Taking Care of Yourself: Applications Through Graduation

One of the most important things you can do throughout the entire business school journey, truly start to finish, is developing skills to take care of yourself and reflect on the process.  No matter where you are, whether you are just starting to research schools or you are starting with us in May here are some things you can try out.

Reflect, Reflect, Reflect

This year at NYU has truly flown by, it seems like just yesterday I was excited and nervous about moving to NYC.  Now I am on apartment number 2 and graduating in just two months. One of the best things I have done is keeping a gratitude list.  Every night I write down at least 5 things I am grateful for from the day. School goes by quickly and can get stressful and hard, this list kept my mind on what was going right and reminded me why I loved the program.  Doing this every night set a habit of reflecting that served me well in prioritizing my time and energy in this whirlwind. If something was consistently making the gratitude list, like seeing my friends at school, I knew I should make sure I was setting aside time to hang out with people every single day even when I was busy.  If something was never on the list, I knew it was time to drop that commitment. Time is precious, especially in a short program like this, keep track of what is meaningful and what isn’t serving you and adjust accordingly.

No More Zero Days

During this program I have had weeks that were so busy I didn’t think I would see my apartment, a book for fun or the gym ever again.  I realized these always threw me out of whack, which made my work less efficient which in turn just increased the likelihood of this cycle happening again.  I started making the commitment to No More Zero Days of what I need to take care of myself and my body. Yoga is my workout of choice, so on days when a full class isn’t in the cards, I make sure I do just 1 vinyasa at home.  The first step is the hardest so this usually turned into a longer workout, but sometimes it didn’t! I grew this list as I could, I love reading and it calms me down much faster and more effectively than watching TV..  Again, I decided to read just one page a day, which some days turns into multiple chapters, but sometimes is just one page. I encourage you to find 1-3 things that make you feel happy and at peace and aim for just 1 every day. Some days I still hit 0, but on the days I hit just 1 page and 1 vinyasa even if that is all I do, I go to bed much happier and calm.

Professors Who Have Made a Difference: Jack Hanlon

Jack Hanlon

It is easy to only write about the applications and social things going on around at school, My Pick 6, travels with friends.  But I wanted to take the time to talk about part of what makes being on campus amazing, the professors and the classes they teach.

Bio: My first spotlight is on Jack Hanlon, an adjunct professor who spends his days heading up retail analytics at Jet.com.  Professor Hanlon taught Retail Strategy & Analytics, a required course for the Fashion & Luxury Program, during the Fall semester. One look through Professor Hanlon’s Bio (Forbes 30 Under 30, Cofounder Kinetic Social) will tell you he is more than qualified to be spending his Tuesday nights with the FLUX crew.

 

The Class: More than anything, Retail Strategy & Analytics taught me how to think differently about retail.  Obviously, I am a shopper, and an avid one, so it is easy to view every problem and case study through the view of how I shop.  I made this mistake almost every class and every class Professor Hanlon showed me a new way to examine it. Should a Midwestern supermarket keep dollar deals? Yes, things will fly off the shelf… right into a deficit that will close them down.  (Don’t you dare separate finance and strategy). Does Best Buy have a chance of surviving Amazon? No way. “You could not pay me to shop at Best Buy” said by me just weeks before I started ordering pick up in store items at Best Buy. He proved me wrong time and time again and it felt good to twist my thinking around in circles until I saw what he was trying to show us.

 

The Difference: Every week we had to write a reflection about the class and our biggest takeaways.  I usually sat after class to write so I wouldn’t forget to turn them in. Without fail Professor Hanlon would check in after class with anyone still sitting to see how we were doing outside of the classroom and how we were learning inside of it.  He was always readily available and giving with his time before and after class to talk through any thoughts we had on a topic. And those reflections I stayed after to write never went unread or unresponded to. Rather, Professor Hanlon wrote a full paragraph back each week to each of us about our reflections.  I never felt like I was doing work just for the sake of work, each item we handed in was read and examined fully.

 

Professor Hanlon pushed us as a class to learn more but always made sure we were sticking with him in and out of class.

Join a conference committee!

During business school there are a million different things pulling you in all different directions, it is up to you where you put your energy, time and dedication.  One of the most common questions I get from perspectives is what club do I join and in what capacity. Don’t get me wrong, I joined everything I could and dove headfirst into being a Graduate Ambassador (GA), a VP of Knowledge Management for LuxRet and an AVP in SISA, and loved all of them.  However if you could only join one activity, it should be a conference committee and let me tell you why.

1. Concrete Deliverable

Everything I am involved in has different rewards, as a GA watching someone I have talked to through all aspects of application finally get accepted makes my heart soar! But with a conference committee, I get to spend a whole day celebrating and showing off the work I did all year.  I worked on the NYU Social Innovation Symposium, mostly on sponsorship and had the chance to plan and host a panel. I have never felt more pride in a snack room than the one I got to fill with my hard work. (Even if I did accidentally drop and smash a carton of glass bottles at the beginning of the day).  Watching a panel I spent months coordinating go off without a hitch made me giddy. Working on a conference team you get to watch all of your efforts unfold in front of you.

