My experience at UC Davis Graduate School of Management


I was recently asked this question by a prospective student “how has your experience been so far at UC Davis Graduate School of Management (GSM)?”

As a student Ambassador for UC Davis, I have been asked this question many times. So I thought of writing about it. Well, one of the things that you need to remember about a quarter system is that time just flies. I was warned about it when I enrolled into the program but only just realized its pace when I am in the middle of the third quarter. My experience so far has been absolutely remarkable and some of the things that have contributed to this are:

My fellow GSM students: Even before I applied to the MBA program, I had the opportunity to interact with students and alumni from UC Davis GSM. It was through these interactions that I learnt about the sense of community and the collaborative culture that exists at GSM. However, experiencing it was something else…it is like being a part of the family where everyone is keen to help you succeed in your goals. Peers at the GSM have been generous with their time and support. I have been on late night Skype calls trying to understand difficult topics before an exam, practicing for interviews over lunch breaks as well as spent countless hours in discussion about the question on every MBAs mind … what’s next? It has been a privilege to be able to both accept and offer support within such a close community.

 World-class faculty:  The Graduate School of Management’s faculty quality is ranked No. 15 globally as per The Economist, 2014 ranking of Full-time MBAs. The professors are not only experts in their field but they are also committed to helping us excel in our career paths. They are always available to provide extra help with understanding difficult topics and encourage in-class interactions to make it a great learning experience for all of us.   My experience of interacting with them and learning from them has been amazing.

 Clubs and activities: The campus is always abuzz with activities, events and workshops. There are student club led activities such as monthly barbeques, peer workshops and celebrations as well as networking mixers, career fairs, speaker series and other professional workshops. There are numerous opportunities available to the students at GSM for personal and professional development.

 Career Development team: The career development team at GSM is committed to helping the students land their dream jobs and internships. Chris Ditto and Elizabeth Moon are always there to encourage students, offer advice and address any issues that we may have regarding our career paths. They helped us prepare and rehearse our elevator pitches, write resume and cover letters, tackle case interviews and build and improve our LinkedIn profiles. And all these things happened even before we started school…yes you heard it right… before school started! The career management team also held workshops for international students on communication and networking in the United States.  Being an international student, these were particularly helpful to me.

At GSM, a small class size implies that everyone knows everyone, and every single person at the school is there to help us become all that we can be.  Because that is what business school is, an opportunity to find and develop the best version of you. I feel privileged to be a part of this culture at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management.

Blogpost by Ruchi Bali – Class of 2016

My Experience at GSM – International Study Trip


During spring break, I went to Switzerland as part of my International Study Trip class. In a size of 35 people, this group started from Zurich, Basel, crossed the country’s capital city Bern, and then ended up at the International organizational hub, Geneva.

During the five-day week, we visited companies and organizations like Novartis, International Red Cross, CERN, the United Nations, Zurich University, etc. At Swiss Re, an insurance company, we understood Switzerland’s competency as a financial center. At Novartis, a Fortune 500 public company, we saw how much effort they had made to attract and retain talents. At MudiPharma, a private pharmaceutical company, this group was inspired by the Greek CEO and his leadership philosophy. On non-profitable side, we gained a deeper understanding on humanity at International Red Cross. We learned the cutting-edge particle research at CERN. From the political perspective, diplomats at US Embassy provided their view of this world, and the mayor of Nyon, a small local city, shared their social service practice.

Switzerland has been a window through which I see the difference between the Europe and the US. Accordingly, business marketing practices in Europe should be different from in the US. As a memo for my international marketing practice in CPG (Consumer Package Goods) industry, below is my summary of my observations on the European market.

1) Customer profile

Language is the first element that contribute to the diversity on this continent. Namely, German, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, and many more. In Switzerland alone, four official languages are mixed with many different regional dialects.

