Student Report from: University of Rochester – Simon Graduate School of Business Administration Exchange semester: Fall 2011 Students’ information: Ye Elisabeth Gong: MSc in Business and Economics: firstname.lastname@example.org Henriette Pedersen: MSc in Business and Economics email@example.com Ardian Hyseni: firstname.lastname@example.org ACADEMIC INFORMATION 1.1 General Information about the School Simon is one of the top business schools in the USA. With approximately 300 students in the MBA/MS programs, the Simon School is small in size compared to most other American Business Schools. Further on, Simon has an internationally diverse student population. The great focus on team-study approaches and creative business problem solving exposes Simon students to enriching interaction with faculty and fellow students. The school is located at the UofR’s River Campus, a couple of miles south east of downtown Rochester. Further details can be found at: http://www.simon.rochester.edu Current faculties and specialization programs: CIS (Computer Information System) -Finance/Strategy -Health Care Management -Accounting -Entrepreneurship -Marketing -General Business -Strategy -Operations Management Number of exchange students This fall the school had a group of about 20 exchange students from all around the world. We were a great group consisting of students from Belgium, Germany, Norway, Mexico and Argentina among others. Moreover, the MBA program offered at the Simon Graduate School consist of about 50 % of non-American students. In other words, this is a school has a very diverse group of students from all over the world. Is the school a typical graduate or undergraduate institution? Simon is a typical graduate institution, offering MBA, MSc and PHD programs. During our exchange we were put on the MBA program, and we noticed that the academic level was very high. At the same time all of the students are very hard-working and the level of competition is also quite high – which motivated us a lot. Study structure on the graduate level Simon offers a regular 2-year MBA program and a 1- year MS program and we as exchange students can choose courses from their curriculums. Grading is partly based on class participation, homework, midterm exams, and a final exam. Evaluation is generally based on real-life cases and teamwork. As the professors expect that the students are prepared for all the classes and the class discussions, we had a couple of hours studying every day. Notice that Simon is using quarter-based system - the exchange only last for one quarter (less than 3 months), which is shorter than one semester in BI. Our semester started September 19.th and the last day of class before our finals were December 1.st. Exams are closely together and between December 5.th – December 10.th. 1.2 The Teaching situation In which language are the courses taught? Any problems? All the courses offered are in English. Language proficiency is quite varied (due to the large number of international student), so students from BI will not likely have problems participating. The professors as well as administrative staff are nice and very helpful in resolving any issues. How would you evaluate the level of study in relationship to the level at BI? The level of the courses is generally of very high quality and the Simon School is especially known for its Finance Program as well as Accounting. Given that many graduate students in the U.S. have some work experience their knowledge might be of a more practical manner. Students from BI might have an upper hand in terms of theory knowledge – We found that many of the terms and theory taught were familiar and known to us. In the U.S, students can have a bachelor in a completely different area than what they choose if they continue on a Master program and that’s probably why most of the theory is at a more basic level than at BI. Is the teaching primarily practical or theoretical? Teaching is a good mixture of practice and theory. Generally students are required to cover the theoretical reading material on their own while application and casework is the focus in class. It should be noticed, however, that most of the home assignments and discussions are made in groups both in and between every class and it gives you the opportunity to learn how to work in teams as well as get to know many of your fellow students. How is the workload compared to that at BI? The workload is similar to what experienced at BI. It is a smaller degree of textbook literature and a higher focus on practical cases than what experienced at BI. During your semester abroad you must take a workload similar to 24 ESCT which is equal to 4 courses at the school. However, Bi-students might experience the workload as a bit more than “usual”, because of continuous evaluations throughout the semester. How is the relationship between faculty and students? Excellent! Everyone is very grad in helping students, from the professors, faculty and bus drivers are so service minded and helpful 24 / 7. The professors and faculty are always available if you need their assistance or help, and we were also amazed by how caring the bus drivers were about the students and how to get the students safely home. Simon has a Career Management Center, which is very helpful for students who look for internships and jobs in the USA. If exchange students are interested in looking for jobs in the USA, they can also ask help from the CMC. What is the relationship between the students in the classroom? Students are healthy competitive in the classroom. The communication and class participation by students is higher than experienced at BI. Students are also more encouraged to share their own industry experiences with other classmates. Networking seems to be of great importance to many of the students. However, we perceived all of the students to be very friendly and easy to get in touch with. It’s not uncommon that someone comes to you after the class to ask you if you want to join an event in the evening. In other words, it was easy to get to know other students. 