Data in an Anecdotal World, and The Chicago Approach

Ardian Baftiri, Class of 2019

Ardian Baftiri, Class of 2019

At the core of the Booth experience is The Chicago Approach— three words summing an idea with as many interpretations as people who experience it. Despite its interpretative malleability however, with enough probing common themes emerge: data, analytics, and results. Equipped with analytic tools, students strut off campus quietly summoning the world before them, “give me your problems, I will give you a data-driven solution.” Then they see, “Trump signs Muslim ban” on their phones and the power of data-driven solutions suddenly comes into question. If empirically substantiated solutions aren’t relevant for winning the most powerful office in the world, we must question what we’ve been preached to. We must question The Chicago Approach.

Now this isn’t an anti/pro-Trump article, but it does use the political arena as an example for evaluating the appropriateness of placing as much importance on data as Chicago Booth does. Continuing with the Trump example, we see the triumph of anecdotes over data in the illegal immigration debate as well. Data shows that immigrants are less likely to commit crime, with illegal immigrants not expected to commit a disproportionate share of crime. However, Trump repeatedly points out illegal immigrants have murdered citizens and he wants to reduce these senseless murders; he then relays the story of the illegal immigrant who killed a natural-born citizen. The story is factual. The argument is anecdotal. The solution is fantasy-land. Yet, the presidency was won! If data is seemingly irrelevant at the most important policy decisions, should Chicago Booth begin teaching “Impressive story-telling” rather than Applied Regression Analysis? Is the cost of a Booth MBA better spent elsewhere?

Despite the seeming insignificance of data-driven solutions at garnering success, the reality is that the argument above is anecdotal as well. We use an anomaly— the political success of Trumpian solutions— to suggest that Booth’s emphasis on data-driven solutions is flawed. In fact, data analysis has never before been seen as important a competitive advantage as now. Businesses across industries are relying on data to drive strategies, and according to research by the Economist Intelligence Unit 83% of professionals surveyed said data is making even existing products more profitable. Ironically, it is also data that made Trump successful, not anecdotes. Decades of data analysis into how our psychological biases could be used in negotiations revealed the importance of storytelling in circumventing the brain systems responsible for critical analysis— what I would argue was Trump’s actual source of success. Nevertheless, the reality remains: data is the future, and Booth is our conduit to it. So as you contemplate classes in coming quarters, consider these: Big Data, Data Driven Marketing, Applied Regression Analysis, and Machine Learning.

Ardi Baftiri is currently a Booth evening student and works in real estate development. He is an avid traveler and has visited over 35 countries.

Taking a Third Class

When I completed LAUNCH last fall, I asked a Seattle-commuting Weekend student about how his quarter was going, and he mentioned in passing that he was enrolled in three classes. An option I hadn’t previously considered.

Part-time students have varied reasons for why they choose to ramp up their enrollment. One out-of-state Weekend student I talked to wanted to maximize academic value considering the significant time investment of traveling. Another student wanted to work around seasonality in their job, allowing for little-to-no course load during heavy seasons. I ended up going for three classes my first quarter as I was personally drawn to the idea of front-loading on classes to provide flexibility in case I choose to elect a full quarter of studying abroad.

Regardless of your motivation for taking three classes or more as a part-time student, managing a full academic plate is a big commitment. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help you decide on whether the approach is a good fit for you and some tips on how to make the most of it:

Key Questions When Considering Three-Plus

1. Does my schedule allow for it? If you’re already working 70 or more hours per week (not even factoring commutes), chances are a third or fourth class may be a stretch when you think about the homework and additional requirements a course comes with.

2. Will taking more classes now be better for me down the road? Maybe the start-up you founded looks like it will soon require more and more of your time. Or maybe you have a transfer to an international office looming on not-so-distant the horizon. In such cases, you may find it hard to stay within the five-year completion window for an MBA. That said, if your time in the near future seems more permitting, it may be a good idea to take on a few more courses now to keep you on track to graduate.

Tips for Managing a Full Load

1. Check course evaluations and syllabi - These are invaluable resources to help you gauge weekly workload of classes and assessing which courses may be complementary. For example, you might want to break up the monotony of three heavy quant classes with a case-based course that involves a reasonable amount of time dedicated to group work.

2. Judiciously use time off for study - This may not be ideal to hear, but if doing well on your degree is high on the priority scale, it would be a good idea to allocate some days for emergency homework purposes.

3. Do a Week 3 Check-in - The deadline for dropping without landing a “W” on your transcript is Friday of Week 3 in a given quarter. At the start of that week, assess whether you think the lifestyle is manageable. If not, it’s not too late to drop.

Of course, don’t forget to available of the resources available to you via Academic Advising and Career Coaching to further help you prioritize.

Klariza Alvaran works in marketing and dabbles in creative pursuits on the side. She enjoys writing sci-fi, crocheting hats, and making music.

Maintaining Your Sanity During Winter Classes

“If you have to take difficult classes or have a three course quarter, aim for winter...there’s nothing better to do!” I’ve heard this quote one too many times in my year and a half at Gleacher, and while I agree that taking Multivariate Time Series Analysis may make better sense when the sun sets before 5pm, it is clear with Winter quarter midterms that we each need something more in the Chicago cold than work and school. Hopefully these suggestions will help you keep your sanity until spring.

