The Richmond MBA Opening Residency 2018 welcomed 24 new students to the program at the Jefferson Hotel on August 17.

The students come from a variety of backgrounds, some working for large companies like Capital One, DuPont, and Altria, others joining the program from the Federal Reserve, VDOT, and the U.S. Navy. Many received a bachelor’s degree in Virginia, studying at UVA, VCU, or JMU, while one joins The Richmond MBA all the way from Mumbai University!

The two-weekend long Opening Residency program gives students a crash course in business consulting to prepare them for their graduate studies. Students attend seminars in the basics of various business disciplines, while working in groups to analyze a case for a client.

This year, the students worked with Handyma’am, a clothing brand for women in the trade industry. The company sells everything from heavy weight coveralls and work boots to coats and t-shirts, made to withstand a factory or workshop environment.

Craig Croce, GB’20, said the weekend completely changed his expectations of what an MBA program could provide.

“To say that Open Residency is awe-inspiring and to date one of the coolest experiences I have had is an understatement,” Croce said. “The small class size allowed me to connect with everyone in a very short amount of time, and then be able to build on the foundation for the rest of the weekend.” 

He and his wife moved to Richmond from Dallas, Texas, just one week before Opening Residency, and he was anxious about meeting new people in a new city. But, he says meeting Richmond MBA alumni in the seminars and getting to know his group helped his nerves disappear.

“The outside speakers might have ranged in job role from current graduate student to CEO, but they were all Richmond MBA alumni, so it helped us feel more at ease,” Croce said. “I learned so much in the seminars as we had a diverse group of presenters to help us understand the different aspects of business and how they tie into formulating recommendations for a client.”

Kevin McQueen, GB’98, CEO of CapTech Consulting, Melissa Conner, GB’07, vice president and director at Capital One, and Kyle Benusa, GB’13, president of Benusa Consulting were among the presenters.  

Alex Wiles, ’12 and GB’20, was on a different team, and said the seminars gave her a strong background in business practices to be able to consult practically and professionally with the client. She also said her small group made her feel welcome, and prepared to learn and grow together.

“It was every bit as intense as everyone said it would be,” Wiles said. “But my cohort is filled with fantastic people. It was exciting to learn from them and get to know everyone better.”

Dr. Randy Raggio, director of The Richmond MBA, says establishing a foundation for business practices, as well as creating a strong community environment for the students in Opening Residency gives students a secure jumping off point to help them succeed in the program.

“It’s an experience that students remember for a lifetime,” Raggio said. “It’s amazing how quickly the students bond and transform into business consultants.  Over the course of the weekend, they begin to learn how to analyze a problem, ask great questions, and develop a sustainable strategy. I am excited to see how they continue to develop throughout the entire program.”

Croce says those connections will carry him through the program, and beyond.

“I was able to really connect with my classmates, get a great sense of what’s to come for me in the program, and have already increased my intelligence and expanded on concepts that were foreign to me. This is one of the best experiences.”

You can follow along with MBA students on their journey with the hashtag #EarningURMBA on social media.