1.3 Required Literature Is the literature in English or local language? The literature is in English. Note that textbooks, even if required, may not be used or discussed in the course. The textbooks have a similar price compared to the literature at BI but it is possible to rent as well as purchase used books, both from the Bookstore at Campus or online from www.bookrenter.com . It is also common that you have a pack of cases required from each course that you have to download and purchase online. How do you estimate the level of the literature? The level of the literature was perceived by us to be similar to Bi. Fewer articles are assigned for reading, and there are mostly case-based discussions. Because master students from Bi are already used to read literature in English, we didn’t have any problems reading the literature we were assigned in our classes. Furthermore, the professors usually go through the most important aspects of the syllabus, so it was not always necessary to read all of the pages in every book. Is the literature used for detailed knowledge or a broad overview? As we experienced it, the literature was mostly used for a broad overview. However, it depends on what kind of class you choose. We didn’t choose any finance classes. However, we heard that the finance literature was used for a more detailed knowledge. Is exam based on the literature or on the lectures? Exams are mostly based on material discussed in class and on lecture-notes. 1.4 Exams What types of exams were you given? There are generally midterms and final exams in all courses. In some classes, there are presentations as well. Midterms and finals counts each for 25-35 % of the course grade, while the remaining is based upon homework, class participation and presentations. What knowledge level was required to pass the exams? Students are expected to know the topics covered in class. We became very glad of the type of evaluation system given on Simon. On Bi, students are used to extensive literature reading some weeks before the final exam that counts for 100% of the course grade. However, having continuous evaluations on Simon and having a course grade that consisted of several evaluations, we learned the syllabus more efficiently and easily. 1.5 Other How is the library? The University of Rochester has one of the best libraries among American schools. There are great library facilities with good working areas and very broad and great collections of books. Throughout the week, the opening hour varies. From Monday – Thursday, the library usually closes at 3 A.M. The same on Sundays. On Fridays and Saturdays, the library closes at 10 P.M. The library is also right next to coffee shops and the cantina. Do students have easy access to the library and its resources? Yes. Students can go to the library directly to look for help from the reception desk or go to the library’s webpage. How is the access to the computers? There is good access to computers, both at the library and at the Simon School’s computer labs located on the 4.th floor. Notice that printing is free at Simon. How is IT used in the teaching or as a distri butor of information? The professors generally use email to communicate with students via the student’s own email account provided to them upon arrival. Simon has a version of “blackboard”, where the professors’ notes and assignments are distributed. Power Point slides are generally used in all courses. 1.6 Description of Courses MKT 402. Marketing Management This course is our introduction to marketing. The viewpoint is that of a manager making marketing decisions in a variety of competitive and institutional settings. Considered are: consumer behavior, marketing research, product design, advertising, sales force management, pricing and distribution channels. 3 Homework Assignments: 30 %, Final exam: 35 %, Midterm: 25 %. Class Participation: 10 % MKT 414. Pricing Policies Pricing is one of the most important, least understood, and most controversial decisions a manager has to make. These decisions often have significant long-term implications for a firm’s bottom line. The purpose of this course is to help future managers make good decisions by preparing them to analyze the environment in which their firm operates and to arrive at an appropriate pricing policy for their product or service. More specifically, the objectives of the course are: 1) to develop an understanding of the relationship between a firm’s environment (e.g., cost, demand, competition, and legal aspects) and its optimal pricing strategy, and 2) to develop skills in applying this understanding. There are several components to the course: elasticity of demand and relevant costs, price discrimination and market segmentation, and competitive pricing. Students will learn the fundamentals of economic-value analysis and break- even analysis, and will be made familiar with strategies such as bundling, tie-in sales, quantity discounts, product-line pricing, and demand buildup. The course will cover ways of predicting competitor-pricing responses, and it will discuss a firm’s legal environment as it pertains to pricing. 