Student Spotlight: Michael Vidmar, MBA Candidate 2013

Michael Vidmar          

Full-time MBA Candidate, Finance and Management concentrations

Industry/Field of Work: Real Estate Finance

Undergraduate Degree: Economics

Undergraduate School: Dartmouth College

Career Goal: Manage real estate investment fund

Organizations involved with: Preston Bradley Center, GFIN

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

After a career developing small- and medium-size companies in the real estate industry, I had exposure across many facets of business. Unfortunately, I felt that my knowledge base was niched and was seeking a structured program that would not only provide the theory to skills I had developed, but also provide insights into other industries. 

What was the most important factor for you in choosing an MBA program?

In deciding where to go for my MBA, I was seeking a program that was not only embedded in a global business hub, but also one that had a research-driven curriculum across multiple disciplines. 

Why did you choose UIC Liautaud for your graduate study?

In leveraging the University’s position in the Chicago market, I recognized that UIC Liautaud combined these key factors with a flexible and affordable structure that would give me a strong knowledge base in developing my career. 

Since you have started the program, what has been the most unexpected gain the program has given you?

Perspective. While I was focused upon developing business skills across a wide breadth of industries, I was surprised by the global reach of the student body and the direct impact it has in the classroom. The perspective extends beyond geography but disciplines as well – and these have provided a challenge that is arguably more difficult than any class. 

For example, Liautaud offers a portfolio of classes that expose business students to product development in an environment that includes designers, engineers and programmers – each with different experience bases. This program has been extremely rewarding from a knowledge base perspective as well as challenging in learning to navigate and manage a diverse team. 

The UIC Liautaud professors are continuously involved in researching new business trends and innovations. How have you felt the professors have been able to integrate their theoretical knowledge into practical applications?

Coming out of an undergraduate institution that prides itself on teaching and research, I am critical of professors who are not accessible or do not have an active interest in applied methodology. I have had wonderful experiences with faculty and applied methods that take theory outside the classroom. For example, I was extremely fortunate to take Prof. Shanley’s strategy class in my first term. Not only is he a thought leader in case study method, but his teaching style combined historic, current and potential future approaches of business cases in a discussion setting where we as students were challenging and developing our own methods within a framework that developed methodology and critical application. Just as insightful was Prof. Balachandran’s Corporate Accounting class. While accounting may seem relatively dry, his method of communicating meaning and application from theory to present day examples have greatly enhanced my ability to interpret company financials as well as apply the same rigor and due diligence to other areas of business.

Which class/professor has been your favorite thus far and why?

I have 3 great experiences that were my favorites for different reasons.

Prof. Balachandran’s Intro to Corporate Accounting was one of my favorite classes. His teaching methods broke down complex concepts and material in a way that significant expanded my knowledge and interest in accounting.  In using numerous real world examples, Prof. Balachandran not only instilled confidence in being able to immediately apply principles, but his guidance and tutelage in our class presentation provided skills that have already helped me professionally. 

Prof. Shanley’s Corporate Strategy may have been my favorite class to date.  While I had some experience in evaluating business cases, his experience and insight in the case-study method provided techniques that have embedded a strong analytical framework for other business applications. Class discussions were lively allowing students to present their own concepts and ideas generated from a plethora of backgrounds and experiences. Prof. Shanley’s numerous examples helped hone my analytical skills with correlated and current examples.

Prof. Popowits’ Improv and Leadership course was transformative. Inherently, we know that much of our presentation in business is reactionary – without any preparation. Prof. Popowits created an environment in which we, as students, felt comfortable in practicing and testing effective communication techniques as well as the art of improvising – in a business setting. Not only was Prof. Popowits enlightening in observations of my own communication habits, but classmates developed an incredible camaraderie that led to respectful and constructive criticism that provided further feedback.  I have noticed a remarkable transformation in my classmates’ confidence whether it is in the classroom or a networking reception.  It is a shame that the class was so short!

What is your favorite aspect of the UIC campus?

One of my favorite aspects of the campus is the diversity. In taking classes with students from a wide spectrum of professional and business experiences, I believe my education has expanded, literally, outside of the classroom and into more of a global environment. 

What advice would you provide to incoming UIC Liautaud students?

Ask questions. UIC professors are currently engaged in some of the most innovative research in global business issues. These thought leaders in business practice, process and theory are more than willing to open doors beyond the traditional classroom learning environment exposing students to unanticipated knowledge and opportunities.