Graduation is a Time for Celebration
The students of UCI's Paul Merage School of Business are exceptional, each with a unique journey and story to share. Many have overcome obstacles, discovered inspiration, and forged new paths during their time at UCI. These graduating students entered their programs hungry for knowledge and the tools to succeed in today's digitally-driven business world, and they will complete their journey under extraordinary circumstances. Congratulations to the Class of 2021! Let us all virtually celebrate each graduate and their achievements as they move on to make their mark on the world.
Meet The Class of 2021
When the COVID-19 pandemic took the world by storm, Full-Time MBA student Gian Multari did not know what to expect from transitioning to online learning. However, he was blown away by the resilience of the Merage School’s collaborative culture. During a tremendously uncertain and stressful time, he received a geyser of positivity and support from his classmates, professors, the administration and the alumni network. He says the Merage School’s “we not me,” mantra assisted him across the board during his virtual school year.
Multari felt supported by the wealth of information on exciting job opportunities his classmates shared. He also appreciated time made for the same lighthearted camaraderie he had enjoyed pre-COVID through virtual trivia nights and happy hours.
His favorite memories and accomplishments stem back to pre-Covid days: “I’m most proud of how I spent my time when we were able to be in-person. My classmates and I volunteered for charity, explored local breweries for happy hours, attended networking events, got involved with school clubs, engaged with alumni, built professional mentorships, competed in case competitions and the list goes on. It was fun and challenging, but I am proud that I said yes to as many things as I could.”
Fully Employed MBA
Preeti Goel will be completing the Fully Employed MBA program at the Merage School with honors, despite the struggles of juggling her career, personal life and academics during the pandemic. During her time here, Goel served as co-President for the Women in Business club and plans to take her newfound knowledge to the software industry. Eventually she hopes to start a business of her own: “I would love to use my entrepreneurial learning and industry experience to create something novel.”
Originally from Dehradun, India and later San Diego, California, Goel was drawn to the Merage School’s specialization in digital transformation. She was pleasantly surprised by the different types of people she was able to meet at the School: “Meeting people from diverse backgrounds and industry was my biggest eye opener. I have been in the tech industry for most of my career hence I was surrounded by homogenous people with a similar background/mindset. I was pleasantly surprised with how much I could learn from the exposure to students with a wide variety of professional backgrounds.”
Goel advises all Merage School students to make the most out of their academic journeys by getting involved. She says “I would advise incoming students to take advantage of all the networking opportunities and interact with as many people as they can. Use all the resources and facilities at the School. Start the journey with an open mind and an appetite to learn. You will get as much as you will put in.”
MBA for Executives
Originally from Texas, Spencer Morris EMBA ’21 decided to make the move to California after finishing his military career. Once he decided on a career in business, he researched elite programs which led him to The UCI Paul Merage School of Business. The curriculum of the MBA for Executives program seemed tailored to Morris’ goals of transforming skills and experiences from his previous career into applicable proficiencies necessary for success.
During his time in the EMBA program, he was consistently surprised by the amount of networking opportunities offered to students: “As the academic center for Orange County, UCI has proven to be an essential component of establishing local roots. To my surprise, many of these networking opportunities have turned into close friendships, which I would have missed if not for this program.”
He is most proud of his experience serving as the class representative for professional development. Connecting with local leaders led him to work with the UCI Veteran Services Center and the Orange County Veterans and Military Families Collaborative. The work inspired a passion for helping others, specifically his fellow EMBAs.
His advice to incoming students would be to remain open-minded and “have a plan but be open to change. Set goals, but don't be afraid to change them as you gain a deeper understanding. Don't assume to know who you are going to become during this program.”
Jorge Reyes, MPAC ‘21, decided on his career just one quarter after classes with the Merage School: “I plan to start my career in public accounting as an audit associate with a national firm. I decided on this career path after completing my first quarter at UCI and talking with current professionals in the field. I also plan to use my experience at UCI to teach and help future students develop their professional skills.”
While taking classes in the program, he enjoyed seeing the talent and knowledge of his peers. He feels extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow both in an academic and professional environment. Although challenged by the idea of balance, he is proud of his ability to manage a full course schedule while gaining experience in his field.
His advice to future students is to create time to connect with your peers and mentors: “Invest some time in getting to know your student peers and your professors. Learn to network and find your path by talking to current professionals in your field. Also, reach out for help when you need support or feel stressed and enjoy your time at UCI!”
Master of Finance
Because of the travel ban due to COVID-19, Zhuwushuang Yan has had to complete the master’s in finance fully online and in his home country: China. While dealing with such an extensive time zone difference, he’s learned to appreciate positivity and optimistic attitudes: “What really surprised me is that no matter the COVID-19 situation, people continue to be so optimistic about the future.” He also appreciated the support and flexibility of the Merage staff throughout such a difficult time.
Despite the technical challenges he encountered, Yan did not let this deter him from making a difference within the Merage School community. He inspired others by becoming an MFin student representative and ambassador. He also attended many conferences and formed study groups so that students could reach out and get acquainted with one another.