6 Homework Assignments: 30 %, Final exam: 30 %, Midterm: 30 %. Class Participation: 10 % CIS 461. Strategy and Business Systems Consulting Practicum This course provides M.B.A. students with an introduction to strategy and business systems consulting. It is aimed at students who wish to explore career opportunities within the major consulting firms, but is also relevant for students considering a career as an independent consultant, or within a corporation's internal consulting group. The course focuses on three areas: • The Consulting Industry: Students will examine several types of consulting (e.g., strategic, operations, systems, human resource and marketing) and understand where the major consulting firms position themselves. The career paths for M.B.A.’s entering the industry, and the skills and values necessary for success as a consultant will be scrutinized. • The Business Systems Consulting Process: The creation of proposals, the winning of consulting engagements, and the preparation of contracts will be discussed. The typical stages of a business systems consulting engagement (e.g., problem framing, analysis design, gathering data, interpreting results, architectural solution, and presentation of recommendations) and managing different sorts of consulting projects (e.g., operational improvement, supply-chain optimization, quality improvement, strategy formulation, and organization design) will be examined. • Consulting Skills: The role of the consultant and the human dimension will be discussed (e.g., personal attributes of consultants, relationship building, and team building). Diagnostic tools and data gathering techniques (e.g., questionnaires and interviews) will be presented. Frameworks for problem solving, and communicating recommendations will also be introduced. The course examines a wide range of modern global business challenges and opportunities from both the consultant's and the manager's perspectives and provides a learning platform to integrate and practice the skills and knowledge learned. 3 Homework Assignments: 15 %, Final exam: 10 %, Project: 55 %. Class Participation: 20 % STR 421. Economics of Competitive Strategy Competitive strategy deals with the most significant decisions that companies make in the marketplace, including entry into a market, product positioning, pricing, investments, technology choice and acquisitions. This course provides tools and concepts for analyzing these decisions and for designing business strategies that help firms make above-normal profits in the long run. Throughout the course, there is an emphasis on how firms interact with existing or potential competitors and other parties in the market. The tools and concepts used to understand this interaction are partly those of the traditional field of Strategic Management, but more importantly those of modern microeconomics, especially the field of Industrial Organization. The first half of the course looks at the “big picture” and covers industry analysis, value creation and competitive advantage, and integration and diversification decisions. The second half of the course focuses on strategic interaction among firms, and covers specific topics such as the dynamics of price competition in oligopolies, commitment strategies of firms, entry and exit, networks and standards, and technological competition. The course is largely case-based. About one third of all classes are lectures; the other two thirds are case discussions. 8 Homework Assignments: 10 %, Final exam: 30 %, Project: 35 %. Class Participation: 25 % ENT 422. Generating and Screening Entrepreneurial Ideas As the foundation course in Entrepreneurship, ENT422 covers: • Idea Generation • Opportunities Screening • Entrepreneurial Characteristics This course outlines a critical evaluation process used by successful entrepreneurs to prioritize new venture ideas. The focus of this course is on the technical and market evaluation of very early-stage ideas when information is greatly lacking and the time and money to research such answers is also limited. Students, in group format, will generate and filter their own ideas and evaluate them based upon technical merit, business challenges, and early market indicators. More detailed, we generated 12 ideas in the beginning, and filtered those ideas down to 2 final ideas. Teams will present their idea-filtering rationale to a panel for review and feedback. Behind this evaluation process, the class will review reference material on the subject and several accomplished entrepreneurs will share their personal experiences. While the nomenclature will align most directly to high-technology for-profit start- up companies, parallels to low-tech-no-tech, intra-premiership, non-profits, and social entrepreneurship will be discussed. Individual classroom participation: 15 %, Two individual