2. Close Friends

A conference team is usually a group of 5-10 that plans together for months to make the conference day happen.  That means you have 5-10 people you are spending a crazy amount of time with, usually once a week for months. We became a team quickly, things go wrong during planning, it is inevitable and working together to fix problems under pressure makes you close quickly.  I can’t tell you how happy we all were after the conference closed. It was a great way to meet people and develop close connections naturally.

3. Explore Your Interests

As part of a conference committee, you are planning panels, workshops, keynotes etc.  Each conference is hosted by a club, for me it was SISA, and you can get more specific with panels. This usually means you get to choose a panel, workshop or keynote to take responsibility for and plan.  I hosted a panel on the circular economy in consumer goods which included fashion brands like VICENZI and Eileen Fischer, as well as Toast Ale and Mobley. Planning this panel gave me the opportunity to meet new people and dive deeper into something I was interested in.  I know more about the circular economy and sustainable initiatives after planning than I would have otherwise.

 

If you have to be super selective of where you put your time and how you get involved (which you will in a 1-year program) I highly suggest spending that time on a conference planning committee!

What Classes Should You Take?

There is limited space for electives in the Fashion & Luxury program so make sure you use it wisely.  For some that might look like focusing on a specific specialization like Sustainability or Finance. For others, it might be taking as many different classes as possible to gain a wide net of knowledge.  I like to keep my classes organized under three categories, one where I struggle, one where I know I’ll succeed, and one to expand my horizons.

Struggle

Over the summer we took the courses business courses like strategy, communications, accounting, and finance. For me, and I am sure for many, it was very clear which classes I struggled with and which classes came easily to me.  It would have been the easy choice to spend the rest of the year picking classes that came easily to me and avoiding the classes I didn’t do well in like the plague. However, I came to business school to learn. Finance was a struggle for me and my lowest grade over the summer.  NYU has grade non-disclosure which prevents students from putting their GPA on their resume or companies from asking for it. Grade non-disclosure means I get to learn more and take the classes that I struggle with without worrying about lowering my GPA. I am taking Valuation right now with a beloved finance professor because I know it will be a challenge that pushes me to learn more in an area I struggle with.  I encourage you to pick just one elective for a subject matter you find difficult. Challenge yourself to get better, or at the very least to learn. I am not going to leave Valuation ready to go into finance, but I will leave it with a more in-depth understanding of what seemed daunting before.

Image result for dolly chugh
Professor Dolly Chugh

Succeed

For many people, the classes you do best in are also the classes that feel the easiest to you.  This does not mean the course is easy or that you are guaranteed an A, but it does usually mean you will be swimming with the current while doing the homework.  For me, Communications and Leadership were my favorite courses over the summer, I loved public speaking and understanding interpersonal interactions in an organization.  So this semester I am taking Developing Managerial Skills with Dolly Chugh. This has easily been one of my favorite classes during my time at Stern, Dolly is a phenomenal teacher and the course work is fun and engaging to me.  I look forward to doing the reading and am usually a few weeks ahead on work in the syllabus because I love it! Make sure you are taking an elective that you love and plays to your strengths.

Expand

The last category for selecting classes is expanding your knowledge field.  Stern offers full semester courses and half-semester courses. I like to expand with half-semester courses. For me this looks like taking classes on topics I don’t know a ton about and may never use but want to learn more about.  Right now I am taking Digital Disruption and New Media Marketing, each as half-semester courses to expand my field of understanding. Use these credits to expand on something you have always wanted to learn about but may not be directly relevant to you, maybe it is a class in Business & Law, entrepreneurship, or social issues.  

 

Spring Break in Israel

The one year program is too short to do a full semester studying abroad, but that hasn’t stopped me from traveling every semester to a new country.  Over the summer break, I went to Croatia with other one year Tech and Fashion MBAs. I spent part of winter break in Mustique and Italy, and just finished my spring break in Israel.  Some of my trips were student organized, Stern offers both “Doing Business In” and “Trek” options for organized travel. DBi’s are more business focused and usually involved class time and a professor.  Treks are organized by different student organizations and meant to allow people to explore a different culture. For my spring break, I chose to go on the Jewish Student Association’s Trek to Israel.

Day 1 – Jerusalem

This first day we did a walking tour of Jerusalem including visiting the Western Wall and the Stations of the Cross. Watching thousands of years of history and worship overlap in a city and holy sites was moving beyond belief.

Day 4 – Masada & Camel Rides

One day we woke before sunrise and hiked to the top of Masada to watch the sunrise, we played the Circle of Life as the sun broke over the mountains.  After the hike, we did a short camel ride in the desert before our next stop. I did not know I was both terrified and allergic to camels until I was on the camel we named Monte Carlo.  

Day 5 – Sea of Galiee

For many Christians, Capernaum is the holiest site, where Jesus’ preaching was first received and he completed miracles.  We got to dip our toes into this holy water after touring the area. It was hard not to feel a deep connection to the water in such a peaceful setting.

Day 8 – Tel-Aviv

After spending the week traveling all around the country from South to North we ended the trip in Tel-Aviv.  We spent time exploring the city, sitting on the beach, and partying for Purim.

Reflecting on Milan

The new semester is already in full swing but before we came back to NYC we got to spend a week in Milan learning about Italian Luxury.  The DBI in Milan was a two-week excursion with the first week on NYU’s campus learning about the basis of Luxury from Thomai Serdari. For the second week, we flew to Milan to learn from a mix of site visits to companies like Montero and Lamborghini and classroom time at Bocconi.  We spent a ton of time learning and the rest of the time exploring and celebrating how far our class has come.