“Read” Something Non-School Related

We’ve all told ourselves that we will pick up a book after the quarter ends, but how often does that actually happen? I know it can be difficult to get in the habit of reading for pleasure when there’s enough to deal with class-wise, but a great alternative are audiobooks. Whether it’s Audible or something else, I would recommend giving an audiobook a try for your downtime during the day or at work. For shorter, more direct listening satisfaction, podcasts can also help stimulate the mind without much time or effort.

Attend a Bulls or Blackhawks Game

I know the Bulls are a mess and that hockey isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, however there’s more to Chicago sports than the Cubs. Since I first went to the United Center in 1995, the food, drinks, and overall vibe have improved significantly, and with West Loop restaurants and bars down the street, it could be the perfect evening escape from throughput and derivatives.

Try New Coffee Shops

Too much studying to do? Sick of doing it at home or Gleacher? I’d definitely recommend trying a new coffee shop. From Sip in West Loop to Eva’s Cafe in Old Town, each neighborhood around Chicago has their own hidden gems in the coffee realm. Getting work done, leaving the house, and warming up over a caffeinated beverage can really kill three birds with one stone on the bleakest of days.

Visit George on the Second Floor!

We can’t change the fact that we’ll have to still spend a good amount of time at Gleacher every week, and with the Midway Club closed until spring, “beverages” may seem hard to come by. However, the Gleacher bar is still alive and well on the 2nd floor lounge and George is always looking for company.

As we plow through the rest of winter quarter with dreams of warmer times on the horizon, please don’t let anything hold you back from enjoying these next few months.

Mike is an Evening MBA Student and Senior Talent Acquisition Consultant at Vista Consulting Group. His hobbies include distance running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.

The MBA Candidate: Greedy or Good?

Ask 100 working-age individuals why someone would intensively pursue a career in business. What do you think the most common response would be?

                 Ardi Baftiri, Class of 2019

                 Ardi Baftiri, Class of 2019

Often the response revolves around money and greed— not Adam Smith’s broad “self-interest,” but the type of greed you don’t want your friends to have. Immediately people conjure up stereotypical images of a Gordon Gekko-esque executive reveling in egomania. They see the MBA candidate as the money-hungry suitor of the next promotion.

Bombarded with these stereotypes and entering an elite MBA program, I feared an environment with a Wolf of Wall Street around every corner. With a few quarters down, I’m writing this to communicate the reality of how greedy my fellow Boothies are, the reality of why they’re pursuing an MBA, and the learning environment their motivations create. In doing so I hope to ease a potential fear for the recently admitted, inspire motivated professionals to consider an MBA, and encourage MBA candidates to forcefully confront the stereotypes cast upon them. Sadly, the recent rise in populism brought about by the invisible forces of global economics has found a scapegoat in the financial industry; with investment management, consulting, and financial services comprising the top 3 industries of Booth MBA candidates, sharing the reality of who the MBA candidate is has become more important than ever.

Let's begin by admitting the obvious: most MBA candidates around you are looking for their next career opportunity and eventually will make more money. The hidden truth, however? By and large the vast majority are searching for the “right” next step, not the next big check. Geoff Foulk is the perfect example of the type of person you’ll meet at Booth: smart, successful, and genuinely passionate. When asked why he’s pursuing an MBA his response was simple: “I’m passionate about energy, and it's obviously going to be a problem in the future. I want to apply the Chicago Approach to that problem…I’m not doing it for the money; I’m doing it to influence the outcome for a future I might not ever see.”  

Although anecdotal, empirical evidence too has shown no causal relationship between incomes and happiness once incomes reach about $75,000. Pre-MBA students, I suspect, are distributed near that figure, suggesting they’re now searching for careers that fuel their passions rather than fanatically fighting for random promotions. With corrosive self-interest stymied, business school becomes a concentrated melting pot of genuinely passionate individuals who you want to engage and collaborate with. Ironically, rarely will you encounter the stereotypical businessperson in business school; rather, you witness the inspiring pursuits of people motivated by visions of a brighter tomorrow for everyone. The Social Enterprise Initiative, New Social Venture, and Social Enterprise Lab stand as a testament to the sincere motivations of MBA candidates. The daily encounters you always wish could last longer stand as a testament to the character of the MBA candidate. So if you’re new, engage! If you know someone passionate looking for the next career step, suggest a Booth info session. If you’re an MBA candidate, push back on the stereotypes!

Ardi Baftiri is currently a Booth evening student and works in real estate development. He is an avid traveler and has visited over 35 countries.


IRL with Ryan Bormet

As the country transitions to new leadership this month, so does Booth’s student government. In the spirit of celebrating his accomplishments, we’re pleased to feature Ryan Bormet, who was most recently the Student Advisory Council’s Co-President. Over the course of his one year as president, Ryan has learned many lessons that he has applied to his real life.

Ryan Bormet, Class of 2017

Ryan Bormet, Class of 2017

You likely already know Ryan Bormet, who was Co-President of the Student Advisory Council in 2016. You may also know him from co-founding the Sales Club, serving as the Mentor Coordinator, interviewing Professor Randall Kroszner, taking advantage of every class, being one of the most visible student leaders on campus, and much more. These leadership positions have taught Ryan many lessons he’s applied in real life.