Psychographically, consumers in Europe are highly educated. They work hard but also value family life. People in regions like Switzerland, Germany, Northern Italy and UK work like an engine, leading the prosperity of the European economy. These individuals are independent and confident. They form their opinions and make choices through their own study and research. People in the US and China are more likely to be influenced by words-of-mouth and pop culture. This assumption in difference may lead to a quantitative study on the effectiveness of social media marketing campaign in the Europe. Presumably, the fabulous ROI (Return-On-Investment) of a social media campaign in the US is hard to be duplicated in the Europe.

Europe is not an integrated market, even though the formation of EU (European Union) creates congruencies. It is just as diverse as the US if not more. European countries’ histories are intertwined all together. This has developed the similarity of the customers’ profiles of different countries. However, representing different parties in those historical events, different European countries are also dissimilar to each other. For example, Italian consumers are more likely to be price sensitive than Swiss. French consumers are more likely to be attracted to a prestige brand and style whereas German consumers are probably more interested in accuracy and functionality. The dissimilarity challenges the effectiveness of a uniformed marketing communication package on this continent.

2) Positioning

Each customer segment in Europe is not extraordinarily large in size. This makes it hard for companies in Europe to have a cost benefit through commercialization. However, individual customers there are valuable because their LTV (Life Time Value) is high. The high-level income determines their consumption. Their relatively high brand loyalty is the other contributor. Fewer bounces between different brands allows companies to reduce the advertising expenditure while maintaining a stable customer base and top-line sales.

Given the customer’s characteristics in the European market, differentiation becomes the key to serve each niche segment. While companies in the US and emerging markets can be a cost leader by leveraging the economy of scale, a business in Europe should strategize to serve a well-defined customer cluster with a highly differentiated product. The target customers’ profile and their needs should be clear. The product should solve the specific problem and be superior to other substitutes.

In marketing practice, branding is a subject worth focusing on. Themes such as quality, legacy, prestige, fashion, luxury, should be the messages to the target customers to create value that resonates with them.

A potential challenge for branding is localization. Countries like Switzerland do not have many resources. Their commercial goods mainly depend on import. On the other hand, the small population makes Switzerland a small market in which a cost-leadership company can hardly survive. Swiss residents know how difficult to run a local business, so they strongly support local businesses. As a result, this put an international company in Switzerland at risk if the company simply attempt the same strategy with the global market without a localized image. A brand actively interacting with the local community is likely to be more reputable than those burning money on advertising.

3) External Environment

Besides the customers, the regulatory and political situation also have shaped the landscape of this market. The EU plays a significant role in terms of integrating the market. However, it is a controversial organization. Many countries are still not participating and do not even plan to participate in the future, especially, Switzerland. Additionally, many questions remain. How will the EU system work in the future, how much impact will it have and to what extent will it pull Europe together are questionable?

Let’s put the EU aside. As independent political entities, European countries are not equally attractive to investors.

Among the best investment destinations, Switzerland stands out. Its low corporate tax rate makes it an optimal location for business headquarters. The easy access to its reputed banking industry is another appeal. In addition, its neutrality and independency create the stability to allow businesses to operate in peace. While CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) has become a hot topic, Switzerland promotes the opportunities better than any other areas in the world for businesses to go beyond the scope of profitability. NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) in Switzerland create an atmosphere for businesses or even individuals to think big and perform well while doing good.

To a great extent, all these elements help to offset the disadvantage of the high labor cost in this county.

To summarize, Europe is an attractive and unique market. Marketing in Europe is a complex business practice. As a marketer, you may want to ponder: How strong the brand image is locally? Who are your collaborators? Will they help you to better understand the local market? To what extent can you be adaptive to integrate into the local community? All this must be done before you make a move into this market.

Blogpost by Elizabeth Liu – Class of 2016


Take some time to explore Davis after your GSM visit

One of the most important factors for me when applying to business school was the location. As far as college towns go — Davis is a gem.

After my class visit at the GSM, one of the things I wish I had done was explore the town a little more. Choosing a graduate school is a big deal, especially deciding where you want to live for the next two years. So my advice to anyone planning to visit the GSM, is to tour Davis too. Here are my pro-tips for things to do in Davis after your class visit or interview.

1. Stroll through Downtown Davis. Located an easy walk or bike ride from the Gallagher Hall, Downtown Davis is lively and full of all the usual college town amenities – bars, restaurants, night clubs, coffee shops, and shopping.