 

Even though I am in the Fashion and Luxury program, most of my attention had always been in fashion or beauty retail.  I had never really appreciated or understood luxury until learning from Thomai during those two weeks. We started by covering what exactly luxury is; the perfect intersection of philosophy, science, engineering, and design. Followed by how the luxury industry has evolved from open-air markets to our current market.  There is no one who can make the luxury retail space sound more like an enchanting, mystical and beautiful than Thomai. After her lectures, I could fully see the beauty of luxury goods for the first time.

 

The following week in Italy made these lectures on craftsmanship come to life.  We watched silk printing happen in real time at Montero and took a tour of the Lamborghini factory that made me interested in cars for the first time.  These visits truly encapsulated what craftsmanship means in the modern day.

For me, the visit to Milan was especially meaningful since the first night was my 26th birthday. The FLUX class is small at 27 but large enough that getting a dinner reservation for all of us seemed difficult.  Luckily, our class is full of people with different skills who are willing to help out. A classmate took the lead for me and planned a birthday dinner, found the restaurant, took care of gathering information on who would or wouldn’t make it, found a place to go dancing after, and kept a google calendar invite in check for me. Thanks to her my birthday was perfect, almost all 27 people gathered for dinner and then went dancing with me to American top 40s (which was my one goal for my birthday celebration). I am so grateful that I got to spend my birthday in Milan celebrating with classmates. They even sang Happy Birthday to me in Italian at a site visit earlier that day!

Prepping to Apply to Business School

Everyone has a different process for prepping to apply for business school.  I often get asked how much time should be set aside to prepare for everything from GMATs to essays and full applications, what should I write about, am I connected to fashion enough?  It is easy to feel a little lost and overwhelmed looking at the whole application process so I am going to break it down a little.

First, the process is about you, so don’t feel like you need to stick to any prescribed timeline.  

For me, I found out about the Stern Fashion & Luxury program in August and applied for the November deadline.  I studied for the GMAT every weekend and only took it once before applying. My turnaround time between looking at the application and submitting was only a few months because I knew the moment I saw the program I wanted to join.  One classmate spent a full year talking to people at Stern, from students to administrators, before applying. She spaced out her time for the GMAT, took a class to prepare and took it a few times. That year allowed her to take her time and work through everything as slowly as she wanted.  Both of us got accepted and both of us are thriving here at Stern. Your application is your own process, you know yourself best so don’t get too caught up in what everyone around you is doing.

Second, let some fun seep into the process, it doesn’t have to feel like work.

Applying for business school can be nerve-wracking and stressful, but it doesn’t always have to be.  This is a big step, but it is a fun step too that gives you some space to think about your future. Maybe writing the goals essay was easy as pie for you because you’ve always had a 5-year plan, or maybe it can be your space to think through what you want from a career.  The Pick 6 can be your time to reflect on what you value. While there is a goal to this application, enjoy the journey and wade around the in the self-discovery aspects of your application process.

 

Third, let your passion shine through!

The Fashion & Luxury Program is a focused program for a reason, everyone is passionate about something under that retail umbrella.  You are going to be surrounded by people who are as enthusiastic about retail and fashion as you are! If you are looking at this program there is probably a reason for it and you should let that excitement come through in your application.  I was a Gender Studies major during my undergraduate degree where I researched makeup and gender presentation. I then worked as a makeup artist before coming to Business School. These aren’t aspects that immediately come to mind when putting together an application, but they do represent what I am passionate about and I wanted that to come through.  Make sure you include what made you excited about this program in the first place!

 

Choosing Stern

For me, and a few others in my program, the NYU Stern Fashion & Luxury Program was the only program we applied to because we knew it was the only program for us.  For the majority of the class, there were a number of options to pick from for Business School. When you are looking for which program is right for you it is easy to determine the normal strengths like academic rigor, reputation etc, but I didn’t realize the main benefits I got from Stern until I was on campus.  

We all gathered together for Stern Gala

1) Community

Over the summer just the Tech and Fashion & Luxury program are on campus, which for us was a total of about 60 people.  That means for three months you are spending everyday Mon-Thu 9-4:30 with the same 60 people. Within a short period of time, I had a network of people I felt incredibly close with who were all experiencing the same thing as me. My favorite day of the week was Sunday when many of us gathered in the cafe, which come Fall would be full, but over the summer was just us.  We would work on homework together and laugh about what we did over the weekend. It was easy to feel comfortable and at ease with my classmates. The community didn’t end when the Fall started and the cafe filled with other students. Many of us all still sit together to work on homework and giggle and outside of school we still got together for things like Beer Olympics and Friendsgiving.

2) One on One Attention

I’ll admit it, moving to a brand new city, with a new roommate, and starting a new program where I knew no one was a little scary! I came from a non-traditional background and was worried about getting lost during classes or through my career search.  How would anyone on campus even know me when it is always full of people?! What I quickly learned is that at Stern everyone gets special attention. Over the summer we had a number of Office of Career Development (OCD) programming that left me on a first name basis with a number of OCD members.  Another time, we had a special lunch where 3-4 students were paired with two leaders of the Office of Student Engagement (OSE) where we just talked about our life outside of our resume. I learned more about my classmates than I had known before and I felt close with two key people in OSE. When I felt lost about where to go with a problem I reached out to the same OSE members who got back to me within the hour.  I feel known as an individual by almost every office at Stern.