Ryan shares, “Whenever you’re working with people, you learn the balance of leadership—of knowing when to step in and take action and when to stand back and allow others to take the reins. That’s been invaluable.”

Thanks to his role as an advocate for the E/W student population, Ryan also has the regular opportunity to practice perspective-taking. “I've worked hard to check my own viewpoint and opinion in order to fully consider the perspectives and interests of my peers. I think this is a critical leadership skill, but certainly takes practice since my immediate thought is typically my own opinion,” he shares.

So to Ryan, it was important not just to think about one set of super involved students, but all students with multiple priorities – including those with exceptionally demanding jobs, suburban commutes, and families. “These groups are all equally important parts of the student population – so it’s crucial to make sure we’re thinking about the diverse set of needs across that whole population,” he says. With Ryan’s leadership, SAC continued to promote events to all students.

Learning perspective can help when navigating difficult situations, and it takes practice to learn this with grace. Thanks to his role as Mentor Coordinator, Ryan practiced this art in real life with peers. Some quarters, 60 people applied to 20 spots.

“Having those emotionally-charged conversations is difficult,” he says. “It’s about being composed and being thoughtful about others’ perspectives in those conversations. It’s definitely applicable to work when dealing with a client who is frustrated or a colleague who is angry about something.”

Of course, in these leadership roles, Ryan had many opportunities to practice public speaking. This immediately applied to his real life.

“I presented to all of the incoming students at LAUNCH. I wanted to represent the community well and make them excited about starting at Booth,” he shares. He even recorded one of them to listen back to it to make improvements.

Catherine Frances Napier, Class of 2018

Catherine Frances Napier, Class of 2018

This practice immediately benefited Ryan at work, where he was asked to moderate a panel with four executive level employees. With all the practice Ryan has had through Booth, it’s no surprise he got a lot of compliments.

Through leadership opportunities and excellent classroom experiences, Booth has given Ryan what he calls “an incredible foundation”.

In his own words:

“Booth has given me business acumen, knowledge, and confidence. I know I am not always going to have the answer, but we are equipped with the insight to ask intelligent questions and the thought processes to figure it out.”

We’d like to thank Ryan for the impact he’s made on Booth.

Stay on Track this 2017


2017 is underway, which means it’s time to get rolling on this year’s goals and resolutions.

Excel tracking docs can be key in staying organized

Excel tracking docs can be key in staying organized

Seeing how you’re progressing toward a goal can be a challenge. Fortunately, resources such as Google Sheets and saving an Excel document to a cloud drive make it easy to log priorities and monitor progress wherever you have an Internet connection.

As you begin to solidify what goals you hope to achieve and big decisions you need to make for 2017 are, consider making a spreadsheet “tracker” for key areas where you want to stay on track.

1. Hobbies

The New Year typically brings out a desire to try new things, but with so little time and so many options, a spreadsheet can help keep the undertaking from being too daunting. Use a spreadsheet to keep an ongoing list of what you’d like to try, where you can make it happen, and any accomplishments or highlights from those experiences.

2. Picking classes

The 20 classes we take for our degrees (add onto that the “Take Three” and the three you can elect post-grad) is a finite number that becomes even more apparent when you think about all the Booth and non-Booth classes at a student’s disposal.

Laying out fields in your tracker for your top three to five core selection criteria and the sub-considerations beneath those can help you prioritize what kind of course structure, objectives, workload per week, and professors are the best fit for your needs and preferences.

3. Moving to a new city

You will probably need more than just a spreadsheet to figure out where you would like to move after or over the course of your MBA. However, some basic tables in a spreadsheet can be useful in the initial information-gathering phase. Some useful starting points to examine might be:

  • Contacts at Booth who live or used to live there to ask for information

  • Target companies in the new and attributes such as typical commute time

  • Proximity to leisure activities (like a Krav Maga gym, hiking trails, etc.)

No person is an island

One way to stay accountable is to share your trackers with a friend and/or mentor and schedule periodic check-ins with them. As you become more deeply immersed in the day-to-day grind of working toward your goals and life in general, a second set of eyes on your progress can be immensely helpful to ensure that you keep sight of the big picture and have a firm grasp of your priorities.

Have fun with the process

Klariza Alvaran, Class of 2019

Klariza Alvaran, Class of 2019

Working incrementally is a great way to bring sustainable change into your lifestyle. Doing that 100 hours of boxing training in one month that you were meaning to do in 2017 may allow you to check the box off your goals list, but you might also get burned out. Spreading out a goal without a rigid timeline can help relieve pressure and even lead you to organically find the best way to fit the change seamlessly into your schedule.

Klariza Alvaran is working on several short stories and novels, while doing marketing on the side. She enjoys writing sci-fi, crocheting hats, and making music.


Taking a Measured Risk: IRL with Pam Roxas

Pam Roxas ('17) took a risk that paid off. 

Pam Roxas ('17) took a risk that paid off. 

