A Personalized Approach to Admissions


Dean’s Scholar Gina Bruno (MBA ’15) tours Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Life Flight as part of Health Care Immersion Week.

When new students arrive on campus each fall, I love getting to hear the stories of why they ultimately chose Vanderbilt to pursue an MBA. As you can imagine, the stories vary widely, but one common theme runs through them all: They wanted the personal attention that Vanderbilt offers. One applicant, Gina Bruno, who came to the MBA program this fall as a Dean’s Scholar, had a particularly interesting story to share. To tell about her experience, I enlisted the help of Seth Robertson, an editor for our alumni magazines Vanderbilt and Vanderbilt Business. Here’s what he found:

At Owen, the MBA admissions process is not just about meeting the school’s needs by filling slots in academic areas of focus like finance or marketing or health care. Admissions is also about meeting the needs of the students who apply, and that means listening carefully to candidates, getting to know them as individuals, and thinking strategically about how Owen can help them realize their career dreams. A good example of this is first-year MBA student Gina Bruno’s experience.

Bruno, a Dean’s Scholar from Boston, didn’t take a conventional path to business school. After graduating from Harvard with a government major, she worked for several years as a consultant with Booz Allen Hamilton in Washington, D.C., but somewhere along the way, she figured out that health care—specifically public health—was where her true passion lies.

Bruno saw a real opportunity for someone with an MBA skill set to make a difference in the public health arena, but the other top business schools she talked to were not sold on the idea. “I took a few lumps from other schools about whether the MBA really made sense,” Bruno says. “Some said, ‘Why not a master’s in public health?’ Or ‘Why not a master’s in public policy?’ I kept saying, “Why not an MBA?’”

Her experience at Owen, however, was different. In talking with Consuela Knox, director of admissions operations and diversity recruiting manager, Bruno felt that for the first time someone was actually listening and responding to her ideas.

“I told Consuela about the potential I saw for myself here at Vanderbilt—in the way we try to use interdisciplinary work and experiential learning to make a difference,” Bruno says. “I looked at her face and knew that this is someone who believes in me and what this institution can do for students like me. It was pretty powerful.”

Bruno adds, “I think our admissions office takes careful effort in trying to put together a class that will draw on various experiences and skills. A lot of schools may claim to do that, but I feel like I’m truly valued as an individual in this class. It’s clear that my experience and knowledge matter as much as anybody else’s.”

Before enrolling at Vanderbilt, Bruno got some good advice from one of her mentors at Harvard Medical School. “I was told always to focus on the patient,” she says. “Even in an MBA program, when you’re thinking about budgets and processes, it’s important to keep the patient front and center. At the end of the day, that’s who’s going to benefit from the work you’re doing.”

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