cases: 30 %, Exam: 5 %, Three group assignments (A financial statement, a final written report, final oral presentation): 50 % Negotiation Theory and Practice: Bargaining for value This course surveys the theoretical and behavioral underpinnings of negotiation practices and develops skills that enhance the ability to capture value in cooperative and competitive bargaining scenarios. Students will participate in and evaluate several cooperative and competitive negotiation simulations. Grades will depend, in large part, on performance in these exercises. This course reminded us of the Business Communication class Bi offers, but much more extensive. After each class, the students are assigned a negotiation partner (different partner each time), a sheet of confidential information and some case information. After the class, the students are responsible for meeting up and finish a negotiation simulation. The outcome of the negotiation is usually a price that both parties need to agree upon. This is normally due the next week in next class, and the students need to hand in the negotiation results in a report. 5 negotiation simulations: 50 %, Term project + presentation: 25 %, Final Exam: 25 %. FIN 413. Corporate finance This course is an introduction to corporate financing policies, covering capital structure, payout, risk management, and their interactions with investment policies. The implications of financing decisions on firm value will be examined in terms of taxes, agency conflicts, and information asymmetry. The emphasis will be economic underpinnings. Grading: Homework and case analysis: 20%. Case presentation: 10%. Midterm exam: 30%. Final exam: 40%. Extra credits for participation: Up to 10%. FIN 411. Investments This course is an introduction to stock markets, pricing of equity securities, and applications to investment management. The course will contain both theory and empirical evidence, with emphasis on empirical evidence and applications. Topics include properties of security returns, asset allocation and portfolio selection, market efficiency, risk-based asset pricing and pricing anomalies, portfolio performance evaluation, active and passive investment strategies, hedge funds, and an introduction to derivatives. Grading: Weights: midterm (30%); final (30%); team assignments (20%); team case (10%); participation (10%). The midterm and final are individual and closed-book (you can use a 3"x5" review card and a calculator). FIN 430. Financial Institutions This course is an introduction to the key business problems faced by financial institutions, with emphasis on risk management in banks. Starts with an overview of various types of financial institutions and the risks faced and hedged by these institutions. Introduces measures and hedges for interest rate risk, market risk, individual and portfolio credit risk, securitization and liquidity risk. Using a building block approach, show how plain vanilla instruments can be used as stand- alone hedges and as part of more complex structured products. Issues and trends in syndicated lending, bank mergers, investment banking and the financial crisis round out the course. Grading: The course grade will be comprised of: midterm (30%); final (30%, date TBA); assignments (25%); case presentation (5%) and class participation (10%). There will be an optional extra credit opportunity project (5%, due at noon (12pm) on 11/29). These percentage weights are approximate. Students are allowed to bring a calculator and 1 single-sided Letter sized page of notes. 2. Practical Information on the School and the Exchange Experience 2.1 Information before you left We received a package containing general information about Simon, courses offered, and ISO application forms (required for Visa application) in May. Content was good and helpful, however we could wish there was better and more information concerning off-campus housing. Any difficulties? Students should check course availability before they apply to Simon as not all courses are offered in every quarter. The school is finance oriented. If you are interested in finance courses or wish to improve your financial background, they have an acknowledged and excellent finance program and courses available for you. 2.2 Visa Procedure and travel experiences Applying for Visa is time consuming, so start early. Some of us started too late, and experienced a lot of stress related to this. Especially make sure to schedule an interview at the American Embassy a couple of weeks before departure! This is not a last-minute thing to do. Does the Visa cost anything? You have to pay approximately $ 200 for SEVIS fees and $ 150 for a student VISA. How did you order your ticket – any problems? One of us that ordered the tickets early got them at pretty good prices. 