3) Connections

One thing that continues to amaze me is how integrated into the city and industry Stern is.  Our immersions had us talking to C-Suite level employees asking us what we thought of their current business landscape.  The fashion board gave each of us a mentor and an amazing and interesting project for Stern Solutions. The industry is tight-knit and even if Stern didn’t have a connection to a particular company, which is rare, one of my classmates who came from the industry did.  It felt like all the companies that felt so fancy and far away from outside NYC were suddenly all at my fingertips.

Traveling with Sternies

After an intense summer filled with classes, happy hours, and company visits, six other classmates and I decided to go on a REAL vacation to Spain. Prior to coming to business school, I’ve heard from old coworkers and friends that one of the greatest aspects of Stern is the opportunity to travel with classmates.

Step 1: Location

Being in New York City, we had many options to choose from. Some initial ideas ranged from driving down Pacific Coast Highway in California to exploring the Sahara Desert. After a couple days of thinking, we decided on Spain – a place with beautiful beaches, delicious food, and great shopping.

Step 2: Planning

A detailed google spreadsheet was created. We all met up after class one day and planned the itinerary within hours. After identifying the schedule with corresponding dates, we delegated a large but exciting to-do list.

The Fun Part! 

Barcelona

A real football game, shopping, delicious food, long walks on the beach

Seville

Sightseeing in 100-degree weather, siesta hours, more food, salsa dancing

Ibiza

Boat cruise, lots of dancing and napping by the beach

Valencia

Tomato Festival

Barcelona

More sightseeing and exploring this beautiful city

NYC Baby!

I’ve lived in a number of cities in my life: London, Salt Lake City, Chicago, and DC.  No matter where I ended up I was always drawn back home to New York. I grew up in Upstate New York in the Albany area, but my love has always been The Adirondacks, only a short drive away from my parents home.  My heart settles into its place whenever I am surrounded by the peaks and valleys of The Adirondack scenery. So it seemed logical that the next city I dip my toes into should be New York City, close enough to home I can still make it to the Adirondacks but far enough that I felt like I was in a new world.  

Part of choosing Stern was choosing NYC.  Stern directly benefits from the city it is located in, from unparalleled faculty to access to industry leaders. This is especially evident in the Fashion & Luxury program. Where else could you study the business of fashion in the epicenter of where fashion is happening?  I can take a night class with a retail analytics industry leader spending his “spare” time teaching at Stern. I spend my Friday’s with my Stern Solutions fashion client in their downtown headquarters talking about strategy and watching people walk through their store. When this is done I can go shop in midtown at the same Ferragamo store location where I had an immersion session with the CEO and leadership team.  The possibilities are literally endless in NYC when it comes to Fashion & Luxury. Where else could you do site visits with any major store you can think of, usually all in one NYC neighborhood?

The benefits of NYC don’t end with Stern possibilities. It is also a huge part of the Stern culture.  Whenever we want to spend time together as a class we have an enormous number of restaurants, and bars to explore.  If we want to take it easy and enjoy the weather we can meet in Central Park to people watch. When it’s colder we can explore any of the 100 museums in NYC. If for some reason we want something outside of NYC, we are also close to 3 major airports and have taken trips to Spain, Croatia, Mexico, and soon Miami for a change of scenery during the program.  Best of all, our classmates are at most a 30-minute train ride away, while most are walking distance from school.  If we need each other at a moment’s notice, we can be there for each other ASAP.  I can speak from personal experience that I have texted our F&L cohort asking for help carrying something up my 5 story walk up and have immediately gotten responses.  When I need comfort I have friends who bring me a sweater and sit for brunch within a moments notice. Stern Fashion & Luxury provides us with a tight-knit community and big city benefits.

 

NYC may not have the peaks and valleys I am used to. They aren’t green and changing with the season.  But they are still stunning enough to take my breath away and settle my mind.

A Peek into my Pick 6

A regular question I get as a GA is what to put in a Pick 6 application.  Are certain photos too cheesy or regularly seen? Should it still be focused on my work experience or qualifications? What is Stern really looking for in this part of the application?

Don’t overthink it. Stern wants to know and understand you as a person! There is a reason our slogan is IQ + EQ.  Part of emotional intelligence is being empathetic and curious about the people around you. The Stern community is as diverse as it is cohesive, a big part of that is Stern selecting people with unique backgrounds who are as excited about everyone else’s unique background as they are in Stern.  The ‘Pick 6’ is your chance to show who you are outside of work and outside of a resume. We want our community to be built off of seeing the whole person, not just a resume. This is evident in Stern Speaks, an event where students talk about their life outside of Stern and work, and in Stern Chats, a podcast featuring Stern students, professors and administrators who share their life stories.  We want to see who you are in this part of your application and what you are going to bring to our community.

So when it comes to picking photos, choose what makes you unique and special.  This doesn’t have to fit any specific format. Some people used photos of food to describe their heritage, some focused on their favorite cities, and I focused on my family.  During this whirlwind application season use this time to stop and think about who you are, your values, and what makes you proud of your life. This reflection is going to serve you well in and out of business school.  I know regardless of any job, external accomplishment or failure, my family will always be my number one priority and a big part of what makes me, me. Here are two of my ‘Pick 6’ about my family, and I hope it can provide some inspiration to your own Pick 6.