He’s interested in a career in the investment banking industry and eventually starting his own investment company. He hopes the knowledge received from his time at the Merage School will assist him in his future endeavors. His advice to future classes of the Merage School is to never be afraid to ask questions, and try to form connections with other anteaters.
Science in Business Analytics
Because she desired a career in technology, Marianna Carini MSBA ’21, wanted to learn more about the field. When she realized how difficult it was to find quality training for a career in data science, obtaining a master’s degree was the next step. She was drawn to the progressive courses, project-based learning and faculty and staff at the Merage School.
Although she faced the obstacle of a virtual learning environment once enrolled, she welcomed the task, and learned how to focus her time and energy, as well as maximize the many opportunities afforded to students: “The Merage School offers so many great leadership roles, speaker events, clubs, projects, and career fairs. I took on as many roles and events as I could. It was a nice challenge to have!”
She is most proud of winning first place at a Hackathon hosted by the City of L.A. She and classmate Ankit Jain were able to create a prototype for an app and website that would connect people in need to food sources around L.A. Currently, the team is working with the City of L.A. to develop the prototype into a product.
After graduating, Carini plans on pursuing a role in data science within the sports or entertainment industry because it is a combination of two things she loves the most — communication and statistics.
Innovation and Entrepreneurship
Jordyn Weaver served as the founding vice president of social engagements and events for the Black Management Association (BMA) at the Merage School. Her role at BMA is to create opportunities for Black students with business leaders in the industry. She helped organize events for the BMA’s inaugural year, including an event with Dean Ian Williamson and the first BMA Conference — ”Empowered to Lead, Equipped to Succeed.”
Not only did Jordyn serve on BMA's board, but she is also managing her own startup. Forefront is a passion project she started during her time at the Merage School. Her goal is to have Forefront serve as an online marketplace for Black-owned businesses, as Jordyn wants to create sustainable Black brands across the globe: “My plan after I take Forefront to market is to become a venture capitalist to invest in underserved & innovative Black-owned businesses across the globe.”
Jordyn chose the Master of Innovation and Entrepreneurship program at the Merage School because it is "exactly what [she] needed as an aspiring entrepreneur." Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Jordyn was unable to move to California for her master’s program. Instead, she took all of her courses online at home in Charlotte, North Carolina.
To her fellow entrepreneurs she says: “If you truly believe in what you are creating, even when the challenges come, you’ll find a way to prevail and make it happen. There are so many mentors, resources and opportunities just waiting for an idea just like yours to be created. Just keep going and always think outside of the box!”
Ever since high school, Aimee Han BA ’21, was drawn to the world of business. Although she was unsure of the industry she wanted to pursue, she believed that the friendly faculty and community at the Merage School would help support her aspirations.
One of the aspects of the Merage School that surprised her the most was the wide variety of resources available for students. Han took advantage of the conference and internships circulated by the Career Center and Undergraduate Programs Office: “I was able to attend a few finance conferences in areas like Chicago, New York City, Salt Lake City, Detroit and Dallas. I have been able to learn so much from meeting students from other universities and networking with professionals from different firms. The International Residential in Prague was also a highlight of my time in college, and I am so thankful for Merage School for that experience.”
Han is most proud of her time spent as a VP of Graduate and Alumni Relations on the MUSA Executive Board. Through this position, she was able to host alumni panels, professional clothing drives and coffee chats with the graduate executive board. She is also proud of the research in synthesizing data and creating surveys with Professor Connie Pechmann.
During her time at the Merage School, she was able to explore industries like aerospace and healthcare which inspired her current career in healthcare equity deals: “After exploring a few industries during my time in Merage, I ultimately decided to pursue investment banking because of its fast-paced environment and exciting market deals.”
When PhD student Nea North began her studies at the UCI Paul Merage School of Business, she was pleasantly surprised by the amount of support and mentorship she was able to receive.
“As a first-generation student coming from a low-income background, the two biggest challenges I faced were feeling like I belonged here and could be successful, and of course concerns about finances. While more students of my background are starting to go into academia, sometimes you still feel like an outlier. However, the mentorship and support I was given by some amazing faculty members made such a difference.”
North initially chose the Merage School because of the transformational research being done by faculty members. She was also impressed by the strong female presence at UCI.
North hopes to pursue a career as an assistant professor. She said, “I spent years working in the industry in marketing and finance, and I discovered that I gravitated to roles where I could understand how consumers think and the actions they took. I also found that I really loved sharing knowledge and developing people.”
She advises incoming students to do everything purposefully, not just to add on to your resume: “There are lots of things you can do to add lines to your CV or provide you financial support, but when someone asks you ‘why did you do it,’ it is good to know your overarching drivers. For example, I took on extra service work to mentor first-generation, low-income, underrepresented students, and I did it because it was important for me to show students of all backgrounds that they not only belong here but can thrive.”