Thursday, September 4, 2014

One MBA Student's Summer Vacation with CSX

Kevin Foster, MBA '16
This summer, I had the opportunity to intern in the Finance department of CSX, which is one of four major railroads in the United States. Truth be told, prior to starting the MBA program at Terry, I knew nothing about railroads other than from time to time I would get caught at a railroad crossing – always when I need to be somewhere. But my perception of the industry changed when CSX came to do an information session in late August. I walked away impressed by both the industry and CSX as a company. When you start to think of it, the railroad is the backbone of the U.S. economy – grain, lumber, chemicals, coal, vehicles, and millions of pounds of merchandise shipped via intermodal containers –  and few things make it from point A to point B without going by rail for part of the journey.

I joined the program with my target set on getting into the airline industry, so the railroad wasn’t a big jump. I decided to pursue the opportunity and by mid-November had received an internship offer. It was an intriguing opportunity in a subject I was only starting to get comfortable with (finance) in a city that I had never lived (Jacksonville), but I was up for a challenge.

The summer proved to be an incredible adventure. Before the internship, I tried to learn about the industry so that day one I could hit the ground running. It helped to have at least a grasp on some of the major issues facing the company and a basic understanding of the language of railroading. CSX also worked to ensure that we were quickly brought up to speed. There were 8 interns total, with a wide variety of skill levels and background, and it was really enjoyable getting a chance to know them over the 10 weeks.

The project that I had was very much an MBA-level internship. There wasn’t a simple answer to the question that was posed – in fact, they really didn’t know where the project would lead. However, if there is one thing that MBAs should be good at, it’s dealing with ambiguity. I relied heavily on my background in project management and the skills that I picked up during my first year in the program – especially statistics – and was able to develop a number of well-received deliverables. The internship wrapped up with a final presentation to the 3 VPs that oversee the Finance department – aka one step below the executive team. The presentation went well and about a week later, CSX called to offer me a full time position in their leadership development program. It was the opportunity I came looking for when I came to Terry - just a different mode of transportation.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from the summer, and really my biggest takeaway of the program so far, is that you have to keep your eyes wide open, because you never know where the opportunities are going to come from.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

UGA Net Impact Club Partners with Terrapin Beer Company through Projects For Good Initiative

From L-R: Erin Geoffroy, MBA '15; Chris DeFago, MBA '15;
Bobby Callahan, MBA '15; CEO John Cochran;
Julia McDaris MBA, '15; and Christina Smith, MBA '14.
Today we welcome Erin Geoffroy, MBA '15 (pictured on left) as a guest contributor to provide an overview of a project completed this spring.
Last semester, I was pleased to participate in a national Net Impact initiative called Projects for Good, which creates opportunities for students to serve as sustainability consultants for companies and help their triple bottom line.  Several students that are actively involved with the UGA Net Impact chapter partnered with Terrapin Beer Company to help them perform a B Impact assessment and help Terrapin become a more environmentally and socially responsible company.  Our team included MBA students with a range of expertise in environmental and social issues: Bobby Callahan, Chris DeFago, Erin Geoffroy, Julia McDaris, and Christina Smith.
Over the course of several months, we met regularly with CEO John Cochran and HR Manager Jeremiah Shepherd to learn more about Terrapin’s current practices and growth strategy.  The B Impact Assessment is a tool created by the non-profit B Lab to provide standards, benchmarks, and tools for a business to assess its overall impact, compare itself to other organizations in its industry, and provide practical solutions to improve impact over time. 
Why should a company invest time in using such a tool to improve impact?  It can help the company attract and engage employees, earn credibility and trust from peers, and gain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.  In fact, I recently spoke to BBC Capital about how young people today, women especially, want to work for companies that prioritize social and environmental responsibility.  When looking for internships and full-time positions, many of my classmates and I made working for a company that is committed to making a positive impact a top priority in our respective job searches.
In our early conversations with Terrapin, we were thrilled to learn that the organization is already making significant strides towards its goals.  Terrapin donated $28,000 to local charities in the past year, has many great benefit programs in place such as a bike-to-work incentive, and has a goal to be listed as a “Great Place to Work” in the next few years.  Additionally, Terrapin has several initiatives planned for the coming year such as time off for employees to volunteer and a new canning line that will make the beer Terrapin produces a more sustainable product (since aluminum is infinitely recyclable). 
We worked with Terrapin to go through the B Impact Assessment and tried to simplify the process in light of their busy schedules.  Our team then entered the information into the assessment tool to generate a raw score for the company.  We presented to John and Jeremiah on ideas and best practices along with short-term and long-term recommendations for improving their impact in four areas: governance, environment, community, and workers.  The team was incredibly receptive to our ideas and requested that we continue to serve as consultants as they work towards these goals.  We are excited to continue this work in the fall and provide suggestions and innovative ideas. 
CEO John Cochran said, “We have enjoyed working with the UGA Net Impact team; their guidance on environmentally and socially responsible best practices will help us better position Terrapin as a company that makes great sustainably-produced beer, has a strong presence in our local community, and operates in a way that makes everyone want to work for Terrapin.” 

