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Real Humans of the UMD Robert H. Smith School of Business MBA Class of 2025

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Anna Huertazuela, UMD Robert H. Smith School of Business MBA Class of 2025

Hometown: Baler, Aurora, Philippines
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of the Philippines – Diliman, BS Business Administration
Pre-MBA Work Experience (role, company, years): Corporate Banking

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I’ve always wanted to go back to school to expand my technical proficiency and acquire a global perspective. I knew that if I wanted to move up my career, I needed to create value and stay relevant given the changes in the regulatory environment and technological advancement in the financial services industry. In terms of timing, I planned to further my studies back in 2020. At the time I reached a certain level of financial capacity to support myself to go back to school and enough maturity and experience in corporate so that I could contribute and profoundly engage in a business school. However, the pandemic happened and it took another 2 years to feel a sufficient semblance of normalcy to pursue my postgraduate education.

Why did you choose UMD Smith? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
With the evolving demands in banking and financial services, UMD offered an MBA program that can accelerate my exposure to new areas of studies such as analytics, optimization, data science and blockchain, and a curriculum that can create fresh perspective to the traditional business fields such as finance, economics and marketing by directly learning from the expertise of the distinguished faculty of Maryland Smith. Furthermore, transitioning from a corporate to academic setting really put me out of my comfort zone, more so than relocating more than 8,500 miles, but UMD Smith’s admission process was professionally curated – from securing my visa, to new-student orientation and onboarding.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Robert H. Smith School of Business MBA Class of 2025?
I think my unique background coming from the Philippines can contribute a cultural perspective from a Southeast Asian country. Also, my broad professional experience in banking and finance creating various landmark financing projects, sustainability-focused programs, and inclusive banking products can provide great real-world examples to the class.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I’m very much an amateur, but I do paint on some of my bags. I also have some of my canvas painting displayed in my house.

Post-MBA career interests:
Ideally, I would love to work for a financial institution doing developmental finance which promotes poverty reduction, financial inclusion, and sustainable economic development.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I still would definitely get a strong recommendation letter to validate my character and achievements that I highlighted in the application. Finding the right person, as enthusiastic as me during the application, helped me secure a strong personalized third-party endorsement. 

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I would have applied earlier – during the first round. This would have given me more time to assess each school and even better chances to secure scholarship grants.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Honestly, none during the whole application process. I was more than happy to share my background, and who I am with each admissions team. I believed they were looking for the right fit to their program as much as I am looking for the right program aligned with my values and career goals.

What is your initial impression of the UMD Smith students/culture/community?
My initial impression is that Maryland Smith puts great emphasis on diversity and inclusive culture. From the administrative staff to the professors to the students, everyone seems to be putting a concerted effort to create a welcoming and supportive learning environment.

What is one thing you have learned about UMD Smith that has surprised you?
I was pleasantly surprised that I have a very diverse cohort of more than 60% internationals.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I would say I am most conscious of my speaking skills and appropriately expressing myself and my ideas. Worse is if I would offend someone or be taken out of context by using the wrong word or sentence construction. I am working hard to adjust by consciously observing people around me at school and getting feedback whenever I can.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I’m excited about so many things, like immersing myself in the culture here in Maryland, learning valuable business skills from my UMD teachers and cohort, and creating meaningful connections with students, faculty and alumni of the Smith School.

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.