“Almost every summer my mother, brother and I go on a cross-country trip to explore a new national park – being in nature and climbing mountains is one of my favorite memories and daydreams.”

I am lucky enough to be a part of a combined family, the oldest of four siblings – one biological and two step; getting all of us together for holidays is my favorite time of year and also the loudest.”

Know that Stern is so excited to find out about who you are!

Why the Fashion and Luxury MBA?

Getting an MBA has always been a goal of mine, but the Fashion and Luxury program here at Stern offers so much more than that.  My name is Ally Reiner and I am part of the programs inaugural class.  Prior to Stern, I worked in the fashion industry at Ralph Lauren in sales and merchandising.  In my day to day work, I was yearning to utilize my analytical side of the brain and also knew that growing my career required strong business skills.

Picking Stern was a no brainer for me.  The community is magnetic, you instantly feel welcome by just stepping on campus. There are so many ways to get involved and the strong Alumni community was just proof of how much this experience at Stern matters to the students.  Although I knew I wanted Stern, picking the program required a little more debating.  Ultimately, I chose to apply to the Fashion and Luxury program and it could not be a more perfect fit.

Focus

Compared to the two-year MBA program, this program is extremely targeted.  I am very focused in my career ambitions and know exactly what I want to do upon returning to the fashion industry.  Having this expedited program allows me to have that focus academically, taking classes that are specifically formulated to my interests.

Immersion

What also attracted me to the focused MBA was the experiences through the immersion programs.  In the two-year MBA, I would have one internship.  In the Fashion & Luxury MBA, I view it as having a multitude of internships where I am involved in different companies doing different functions; thus, enhancing a variety of my skills.

Connections

The connections within this program are one of the most impressive aspects.  In our mentorship program, I got matched with the CEO of Tommy Hilfiger.  The industry is excited about this new program and helped aid in shaping the curriculum to develop us as the new leaders of retail.

Resources

Additionally, being a part of such a small program allows for impeccable visibility.  The Stern faculty and professors are known for their guidance and help, but, being one of only 60 students here during the summer, we got to take advantage of these resources to the fullest.

Being Welcomed onto Campus

The one year program is unique to the two-year program, we start in the summer, May to be exact, and with a cohort of 30 instead of 400. The two Focused One Year Programs, Tech and Fashion & Luxury, have their own orientation program in the spring where we first meet before starting classes. We then have a whole summer to bond over classes, our immersions, and our dedication to our focused programs. While the campus feels small over the summer with just the 60 of us, it feels booming starting in the fall when the two-year program comes back to campus. Suddenly the 60 students in the Fashion & Luxury and Tech cohort are surrounded by another 800 students. This seems like it could be overwhelming, except Sternies are a welcoming group and not only were they excited to meet us, they were enthusiastic about mixing us into the larger Stern culture.

First, as we started our new semester I wanted to reach out to other MBAs in Stern who interned in the Fashion & Luxury industry over the summer. Everyone receives a list of students with their internship, past experience, and contact information as Stern encourages coffee chats across programs. In this spirit, I emailed six people assuming maybe 1-2 would respond and be able to set up a meeting. Within 12 hours, every single person I reached out to had responded and worked with our crazy schedules to set up a coffee chat or phone call. One student and I got bubble tea and walked around Washington Square Park (NYC location benefits!) while we talked about retail startups. Another gave me a call to go over his internship and interests in sustainability, which led to me applying to be on the conference committee of SISA. Everyone is excited to share their experiences and wants their peers to succeed!

Another way our Focused Program integrated into the larger Stern culture is through clubs and leadership positions. Since we are in the Fashion & Luxury program it makes sense that we would want to be a part of the Luxury and Retail Club, LARC, here at Stern. The leaders of LARC were incredibly excited to integrate us into the club. They set aside a number of Vice President, VP, positions specifically for focused one year students so we could be more involved. Being on the board of a club allows us to get to know our fellow 2 Year, Full-Time MBA students better and mingle with other students interested in the same industry as us.

The last, and maybe the most fun, way we mix in with the 2 Year MBA students is Beer Blast and other mixers. Every Thursday a club hosts a Beer or Bar Blast that takes place at or near Stern. Everyone from the 2 Year , Part Time, and Focused Programs come together to socialize and talk about their week. The first Beer Blast I went to I met a number of the first and second year  MBAs, one who even helped me with my Fantasy Football Lineup! It’s an incredibly fun way to meet new people and mix into the larger Stern culture. The Focused One Year MBAs may be a unique program, but there is nothing separating us from joining together with everyone else at Stern!

Summer Semester in the City

With the summer semester over, we are officially a third of the way through our course. Time has flown by and I’m amazed by how much we’ve accomplished over the past few months.

Starting school in the summer has been a novel experience. While the working world is in vacation mode, we’ve been working hard finishing all our core classes. As each subject only has six 3-hour long classes, we’ve been processing a lot of content in a short span of time. The core classes have been a mix of quantitative (e.g. Accounting and Finance) and qualitative (Leadership and Communications), giving us a strong foundation going into the fall. This jam-packed schedule of classes with plenty of readings, assignments and group projects has definitely made me sharpen my time management skills!

