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5 ways to foster your network during your MBA experience

Making the decision to pursue an MBA is not easy. There are hundreds of programs, formats and prices. Once you sort through all of your options and apply to your top programs, you’re then faced with deciding which of the programs you’ve been admitted to will provide you the ultimate student experience, and most importantly, ample networking opportunities.

Networking in an MBA program is like nothing you’ve ever experienced – it’s not all suit and tie. It’s about the connections you make and memories you create that provide a lifetime of personal and professional opportunities. Here at UF MBA, the networking begins prior to orientation and extends through the end of your program, even once you are an alumnus.

Buckle up for a ride with two of UF MBA’s Student Affairs team members, Shane Van Deree and Janin Menendez as they highlight 5 ways to foster your network during your MBA student experience.

  1. UF MBA Community

MBA students come from a variety of backgrounds, both personally and professionally. Couple that with a variety of program formats and you instantly have an unlimited number of opportunities for students to network. With networking being such a large part of the student experience, students often ask, “Are there opportunities to get to know other working professional and full-time MBA students?” Yes, there are!

At UF MBA, networking starts eight weeks prior to orientation. During that time, students are given access to the UF MBA Community, a virtual communication/networking hub similar to Facebook. Within the Community, students have access to their specific cohort, the entire MBA student population (including current students and alumni) and sub-groups, such as MBA Veterans, MBA’s in Fort Lauderdale, and many more.

While this platform is the main point of communication for administration and a resource for students to find information regarding financial aid, course schedules, football tickets, etc., it also provides a centralized place for students across all program formats to network. An administrator or student in any program format can send out a message to everyone in the group regarding any subject. The best part of this? Well, after students graduate from the program, they continue to have access, so alumni can share insight with current students and even sign up for events. This creates an immediate sense of connection to the network.

At the end of the day, no matter what program format a student is in, they receive the same diploma, so they should receive the same experience and access to the same network.

  1. Informal Networking

It’s not always about the suit and tie. It’s easy to forget that some of the best relationships you create are the ones you didn’t intend to. Think about it this way, you’re on a business trip having dinner by yourself. You turn to the stranger sitting next to you and strike up a conversation. Next thing you know, you’ve spent a decent amount of time chatting and realize you’re in town for the same conference.

It’s the same in your MBA program. At UF MBA, we facilitate a number of events from happy hours, to festive holiday sweater networking socials and even the occasional ice cream cart in the building lobby on a Saturday afternoon. It’s these moments that allow you to bond over the simplest of things, learn about someone’s background and create a sense of camaraderie with everyone. It’s easy to meet a stranger and ask “So, what do you do?” It just might work to your advantage, say, if you’re a full-time student talking to a working professional student who happens to work for the company where you are looking to apply for an internship or job.

  1. Formal Networking

Sometimes it is all about the suit and tie. Networking with recruiters, alumni or visiting a company for an information session and facility tour typically requires the “dress to impress” mindset. It is in these situations, much like an interview, that you are trying to cultivate a new relationship, enhance an existing one, or “seal the deal.”

At UF MBA, we facilitate a number of formal networking events. These events typically include our Networking Nights, where we invite current students and alumni for an evening of networking, and City Treks, where we collaborate with some of our corporate partners to provide a day of company visits for students to meet with executives and receive a facility tour. It’s here that we utilize our alumni network to provide our current students with access to the opportunities which can lead to an increased interest in a career change, or a career change itself.

  1. Business Career Services

While you may not be looking for a new career, it’s common that during your MBA experience you will engage with colleagues from various different backgrounds. It’s typically these conversations, attendance at one of our networking events or City Treks, or conversations with your career coach that draw up interest in looking to make the next move in your career. It’s this aspect of networking which facilitates relationships with like-minded individuals with whom you share similar goals.

Business Career Services at the Warrington College of Business has centralized the entire job search process for students. With dedicated career coaches and a curriculum that drives success, they facilitate additional opportunities for you to network. These opportunities, such as the Beyond the Swamp: Alumni Insights webinar series, Professional Development Day, and virtual and in-person company information sessions, provide opportunities to not just meet with recruiters, but also UF MBA alumni who were once in your shoes. By collaborating with your career coach and utilizing this network, you’re on a high-speed track for success.

  1. Your Cohort

The easiest network to gain access to during your MBA studies is your cohort. This group of individuals has decided to embark on the same endeavor that you have. In addition to that, because they are in the same program format, they have similar expectations and often similar backgrounds, personally and professionally. This group is by your side every step along the way. Like in most MBA programs, you also work in teams for your courses. Throughout your time in the program, this group of individuals becomes your family.

Your cohort is with you from day one to beyond graduation. UF MBA connects you with your cohort Community group for centralized communication, but you also have a Cohort Representative who is elected by the cohort and represents the group as a main point of contact with administration. Memories last a lifetime, so take advantage of the opportunities to create them! Keeping to yourself and not stepping out of your comfort zone to create an impact, or impression, can lead to consequences, such as missed connections. You never know who you’ll cross paths with or where someone will go, so cherish every moment.

Interested in building a stronger network? Request information to learn how UF MBA can help you make professional and personal connections that will last a lifetime.

Shane Van Deree

Shane C. Van Deree began his career with UF MBA in March 2017 as the Academic Program Specialist for Student Experience. Shane, working alongside his team, oversees all aspects of the student lifecycle including onboarding, orientations, networking, graduations and much more. Prior to his appointment with the Warrington College of Business, he was hired to launch the UF Online Recruitment and Outreach Center as the Assistant Director under the Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management for the Division of Enrollment Management, after briefly serving as the Academic Services Coordinator for UF Online. It was ultimately Shane’s first position at UF as Student Services and Recruitment Coordinator within the College of the Arts that gave him the foundation for his knowledge and passion for higher education academic and student affairs. A two-time Florida Gator, Shane earned his Bachelor of Music in Instrumental Music Performance from the College of the Arts and Master of Science in Entrepreneurship from the Warrington College of Business.



Janin Menendez Janin Menendez is the Director of Student Affairs for the MBA for Professionals programs at the Warrington College of Business. She has been with the University of Florida MBA programs for over 11 years in progressive student affairs-related roles, becoming the Director of Student Affairs in 2016. She leads a very talented team responsible for the operational, academic, and student experience components of the student life cycle for approximately 800 students in the Online, Executive and Professional MBA formats. Janin transitioned to a career in higher education after seven years as a federal employee in the Washington, D.C. area. She earned both her bachelor’s degree in geography and her M.Ed. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Florida.