MBA Open Evening

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The first Opening Evening for the classes of 2016 took place Wednesday evening in UCD Smurfit School with the newly installed Christmas tree in the front hall which gave the occasion a rather festive feel. This event concentrated on the post experience Masters and MBA programmes and was a lively event with a good crowd with lots of questions on the details of the programmes and their delivery, admissions procedures and all of their individual concerns.

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The MBA element of the evening included an opportunity to meet with staff from the MBA programme, a presentation by the MBA Admissions Manager and introductory briefings on the UCD Smurfit MBA Leadership Development Programme which runs in parallel with the academic programme and a presentation from the Careers and Skills Office who work tirelessly with our MBA students throughout their time on the programme and indeed afterwards.  This was followed by a panel discussion with MBA alumni and current participants (many thanks to Colin Creagh ’10, Morag Pollock ’13, Niamh O’Reilly ’13, Sarah Tuma ’16, Vince Cooney ’16 and Donal Bailey ’17).  The student and alumni panel and Q&A was probably the most valuable from the attendees’ perspective as it was an insight into the realities, challenges and rewards of the MBA experience from those who have lived or are living it.

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This was the first of many events for the upcoming recruitment season with other Open Evenings, Breakfasts, Experience Days and GMAT preparation sessions on the schedule, so if you are interested in attending please check in with us mba@ucd.ie and we’ll add you to the list of those interested in knowing what is happening and when.

Roisin O’Loughlin ~ Executive MBA Programme Manager

‘Characters in Conversation’ with Dr. Michael Smurfit

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Dr. Michael Smurfit & Professor Ciaran O’Hogartaigh, Dean of UCD College of Business

UCD Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School welcomed Dr. Michael Smurfit on Thursday November 12th to participate in a “Characters in Conversation” event with Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh, Dean of Business. This ‘Founders Day’ event is eagerly anticipated within the annual School Calendar and this year we were delighted that Dr. Laurence Crowley, the founding Executive Chairman of the Smurfit School was in attendance.

Pooja Dey from the FT MBA class and the Thought Leadership Club capably took on the role of MC for the event. Pooja welcomed Dr. Smurfit on behalf of the Smurfit School by thanking him for his undying commitment to quality education. She commented on what a privilege it was to be in the company of an iconic leader, a role model, and an inspiration to those in attendance.

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Professor Ciaran O’Hogartaigh, Pooja Dey – Full-Time MBA & Dr. Michael Smurfit

Dr. Smurfit engaged in a Q&A session and students were afforded an opportunity to explore what inspires Dr. Smurfit, the challenges he has faced in his career, the critical success factors that led him to where he is today and his views on the global economic climate. Dr. Smurfit recognised Ireland’s highly educated workforce as being a primary strength in continuing to attract International Foreign Investment when asked by FT MBA student Elsa Heffernan about our country’s future as a Tech Hub. When asked by Diana Rodríguez Béjar, a FT MBA Exchange Student, which qualities he respects in his employees, Dr. Smurfit highlighted honesty and integrity, loyalty and business acumen as being the characteristics he values most.

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John Ryan Full-Time MBA

When asked what advice he would give himself as a 21 year old Michael Smurfit, Dr. Smurfit mused that he would advise himself to never give up, don’t be afraid to take risks and to have a go. He advised that individuals should address stress by implementing a ‘Problem, Solution, Result’ approach to business life and to switch off from your job when not at work. Professor Ciarán Ó hÓgartaigh elaborated on this point by stressing the importance of pushing boundaries, to leave the world in a better place then you find it, something Dr. Smurfit has done by committing to the Smurfit School. Professor Ó hÓgartaigh quoted Seamus Heaney by saying “Faculty are here to develop capacities, your destinies are your own”. Very wise words for our MBA class….

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Peter Hynes, Donal Ryan, Conor Mc Mahon & Carley Wasechek – Full-Time MBA

Yvonne Harding ~ FT MBA Programme Manager

A Day in the Life of a Full Time MBA Student

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The alarm clock goes off at 7am. Your first thought is that you’re a student and that you can have a lie on. Then you realise that you’re not a student, but an MBA candidate so the normal student rules don’t apply!!! Time to get up.

Over breakfast you look at your calendar for the day.  How many classes do you have? How many group meetings? Have you done all the necessary pre-reading and prep work? The answer to these questions will let you know what type of day to expect.

Arrive at campus at 8.00. Classes start at 8.30 so you have 30 minutes to get everything in order. If you have finished the pre-readings, you sit back, relax and chat with your classmates. If you haven’t completed the pre-readings, you quickly flick through them, hoping to get an overview so the class won’t be a complete waste of time. (Not that I need to do that!)

