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

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In our latest Admissions Director Q&A, we welcome back Rebecca Mallen-Churchill, Senior Director of Recruitment, Admission and Financial Services for graduate programs at Arizona State University (ASU) W.P. Carey School of Business.

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, Rebecca returned to Arizona and joined W. P. Carey in 2013. In her time working with the graduate program’s office, Rebecca has recruited students from every corner of the globe. She has led the team at W. P. Carey since 2019. 

Read on for her insights into the MBA program and what to expect during the application process.

Rebecca Mallen-Churchill, Senior Director, Recruitment, Admission and Financial Services, Graduate Programs, ASU W.P. Carey

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: 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 an essay? 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. 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 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 oftentimes 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, behavioral)? Will your admissions interviews be in-person or virtual for the 2024-2025 admissions season?

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 comprised of one member of the admission and recruitment team and one from our career center. 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. We are currently offering interviews both in person and virtually. 

CA: What is your testing policy? Do you offer exam waivers? Why or why not?

RMC: The GMAT or GRE remains a critical part of the application for students who want to put forth the most competitive application they can. We do however understand the many limitations students have in the world now so we do offer the ability to request a waiver of the exam. Waivers are typically approved for candidates who have a strong representation of quantitative skills either in their professional background or in their academics. While the discussion as to whether or not a standardized exam is a true indicator of success remains, we find that the process of preparing for the exam is a great preparation tool to be successful in a rigorous program like the MBA.  

CA: In the application data form, many schools ask for information about work experience, activities, hobbies, and much more. What advice would you give to applicants as they approach this component of the application process? 

RMC: You are so much more than just your resume or your GMAT score! This is your opportunity in the application process to really share with the admission committee who you are. We talk a lot about belonging in the admission space and you want to ensure you are authentically presenting yourself in the application process – that will ensure you end up at an institution that shares your values and is truly a great match. In a couple words – be yourself! 

CA: Tell us briefly about two popular courses at your institution.

RMC: Two standouts would be The Future World of Work and Mastering the Art of Negotiations and Influencing. The first is part of our unique Executive Connections program that pairs each of our students with a seasoned executive who volunteers their time to mentor students in the MBA program. Together you work through peer coaching, feedback and reflection to dive deep into topics in leadership and leading in this vastly changing landscape.  

The second is a course in the consulting concentration- students who have taken Negotiations say the course has prepared them for real-life interactions and negotiations they have encountered in their summer internship and full-time job opportunities. They also say it is fun- faculty often make 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)!

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.