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Blazing A Career Path with UIC Liautaud

The business world is chang-ing. UIC MBA alum, Megan Sparks, changed with it

Megan Sparks is one of the faces of the UIC Liautaud Graduate School of Busi-ness’ newest advertising campaigns. Sparks, a 2011 MBA alumna from the Uni-versity of Illinois at Chicago, was heavily involved with all aspects of her graduate experience and, her modesty aside, is the perfect face to promote the UIC Liautaud brand. With a focus on international busi-ness and marketing while in the program, Sparks embodied all the characteristics of an exemplary Liautaud student: hard-working, intelligent, passionate, and am-bitious.

Jump starting the MBA Program Sparks decided to go back to school for her MBA to be sure that every door to ad-vancement was opened in her profes-sional landscape. With an undergrad degree in Finance from Eastern Illinois University, she knew the next logical step was applying to an MBA program to strengthen her skill set and increase her overall competitive edge in a very candidate-saturated mar-ketplace. When it came to choosing a graduate school, Sparks says her decision to apply to UIC Liautaud was rel-atively simple. 

“I chose UIC because of the intimacy of the program. Every professor knows you by name, which allows you to have the opportunity to individually excel. I felt this was a place that would challenge me and provide me with a solid framework to enter the workforce and be able to con-tribute immediately,” she says.

Sparks also participated in the year-long Interdisciplinary Product Development (IPD) program as part of her studies, which offers a unique learning environ-ment in which students in business, de-sign and engineering partner with corporate sponsors to generate new prod-uct innovation for the partner and a real-world educational experience for students. Through cross-functional team-ing, conducting and applying customer research, and developing a product from concept to first-stage prototyping, stu-

dents replicate the early stages of devel-oping a new product in an organizational environment. Sparks found the IPD coursework particularly rewarding.

“Going into my MBA, I knew I wanted to focus on consumer products but didn’t have a lot experience in the industry,” she says. “The IPD course was an amazing program providing both theory and hands-on experience revolving around product innovation.  Having the ability to experience the process from ideation to innovation allowed me to gain critical in-sight into all areas of the consumer mar-keting experience.”

Around the World with UIC Liautaud In today’s global business environment, international experience is crucial for a successful career. The UIC Liautaud MBA program offers students two study abroad programs – a four-week course in Europe and a two-week course in Brazil – to gain firsthand knowledge about for-eign business systems and cultures. Stu-dents develop an understanding of a culturally unique business environment while sharpening their global business and language skills, and hopefully open-ing the door to future employment in the international market.

Sparks eagerly took advantage of both study abroad opportunities as part of the MBA coursework and says the adven-tures were not only new experiences geo-graphically, but they taught her an abundance about different cultures and the challenges faced when conducting business internationally. 

“The Know Europe program provided an amazing opportunity to travel throughout Europe, while developing an interna-tional marketing plan around a domestic product. We were faced with the chal-lenges of market research, developing a budget, executing promotional strategies and organizing the logistics of product in-troduction. After participating in this pro-gram, I was able to gain invaluable experience in the consumer packaged goods industry which eventually led to

me to pursue a career at the Kellogg Com-pany,” she says.

UIC Liautaud’s Doing Business in Brazil program provided Sparks a foundation of foreign political structure, as well as an emphasis on the economic importance Brazil currently possesses in the world. While on the trip, Sparks was able to tour Brazilian businesses and speak with influ-ential executives highly regarded in the Brazilian financial industry. 

The study abroad programs truly shaped Sparks’ career goal plans. When she first entered the MBA program, she was unde-cided as to which industry she wanted to pursue in her career. She found the an-

swers she was looking for while involved in the Know Europe and Doing Business in Brazil pro-grams.

“These trips were great resume builders. I walked away from both experiences able to fill up an entire resume with professional projects that I have been able to speak to in interviews. I can’t recommend these programs enough to any marketing ma-jors!” Sparks said.

Making the Mark with GMARK The UIC Liautaud experience also encom-passes the ability to network with your fellow students and, for those who are highly motivated, start their own student organizations which interest them. Sparks co-founded the UIC Graduate Marketing Association (GMARK), a student organi-zation dedicated to developing the skills and knowledge of marketing students through professional networking, indus-try connections and events.

CHICAGO style  EDUCATION

Success Through Earning Starts With Eduction

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