Category: Student Blogs

Navigating Business School with a Humanities Background

This blog post was written by Aileen Maria-Ritchie, 2017 MBA candidate. After graduation, Aileen will join Nationwide Insurance Company as a process management specialist doing internal consulting in the Business Transformation Office.

Business school can be intimidating for anyone, but even more so for those who come from a humanities background. I completed my undergraduate education at the University of California, Berkeley, with double major in English and art practice. I had avoided math like the plague and didn’t glance at it much until I was preparing for the GMAT.

As a result, it was no surprise I found myself struggling with the quantitative subjects in business school. In particular, halfway through the fall quarter, my finance midterm grade was a stark signpost that I could no longer ignore: I was failing. I realized that I had sat through the first three weeks of classes being so intimidated by the subject matter that I had learned nothing.

However, during the remainder of the quarter, I managed to turn it around. Here are some tips worth sharing from this experience.

head shot of Aileen Maria-Ritchie

Aileen shares her advice on how to excel in business school with a humanities background.

Don’t short sell yourself. Recognize your strengths.
Unlike many of my classmates, this was my first time seeing finance in the classroom. Most of my fellow classmates are pursuing an MBA with a finance focus. There are even multiple certified Level 1 and Level 2 CFA’s (Chartered Financial Analysts) in my class. With this in mind, I felt like I had to work twice as hard—and I started second-guessing my own abilities.

That was until I realized my strengths from my humanities background: the ability to learn, adapt, and understand people. Once I was more self-aware, I also became more confident. I made a plan to understand and conquer my weaknesses and to conquer finance.

Utilize your resources.
My next step was utilizing office hours with my finance professor and the finance teaching assistants. In my experience, office hours are extremely under-utilized in both undergraduate and graduate education. It was extremely rare to have any other classmate attend office hours at the same time—which meant I received free one-on-one tutoring multiple times a week.

My finance class offered three separate sets of office hours with teaching assistants, and I attended all of them for the remainder of the quarter. Sometimes we discussed concepts from lectures, and other times, we reviewed problem set after problem set.

By the third week of office hours, I felt confident and competent enough to complete the problem sets alone. By finals week, I was explaining the concepts of “Forwards and Futures” to my fellow classmates.

Reach out to your team and classmates.
Next, I asked my teammates for help. Once a week, during our lunch break, I reviewed practice problems with my friends. I reached out to a classmate who lives in my apartment complex, and we would work on finance problems together in the evenings. As finals approached, I studied in groups. Learning from classmates and repeating back concepts and problem solving methods helped me to solidify my understanding of finance.

Remember why you are in business school.
My struggle in finance class reminded me why I was here in the first place: to learn. But it was more than that. I was in business school for myself—to better myself so that I could make an impact in my future career. One of my main drivers for pursuing my MBA was that I felt I did not have enough academic knowledge in finance, accounting, and statistics. I knew this was holding me back in my previous job.

Remembering that learning this material would fuel my success in the future helped me to constantly challenge myself. It gave me the willpower to keep going when I was tired, upset, or frustrated with learning. Each time I struggled, I gained more understanding and yearned to learn more. I even began to like finance.

Hard work pays off.
When my grades were finally posted, I received a B+ in finance. My final exam scored an 88/100 and was above the class average. I was satisfied. I had managed to turn the entire situation around, and I now know so much more about financial ratios, the stock market, and arbitrage.

This success is a reflection of all the challenges and struggles that lie ahead. Learning new subject matter is tough. It was frustrating because I had to put myself out of my comfort zone every day. Yet, it was being out of my comfort zone that helped me to truly grow.

While academics are only one facet of pursuing an MBA, it is a challenging and rewarding experience. It was a reminder of how much I can achieve and that hard work does pay off.

From Nonprofit to the NBA: Katie Freiert, MBA Class of 2017

What did Katie Freiert, MBA Class of 2017, do when she learned she had been accepted to the NBA Internship Program?

“My first call was my dad, and he cried on the phone.”

Basketball had always been an important part of Katie’s life, and after spending five years in the nonprofit sector, she hoped that pursuing her MBA would help her realize her dream of working in professional sports. As athletes do, Katie set a goal and then worked to achieve it. She prepared for business school long before she submitted her application by taking a few classes to bolster her résumé and studying for the GRE. Her hard work—both before and during her MBA program—paid off when she received that call from the NBA.

Perhaps Katie’s dad summed it up best: “He just couldn’t believe this [program] had gotten me to where I really wanted to be, and that I was going to really live my dream.”


Achieve your dreams. Get started at Simon.

Five Fast Questions with Tanisha Howell, MBA Class of 2017

The following blog post was written by Tanisha Howell, 2017 MBA candidate, who is studying competitive and organizational strategy and interned with HP Inc. in its HR Management Associate Program. After graduation she will join HP Inc. as a management associate.

How did you know that Simon was the school for you? How did you know it was the right fit?
I visited Simon three times before I made my final decision, and each visit just solidified my decision that this was the best school for me. I had an unbelievably positive experience every time I stepped onto campus. Every interaction I had with alums, current students, faculty, and staff convinced me over and over that this was the environment where I would most be able to learn, be challenged, grow my network, and find the right career path. Other top schools I visited paled in comparison to what the University of Rochester had to offer, and I’m happy to say Simon has truly become my home away from home.

tanishaDescribe the activities of a club you’re involved in.
I’m heavily involved with Simon Volunteers, an organization that aims to connect students with community service opportunities in the Rochester area. We’ve volunteered at places like the Ronald McDonald House, a local nursing home, the East Avenue Grocery Run, and Habitat for Humanity. In the fall we hosted a Fall Ball auction where we raised money for our annual Secret Santa gift exchange for underprivileged Rochester children. We’re active the entire school year and it’s absolutely free to join!

What is your favorite Career Management Center resource/program/offering?
The Rochester Alumni Exchange (RAX) is an amazing tool that connects current students and University of Rochester alumni. This was instrumental in my job search and helped me find and network with people in the field I wanted to pursue.

What is your favorite thing to do in Rochester?
There are a lot of great parks and scenic trails that are fun to explore all year round.

What is your favorite song?
It’s hard to choose just one… Right now, I’m a pretty big fan of Trndsttr (Lucian Remix) by Black Coast.

If you have additional questions for Tanisha about her background or he experience at Simon, feel free to email her. 

Coaching and Consulting — Kathryn Flaschner, MBA Class of 2017

During her MBA journey, Kathryn Flaschner, MBA Class of 2017, learned that a leap of faith can lead somewhere unexpected. Before she accepted her summer internship with Cognizant, she never pictured herself working in IT consulting, but taking a chance helped her realize one of her key strengths: developing trusting relationships with clients that enable her to implement long-lasting recommendations and solutions.

For Kathryn, Simon was a place that allowed her to pursue her professional and personal passions. Along with her classwork, she was able to coach part time with the University of Rochester women’s field hockey team, which she views as a perfect extension of her role in the business world. As a coach and as a colleague, she works to create a collaborative environments that celebrate team progress and individual accomplishments.

After she graduates, Kathryn will return to Cognizant as a senior consultant in San Francisco, ready to add value with clients and colleagues on day one.


Ready to make an impact? Get started at Simon.