Despite the heavy workload, there has still been time to enjoy New York City in the summer. As an international student, I moved here with a whole bucket list of things I wanted to see and do, and I’m happy to be steadily going through it. Some of my highlights have been visiting the Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the Met, exploring the rooftop bar scene, and watching the 4th of July fireworks from East River park with a beautiful view of the Manhattan skyline.

Being on campus during the summer has been very peaceful. With not many other students around, it’s been nice to have the whole building to ourselves and its always been easy to find a space to study. I expect that to change dramatically come fall when the returning and new full-time MBA students come back to school. I’m excited for us to meet the broader MBA community, return to a more ‘normal’ academic routine, and begin participating in club and social activities.

The Fashion & Luxury NYC Immersion

The Fashion and Luxury NYC immersion has definitely been one of the highlights of the summer. Every Friday over the semester, we’ve had the chance to strengthen our knowledge of the fashion and luxury industry in New York through a host of classes, speakers and field trips and leverage our location at the heart of this dynamic fashion capital. Here are some examples of experiences I found inspiring and informative:

Field Trips

From being treated to a private viewing of Sotheby’s Impressionist, Modern and Contemporary Art Collection to drinking Belvedere cocktails in the Magic Room at the LVMH headquarters, visiting companies off campus is always such an inspiring experience and something unique to studying in New York City. These visits are made possible due to the strong industry connections Stern has cultivated. This is also reflected in our Fashion and Luxury Council, which is comprised of C-suite executives and thought leaders from across the business.

My favorite visit was to the Carolina Herrera HQ. We were welcomed by Emilie Rubinfeld, President of Carolina Herrera, Ltd. , who gave us an overview of the company’s history and present-day status, after which we were guided through the company’s atelier. The whole experience was very on brand and every bit as exciting as you’d imagine it to be. Having such a prestigious brand to open their doors to us was truly special and such learning experiences was one of the main reasons that drew me to Stern.

Alumni Panels and Office Hours

Over the Summer we’ve also had multiple opportunities to hear directly from Stern alumni who have pursued careers in the fashion and luxury industry upon graduation and learned how having an MBA degree has benefited them. One of the most important skills they said they learned was gaining a holistic view of an organization, being able to speak intelligently to a wide variety of teams and understanding the different KPIs that each team focuses on.

Aside from panel discussions, the Office of Career Development has also hosted alumni ‘office hours’, which has given us the chance to speak to alumni in smaller group settings, enabling us to get to know them on a more personal basis. All the alumni I have spoken to have been extremely honest and helpful, and it was great hearing from people who have been in our shoes.

Why I Chose Stern

Last summer, I was sitting in the same chair as you — wrapping up my GMAT and starting to decide which business schools I should apply to. Previously working at Apple in eCommerce strategy and planning, I wanted to go back to business school to strengthen my foundation of business knowledge and continue my professional journey in an industry I was more passionate about — fashion and luxury. When deciding which business schools would make my list, I primarily looked at three factors: schools that had a focus in fashion or luxury, experiential learning opportunities that would expose me to different areas of the retail industry, and lastly, a strong, cultural fit. While many schools catered to one or two of my preferences, NYU Stern’s Fashion and Luxury MBA Program was the only program that fit all my criteria.

The Fashion and Luxury MBA Program was perfectly designed to broaden my exposure of the retail industry, challenge conventional thinking, and build an invaluable network of Sternies who are retail-minded and intensely collaborative. The retail-focused and core curriculum would allow me to build upon my existing knowledge of digital retail from Apple. Stern Solutions would provide me with invaluable opportunities to network with professionals in the industry, and put my in-class learnings to action by partnering with global retailers. Lastly, the school placed a high emphasis on a IQ + EQ and stressed the importance of collaboration both inside and outside the classroom.

Fast forward to today, I can say that Stern has surpassed all my expectations. Classes such as Leadership have taught me frameworks to be an effective leader in the retail industry. Through Stern Solutions, I have had the ability to engage with industry leaders in roundtable discussions and networking sessions. And lastly, the Stern community – classmates, alumni and professors – have been more supportive than I ever imagined.

Even though I am a couple months into the school year, I know that Stern was the right decision for me. When choosing which business schools you want to apply to, if the reasons outlined above appeal to you, definitely make sure to add Stern to your list – you won’t regret it!

INTENDING

Given the structure and intensity of the one year MBA, I realized very early on that intentionality is key to maximize my experience and fully take advantage of everything Stern has to offer. Being intentional helps to set goals, from which I can work backwards to develop an actionable plan to success. Most importantly, this attitude will hopefully serves as a GPS, navigating me through my career transition and personal development while at Stern.