2.3 Academic Calendar Early September: Enrollment of new MBA students. Exchange students are registered and offered to participate on relevant events held for the new MBA class. Highly recommended to attend the MBA orientation, it’s a great chance to meet more people. This orientation was held for us at September 6.th, approximately 2 weeks before classes start. September 19th: First week of class. Mid-October: Midterm examinations followed by a midterm break Last Thursday in November: Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving break from Wednesday before to Sunday Classes ends December 1.st Final exams and presentations are held between December 5.th and December 10.th 2.4 Reception How was the reception at the school? ISO has regularly events for exchange and international students. The Simon school also has an introductory week for new students. This is a great opportunity to get to know your classmates and get to know procedures at the Simon School. Our main contact during our semester has been very helpful before, during and after our stay with everything we have asked for. Was the administration and faculty well prepared for your arrival? The administration was well prepared for our arrival and was very helpful in getting us started. Our main contact arranged time to show us around campus, get our ID cards ready, and deliver our health forms as well as all other practical things that needed to be in place before classes started. He was always available and welcoming if there was anything we needed help with. Did the school’s students participate in the reception of the exchange students? No. We were only given a reception by the administration faculty but the exchange students had the introduction day at September 6.th together with all the new MBA students, so it is a really good opportunity to get to know your class mates early on. 2.5 Housing Did you have housing at your disposal or did you have to find your own housing? Some of us didn’t have any big problem in finding off-campus housing, while others struggled a bit, but the Simon administration was very helpful giving us information about where to look for housing. The biggest issue for many was finding someone who was willing to rent out their property for only one semester. We would recommend this following website for other Norwegian fellow-students going to Rochester in the future; http://www.rochstudenthousing.com. This is where some of us found off-campus housing and they always have houses available for students want to live very close to the University at fair prices. If you want on-campus housing, you must apply very early, at the latest in April. Short term students can only rent sleeping rooms at Goler house, which is a 15 minutes’ walk from the campus. One of us lived at Goler and paid 369 dollars for a furnished sleeping room with bathroom, but without kitchen. A micro wave and a refrigerator are available in the room. Goler house is very close to many fast food restaurants (The Distillery, Chipotle, Sturbucks, Bruggers, McDonalds, Burger King) and some proper restaurants/diners. Goler house doesn’t accepts bank transfers ,so be prepared to send them a check for the deposit. The area where Goler is located is very safe. What support did you receive from the school in lo cating housing? Simon has their own off-campus housing database which provides a good overview. There is also an admissions blog giving some helpful tips in your searching for housing. We, however, found our house through a private firm which specializes in student housing and has a large number of houses available in walking distance to the University. (See website above). Our main contact (Nathan) at Simon now has this information available to give away to future exchange students. 2.6 Costs Describe the most important expenses such as rent, books, food, etc. Expect monthly rate between $ 250 and $ 600 excluded energy costs (heating). Electricity for us came to about $ 100 a month. Books are expensive (same prices as in Norway) but as mentioned, it is possible to rent them, purchase used books or rent them online from www.bookrenter.com. Books can also be rented from the campus’ bookstore. Food is not expensive at all, and if you rent a house with a full kitchen, it is easy to spend even less if you are willing to eat-in most of the time. If not, there are both healthy and unhealthy alternatives to get on the school’s cantina and in Rochester at nice prices. 2.7 The International Office Is there an international office? Yes, there is an international office at the University. Contact them at arrival and they will guide you through the University and show you the Simon Administration Office. ISO website: http://www.iso.rochester.edu/ Who is responsible for incomin g exchange students? Nathan Kadar at Simon is very helpful – he has been our main contact through this whole experience and is available at all times and does whatever he can so that the exchange students will feel welcome. He regularly checked up on us to hear how our classes were going and also arranged get-togethers for the exchange students so that we would remain close contact with each other. Nathan.email@example.com Did you receive all relevant information? Both the ISO and the Simon School issues weekly newsletters with information about upcoming events, and important deadlines. 