In addition to continuing our work with Terrapin, we are eager to find other local businesses in Athens that want to improve their triple bottom line and partner with UGA Net Impact.  If you are a local business that is interested in improving your social and environmental practices, please contact us at

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Net Impact Rebounds and Team Wins Leeds Case Competition

Just a year and a half ago, a lack of interest had shrunk UGA’s chapter of Net Impact to only one active member. Luckily, a few interested students began to meet regularly to discuss trends in sustainability, nonprofits, and social enterprise. As we became good friends, the club took off.  We attended the Net Impact conference in Baltimore, hosted several events, and were named a “gold” chapter by the end of the year. We also entered the Leeds Net Impact Case Competition, the first time a team from UGA had done so, and were thrilled to make it to the semi-final round. Our team competed again this year, and we were out to win!
     The Leeds Net Impact Case Competition in Boulder, CO is focused on solving real world sustainability issues and, as fun as it is, it is also a ton of work. The first round gave us two weeks to examine how investing in different technologies would affect a company’s “triple bottom line,” people and planet along with profit. Working in a team of four, we split up research and worked whenever we could find time between classes and homework. After advancing, we were given another case before the final round in Colorado. The time required could have been overwhelming, but my teammates and I are all serious about Net Impact and competitions are an incredible learning experience. I was happy to give up my free time to research regulations on pollution and discover how acceptance of global warming will affect energy sector profits. It wasn’t hard to convince my teammates to give up nights and weekends to dig into natural gas pricing forecasts or how pollution affects worker safety. This was our chance to use what we’re learning in a scenario we care about.
Our team was made up of close friends. We didn’t waste time deciding who would be responsible for what research because we already know what everyone’s strengths are and what each is passionate about. We didn’t mind spending hours working together, because we’d be together anyway. And in Colorado as we answered questions from the judges, we supported each Net Impact each other and kept each other calm.
The first night in Boulder was stressful as people finalized their presentations, but it was also exciting and fun to meet people with similar interests. As someone who is usually wary of “networking,” I found it easy to connect with the other teams and we talked with people from all over the country. Funnily enough, we spent a lot of time with our neighbors from Georgia Tech, who also had a team make it to the semi-finals.  
On the day of the competition, they paired each team up with a Colorado student. Our buddy, Reid, shuffled us to a classroom to present in the morning and ate lunch with us while we waited for the results. We all felt good about our presentation, but were happily shocked to hear we had advanced to the final round. Because of an unlucky draw we presented last in the finals, meaning we were quarantined with the other finalists and our CU buddies for the next 6 hours. Thankfully, Reid is one of the friendliest people I’ve ever met and he helped to ease our nervous energy. This was another time I was happy to be on a team with friends who could help pass time in an anxious situation!
The sponsoring company this year was Johns Manville, a Berkshire Hathaway building supplies company headquartered in Denver. Our final presentation was to 10 judges, including their CEO and several executives. Presenting is obviously a big part of business school, and we’ve all had practice at it. But, presenting recommendations to such important people, along with other competitors, was justifiably nerve-wracking. I am incredibly proud of how confidently each of my team members presented their points. Kari Baker spoke passionately about improving worker safety and our economy, Betsy Curry easily explained energy use and cost in a way that everyone could understand, and Ariel Brassil answered the judges’ questions by referencing energy theorists and books she reads in her free time. The experience of successfully presenting to such an impressive group gives each of us a confidence boost. It is absolutely the best learning experience I have had in business school.
That night at dinner Mary Rhinehart, the CEO of Johns Manville, presented the awards. After hearing Purdue University place third and Notre Dame place second, we were tense. We spent the weekend struggling to not get our hopes up, so it was an enormous relief and incredibly exciting to hear University of Georgia announced as the winner! The judges later told us they appreciated how cohesive our presentation was and that we each referenced each other while we spoke. This came, I think, since we were among friends. We all worked hard because it was an enjoyable experience for us and we created a memorable, passionate presentation because no part of it was faked.  
I am incredibly proud of how far our club has come; we now have 20 active members. I’m sad to graduate and not be a part of UGA Net Impact next year, but I’m excited to see all that my friends will accomplish. I, of course, expect UGA to uphold our title at the Net Impact Case Competition so I look forward to reading about that next spring!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Full-Time MBA Program Ranked #48 by U.S. News

The Full-Time MBA Program at the Terry College of Business at the University of Georgia has attained the #48 spot in the 2015 Best Business Schools ranking by U.S. News & World Report.

Correll Hall, the new home of the UGA MBA in Summer 2015, is currently under construction in Athens, Georgia.

Read more: UGA Graduate Programs Continue to Move Up in National Rankings