Intentional about goal-setting
Coming into Stern, I was absolutely sure about one thing – absorbing as much information as I can to enable my career switch from finance to brand management. With that, I looked into resources at Stern that would widen my network and introduce me to new opportunities. For example, I’m excited for Stern Luxury & Retail Club’s various events to start in the Fall semester, especially the Annual Stern Luxury & Retail Conference. I also look forward to building a relationship with my mentor Elana Drell-Szyfer. Professor Carr had set up the mentoring program where every student in the Stern Fashion & Luxury (F&L) MBA program is paired up to a mentor from the Stern Fashion and Luxury MBA Council. Beyond these, I made a list of activities and clubs that would help in my career transition. Although the list is constantly adjusted as I receive more information and develop more interests, having a concrete goal to strive towards set my sail straight in these first couple of weeks at Stern

Intentional about choosing classes
Choosing classes for the Fall semester is one of the most stressful things I have done thus far. Knowing that I only have one year and a finite number of credits for electives, I was initially overwhelmed by all the options. And even more so after talking to fellow students and alumni on which classes they found most intriguing. After dreading and avoiding the task for a week, I turned to my trusty old friend Excel and made a matrix. I went through the course catalogue, researched different professors and read samples syllabi. Eventually, I came up with a short list of classes that were interesting and listed (even color coded) them by professors, reviews/ratings and which specializations the classes fulfilled. This list saved me from multiple potential nervous breakdowns! Ideally, I’d like to graduate from the F&L program with specializations in Luxury Marketing, Strategy and Digital Marketing (very aspirational, I know). Because I am looking to expand knowledge in specific functional areas, being intentional with class selection was extremely important for me. With this list, I was able to assess how classes stacked up against each other and which ones maximized exposure to brand management and marketing skills.

Snapshot from my handy class selection list

Intentional about finding your tribe
The world isn’t just rainbows and butterflies and things get rough more frequently than we’d like. And so it takes a village to succeed. I’m so glad to share my MBA journey with these classmates and look forward to getting to know each other better in the course of next year. It’s crazy to think that we will be spending almost (if not) every day together for the next year. Cheers to friendships, shared experiences and growth!

BECOMING


Michelle Obama recently announced that her autobiography, Becoming, will be released in November 2018. I love the book’s title – there’s an air of sincerity in expressing one’s transformative progress. To quote a friend, “becoming” is moving towards the fullness of one’s existence, and I couldn’t agree more. As we truck through the various stages of our lives, we’re constantly becoming something else, something new, and something different. I, too, am excited for a new chapter in my life and what I will become.

Becoming Unemployed
Leaving Coty, my former employer, was harder than I thought. I had found a group of people who supported my development and decision to go back to school even if it was against their own interest. Someone once told me that early 20’s is for launching our careers. As we accumulate experiences and establish our network through 20’s and 30’s, there will be a tipping point where our careers will suddenly take off. For me, taking the next year to explore new opportunities and acquire a wider set of skills and knowledge will enable my transition from finance to brand management. It is a step in the right direction as I integrate my passion for female empowerment with my professional aspirations by using the beauty industry as a platform to reach women of all backgrounds.  

Becoming a Sternie
It’s been almost two months since all 27 of us gathered for the first time at orientation as the inaugural class of Stern Fashion & Luxury MBA program. We have received an incredible amount of support from faculty and were welcomed to the overall Stern community. One month in, classes are well underway. My favorites so far are Leadership taught by Professor Pettit and Fashion & Luxury NYC Immersion. The classes are extremely engaging and I’m constantly challenged to think beyond my experiences and encouraged to develop a holistic and equitable view. The lectures are a collection of concepts and perspectives that I may be vaguely aware of but couldn’t have articulated myself. As I’m having these “aha moments” every so often in class, I realize that a big part of my education at Stern is re-learning how to think so that I’m able to conceptualize things around us and apply that in both my personal and professional life.

Meeting like-minded people who share similar career aspirations and interests is another reason why I chose to pursue my MBA, especially since Stern offers a focused Fashion & Luxury MBA program. Almost all of us come from retail or fashion/beauty, albeit in different functional areas. Because of that, classroom discussions are usually detailed and in-depth as students with merchandising, marketing, operations, and finance backgrounds exchange and share knowledge.

Tech MBA students also started the sametime as us and it’s been really fun getting to know 33 other students who collectively as a group couldn’t be more different than us. As we get to know each other and build deeper relationships, we realize that we share more things in common than we thought. I’m looking forward to many more afternoons in Central Park or hangrily wandering around University Place while looking for a suitable lunch spot for a group of 10.

Friday afternoon happy hours with Tech MBA students

Becoming a better version of me
I came to Stern with a goal of transitioning my career from finance to brand management. By the time I left Coty, I realized that those with the most influence are usually people who can tell a good story and sell that. The story that I want to tell is still developing. But I am excited for what’s to come, excited to see how Stern will play apart in my transformative progress of becoming a better version of me.  

The Power of Iconic Products

One of the main aspects that attracted me to Stern’s Fashion and Luxury MBA was the emphasis placed on experiential learning. As part of our Summer NYC Immersion series, we’ve had opportunities to hear directly from industry experts on their career journeys and real-world business insights.

Last week we had the pleasure of meeting Donald Kohler, CEO Americas & Chief Global Retail Officer at Salvatore Ferragamo, and Nicolas Topiol, CEO of Christian Lacroix. Something I learned from both these sessions was the importance for luxury fashion brands to have icons and emblems that consumers can immediately associate with their brand.

For Ferragamo, one of their most iconic products is the Vara shoe, which was originally designed by Salvatore Ferragamo’s daughter Fiamma back in 1978.  To this day, it’s a classic style and has been worn by modern day fashion influencers like Olivia Palermo and Alexa Chung. The shoe’s grosgrain bow is so iconic that is has also been applied to other product categories, like their Signora perfume.

