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Admissions Director Q&A: Brent Nagamine of University of Washington Foster School of Business

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This installment of our Admissions Director Q&A takes us back to the University of Washington Foster School of Business with Director of Admissions Brent Nagamine.

Brent oversees marketing, recruitment, selection, and scholarships for the Full-Time, Evening, and Global MBA programs. He has been working in the higher education sphere since 2013, when he graduated from the University of Washington. He started his career working in undergraduate admissions and eventually pursued his M.S.Ed from the University of Pennsylvania. After joining the Foster MBA admissions team in 2019, he was also drawn to pursue his own MBA, which he completed in June 2024.

Read on for Brent’s advice on how to approach your application, preparing for your interviews, and some of the highlights of Foster’s MBA curriculum.

Brent Nagamine, Director of Admissions, Washington Foster

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

Brent Nagamine: The Foster MBA faculty! Not only are they thought leaders in their fields, but they also are involved members of the community, hosting dinners, attending student organized fundraisers, joining in the annual polar plunge to welcome the new year, and they lead many global study tours.  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: 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?

BN: We work to communicate with applicants on what to expect once they submit the application. Once you press submit, you can expect to hear from us within a few days with a comprehensive “application received” email which will walk you through what to expect while your application is under review. In addition, shortly after the application deadline, we will send a video interview request (via Kira Talent) to all applicants. Within several weeks of the deadline, the admissions committee does a first review of your application, and if it stands out as competitive, we will invite you for an admission interview.

We have a holistic review process, and multiple members of the admissions committee are involved in your application’s review. Decisions are determined by the Director of Admissions, along with a committee consisting of admissions team members, MBA Career Management leadership, and MBA Program Office leadership. Should you be admitted to Foster, we will notify you at the time of admission of both your acceptance and any merit scholarship awards.

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?

BN: We are looking for applicants who can authentically tell us why they are pursuing the Foster MBA by articulately explaining their motivations and goals. Essays that stand out are well-researched, demonstrate an understanding of our program, and detail how you authentically see yourself achieving your goals/contributing to the community at Foster. 

A common mistake candidates make is not spending enough time articulating how the opportunities and resources at Foster, specifically, will help them to achieve their goals. We encourage you to tell us your story while also remembering to connect the dots between your journey and Foster. Before you sit down to write your essays, I encourage you to engage with our community—connect with current students, staff, and alumni—so that when you do write your admission essays you can authentically tell us how you see yourself thriving in the Foster MBA program.

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?

BN: Foster’s admissions interviews are by invitation only, and interview invitations are sent within 4-6 weeks of the application deadline. The number of applicants invited to interview varies from round to round, but our aim is to offer an admission interview to all applicants who have a competitive application. 

Our admission interviews are a mix of discussing your background & experiences, exploring your motivation for the MBA, and genuinely getting to know more about how you could see yourself excelling in the Foster MBA program. Ultimately, we want to use this time to better understand how you align with our values and program resources.

For the 2024-2025 admissions cycle, we expect all admissions interviews to be conducted virtually by mix of current MBA students and admissions staff. 

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

BN: Applicants have the choice on how to craft their most competitive application, and may choose between submitting the GMAT/GRE or applying as test-optional. We do not offer exam “waivers,” but rather, we allow applicants the opportunity to elect to apply test optional by submitting the test optional summary of qualifications. This summary of qualifications asks applicants to describe how their academic and professional experience supports their analytical and quantitative preparedness for success in the MBA Program.

Whether you choose to submit a test score or not, we will still be looking at your application materials for strong signals of academic readiness. It is up to you to decide how to best demonstrate that readiness and if a test score would be helpful in complementing your transcript. As a general rule of thumb, if you don’t believe that your transcript is an accurate reflection of your true academic potential, you may want to seriously consider submitting a test score.

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? 

BN: I think the resume is often one of the most under-utilized sections of an MBA application! To be clear, what I mean by this is that many applicants don’t maximize the potential of their resume for the purposes of applying to MBA programs. If you’re using the same resume to apply to an MBA as you would to apply to a job, you might be missing out. 

I encourage you to remember that applying to an MBA program isn’t the same as applying to a job in your current industry. Instead of including industry-specific jargon and acronyms, candidates most effectively use their resumes when they translate their accomplishments and responsibilities into “transferrable skills.” Think about the values and skills that it takes to be successful in an MBA program, and do your best to highlight those things on your resume. And remember, at Foster, we are okay with a resume of up to three pages—don’t turn this into another essay, but don’t be afraid of complete sentences either. 

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

BN: It’s not easy to choose just two! At Foster, we have so many amazing courses to choose from taught by outstanding faculty. I want to share a sample of some of the options that our students frequently rave about.

  • Problems in Business Finance- This class is a case course examining corporate financing and investment decisions and related issues in financial strategy
  • Alphanomics- The course serves as a primer on active investing in public equity markets.
  • Software Entrepreneurship- A case- and project-based course, focusing on starting a software or hardware company. Guest entrepreneurs, lawyers, and financiers discuss market identification and analysis, planning the business, financing, and typical operating and administrative problems.
  • Data Analytics in Finance- In this class, students learn new technical data analytics skills in three areas of business: finance, microeconomics, and macroeconomics
  • Game Theory and Other Topics in Microeconomics– This course surveys and develops concepts and techniques of game theory and information economics and their applications to issues of business strategy, including advertising and pricing decisions, negotiation and bargaining situations, entry deterrence games
  • Business Analytics: Tools for Big Data- An Introduction to data analytic techniques via quantitative tools and sophisticated software (R and Tableau)
  • Global Business Forum- An MBA class and discussion forum where professionals from around the world share their insights into the complexities of doing business globally – differences encountered, obstacles overcome, advantages discovered, and solutions developed.
  • Consumer Marketing & Brand Management- This course presents a consumer psychology inspired framework for cultivating and maximizing brand equity. Specific emphasis on brand positioning, visual identity design, brand association creation, and brand portfolio management.
  • Strategic Product Management- This course focuses on best practices in new product development including customer-centric innovation, market identification, prototype development, value proposition communication, testing tactics and launch strategy.

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

BN: Get to know us! It isn’t just a cliché statement – at Foster, we genuinely want to get to know you through the admissions process. Community is incredibly important to Foster. Students in the program benefit from a small, intimate cohort size and the ability to know both faculty and classmates extremely well and to make bonds and a network that last a lifetime. The best way to discover this for yourself is to engage with admissions staff, students, and alumni – reach out, schedule a coffee chat, attend an information session, connect with an alum. 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!

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.