Big-time field trips get MBAs connected

by Kane Loukas

In some cases, Minnesota can be too nice.
“If we get people to come here, then keep them here through two winters, they stay,” said Michael Agnew, director of the Carlson School of Management Career Services Center.
Eighty-three percent of Carlson MBA graduates last year succumbed to Minnesota magnetism and chose not to take jobs out of state.
For companies in the Twin Cities, it’s a sweet arrangement since they can do a lot of recruiting in their own back yards.
Carlson school administrators, however, are struggling to promote the school as a leading nationwide and international institution. It’s a tough sell when the great majority of Carlson school students choose the Land of 10,000 Lakes over anyplace else in the world to work.
To give students a better idea of what’s out there, Agnew has taken first- and second-year MBA candidates on three-day weekend trips crammed with meetings with Wall Street companies like Goldman Sachs and American Express. He also takes students to Silicon Valley, Calif., to meet with the leaders of high-tech firms like Hewlett-Packard, Oracle and Apple.
The idea is that if firms get to know Carlson school graduates, they’ll like what they see and the school’s reputation will improve. If all goes as planned, firms worldwide will increasingly recruit Carlson graduates, and more students from outside the Midwest will apply to its programs.
Fifty of the 180 Carlson school MBA candidates have participated in one of the four high-profile field trips — two trips to each coast — since September. The trips cost about $800, of which students pay $600 while the school picks up the rest. For the price, students get two days of meetings, fast-paced resume shuffling and, if very lucky, a job.
“There’s an East Coast bias,” said Matthew Dudley, a second-year MBA candidate who scored a job with Citibank in its foreign exchange, trading and sales area. “When you’re not from the East Coast they ask, ‘Who are you, what are you doing here?'”
Dudley was one of 12 students who went on the latest New York trip in January. He and three others were invited back for interviews.
“To actually have exposure to New York and get our faces in front of them was great,” said Ted Solomon, a first-year MBA candidate who went east in search of an internship. “Breaking into (Wall Street) is really competitive, and to actually meet with these people is an edge we need to have.”
The Silicon Valley and Wall Street trips are focused on MBA candidates with concentrations in finance and those in the top-ranked management information systems program. Next year, in the program’s second year, the Career Services Center plans to offer the trip to students in the human resources program, as well as undergraduate finance majors.