Class typically starts with a 15 minute presentation from a group. Several hours of preparation have gone into this 15 minutes, but as there are valuable marks  on offer, it’s worth it. This is followed by a class discussion on the topic. It could last another 15 minutes to an hour depending on the views of the class. The remainder of the 2 hour class, is more theoretical, although there is always a healthy level of contribution from the class, which keeps it engaging.

At 10.30, there’s a quick coffee break, before we do it all again from 11am to 1pm.

At 1pm our “official” college day is finished. Although, that’s when the hard work begins. Throughout the MBA you are assigned a group for continuous assessment. This assessment comes in the form of paper submissions, presentations and simulations. For some subjects, the group projects account for 40% of the marks. As a group, you will have on average one project a week. A project could take 6 to 20 hours per person, depending on its complexity and value.

The afternoon is spent with your group working through these projects. Every group experiences a bad week, in which they might have three projects due. Knowing the pressure the groups face, foundation week is largely focused on how to work as a team.

On a typical day, you aim to leave before 7pm. If your group have a presentation the next morning, that could be 10pm. If you have a quiet week, you might get to leave at 5pm.

Unfortunately your day doesn’t finish there. Once home you have to finish the pre-reading for the next day’s classes. The alternative is that you dedicate your weekend to the week’s pre-reading, in which case you get a few hours off in the evening.

The above cycle repeats itself for three days a week. One day a week dedicated to the long-term initiatives, careers and leadership development. Usually it’s a full day workshop on a specific topic. So far these have included Communication Skills, Team Building, Presentation Skills (extremely valuable), Career Brainstorming, Networking skills to name a few.

The fifth day acts as a buffer for rescheduled classes, networking events and club meetings. However, more often than not it is used for additional team meetings, and we’re grateful for the time to fit another one in.

As you can see, the hours are long. However if you keep your end goal in mind and stay focused, they will fly by. And as soon as you realise you’re doing this work for yourself and not the lecturers, you will enjoy it!

Donal Byrne ~ Full-Time MBA

The Monte Carlo Simulation, Chicago Real Estate, Modelling Competitions and Creating Sensitivities

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The title covers some of the topics covered in today’s Excel session with Aidan Corbett of Kubicle, and while it wasn’t as exotic as the title sounds, it was another of the practical classes that deliver “real world” practical learning and know-how, as part of the MBA Leadership Development Programme. The challenge with Excel training in the full-time MBA class is that there’s a huge gap in terms of competencies in the class. Some of the class have come from quantitative backgrounds with high levels of expertise in Excel, while others like me, need all the practice that we can get.

Today’s session was a deep-dive into financial modelling and construction of the different elements that make up the models. We were challenged to advise a real-estate investor on his proposed purchase of an apartment in Chicago, along with the construction of a model to base our recommendations on. Besides giving us the practical steps on how to build the model, Aidan explained the processes and steps that make the model flexible and robust. Most importantly however, Aidan explained how this type of exercise feeds into the decision-making process, especially when it comes to advising clients while working in management consultancy.

I spoke to some of my classmates after the session, and despite the big gap in competencies when it comes to proficiency in Excel, it was clear that everyone got something out of the class.

Des Warner ~ Full-Time MBA

The MBA Experience Curve


Time is Precious



It’s fair to say, that despite lots of warnings, most of us were at various stages during the first semester almost overwhelmed by the time constraints involved in holding down a fulltime job, completing an MBA and having some semblance of a personal life. We knew it was going to be a substantial commitment but nothing really prepares you adequately for it until you actually go through it.  As a result, many of us have been forced to significantly ramp up our productivity levels in order to meet our various deadlines. Fortunately we learned something about this in our first case study in Competitive Strategy. Well, sort of.

The experience curve is an idea developed by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) in the mid-1960s. The more experience a firm has in producing a particular product, the lower are its costs. Bruce Henderson, the founder of BCG, put it as follows: “Costs characteristically decline by 20-30% in real terms each time accumulated experience doubles. This means that when inflation is factored out, costs should always decline. The decline is fast if growth is fast and slow if growth is slow”.

The ‘cost’ to an MBA student is undoubtedly time, which pretty much evaporates. However, all is not lost. The Christmas break, after the shock treatment of semester one, has allowed many of us to apply the various productivity lessons that we have learned. At our Christmas drinks party one classmate revealed that he recorded himself reading his notes so that he could listen to them while in the car commuting to work each morning and then to class that evening. Another classmate then revealed that she had discovered an app that reads PDF files to you, which she also listens to in the car, however saving her the time necessary to record herself reading those same notes. The MBA experience curve in action.

Conor Connolly ~ Year 1 Executive MBA

We Do Get a Break!

Many of the posts on this blog touch on the aspect of time, and how little of it we have when immersed in the MBA. It is true that the workload is intense and takes up much of your time. Each semester consists of 12 busy weeks of lectures, assignments, group work etc. This is then followed by a week of exam prep and then the exams themselves.

