applicant invited to interview, the admissions committee will review the application, consider the multiple reviews including the interview, and make a decision to admit, deny, or waitlist the applicant. Decisions are determined by the Director of Admissions, along with a committee consisting of admissions committee members, MBA Career Management leadership, and MBA Program Office leadership. 

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?

AJ: My number one tip for the essays is to share your authentic self. The admissions committee uses the essays to get to know you through your application, so be clear about your experiences, goals, and why you think Foster is the right place for you to achieve your goals. We keep our essay questions fairly broad, so you have the ability to share your path thus far and your goals for the future. It is important that you are thoughtful about why you want an MBA, and specifically, why you want an MBA from Foster. Use the entire application process, especially the essays, to be reflective and honest about your path and goals.  

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?

AJ: Foster’s admissions interviews are by invitation only and are conducted by Foster MBA Admissions staff. Interview invitations are sent within 4-6 weeks of the application deadline. Due to current social distancing requirements, we are planning for virtual interviews for the near future but hope to open up the opportunity for in-person interviews as soon as we can. In past years, we have invited students to campus to interview or to interview virtually, and we will return to that model when it is safe to do so. The number of applicants invited to interview varies from round to round. The admissions team member who conducts the interview will be familiar with your application. 

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

AJ: Crystal Farh, Associate Professor of Management is an established MBA instructor at UW Foster and leads and teaches required and elective courses in leadership. Students value the inclusive, dynamic learning environment of Crystal’s classrooms, calling her approach to providing students with the evidence-based skills of transactional and transformational leadership motivating, engaging, and highly impactful. As one student wrote, “Crystal has mastered how to teach the most important and difficult of skills: organizational leadership. And she brings joy to her classes while doing it.” Crystal is also an accomplished scholar with a number of papers exploring creativity, cross-cultural interfaces, leadership member voice, and other crucially important leadership topics. Students praise her habit of regularly bringing rigorous and relevant leadership research, including her own, into the classroom. 

Hema Yoganarasimhan is arguably one of the world’s leading experts in combining machine learning and statistics to address critical issues in the domain of digital marketing and online platforms. More recently, she has brought her talents to Foster’s MBA classrooms in a popular elective offering, Analytics for Marketing Decisions. The course is part of a 3-course sequence composing the Foster School’s Marketing Analytics Specialization. Students in this specialization master cutting-edge techniques that allow them to frame marketing decision problems as research problems, gather relevant data, and analyze it using contemporary machine learning and statistics tools to provide insights essential for evidence-based marketing decision making. Students praise the challenging nature of the course, Hema’s ability to help students master sophisticated analytical tools, and her use of in-class, applied learning consulting projects that allow students to see how tools are used in the real world to improve marketing decision making. 

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

AJ: We genuinely want to get to know you through the admissions process! With our small cohort size, community is incredibly important to us here at Foster. We encourage you to engage with admissions staff, students, and alumni. As Foster’s Dean Frank Hodge recently wrote, “We are committed to being a purpose-driven business school that truly believes in bettering humanity through business, doing so according to a set of values that focus on integrity & excellence in an inclusive & respectful community.” We welcome you to be a part of it.

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.