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Getting a smart start: prep program puts students in B school and in jobs.

Business school seemed like the natural next step for IT consultant Marsha Anderson. She had worked as an analyst and consultant at Accenture for several years and was promoted to manager. Plus, as the daughter of a former healthcare company CFO, the business world was a natural fit for her. But twice Anderson applied to a score of M.B.A. programs, and twice her applications were rejected. Before her third try, however, Anderson, 30, received assistance that produced impressive results: admission to four of her five choice schools, including one that had turned her away before. All offered scholarships; two for the full cost of attending.

Anderson credits her success to Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a non-profit organization based in New York City that aims to increase the number of minorities in business school and prepares talented college students for fast-track, entry-level jobs that set the stage for leadership roles in business or the nonprofit world. Anderson completed her M.B.A. at Cornell University's Johnson School of Business and now works in Pfizer Inc.'s consumer division as assistant product manager of Listerine Whitening Pre-Brush Rinse.

"MLT helped me better articulate and explain my rationale for attending business school," she explains. "I always had a clear objective, but MLT helped me clarify my transferable skills from IT consulting at Accenture [and] switch to a new career in consumer products brand management marketing."

MLT founder John Rice, a 39-year-old former executive at Walt Disney Co. and the National Basketball Association, earned his M.B.A. at Harvard Business School in 1992. While there, he was struck by the scarcity of people of color in the program. "I looked around the classroom and asked, 'Why are there so few minorities?'" he recalls. He began a research project that led to a study by Boston Consulting Group that identified bottlenecks for minorities in the pipeline toward leadership positions in business. Those points, Rice says, include minority "underrepresentation in top M.B.A. programs as well as underrepresentation in those entry-level jobs in business that put folks on the fast track, give them that training and mentorship and early relationships." Out of that research, MLT was born.

According to MLT, its MBA Prep participants--typically young professionals two or more years out of college--see a 100-point improvement on the Graduate Management Admission Test. Last year, 100 MLT graduates were accepted into business school, at a rate more than three times the national average--for all students, not just minorities. African Americans make up approximately 7% of the M.B.A. student population, according to recent reports.

In its Career Prep program, MLT staff and professionals from partner corporations, including Citigroup, McKinsey & Co., PepsiCo, and Goldman Sachs, help students understand what it takes to succeed in typical entry-level jobs.

"So when the time comes to enter the recruiting process, they're not only super-prepared to excel, but when they get the offer, they're also extremely well-prepared to do well on the job," Rice says. MLT boasts a 92% summer internship placement at top firms.

Letica Fox-Thomas, now a loan analyst at UBS in Stamford, Connecticut, says her MLT experience was instrumental in helping her secure her fast-track job after college. Most valuable, says Fox-Thomas, 23, was feedback on her resume and cover letter from her coach. He helped her narrow her focus to the financial services industry, eliminate wordiness, and create impact with her choice of words. "The first time he sent it back there was so much red. I was just so offended. But looking back, obviously the resume I have now is so much more professional." UBS's recruiter was familiar with MLT, which also aided her job search. She interviewed on a Friday and by Monday had a job offer.

The students and young professionals in MLT's programs are required to do research assignments and case studies on the industries they are interested in, which helps them gain a feel for what they want to do and what top companies are looking for. They also receive coaching to hone their resumes and business school essays.

"One of the most important things that's driving our success at MLT is we've engaged the bar-setting organizations," Rice says. "The leading companies and the major business schools are driving our curriculum and actually developing our students to reach the bar that they're setting."

In addition to GMAT preparation, MLT's partner schools host weekend seminars for the program's participants on their campuses. MLT also brings in recruiters and people with admissions experience at top business schools to conduct mock interviews with participants.

Fox-Thomas' coach, Kumi Walker, participated in the MBA Prep program from 2003 to 2004 and won admission to all of the schools to which he'd applied: Columbia University, the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, Harvard Business School, and Stanford. He is now in his second year at Stanford. "[It] helped me tremendously," he says. Before MLT, he had looked at business schools based on their rankings, but Walker, 28, says the program helped him understand the importance of visiting schools and talking with students to decide on the best fit for him. Also helpful was feedback from his coach on his business school essay, as well as the structure MLT placed on the business school application process.

While MLT's current results are impressive, its greater impact may come in the future, measured by minority representation at the top ranks of the private and public sector. "If we think this network is really powerful now," Walker says, "imagine when we are five and 10 years out of school."
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Title Annotation:Management Leadership for Tomorrow
Author:Egodigwe, Laura
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2006
Words:932
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