When Pam Roxas first started at Booth, she wanted to work the management track in her engineering field. Her initial course work helped her secure a promotion at work. However, after settling into the new role, she realized that she was not fully satisfied with the track that she was on. Booth’s coursework and community helped Pam facilitate a change and encourage her to take a risk.

“The spark for me was M&A Strategy with Professor Morrissette. I was so surprised to learn about the types of roles that impacted strategy at the firm wide level. Professor Morrissette does a great job of bringing in practitioners from corporate development, investment banking, private equity and entrepreneurship, who discuss how they apply the class concepts in their actual day to day work. It got me thinking - let’s explore the optionality out there.”

M&A Strategy also helped give Pam direction. “After doing a lot of due diligence, I realized investment banking was the intersection of many things I was looking for in terms of job content, learning opportunities, career progression and a culture of excellence. I don’t know if I would’ve found [this industry] on my own. I am thankful that Professor Morrissette carved out a portion of his class to ask the question: ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’”

Booth’s strong women initiatives also made a big impact on Pam and really helped push her to take a risk. After last year’s Booth Women’s Connect conference, Pam chose to quit her job and wholly pursue the transition into investment banking.

“I was really inspired by several speakers who shared their perspective on how they took risk in their careers and how they managed the upside as well as road bumps along the way. It was cool, I had a surge of courage and I thought, ‘I can do this.’”

“The Women’s conference is such a good chance to recharge and focus on what your goals are. It’s easy to get caught up in the grind – I’ve got to do homework, eat dinner, etc., and the Women’s Conference provides a platform for women to evaluate: ‘Where do I want to improve, what do I want to accomplish in X number of years?’”

Catherine Frances Napier (CFN), Class of 2018

Catherine Frances Napier (CFN), Class of 2018

Ten months after the Women’s Connect Conference, Pam completed an internship in investment banking and accepted an offer to return full time after graduation. “The totality of Booth was critical for achieving my goal – the coursework, support from my professors, Career Services, the Banking Club, and my fellow peers all formed an important support system that helped me get [the internship] and the full time offer,” she says.

As she wraps up classes 19, 20 and 21, Pam reflects on her time at Booth. “When I started the program three years ago, I never would’ve guessed this is where I would end up.”

She advises, “My two cents for what it’s worth: Explore a lot, figure out what you like and don’t like so you can work towards creating the career and life you are excited to live, and don’t be afraid of taking risks. Booth is a unique time in your life, where you are afforded many options as well as the tools and support system to explore them and choose what is the best fit for you.”

Catherine Napier works at Northern Trust in wealth management, loves yoga, creating content on, and the peanuts at the Midway.


Exploring Non-Booth Electives

Klariza Alvaran, Class of 2019

Klariza Alvaran, Class of 2019

I couldn’t help making a hearty fist pump on my bus ride to work the morning of September 9. It’s not something I would normally do, especially by myself in a public place, but I had to celebrate being accepted into my dream class for the quarter: a special topics Creative Writing workshop on “Crossing Genre Boundaries” offered by the University.

The decision was strategic as well because the Creative Writing course will also act as one of my six electives outside of Booth that also count toward the requirements of my MBA degree.

The flexible curriculum at Booth is one of the hallmarks and key differentiators of its MBA program, and the allowance of six elective courses from outside of Booth allows MBA candidates to experience the breadth of academic opportunities beyond the business school. At the same time, students have the freedom to do so without having to pursue a dual degree program or other joint program offering at another school within the University.

This openness in registering for non-Booth electives also gives students a chance to craft an MBA experience that more closely aligns with their personal and professional goals. One example could be an an MBA student who wants to transition into a role within the public health space; that student may benefit from taking the Introduction to Global Health that has historically been offered over midday, twice a week during the winter quarter by the Department of Public Health Sciences.

But I know what some of you Evening/Weekend students are thinking: I have a full-time job, how could I possibly enroll in a class outside of Booth?

Fear not, because other departments and schools do offer coursework that can complement a full-time schedule, as long as you have a little bit of timing flexibility. In this quarter alone, the Harris School of Public Policy is offering a course on The Business of Nonprofits and the Evolving Social Sector on Mondays 4-7:30pm, and the Law School is offering a (waitlisted) 4-day seminar on Cross-Border Transactions: Securities, M&A, and Joint Ventures Oct. 10-13 from 6:10 to 8:15pm.

With all this in mind, you may want to consider taking a non-Booth elective as your plan your courses for the rest of your Booth journey to craft a more tailored MBA experience for yourself.


Ideas for Non-Booth Electives

Thinking about taking a non-Booth elective? The following suggestions may be worth exploring.

ENGL 33000 Academic and Professional Writing or “The Little Red Schoolhouse” – This highly regarded writing workshop takes an audience-centric approach on the craft of effective writing for school and work contexts alike.

LAWS 75006 Corporate Governance in Emerging Markets – If you’re interested in working in emerging markets, this may be just the class for you. This course focuses on law and policy that impact corporate activities.

PPHA 39330 Education Reform and Policy – Want to make an impact in the field of education? This course offered by the Harris School of Public Policy explores various issues that impact education.

CRWR 34102 Special Topics in Nonfiction: Knowledge Journalism – Jeff McMahon’s Knowledge Journalism allows students to hone their writing skills on specialized subject matter in a way that non-expert audiences can also appreciate.