2. Ride a bike. Davis is an amazing town for bike riding. There are miles of bike trails that crisscross the city, designated bike paths, and beautiful scenery. If you can’t bring your own bike, there are several shops in town that will rent bikes by the hour. Be sure to ride the 12-mile Davis bike loop that takes you around the entire town.

Here’s map of some of the bike loops you can enjoy.


And check out this cool time-lapse video of a guy riding the whole loop.

3. Explore the UC Davis Arboretum. 100 acres of beautiful gardens for active recreation or peaceful contemplation, and plant collections from all over the world. Ride your bike around the Arboretum loop, take a stroll, learn about some plants, or feed some ducks. Just remember to take your allergy medicine in the spring.

Keep an eye out for the biggest cactus I’ve ever seen. It’s HUGE!


4. Grab a drink at a bar downtown. Downtown Davis has everything for everyone who likes to imbibe – beer bars, cocktail bars, wine bars. Get a taste of the local flavor at G Street Wonderbar. Order a Moscow Mule and play The Simpsons arcade game. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

 5Enjoy the City Park farmer’s market. Every Wednesday evening and there is an excellent farmer’s market with vendors selling locally grown fruits and veggies, cheeses, meats, and crafts. See live music from spring through fall. It’s a great place to take a group of friends, chill on a blanket, eat some food, and enjoy the great Davis weather. If you plan your class visit for a Wednesday, you should NOT miss the farmers market.

6Visit the Rhustaller Farm and Yard. E. Paino is a GSM alumnus who’s brewing and selling incredible craft beers just a couple of miles outside Davis. The Rhustaller Farm & Yard won’t be open again until March 20th, but if you can’t wait that long you can visit their tap room in downtown Sacramento.



Blog by Rachel Peri – Class of 2015

Frequently Asked Questions

Blog by Christine

As a student Ambassador in my second year of b-school, I get asked a lot of questions. From responding to email inquiries from around the world, to hosting the casual visitor during class, to having lunch with nervous prospective students right before their big interviews with Earl, I can safely say I’ve heard it all.

As such, I’ll try to answer some FAQs for anyone considering the UC Davis Graduate School of Management as their future home. Below are my personal answers to the most common questions we get asked by visiting students:

 Why did you choose UC Davis?

I personally chose UC Davis for a number of reasons. The biggest one was cultural fit. I knew immediately after visiting the GSM that its inviting, collaborative atmosphere would be conducive to my learning and development. Everyone I met was so friendly and open to my questions. I had an immediate sense of belonging that I didn’t get from visiting other campuses. My advice to others is to visit the schools you are interested in and see what feels right for you. (Check out this blog post by Chris for tips on getting the most out of your visit to the GSM.)

I also chose the GSM due to its vicinity to the Bay Area. My area of professional interest is in e-commerce, so being close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley was critical for me. My family is also based out of the Bay Area, so that was also a major factor in my decision.

How diverse is the GSM?

A surprising number of prospective students have asked me this question, and it’s always a fun one for me to answer because we are diverse in so many ways. I’ll do my best to cover the main areas where diversity is key.

In terms of ethnic/racial diversity, our student body represents 12 countries, with 20 languages spoken. Each class has roughly 40% international students, which really enables us to learn so much more from each other, as our experiences are varied in many ways and collaboration is key in b-school.

Women make up a big part of the GSM as well. Over 40% of our faculty and staff are women – that is among the highest percentage at top global business schools. Our student body ranges from 30-40% female as well, and our Women in Leadership club is very active.

We’re also ranked #1 by The Economist for the diversity of recruiters and industry sectors that provide career opportunities for our grads. We represent a diversity of industries and job functions, which you can learn more about here.

The GSM prides itself on the fact that our students are not “cookie cutter” MBAs – we really are a diverse group, and we like it that way. Visit our admissions page for even more info on diversity at the GSM.

  1. How do I prepare for my admissions interview?

Lucky for you, I’ve already written a blog post on this subject! Click here to learn what to wear, what the team is looking for in future students, and more. You’re welcome.

