Student Spotlight: Michelle Plasz, MBA Candidate 2015

 

 Michelle Plasz

Part-time MBA Candidate 2015

Concentration: IDS

Field of work: Purchasing and Supply Chain Management

Undergraduate Degree In: Communications

Undergraduate School: DePaul University

Career Goal: Supply Chain/ Procurement

Organizations Involved With: Liautaud Women’s Network, MBAA

 

 

Interests/Hobbies:  I used to cook professionally and now enjoy entertaining friends and family often.  Before going back to school, I used to read and knit.  During football season, you will find me watching the Colts, and during the summer I am at the lake as much as possible.

Favorite Chicago Activities/ Places:  Museum of Science and Industry, Wicker Park

Favorite Chicago Restaurants: Eleven City Diner, Avec

Favorite Part of the Day: I know it sounds silly, but I love my commute on the train.  It’s the perfect time to get caught up with emails, with friends, read a magazine, and listen to music.  I have a 2 year old and a 4 year old, so I don’t get a lot of quiet time.

Hometown:  I grew up in Indianapolis, IN, but live in Highland Park now.

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Tell us about your personal and professional background? 

I grew up in Indianapolis, IN, but visited Chicago frequently and always knew I would live here.  Much of my career was spent in the hospitality industry starting in restaurants then moving to director of purchasing for a luxury hotel.  I had just gotten a promotion to do the purchasing on new hotel openings when 9/11 happened three weeks later, and there were no new hotels to open.  After a lot of soul-searching, I decided to move back to Chicago and open a prepared meals business.  Two years later, my business reached the point where I needed to take on a partner and expand into a commercial space, but I was really burned out from working 100+ hour weeks.  While I looked for a partner, I took a job in international purchasing and ended up really enjoying that field.  I audited factories in Asia, imported furniture and bedframe parts, and spent much of my time working on the supply chain management’s IT systems.  Once I had children, I switched to procurement consulting for small businesses as well as my former employer.


What prompted you to return to school to achieve your master’s degree? 

I am very aware of the closed doors that some women have faced when re-entering the workforce after taking an extended maternity leave.  Earning an MBA is a way to increase my business knowledge, expand my network, and open doors when I am ready to re-enter the workforce.  


What factor(s) did you consider when choosing a master’s program and why did you choose UIC Liautaud for your graduate study?

The most important thing for me is the ability to get a great job when I graduate.  I studied placement statistics very carefully and matched them to the tuition, and I realized UIC was clearly the best value for me. 


We all know that people pursue graduate school to increase their business knowledge, but since you have started the program, what has been the most unexpected gain the program has given you?

Before kids I worked crazy hours and always felt stressed, but I have learned to not confuse being busy with being stressed.  Four days a week I am a full-time mom, which leaves three days for my job as a TA, studying, and attending classes.  I have learned that procrastination equals defeat, and how to manage my stress levels.  Finding a way to achieve work-life balance is the only way that I can give my best to my job and to those who are counting on me at home.


Which professor has been your favorite thus far and why? 

Professor Deberry-Spence is my favorite.  Initially, she inspired me because she is a successful working mom and I’m craving that in a role model right now.  Then I became impressed with her great sense of humor, which carries her through any situation with grace.  Finally, and most importantly, I am so moved by her passion for her work in Africa.  So few people in life find a way to apply their talents in a way that helps others like she has.

What is your favorite aspect of the UIC campus and why?

I love the diversity of the students and the faculty.  I have been drawn to living in cities because of the melting of cultures, religions, and political beliefs, and UIC embodies this more than any other school I have seen.

What advice would you provide to incoming UIC Liautaud students? 

Part of going to grad school is learning to manage time constraints, group dynamics, and stress.  Learning these skills now will make you a better manager, and it is part of why you are here.  My other piece of advice is to take Economics and Accounting before you take Finance.

Do you have an elevator speech?

My elevator speech relates to a question that I am frequently asked, “Why did you quit cooking to take up purchasing?”  Here is my answer:  Cooking is great and my favorite hobby, but hospitality employees work every night, every weekend, and every holiday.  I love purchasing.  I love the variety of projects that I have worked on, from building a wine cellar at a luxury hotel to bidding out a project for 35 containers of grocery carts.  There is always a way to save more money, build a better relationship, design better quality, get the product faster, and find something new to sell.  It is my passion.

Is there anything you wish we would have asked you, that we did not and you wish to share with students?

I am also a Teaching Assistant for an undergraduate management class. I would really encourage MBA students to consider being a TA, as I have enjoyed my experience.  First, I really enjoy working with Professor Thompson.  He has taught me a lot about coaching and encouraging employees just by setting a good example.  Second, the tuition break has been very helpful.  Finally, I really enjoy learning more about the undergraduate students.  They are a hard-working bunch who juggle so much to fit school in, especially the veterans.  The job inspires me to put more energy into my studies and connect more with other students.

What is the best part about your UIC Liautaud experience?

Even the classes that I dread taking have been great.  I wanted nothing to do with Finance 500, but Randy Adams’ class was great even if the homework took me 10 hours a week (sometimes longer).  I always knew that employees of a corporation were working for the shareholder, but we learned about agency problems and the responsibilities corporations have to their shareholders.  I learned a whole new way of looking at investment decisions based on the knowledge I gained in his class. I know I will make better decisions in my career because of the new perspective I gained.