Klariza Alvaran works at and does freelance marketing. She enjoys writing sci-fi, crocheting hats, and making music.

Surviving Quarter One

Mike Sharifi, Class of 2018

Mike Sharifi, Class of 2018

Fall quarter as a returning Evening MBA student in an interesting time, to say the least. The warm weather is fading and the days are getting shorter. Work for most of us is picking up ferociously before the holiday standstill, and after more than a month off, we are reacclimating to the comforts that remind us why we choose Booth. From seeing last year’s MBA Cup trophy in the lobby to George’s smile at the Midway Club four floors above, there are many reminders that this place is home.   

There are familiar faces in the lobby of Gleacher as you walk around on your first day, but even more noticeable are the faces you don’t recognize. They are the newest members of this exclusive “fraternity”, and can very well be your next group partner. I look at these new faces and think about my first emotions when I was in there shoes last fall. Excitement, fear, uncertainty, anxiety, pride, panic. We all feel these emotions to varying degrees, and they are often hard to process. However, I hope this article provides the newest Evening and Weekend class with a few quick tips that helped me get beyond my emotions and create a plan for my first quarter.

Tip #1: Get Involved…but be Realistic

    We all know that there is much more to Business School than what we learn in the classroom. Getting involved with student groups is a key attribute to the Booth experience that you cannot replicate. Whether or not you were able to attend the SAC Activities Fair, it is important to check out all the groups Booth has to offer and contemplate join those that may pique your personal or professional passions.

    That said, be realistic about your workload in the classroom and the workplace. While we are eager to jump in and make the most of our Booth experience, I’ve come to learn that balance is what makes part-time work. Whatever your balance may be, make sure that you do not exceed the point where your marginal costs exceed your marginal benefits (thank you Booth for making me think in these terms).

Tip #2: Plan Ahead

    Mark everything on your calendar. Google Calendar, planner, or anything in between, make sure that you are keeping tabs on everything on your plate. The first few weeks of class may go by smoothly, but come midterm season, preparation is key. Work, school, family, travel, etc. will come at you quick, and long-term success is imperative on your ability to stay organized.

Tip #3: Remember Why You Chose to be Here

    This tip may seem a little redundant to some. You may be thinking: “Well, I’m here because it’s one of the best schools in the world”, but there are deeper motivations for each of us coming to Booth. Never lose sight of these, and while they may change as life changes, it’s always important to remember the reason we are here.

Mike is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Talent at Telnyx. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.

Don’t Just Be a “Part-Time MBA”; Go All In

Vijay Rajan, Class of 2018

Vijay Rajan, Class of 2018

As an Evening MBA student, the title of this article may be deceiving. The intention behind this is to bring awareness to a topic that is dear to many “part-timers,” including myself. The sad reality is that the perception of part-time MBA students is that we are busy bodies that are too invested in our jobs to give up two years to go back to school again. Let me be the first to say this is largely false. The decision to go part-time, is typically a prudent one. Whether it’s because your employer is investing in your advancement, you are looking for a professional change but can’t afford to give up that paycheck, you are thirsty for more knowledge, or any combination of these and more, the choice to go part-time simply makes sense. I’m here to assert that the learning and experience beyond the classroom is profound and invaluable. During my nine months as an Evening student and student leader, I’ve met many engaging individuals, drastically enhanced my interpersonal skills, and developed new capabilities, all through resources and opportunities available outside of class. To the part-time students that are reading this and only attending classes, I implore you to get involved – you will regret not being a part of the Booth community. To those of you that are involved, I say take it to the next level. Here are a few reasons why it is paramount to your Booth experience:


More Than Just Networking

It’s been hammered into our heads that networking is vital to success both in and out of school. Involvement in activities outside of class is the easiest way to build your Booth network. More so than networking though, you will find yourself building lasting friendships with your fellow Boothies. I’m happy to say that some of my closest friends happen to be part-timers that I would not have met had I not made the decision get involved. Moreover, how many times have you heard your manager boast about a wildly successful friend from business school?

Real Professional Development

If you haven’t met with a career counselor, you are missing the secret sauce in getting that promotion, landing the job, or winning your negotiation. The career counselors cater to your professional aspirations, whatever they may be. The quality of my resume and ability to articulate my experiences has improved tenfold, and I credit Anita Brick and the Career Services team largely for that.

Elevate Your Perception

By not engaging in opportunities out of the classroom, you risk missing valuable events. If you are a career-switcher, that could be the invitation to the coveted invite-only recruiting dinner. As a social butterfly, you wouldn’t want to miss the summer boat cruise or winter formal. Being active in the Booth community not only enhances your student experience, but helps you develop a more favorable perception in your network.

With that, I hope you decide make the decision to get (or stay) involved. Push your chips in, and go all in.


The Story Behind Booth's Hottest Student Group

Erick Laseca, Class of 2017

Erick Laseca, Class of 2017

Whether you’ve heard of them or not, Booth’s Search Fund Club has grown explosively these past few weeks and has begun taking the quickly evolving industry by storm. According to Erick Laseca (’17), Founder and President, the Search Fund Club has gone from 0 to 150 in three weeks, with many of its new members coming from Booth’s Evening and Weekend community. Whether you’re an aspiring entrepreneur or interested in data-driven management, Booth’s fastest growing group should have something in store for you.