What is the work-life balance like in business school?

The answer to this question is different for everyone. Some of my classmates have young children, many of us are married. In fact, during my first year, I was planning a wedding on top of my school responsibilities, involvement in clubs, and internship search. As you can imagine, it was a lot of work! It can be overwhelming, but in general I was very comfortable with my work-life balance and found plenty of opportunities to have fun and blow off steam. This year, I’m on the board of three clubs and taking a full load of classes, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

So there you have it! There are of course many, many more questions, but I hope this helps answer some of your burning questions about the GSM and business school in general.

Blog by Christine Bolghand – Class of 2015

We Are Group!

Li Meng Blog

Group projects are the worst aren’t they? Remember back in undergrad when you always got put with the worst teammates? There was always one person that was only able to meet at 6:00am every other Saturday. Then there was the member who wanted the entire financial analysis project to be about cats and would argue if you disagreed in the slightest. And lastly, my favorite, the one who never showed up. Ever. Fortunately, I can tell you that has not even been close to my experience at the GSM.

Even before classes start, bright eyed GSMers are assigned to teams in order to participate in real, live case competitions organized by Fortune 500 companies. This is the first opportunity to get to know our classmates and how they perform in group situations. From the first day of most core classes in the fall, groups are either assigned or selected by students here in the Davis MBA program. Whether matched up with random teammates or ones you decide, the experience will always be a positive one. With a random group in Articulation and Critical Thinking, I was matched up with classmates I had not worked with before and very much enjoyed learning about their past experiences and varied viewpoints on the topics at hand.



For Statistics, we were allowed to form our own groups and I managed to join an all-star team of 4 eclectic individuals. Though we all came from different backgrounds and industries, we all came together and contributed equally to the challenging projects we were faced with. From the beginning, we spent much time given each other nicknames and pasting funny pictures into a shared Google doc. However, every member’s drive and own brand of humor propelled us to do great work for the projects and the class in general. The food we brought for each meeting certainly did not dampen our spirits.

I hope you are as excited as I am to be working with peers here at the UC Davis MBA and hope that this blurb eased your doubts about group projects at the MBA level a bit. Just remember to bring snacks!



Blog by Li Meng – Class of 2016

Guest Blogger Series–Is there such a thing as “free time” as an MBA student? –By Anton


Anton Mironov is currently a 1st year student at the GSM. He holds a bachelor’s degree from San Diego State University where he focused on Energy Studies with an emphasis on Business Management. Anton recently completed a full market analysis and marketing plan for the Department of Energy’s 2015 Solar Decathlon team from the UC Davis Energy Efficiency Center.

What is there to do while getting your MBA at the GSM besides go to class, read, study, do homework, search for internships, go to MBA career fairs, attend conferences, and did I mention…read??

Yes, this is a piece about time management, but luckily not about how to make sure you finish all your homework. Instead it’s about what to do with that mysterious little thing we know as free time.

Contrary to popular belief, we actually do find time to enjoy our life as full-time students. Being full-time students is a privilege most of us have not enjoyed in close to a decade. The transition from working full time to studying full time can be turbulent because your responsibilities are much less structured. You have to find the sweet balance between playing 36 holes three times a week and doing a conjoint analysis at 3:00 AM.

It’s tricky, but once you get it here are some suggestions of what to do with your free time as an MBA student at UC Davis.

Throw a party. Whether it’s Halloween, Super Bowl Sunday, or Valentine’s Day, your fellow students are probably feeling the pressure of a looming midterm or a report that’s due way too soon.  Giving your brain a break for an evening will let it recover, kind of like your biceps after a hard day at the gym. And socializing outside of a professional setting can do a similar service for your soul. Davis offers a great pub scene littered with killer happy hours, karaoke, and craft breweries. My personal favorite: line dancing at the Davis Grad.

Go to the mountains. I cannot say enough about how lucky we are to be a stone’s throw from some of the best skiing on the West Coast. There are amazing ski resorts within two hours of our doorsteps, and you have to take advantage while you can.