However, the good news is that there is a break! This year, the Year 1 Executive MBAs finished their last Semester 1 exam on December 12th and we return for Semester 2 on January 16th, meaning there was a solid month’s break for us to enjoy and regain our strength! At the end of Semester 2 we will commence a nice long summer break. Year 2 will then follow a similar structure, except that it will be followed by the Capstone project.

Anyone considering the Exec MBA may be a bit daunted by the notion of undertaking the MBA for “2 years”. Hopefully, you may take some solace in the above information! The best way to view the MBA is to break it into its semester-long sprints. After each sprint you can enjoy a bit of downtime and relaxation. Of course, for those of you who just can’t get enough, there is plenty of additional reading and online courses for you to enjoy in your spare time!

Ciarán Reilly

EMBA Weekend Year 1

Class of 2014 Graduation Ball

Class of 2014 Graduation Ball



On Friday December 5th, we saw the MBA Classes of 2014 receive their well-deserved graduation awards at the conferring ceremony in UCD O’Reilly Hall.

Following this, on Saturday December 6th, we attended the Smurfit MBA Graduation Ball 2014. The ball was organised by the graduates and took place in The Morrison Hotel, Dublin.

One of the greatest things about working in Academia is the privilege of seeing our students, year after year, achieve one of their greatest life goals, and the past weekend was no exception.


The Blues Brothers


The graduation ball was a huge success; with a champagne reception, delicious four course meal, a free prize draw and a night of fantastic music from the Blues Brothers which saw everybody dance the night away, it was the perfect way for our former students to celebrate the monumental achievement of becoming a UCD Smurfit MBA Graduate.


Emma Fagan, Alan Leahy, David Addie, Cormac Dunne


Class of 2014 Graduation Ball


Aisling O'Keeffe, Andrew Bacon, Lorcan McFadden, Claire McAlister


Ciaran Hynes, Claire O'Sullivan, Andrew Bourke


Congratulations to each and every one of our graduates and best wishes for your future adventures! Although you are no longer students, no matter where life takes you post-MBA, you will always be connected by the UCD Smurfit Business Alumni, keep in touch!


MBA Team: Shannon Coco, Avril Donohue, Orla Nugent, Michael McDonnell


Big congratulations again and best wishes for a bright future!

Avril Donohue

The MBA Team

MIJE – Masters in Juggling Everything

The only thing I ever knew about spreadsheets was how to spell it. And if I typed in a hurry, there was a fairly good chance I’d get it wrong.

Coming from a journalism background, the thoughts of studying financial modules brought me out in a cold sweat. I didn’t know my EBIDATA from my ROI and I felt much more comfortable quizzing a head of state or covering a murder trial than using a calculator.

Fast forward three months and not only can I use Excel, I can actually read spreadsheets and financial statements. And acronyms are now my new language. Instead of my eyes glazing over when I hear of ROCE or EPS or WACC, I’m now comfortable with the terminology. And I also know that HRM has another meaning other than Her Royal Majesty.

One the many lessons I’ve learned since taking the plunge to do an MBA is that not having a financial background is no hindrance. Sure, it would make Financial Reporting a little easier, but having a background in writing means that I don’t baulk at being handed a 2,500 word project. Give me an interesting topic and 5,000 words to write and I’ll give you a work of art (almost) in a few hours. And as for deadlines? I’ve never met one that I didn’t like to sail close to.

Aside from finance, there’s so much else to learn and juggle – strategy, human resources, operations, economics, marketing….the list goes on.

Maybe the MBA title is what misled me into thinking only people with a background in business and finance ever did the course. Perhaps it’s time for a new title that could give a more accurate interpretation of what it’s all about?

Masters In Juggling Everything (MIJE)

Masters in Time Management (MITM)

Masters in Getting By On No Sleep (MIGBONS)

Masters in Networking and Job Hunting (MINJH)

I’m not sure they’ll ever catch on but they might help explain a little of the madness of the rollercoaster journey of an MBA student.

Edel Kennedy

FT MBA

They don’t make them like that anymore (continued)


Read part 1 here

It was John Joshua who at the beginning of 19th century sold off the lower portion of the Stillorgan estate for building development and at this time Carysfort Avenue was laid out.  Part of the estate, including the grounds of our campus, Lord Carysfort then sold to Attorney General Mark Anthony Saurin. Then the ownership transferred to another highly prominent figure, Right Hon. Rickard Deasy, whose involvement in the historically important Landlord and Tenant Law Amendment Act 1860 resulted in the Act being widely known as Deasy’s Act.