What is a Search Fund?

A Search Fund is an investment vehicle for young, aspiring entrepreneurs to search for, acquire, manage, and grow a company. The Search Fund model offers recent MBA grads from a handful of elite business schools the most direct route to running a company right out of business school,” states Laseca.

We all know how attractive it is to be an entrepreneur, but with only two percent of startups actually getting off the ground, the Search Fund model has proven to provide entrepreneurs with the tools to grow a business. In addition, given the nature of these businesses they are running, Search Fund companies have a 76 percent chance of launching a successful business.

The Search Fund model is an attractive entrepreneurial career path pursued by graduating students and young alumni, involving the acquisition and operation of a small to medium sized business. Interest in the model has grown significantly in recent years, with Search Fund formation accelerating at elite institutions, including Booth among the top three in the US,” according to Laseca.

Why Booth?

Despite Booth being a top three institution in its Search Fund programs, most of Booth’s entrepreneurial talent is more aware of the startup model through the rise in popularity of the Entrepreneurship concentration and activities like the New Venture Challenge. Few Evening and Weekend students are aware of the Search Fund model and Erick’s taken great pleasure teaching his peers.

“We attribute the rapid growth of the group to the growing popularity of the Search Fund model. MBA students typically have very traditional paths after graduating. You go into consulting, investment banking, private equity, corporate finance, corporate strategy or general management. There is nothing wrong with these, but MBA grads are looking for more exciting options while not exposing themselves to the huge risks of a startup,” states Laseca.

How to Get Involved

While a young group, there has been no shortage of events for the Search Fund Club. Having already hosted four, with the 3rd Annual Booth-Kellogg Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition Conference coming up in October. The event, which sold out last year, will bring out 350 attendees, including top investors, and is a great opportunity to learn more about the space.

Mike Sharifi, Class of 2018

Mike Sharifi, Class of 2018

“If you want to learn more about the Search Fund space, or attend one of our events, you can join by visiting the Booth Groups page and typing “Booth Search Fund Club” in the search field. Membership is free for now,” encourages Laseca.

Mike is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Talent at Telnyx. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.


Beyond Excel: Overcoming Your Fear of R

One huge benefit of the Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs is that you can immediately apply the lessons you learn in class to your workplace or “in real life” (affectionately abbreviated as “IRL”). In this column, we will celebrate the lessons students learn in class and how they apply them IRL. Do you have a story that has inspired you? Feel free to write to me – your affectionate writer, known as CFN – at

Catherine Frances Napier, Class of 2018

Catherine Frances Napier, Class of 2018

Statistics and modeling can seem intimidating, especially to those of us who aren’t naturally quantitative (these people exist at Booth, including your writer!). Fear certainly didn’t stop Cleo Miller from conquering stats and using it to benefit her work in real life.

Cleo Miller (‘17) enrolled in Professor Polson’s introductory statistics course without a strong background in statistics or R, the statistical platform the class requires students to learn. She admits, “I was kind of nervous about the class, [as the professor] forces you to use R and makes it possible for you to get your feet wet with it.”

After she got her feet wet with R through the class, Cleo fearlessly dove into the R deep-end in real life. At work, she needed to work on a large statistical analysis that needed to be easily digestible. Thanks to learning R in class, Cleo conquered this challenge.

Cleo Miller, Class of 2017

Cleo Miller, Class of 2017

“Because I was forced to be exposed to something I wasn’t comfortable with, [learning R] helped me grow in a way I never would have expected. It gave me a real problem solving tool that I wouldn’t have known about or have been comfortable using,” Cleo says.

Thanks to her time in the classroom, Cleo can use this platform to analyze anything to turn it into anything – including interactive maps, graphs, predictions, and more. She got exposure to a new idea that she may never have been able to find.

“I needed someone to push me in that direction to say that there are statistical tools out there. I can use Excel, but it never would have occurred to me to go outside of Excel. There’s so much out there, and Booth can really help push you in the right direction in ways that you can’t even predict.”

To Cleo, this example testifies to why she wanted to come to Booth. As a naturally qualitative person, Cleo bravely went to Booth to develop her quantitative skills. Clearly, she’s successfully doing just that.

“I want to learn how to use tools and think about ways to solve problems that I never otherwise would have been exposed to or known how to find,” she says. “It has broadened my horizons about what is out there in the world of stats and applied mathematics.”

When Cleo isn’t developing her quantitative skills, you can find her leading the Graduate Women in Business (GWB) group. She has learned many qualitative lessons about leadership as the group’s president. “The biggest lesson I’ve taken away is that it really is all about the team you’re working on and encouraging them to be their best,” Cleo says. “The lessons I’ve gotten from GWB are all about leadership through teamwork.”

Cleo’s story highlights that at Booth, students are challenged both qualitatively and quantitatively. Along that journey, students have amazing learning experiences. As Cleo says about her Booth experience to date: “So far, so great.”

Catherine Napier works at Northern Trust in wealth management, loves yoga, creating content on, and the peanuts at the Midway.