Visit San Francisco. One of the most visited cities in the world is in our backyard. Or I guess technically, we are in its backyard. From the deep culture of Chinatown and Little Italy and the inspiring beauty and freedom of Golden Gate Park or Dolores Park, San Francisco is a fantastic destination for a day trip or a weekend getaway. The cultural diversity of our GSM students is mirrored in the different parts of San Francisco, and everybody can find a place that reminds them of home.

Like I said, you don’t have much free time, but if you capitalize on the time you do have, you will be able to push a little harder when studying for the next midterm. You will also find that experiencing your classmates amazing personalities in a fun environment is incredibly rewarding. We all work insanely hard to maximize the value of our MBA and having a culture that fosters social interaction definitely enhances that value even further.

Teamwork, Initiative, and Super Bowl XLVII—By Chris


On a Sunday afternoon in early February, Lecture Hall 1213 at the UC Davis Graduate School of Management was packed to capacity.  Shouts of excitement and laughter bounced off the walls of Gallagher Hall, as first- and second-year MBA candidates and students from the Master of Professional Accounting program (MPAc) came together to enjoy food, drinks, and a legendary matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos streaming live on the projector screen.  Super Bowl XLVIII was on full display, providing an appreciated break in the high-intensity life of the GSM.

Attendees were treated to a real-time display of professional teamwork, strategy, and perseverance, all in the same room where students test their own mettle in subjects such as accounting, financial analysis, marketing, and business strategy.  Over 50 students, even with midterm exams just around the corner, enjoyed the most-watched television event in US history from their familiar surroundings in Room 1213.

But the real demonstration of team effort and organization took place behind the scenes in the two weeks leading up to the event.

Two weeks prior, student government representatives in the Associated Students of Management facilitated an honest, open-table discussion of ways to improve the student experience at the GSM.  During one session held with ASM President Mackenzie Guinon, several students offered up suggestions on how to maximize and maintain the tight-knit student community that has become synonymous with UC Davis.  In that session, the idea for a school-wide Super Bowl viewing was born.

And why not?  Super Bowl Sunday is revered across the country, regardless of the teams participating.  Friends and family across the nation get together for the big game, and a GSM Super Bowl Party was pointed out as a great way to introduce a classic American tradition to students who may otherwise never have experienced the excitement.

But what started out as a simple suggestion quickly evolved into a larger vision of school unity, as student organizations quickly identified ways to enhance the experience for their classmates.

The Sports and Entertainment Association (SEA) took the lead on getting the lecture hall set up, and coordinated catering from local businesses for the audience.  Recognizing that students varied in their enthusiasm for football, the GSM’s Challenge 4 Charity club organized Super Bowl Squares and Team Trivia to help entertain the audience for a good cause.  And ASM, the backbone of student organizations at the GSM, paved the way for logistical and promotional support.

“The most impressive part about this is that everyone saw an opportunity to make something happen for our school,” second-year MBA candidate and President of SEA Jake MacLeod-Roemer said.  “We were able to organize this event from the ground up in a short amount of time, and it’s all because the different organizations jumped in with both feet.”

“We all saw how we could make this event better, and because we had that shared vision we were able to accomplish more than we initially thought.”

It is that shared vision, and eagerness to contribute that defines students at the GSM.  The concept of synergy, in which an organization’s whole is greater than the sum of its parts, is not just an abstract notion confined to the classroom.  Each contributor, from the individual attendees bringing homemade snacks for their friends and classmates to the student organizations who put in countless hours to bring the school together for an American tradition, understands that the UC Davis GSM’s strength lies in the commitment to each other.

The planning, cohesion, and initiative that went into the GSM Super Bowl Party would have made even legendary NFL coach Vince Lombardi proud, and is a source of pride at UC Davis GSM.


