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Laura Cooke

University of Michigan Business School

Laura Cooke is mastering the art of balance at UMBS, where she is not only a student, team member, and recruitee, but a wife as well. After finishing her first year of business school in May, the Ohio native shipped off to Germany for a three-week course on international business. From there it was on to Chicago for an internship at Kraft Foods. What comes next? Another stimulating, exhausting year at UMBS.

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Take Advantage of Fridays
Since we don’t have class, Friday is a group work day. The University of Michigan Business School also has what’s called executive skills workshops on Fridays. Presenters come in for half-day or all-day seminars on things like speed reading, networking, and presentation style. The seminars give you a chance to refine personal skills that you may not flex during class. Those things make a difference in the work force.

Explain Yourself
It’s absolutely wonderful to have an international perspective. My study section is about 40 percent international. Not only do they have a unique perspective to add to the team, but as you are explaining American business customs to them, you are learning yourself. You’re forced to explain things we take for granted, so as you’re explaining it, other team members jump in and explain it, and you learn it a little bit more than you knew before.

Cut No Throats
The majority of our work is done in groups. That’s actually one of the reasons why I chose Michigan, because it represents what the real world is like. We’re all Type A personalities, we are all in business school because we want to get ahead and because we have lofty goals, but when we come together in a team environment the competitiveness really leaves and it becomes much more of a congenial teamwork attitude. It’s cutthroat in the sense that everyone wants to do well, not in the sense that everyone wants to push someone else down to do it.

Search Your Soul
Some people’s goals are to get the best grades. Some people’s goals are to get really involved on campus. Some people’s goals are to get as many job offers as possible in recruiting. It’s important to figure out what your goals are and what you want to be involved in, because the minute you get on campus you will be presented with so many activities, you may get easily overwhelmed. One friend of mine decided global citizenship and academics were the most important things to her, so she worked on community service and grades. It’s much more rewarding at UMBS to pick a focus and try to be president of that club, rather than spread yourself too thin.

MAP Out Your Future
The UMBS MAP [Multi-Disciplinary Action Project] program allows a randomly generated team of five to seven students to work for a specific company as consultants for seven weeks. I did mine at American Express. UMBS gives you a goal, then they give you some project objectives, and you go into the company and treat it like you are outside consultants. By the end of the project you have interviewed people, worked on site, looked through company files, and then compiled recommendations and presented them in both written and oral form to senior management of the company.

It’s an amazing experience from a teamwork perspective and from a learning perspective. It provides important exposure to the consulting world. It’s a pure team dynamic experience where you learn how to complete a project with nobody acting as supervisor. You elect a team leader, but beyond that everybody is equal. Some team members are operationally focused, marketing focused, finance focused. It’s a varied learning experience.

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Students who have worked in consulting before can apply for IMAP — a global project in one of 16 countries in Europe, South America, Central America.

Send SOS Signals
I’ve been married for four years. My husband moved to Ann Arbor with me, and one of the biggest selling points here for us was the Significant Others and Spouses Club — SOS.

It is a great network for spouses and significant others. They have social events almost once a week, they have job fairs, they help each other locate different types of employment in Ann Arbor.I have made lifelong friends here, and so has my husband. And if you ask me, he got the better end of the deal! While we’re in study groups all night, SOS has Monday night football, Tuesday night movie events, Wednesday night bike rides, etc.

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