IRL with Simon Holstein

One huge benefit of the part-time program is that you can immediately apply the lessons you learn in class to your workplace or “in real life” (affectionately abbreviated as “IRL”). In this column, we will celebrate the lessons students learn in class and how they apply them IRL. Do you have a story that has inspired you? Feel free to write to me – your affectionate writer, known as CFN – at

Have you ever learned that it’s okay to be wrong? That to be right, you may be wrong first?

Catherine Frances Napier, '18

Catherine Frances Napier, '18

Upon Booth admission, Simon Holstein (‘18) had the confidence and the courage to try something new. He quit his job to pursue his entrepreneurial ambitions (even finding an office at 1871), knowing he had the security of a Booth degree and the Booth community. Even though the idea didn’t take off, Simon learned it is okay to be “wrong”. What others may view as failure, Booth students see the right opportunity to learn.

Simon elaborates, “Before I even took a class, I had the confidence to take a risk. And then when I took that risk and I was wrong, I was already in an environment where if I told [Booth friends] about the start-up, they weren’t judgmental or in any way negative. The questions I got from my peers weren’t focused on my failures, they were focused on that experience and why I chose to do that, and why it didn’t work – from a perspective of being interested and not from a perspective of you failed.”

At Booth, students are encouraged to take what Simon calls “smart risks”, as this is the place to try something out of our comfort zone. If Booth students take a risk that doesn’t work out, Booth students humbly embrace a “wrong experience” and turn it into the right learning opportunity.  Perhaps, even more importantly, students like Simon learn to try again.

Simon Holstein, '18

Simon Holstein, '18

Even with a full-time job at Avant and school part-time, Simon is already back on the entrepreneurial scene, with two current entrepreneurial adventures. (Check out R-YA NUTS – where Simon is CFO—and watch him compete in the New Venture Challenge with the Freenters team).

To get involved with this year’s New Venture Challenge, Simon simply registered on the interested-student spreadsheet. “I had the confidence to put my name [there] because I knew that whoever was looking at it already started trusting that I was credible and legit. Being in environment like that unique to Booth. I don’t know other place in the world where you could pick a stranger’s name off the spreadsheet and want them to be a part of your startup or a part of your business.”

In this special community, Booth students like Simon fearlessly learn to try and to try again. Booth students learn to take risks “in real life” and enjoy the learning opportunity along the way.

As he says, “I have more confidence in taking risks. Being at Booth has put into perspective a lot of things, like how much I do know and how much I still have to learn – and being okay being in that position.”

Catherine Napier is a first-year MBA student in the Evening MBA Program at Chicago Booth

Effective Tips for Informal Networking

Mike Sharifi, '18

Mike Sharifi, '18

 However intimidating (or exciting) we find it, networking is a huge aspect of part-time business school programs. Getting to know our fellow classmates is a large reason we specifically chose to come to Booth, and while we all know the value of the Booth network, it’s tough to find a balanced way to informally connect with our peers.  Throughout the years, we’ve all been given hundreds of networking tips, but they are often better suited for corporate happy hours or recruitment fairs than the midway break in class. During our time at Gleacher, everyone wonders how we can best create professional bonds in very little time, but hopefully these tips help you better get to know “that person from Financial Accounting who always pops up in my LinkedIn feed who I think works for a VC, but I’m not really sure…”


Tip #1: Keep it Casual

    We’ve all been in that situation where we want to connect with a classmate who works somewhere that interests us, but how should we approach them about it? Should we be cool and calm or put on our best interview face? From experience, it’s best to be casual when approaching a peer for the first time. Our days at work and in the classroom are often rigid, so why make networking a chore as well? There’s no need to make a quick introduction any more complicated (or awkward) than it needs to be!


Tip #2: Be Direct

    Being casual is important, but also be mindful of the other person’s time, especially if it’s during break or after class. We all lead busy lives, and while we’re happy to help each other out, it doesn’t help to beat around the bush. In the first thirty seconds, you should: make an introduction if you haven’t spoken before, remind them what you do, and let them know why you’re interested in chatting. This will go a long way in ensuring that you make the most of the conversation rather than talking in circles.


Tip #3: End on an Action Item

    Whether your conversation lasts two minutes or two hours, make sure to keep it going after you part ways. Next steps could be as simple as checking out a website and catching up next week, or a larger step like updating and sending over your resume. Whatever it is, make sure you determine the best way to keep the conversation alive beyond that moment.


Don't be shy...go out and meet someone new today!

Don't be shy...go out and meet someone new today!

Tip #4: Offer to Return the Favor

    There are few feelings worse than being used, so if you choose to network with a classmate for a particular purpose, make sure that they know you’re also open to helping them out. Your classmate may never take you up on it, but it’s great for them to know that you’re a resource as well if they need it. No one knows where we’ll be one, ten, even twenty years down the line, but it’s important to build rapport and keep in touch with fellow Boothies that can help us, and that we can help in return.

Editor Mike Sharifi is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Business Development at Built in Los Angeles. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.

