University of Rochester

Business Education

Simon School Launches ‘Early Leaders’ Program

In her first few years at Rochester, Danielle Beale ’06, a brain and cognitive sciences major, planned on a career in science. But in her junior year, after taking courses to complete the management certificate program, she found she was more interested in the business world.

“I liked brain and cognitive sciences, but I realized I didn’t want a lab job,” she says. “Now I’m interested in working in the pharmaceutical industry, combining science with business.”

Beale has discovered the ideal opportunity to do that right on the River Campus, thanks to an innovative program at the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration.

The school’s new Early Leaders Program allows a select group of undergraduates to enter the M.B.A. program immediately after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Unusual in the world of graduate business schools, the program doesn’t require prospective students to rack up several years of “real-world” experience before being considered for admission.

It’s designed to help bring new perspectives to the future of business leadership.
“We are seeking students with a positive, can-do attitude and a willingness to work hard,” says Mark Zupan, dean of the Simon School.

The program requires that prospective students be nominated by key administrators, faculty, or staff at their undergraduate institutions. Students also must demonstrate academic excellence, through high GPAs and GMAT scores, as well drive and dedication.

Every student who enters through the Early Leaders Program is guaranteed a scholarship of at least $5,000, and are eligible for merit-based awards up to $30,000 over the duration of their studies.

In the past, the Simon School offered undergraduates entrance through a program called Simon Scholars, in which they were accepted under a two-year deferral for the M.B.A. program. In those two years, students were required to gain work experience, but the school is now looking at admissions in a different way.

“We want age diversity,” Steven Posavac, associate dean for M.B.A. programs and associate professor of marketing at Simon, told local nominees at a reception held in their honor this spring. “Young students are primed to learn what we teach best—how to solve managerial problems. There’s no better time to start an M.B.A.”

Nominee Jessica William ’06 agrees. She’s interested in getting an M.B.A. that won’t interrupt her career trajectory.

“I can see myself going out into the business world, liking it a lot, and not wanting to go back to school,” she says. “I’m in a learning mindset now. Plus I’ve heard that business schools are losing female applicants because when the business world wants them to apply, they’re 27 or 28, thinking about getting married and having kids. Right now I’m young, and by 30 I’ll have an amazing career.”

Nominee Jonathan Ragusa ’06 says the interest in young students mirrors trends in the corporate world.

“I think in today’s market a lot of companies prefer younger people with fresh ideas,” he says. “More important, young workers can stay with the company a lot longer. So the Early Leaders Program fits that.”

Students must be nominated by two sponsors. Nianda Clouden ’05, a current Simon student, sponsored William and Damien Garcia ’07.

“They definitely have the dedication, and they’re excited about the program,” Clouden says. “They have had leadership roles in clubs and other groups on campus, and that’s important as well.”

Another benefit, says William, is the opportunity to stay at Rochester.

“I was looking at New York University and Columbia just because they’re near my home in New Jersey. But when I thought about it more, I realized I’m more comfortable here—I know a lot of the faculty, a lot of the business students, and a lot of the underclassmen. I fell in love with the school when I chose it as an undergraduate, and I’m in love with it now.”

The possibilities offered by Simon may have been overlooked by undergraduates in the past, says George Cook, a lecturer in marketing.

“We’ve got a very highly ranked business school here, and this program, while it’s young, says to the student body, ‘Stay here at Rochester, because we’ve got a good thing for you.’”

And Simon is in it for the long haul, not just to get through a soft market, says Greg MacDonald, director of admissions at Simon.

“We’re serious about training the next generation of early leaders,” he says. “This is a long-term, concerted effort to attract the best young talent out there.”

—Jayne Denker

Get more information on the program at the Simon School’s Web site.