Biology, Photography and MBA—By Wataru


It’s strange how little moments can so drastically affect your future. I was a young lad at the tender age of 12 and I had just finished reading Jurassic Park(It would be the first time I could say “Yeah but the book was better”). But I digress, I could not believe that the technology I was reading about existed in my time. From that moment on I knew I wanted to work within the genetics field of biology. My academic path would reflect this choice as my classes would primarily focus on AP Biology and Chemistry. It went as far as my senior thesis in high school being centered around the morality of genetic research. Four years later I would go on to graduate from UC Davis with a B.S. in Genetics. I mention all of this because my academic life had always dictated my career path and rarely left room to combine interests.

After becoming a student at the GSM I’ve come to realize it doesn’t need to be so cut and dry. I can combine many of my other passions with my pursuit of an MBA degree. In fact it’s not only that I can pursue it but that it is welcomed and encouraged. For example, I took up photography as a hobby about 5 years ago. My old labs would probably have had no interest in my hobby, moreover NDAs would likely dictate specifically not photographing proprietary equipment in the labs. However, it’s different now that I’m pursuing an MBA. You are encouraged to use your talents.  While I am certainly no professional I was responsible for taking the portrait photos for the Ambassador’s website. I have shared the link to my friends and due to the exposure many asked me if I would take their LinkedIn photos. After posting their new pictures on LinkedIn I have been getting offers from their coworkers to take their “professional” photographs at a premium.

After taking Marketing classes this quarter it is interesting to see how value is created and enhanced. I take photographs, I create value. I sell photographs, I exchange that value for money. I find pleasure in knowing how to create value and how to distribute it appropriately. Looking back on my laser focus with genetics I know now that value for my future does not rest solely on my academic pursuits and knowledge but it’s what I do with that information that matters. I have no crystal ball and there’s no predetermination for how my career will look. However I do know whatever path I choose doesn’t need to restrict me from other passions. I look at this MBA degree from a marketing lens now. We are often told that as students we are products of our schools. While I don’t entirely disagree with that statement, more than just the school I think we are all the products of our own individual efforts, and this MBA degree is merely value enhancing. That said, it looks like I’m already a product manager! Seems this will have to go on my resume. ImageIMG_1910IMG_0386

Our GSM Village By Vanessa Errecarte


In July, my husband and I are expecting to welcome our first child into the world. Of course, as first time parents, we have lots of questions—from wondering which car seat is the safest to what to expect in those first few months of having a newborn. They say it takes a village to raise a child, and my husband and I do not doubt that, however, what we didn’t realize is how much of our village we would find at the GSM.

We announced our pregnancy after about three months, right at the beginning of winter quarter. As my classmates found out, the support I received was overwhelming. You see, we have a handful of new parents in our class—three of which had babies during the first year. Immediately my classmates offered advice and answers to my many questions. One even offered some newborn gear that he and his wife no longer need. Additionally, there are three fellow moms in my class, and listening to them about how they balance careers and children has been extremely valuable as I will face that in just a few months. In short, I knew it would be fun to share this experience with my classmates that have become such good friends, but the outpouring of support and good cheer has completely exceeded my expectations.

This feeling extends beyond fellow students to staff and faculty too. I’ve had professors congratulate me and share experiences with me as well. All of this highlights an important point about the GSM. We are more than a close knit community; we are like a family.I truly think this is unique for a business school or any professional program, yet my experience at the GSM has proven to me over and over that we are always there for each other. There have been so many times that wehave put competition aside and helped a classmate with interview prep—even if we were interviewing for the same position; or stayed up helping a classmate master one last topic before a midterm that we knew would have a tight curve. I am certain that this family feel—this collaboration before competition will make us all better business people in a world that is becoming more and more connected by the second.

I always knew that I would have a great network of business colleagues when graduation came along. But now, with graduation just a few months away, I realize every day that we are so much more than just colleagues. We are the village that will help raise each other’s children, pick up the phone at 2 a.m. to help a business school friend weigh the pros and cons of a big move,and practice with that friend for the next job interview. We are the GSM family that extends far beyond just business.

8 Realities Facing Every First Year MBA—-By Christine

In the tradition of BuzzFeed and other funny list sites (my personal favorite being Whilst in SF), I present to you a list of the first-year MBA experience!










…what you THINK you sound like:


…what you ACTUALLY sound like:





(all images via