IRL with Jon Dana

Catherine Frances Napier (CFN), Class of 2018

Catherine Frances Napier (CFN), Class of 2018

One huge benefit of the Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs is that you can immediately apply the lessons you learn in class to your workplace or “in real life” (affectionately abbreviated as “IRL”). In this column, we will celebrate the lessons students learn in class and how they apply them IRL. Do you have an a story that has inspired you? Feel free to write to me – your affectionate writer, known as CFN – at

In our inaugural feature, a new student took lessons from LAUNCH - the official “first day” for students in the  Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs - and immediately applied them to his workplace. Jon Dana (‘18) felt so inspired by the lessons learned at LAUNCH, that he actually used the lessons to inspire change in his workplace.

During the Case Challenge presentation, Jon worked on the assignment that dealt with a startup trying to preserve its culture. It turns out, Jon is in the exact situation “IRL”. Using the lessons from LAUNCH’s public speaking session and inspired by his Case Challenge work (including discussing the situation with a judge who works in guiding companies through this transition), Jon bravely addressed the culture preservation issue with his top management.

Similar to the Case Challenge experience, the “real life” situation didn’t go as planned (the Case’s mock judges interrupted us to talk about tickets, and Jon’s CFO was late to the meeting). Nonetheless, Jon didn’t miss a beat.

Using LAUNCH’s public speaking guidance on listing a Point of View, Action, and Benefits, Jon compiled a presentation that was concise and clear. “If I hadn’t been planning to use this format, the whole conversation would have been jumbled and confusing - maybe even a little offensive to the owners. We had some great ideas, but we needed to get them across concisely in less than 30 minutes.”

Jon Dana ('18) was able to take his LAUNCH lessons straight to the office

Jon Dana ('18) was able to take his LAUNCH lessons straight to the office

Jon elaborates, “We learned at LAUNCH that we needed to be flexible and go with the flow. That's why I was adamant about having a very simple opening statement and very simple objectives - that let us go with the flow and have discussions while also getting our point across. We found that having all of the details in our 'back pocket' was critical.  We had to be prepared, but we needed to only bring up the high level points.”

The company was so impressed with the conversation that management committed to Jon’s request for action items. ”The view was that we were well thought out and we were taking charge of something that we are passionate about,” Jon says. “Our CFO came back to the office later in the day and thanked us for the conversation.”

The lessons Jon learned before Booth even started have already positively impacted his career. “I can honestly say that the conversation would not have been as effective and may have even been detrimental if it wasn't for the case study we did during LAUNCH,” Jon affirms.

As his CFO did, we’d like to thank Jon for this conversation. Before Booth Day 1, he has already inspired positive change.

Managing Your Time at Booth

Mike Sharifi '18

Mike Sharifi '18

Many Evening and Weekend MBA students understand very well that being a member of the Booth community comes with sacrifice. Whether it means spending less time at the gym or less time with family, we are all giving up something important to attend class. To contrast with our friends in the Full-Time program, we have at least fourteen hours of class work each week, in addition to full-time jobs and Booth extracurricular activities we engage in. With all of this on our shoulders, excellent time management is necessary to both keep us organized and sane. We each have different techniques for balancing our schedule. However you do it, this article should help you with some useful pointers from your peers.

Tip #1: Prioritize Tasks Every Day

Planning ahead is necessary for avoiding the feeling of helplessness

Planning ahead is necessary for avoiding the feeling of helplessness

    It may not be the most natural or exciting task to do, but it is especially important to plan out our days and prioritize what needs to get done. “If I start to think about what I need to do by the end of the week, I usually freak myself out. When things pile up, it helps to just focus on the next 24 hours,” notes Karen Sanchez (’18). Whether by creating to-do lists or setting notifications on our Google Calendars, we all can benefit from optimizing our days to make sure we don’t fall behind in the classroom and the office.

Tip #2: Review the Syllabus Ahead of Time

    Back in undergrad, many of us - myself included - would forget about midterms until the week of and neglect to study until the night before. While we could manage that lifestyle because the opportunity cost to pulling an all-nighter studying was often a frat party or Netflix binge, we have more pressing priorities in our lives today. Knowing this, Vijay Rajan (’18) makes sure to map out key assignment and exam days as soon as he has access to the syllabus. With busy days in the office and constant travel for work, noting big school events months in advance helps him to best arrange his work schedule accordingly.

Tip #3: Keep Your Friends, Family, and Co-workers in the Loop

    Starting up at Booth isn’t only a change of pace for each of us, it also affects those around us. During the quarter, we might not be able to attend every company Happy Hour or catch mom up on every little detail about our lives, but it’s important that we give those in our lives realistic expectations. Antonia Lee (‘18) makes sure to give her friends and family plenty of notice on the days/weeks that she might be off the grid. Everyone that we’re close to understands that we’re “busy”, but unless they’ve known others doing Booth part-time, it will be hard for them to completely relate unless we provide insight.

Tip #4: Do Something for Yourself Each Week

    If my life was a revolving door that only involved school and work, I’d be absolutely miserable. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I love Booth, but each of us needs something to take our mind off both, especially when they get stressful. Whether it’s making time each day to read Game of Thrones or playing pickup basketball on Tuesday nights, it’s important to do things for you. Life is much more than just work and school…don’t forget that!

Editor Mike Sharifi is an Evening MBA Student and Director of Business Development at Built in Los Angeles. His hobbies include running, volleyball, and exploring local restaurants.