2.8 Social Activities How were your relationships with other students? We can surely say that we made friends for life. We were a great group of exchange students that got to know each other really fast and we hang out and did things together on a regular basis. All of the students on Simon are very friendly, social and welcoming. It’s not unusual to grab a dinner with someone you sat beside in the class after your evening class, who you did not initially know, or attend a party with someone you got to know in the break the same day. The students are great, and it is what you make it. If you choose to stay for yourself and keep some distance from other fellow students, they will respect that. However, if you are friendly and social – people will not hesitate giving you the same attitude back. Is there a student organization, and what connection does it have with exchange students? There are many student organizations and clubs at Simon. Attend at happy hours, city walks, and other events to meet new people and make friends outside the class room. Are there any special activities and gathering arranged for exchange students? Yes, the ISO arranges special trips and events for exchange students. How do you enjoy yourself at the school? If you are planning to go there to party, Rochester is not the perfect place for that. Simon is a great school, and would definitely look nice on your resume and help you with your career. However, it won’t provide you with crazy parties every day. But as mentioned, it is what you make of it. We really enjoyed ourselves at the school and made the best out of it. Together with our fellow students, we always arranged various events and things to do together. Moreover, studying on the campus provides you with many possibilities to socialize with other students, either on Starbucks, the cantina, the library etc. etc. 2.9 Culture and Language Do you have any language problems with the faculty or other students? All communication is in English, and it is not a problem at all for Norwegian students. How are the possibilities to experience the country and the local culture? It is easy experience the local culture and it surroundings by attending events arranged by different Simon clubs. While we were there the ISO also arranged a trip for the exchange students to Boston. 2.10 Cultural and Social Effects from the Exchange Experienc e How do you think the exchange experience will affect you from a cultural and social viewpoint? Very positive. We got a lot of knowledge about North Americans and also people from other countries due to the diverse backgrounds of the students on Simon. How do you think the exchange experience influence your future career possibilities? Both the academic and social experience improved my competitiveness and helped us to build a better picture of the world. 2.11 Any other experiences: Rochester is a small place, but there is always something you can do. There are a variety of all kinds of restaurants, great shopping malls, some bars and clubs etc. etc. The only thing we struggled a bit with is that in the beginning, our stay was long distance from our house to certain places (such as a grocery shop or the shopping mall), and the public transportation is not great. The school offers shuttle buses from the campus that takes you downtown, close to where you live, to shopping malls, to Wal-Mart etc. However, these buses are not available every day, and for us not living on campus it was not always convenient get to campus by taking a bus. Therefore, we could have been better off renting a car for our stay, but because of our short-term stay we didn’t see any point in that. This led to a couple of taxi-rides when we for instance needed to go grocery shopping. However, as we got to know more students, we noticed that most of the students on Simon had a car and they didn’t hesitate to give us a ride once in a while. The students are very friendly! Some other facts that might be useful: There is a “business dress code” requirement on Simon, which means that the school requires the students to dress professionally and appropriately. We paid approx., $10-13 for the cab ride from the airport to our house, even though we just lived 5-7 minutes away. In other words, cab-prices are cheaper than In Norway but we still perceived it to be a bit expensive. The campus provides students with a fully equipped gym without any additional charge for exchange students. This year, U of R just opened a dining place just across the library offering both lunch and dinner buffets. We perceived this to be much better than the cantina (Wilson Commons). You pay approx. $8 and get all you can eat and drink. You will hear that the weather in Rochester is not that good and you may think it means that the weather is as in Oslo but this is not the case. The weather in Rochester is better than in Oslo. September is pretty hot and humid. You see people wearing shorts until the end of October so it is a good idea to bring with you some summer clothes. The autumn in Rochester is warm and colorful. They usually get snow very early (end of October) but for us it didn’t snow at all until the quarter was finished. If this is your first time in US, you should use this opportunity to visit other parts of the country as well. A trip to Niagara Falls is recommended since this is one of the most visited tourist attractions in the US and only 1,5 hours drive away. We would recommend the Canadian side of the falls. Less than two hours drive from the falls is the largest city in Canada, Toronto. Despite what some people say, there are some interesting things to see and do in Rochester. Take a boat trip in the Genesee River, visit Memorial Art Gallery(MAG), George Eastman house, attend a concert or performance at Eastman Theater, do a walk in Highland Park, Park Avenue and see High Falls.
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