Mr. Kohler spoke about how constant reinvention of iconic styles like the Vara shoe will always be an integral part of the Ferragamo assortment, however there is also a rich brand archive that designers can dip into and create new styles from. It’s important for luxury brands to strike a balance between heritage and relevance – i.e. using emblems and motifs from a brand’s history in a modern way. An example of this would be Gucci’s use of bees and other nature symbols, which were always part of the house codes but have been reinvented by Alessandro Michele in a very cool and relevant way.

Icons have a very different story in the case of Christian Lacroix. While Mr Lacroix himself became globally renowned as a master couturier, his brand did not have a logo, specific stylized attributes (e.g. Chanel’s pearls or camellia) or distinctive pattern (e.g. Gucci’s monochrome print). Mr Topial acknowledged that this was necessary for a luxury brand, especially when it comes to expanding into new product categories (e.g. homeware, stationary, etc). Hence the brand developed its butterfly logo and its signature “Paseo” motif.

In an age where customers are exposed to multiple brands on multiple touch points, having iconic logos, emblems and products are important in making a brand stand out and remain front of mind.

Going to School in New York City

Growing up in Shanghai, I have always viewed the city as my second classroom, a place that constantly sparked my curiosity, exposed me to different people and surprised me with new ideas. After living in rural and suburban California for the past 15 years, I was ecstatic when I received my acceptance letter from Stern’s new Fashion & Luxury program. The months leading up to orientation were filled with anticipation. Though I was extremely nervous about moving across the country, I was excited to begin my long-awaited MBA journey and meet my new classmates. After a month of being in school, I’m happy to report that New York City and Stern sure didn’t disappoint! Whether it is spotting the latest fashion trends inside a crowded subway or speaking to a C-suite retail executive about the current market trends, the past month at Stern has been filled with endless opportunities to immerse myself in real-world business and connect ideas outside of textbooks.

As one of the fashion capitals in the worlds, New York City is filled with industry veterans. Every Friday, my classmates and I attend the Fashion & Luxury NYC Immersion, an experiential introduction course that provides a broad context for specific business functions in which we are interested in. This course not only opens doors to experiential learning opportunities but also creates a pathway into various networks, including retail executives in different stages of their careers. Thus far, we have met a number of members on the Fashion & Luxury Council, who will be our mentors for the next year. The hands-on learning is one of the many reasons why I chose to come back to business school. Because the retail industry is rapidly changing, it is critical that we gain real-world experiences while in school. As a recent career switcher from investment management to retail, I arrived at Stern with very limited knowledge of the luxury sector. Through on-site visits to Ferragamo and weekly speaker panels, I have learned so much in the past weeks that is only possible in a city such as New York.

At first, I was worried that going to school in a city like New York would hinder my experience bonding with different classmates. Turns out to be the complete opposite! Whether it’s visiting the latest Heavenly Bodies exhibit at the MET (pictured below) or getting together every Friday for happy hours, I have had so many opportunities to connect with classmates outside of the Stern building.

Why I Applied to the Fashion & Luxury MBA

This post was written by Fashion & Luxury MBA student Ashma Kunde

I remember it was back in 2013 that I read an article in Bloomberg Businessweek titled “At NYU Stern, Fashionistas Can Get an MBA, Too”. It spoke about the Stern Consulting Corps project in partnership with the CFDA and it was the first time I read about a business school placing emphasis on the fashion industry. The act of bringing together trailblazing creative talent with tomorrow’s business leaders showed a progressive thinking and collaboration that I found really exciting.

As someone who was keen on progressing my career in the business of fashion, this article was a turning point for me, as it made me consider the value of an MBA in this field. I began toying with the idea of applying to B-school but was hesitant about the time commitment.

Fast forward a few years, and Stern launches the focused MBA program in Fashion and Luxury and applying was a no-brainer for me. This program encompassed all the things that excited me about Stern’s traditional two-year program, but with the benefits of a condensed time frame and focus on industry-specific experiential learning. The latter was a big draw for me, and something I knew the school’s NYC location (a city at the nexus of fashion, business and technological innovation) would be highly beneficial towards.

The launch of this program once again made me appreciate the school’s understanding of where the industry is headed and its unique demands. One such growing trend is the importance of data and analytics. While in the past mass market retailers had the advantage in this realm, nowadays an increasing number of fashion and luxury brands are valuing data as much as design in guiding their decision-making. It’s been great to see how this program provides a solid foundation in data analysis, while also allowing us to build on our knowledge through electives in this field.

Another aspect that drew me towards this program is the fact that we still cover all the core courses, like Marketing, Accounting and Finance, ensuring we have a holistic view of business in general. Having heard from a few alumni in the fashion and luxury industry, a key message that was echoed was that this holistic view enabled them to speak intelligently to a wide variety of teams in their organizations and was one of the biggest benefits of having the MBA.

While I didn’t know it at the time of applying, one of the most exciting things about joining this program has been the chance to connect with the 26 other like-minded individuals on my course. It couldn’t be more different from my undergraduate experience, where the vast majority of my peers pursued traditional career paths in investment banking and management consulting and veering off the beaten path to pursue a career in fashion had been quite a solitary experience for me. Now, it is amazing to have peers who have shared career goals and appreciate both the analytical and aesthetic sides of the industry. Additionally, as the inaugural cohort for this program, it’s been exciting to experience this new one-year MBA program together.