Student Profile: Samuel Atkins, University of California, Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

Student Profile: Samuel Atkins, University of California, Irvine Paul Merage School of Business main image

Samuel Atkins is a student at UC Irvine, Paul Merage School of Business.

Before starting his MBA studies, Atkins had eight years’ experience under his belt, with his last role before embarking on his MBA as the Federal Communications Director in the State of Ohio’s Adjutant General’s Department. 

He speaks with TopMBA.com about his reasons for undertaking his MBA at UC Irvine and what he’s learnt at the business school.

What were you doing before starting your MBA/Masters?

Prior to starting my MBA, I was working as a Federal Public Affairs Specialist for the Ohio National Guard. This role was very rewarding. I was able to serve my state, while also leading a cross-functional communications team during state emergencies, the 2016 Republican National Convention, and the 2016 Presidential Elections.

What factors led you to pursue a graduate degree?

I was the first in my family to achieve a bachelor’s degree and I always wanted to continue my education. I feel education is the best way to grow and succeed. I chose the MBA because I want to lead in the business environment and to be a change leader in industry.

What tools did you use to research programs and universities?

Being a military veteran, it was important to me to find military friendly programs. I used online resources such as US News, and MilitaryFriendly.com. Now we have access to so much information online it can be difficult to filter through the noise.  I built my own scoring matrix and developed my own ranking for programs.

What factored into your final choice of where to study?

I had four major considerations: program size, career services, proximity to desired industry, and return on investment.

Program Size: I didn’t want to get lost in bigger programs, so I targeted programs with around 100 full-time students per class.

Career Services: I came to the program to improve my career prospects and secure a position in a top company. I wanted to ensure I would have a strong personal relationship with career services and that the program invested heavily in it.

Proximity: I’m pursuing a career in healthcare/biotech, so I wanted a program with good geographic proximity to a significant number of healthcare opportunities.

Return on Investment: The MBA is a significant personal investment. I wanted to know I was spending money on a program that would increase my future salary, prospects, and opportunities down the road.

What do you most love about the program?

I love two things, the challenge and the diversity of thought.

Since day one of the program, I’ve been out of my comfort zone. Challenging my ideas has forced me to broaden my perspectives and ultimately grow, while challenging my career goals has forced me to reflect on my passions and skills.

I also have access to a wealth of diversity of thought. When selecting a program, it was important to me to be around people who were different to me in all aspects so I could learn from my classmates.  To me this was just as valued as the strategy lectures on the Five Forces and macroeconomics.

What is your favorite thing about the city?

My favorite part is being able to live and study on the beach. I was a born and raised landlocked Midwesterner and UC Irvine is ranked Number 1 for beach lovers and the weather is amazing. It’s pretty cool you can surf in the morning and still make it to your morning classes.

What is your best experience on the program to date?

Meeting my small group. In B-school you spend the first year tethered to your small group for projects. You’ll spend a lot of time working together and a lot of hours after class hashing out ideas and presentation details. The people in my small group have become friends for life and a big part of my success. I caution, individual experiences may differ.

Were there any specific classes, concentrations, faculty or areas of focus that attracted you to the program?

First, the MBA Certificate in Innovation and Entrepreneurship program. It brings MBA students together with other UC Irvine students and investors in the community to cultivate business ideas. As part of the program, you have the opportunity to pitch your idea during the New Venture Competition to real investors. This program is amazing and will test all your business skills.

Secondly, the “EDGE” course, which examines how globalization and digital disruption are changing the business landscape and how leaders can learn to adapt and thrive in this environment.

What do you plan to do once you graduate?

It’s important to me to have purpose in my profession; therefore, I want to work in the healthcare and biotech industry. I feel that in healthcare my efforts will have a positive impact and maybe improve people’s lives. I’d like to start in strategy consulting with a focus in the healthcare industry. 

Would you do anything differently if you could research and apply to business school again?

I was well researched, but it’s important for students to do their homework, visit schools, talk to alumni, and find the best fit for them. Most programs will gladly put you in touch with current students, these are excellent resources to determine your personal fit. If you’re a veteran and considering UC Irvine, let’s have a chat.

What do you think is the biggest myth about applying to business school?

Upon entering B-school, I heard students would be cutthroat and extremely competitive. However, that wasn’t my experience. My fellow classmates were very collaborative and helpful. Everyone in the program has a different professional background and skillset that can be tapped into when struggling.

What advice do you have for incoming students?

Your career hunt begins the first day of classes. In fact, some firms may have already started MBA Intern recruiting before classes start. I would advise incoming students to spend the summer prior to your arrival researching industries, firms, and functions so you can hit the ground running.

Written by Craig OCallaghan

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