Finally, Carysfort House and the surrounding estate were offered for sale in 1890, and the Sisters of Mercy, represented by Mother Superior Liguori Keenan, decided that these grounds, away from the busy, industrial and bustling city of Dublin, would be a perfectly suited home for education provided on a grand scale. This lady has been described as a very strong-minded, all-action woman who happened to be a sister of Sir Patrick Keenan, Head Commissioner of Education in Ireland. Mother Keenan led the process of transferring the School from Baggot Street and developing the Blackrock site to expand the facilities, including the main (red brick) building of the current Smurfit School. In 1901, Dr. Walsh, Archbishop of Dublin, laid the foundation stone for a teacher training college, the chapel, an industrial school, a primary school and a secondary school. The main building of the current Smurfit School served as the reputable teacher training college, assuming the name of Carysfort College. At its peak in the early 1980s, the college produced more than 400 primary school teachers per year. It enjoyed the reputation of producing highly-trained and highly-competent teachers.

In February 1986, Gemma Hussey, Fine Gael Minister of Education, announced that the Department of Education was no longer prepared to subsidise the college. The decline in birth rate, and thus the decrease in the number of teachers required, was cited as the primary reason for this.

Among those who participated in the education process at Carysfort were Eamonn de Valera, first Taoiseach and first President of the Republic of Ireland, who was a professor of maths there; recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature poet Seamus Heaney, who served as head of the English Department; and Dr. Vincent O’Brien, a professor of music, among whose pupils were Count John McCormack and James Joyce. An interesting account by Christine Coady (later Sister Pascal), who studied there in 1910, details unusual aspects of Eamonn de Valera’s  teaching: “Looking back one can see that many of the problems he set up were based on his study of arms and ammunition – the principle of the torpedo took up one session”.


Natasha Ibanez



– Natasha Ibanez, FT MBA 2013

They don’t make them like that anymore

One of the most special things about this year is the privilege of completing our studies in a location associated with an esteemed history of education, evidence of which lies in the magnificent building that houses our college and the surrounding areas. The building itself is a well-preserved example of the architecture of its time, with a design rich in detail, from the wide, steep staircase, the halls, high ceilings and doorway arches, to the numerous high, deep-set windows (making use of the technology available at that time, to embrace as much light as possible) and, most notably, the characteristic red brickwork. It is this level of detail, rarely evident in modern architecture, and the workmanship invested in the building, that add to the sense of a place where the serious yet nurturing matter of education must take place, a sense of grandeur among comfort. This is a culture and tradition fit for reflection, learning and development. Here, one can experience tranquillity and protection via seclusion from the modern, busy world of noise, glass and steel.

Such features lead to the question: Why was this building lavished with so much attention and financial support? I could not find a straightforward answer to this question, but I did discover some interesting facts regarding the history of this building and the surrounding land.

The history of the Smurfit Graduate School of Business began when UCD, via a combination of government funding and private funding (from Dr. Michael Smurfit), purchased the buildings and the 20 acres of land connected to it at the beginning of 1991 from businessman Mr. Robert “Pino” Harris. Such a move supported the transfer of the already successful UCD Graduate School of Business to a new location, as well as its expansion. The deal found support in government among the highest ranks, including the Taoiseach. Originally, plans were made to organise a shuttle bus service between the new branch of UCD and its main Belfield campus.

The previous owner of the premises, Mr. Harris, whose main business interests involved importing trucks, had only been its proud owner for 7 months prior to selling. Mr. Harris’s intention when purchasing the property in mid-1990 was to establish an international education school, which would have been highly desired by many, perpetuating the property’s legacy of high-quality education.

Prior to Mr. Harris, a consortium known as Devmac owned the building; and previous to this, it had been founded by the Sisters of Mercy. The property then served as a teacher training college, initially for women solely. Only towards the end, in 1975, did it become co-educational. The last two transfers of ownership were unfortunately plagued with financial controversies, but which are now in the past.

Although the college’s postal address locates it in Blackrock, the grounds were once part of a parkland belonging to the Stillorgan estate. The land afforded a great view of the sea, even from Stillorgan, with the surroundings relatively free of construction. One of the most long-standing owners was the Allen family, which purchased these lands, including the lands around Cary’s fort, a castle in Co. Wicklow. The castle received its name from its founder and first owner, 1st Viscount Falkland, Henry Carey, who built it in the 1620s. Henry Carey was also the Lord Deputy of Ireland between 1622 and 1629. The Allen family actively acquired land, expanding the Stillorgan estate to include the current college campus grounds. The Hon. Elizabeth Allen’s extensive inheritance, consisting of the largest estates in Ireland at the time, was then shared with John Proby through marriage in the mid-18th century. John Proby’s successful career raised him to the Peerage of Ireland, making him 1st Baron Carysfort of Carysfort. Their son, John Joshua Proby, even acquired the title of 1st Earl of Carysfort, and, in 1804 built Carysfort Park House, now known as the Ligouri House, around which the current student accommodation (Proby House Residencies) has been built.

To be continued …

– Natasha Ibanez, FT MBA 2012-13