Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2018


Matthew Weiss

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Native New Yorker, photographer, journalist, children’s book author, small business owner and shark lover.

Hometown: New York, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have been scuba diving on every continent including Antarctica.

Undergraduate School and Major: Skidmore College, Biology.

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

2009-2011 – Editor-in-chief of DivePhotoGuide – an underwater photography digital media and adventure travel business.

2011-Current – DivePhotoGuide: Owner and CEO

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As an underwater photographer, I saw a problem first hand: a precipitous decrease in shark populations around the world, with certain species declining by as much as 89 percent in less than 20 years. I wanted to use the professional skills I’d developed – telling stories that have an impact on people through images and words — to help.

Please Be Nice to Sharks, a children’s book published by Sterling Publishers, that I wrote and illustrated using photographs, is my way of making a small contribution to the cause of saving sharks. Using the title as a refrain, the text encourages readers to view sharks not as ruthless man-eaters, but as a vital part of the oceanic ecosystem, which billions of people rely on as an economic and nutritional resource.

It’s my proudest achievement to date, because with my book I’m doing my part to change something about which I feel deeply. I decided to write Please Be Nice to Sharks to change people’s minds. If they can see sharks through my eyes and photographs, rather than through terrifying film and television images, maybe they’ll understand why sharks are more valuable alive than dead. Nothing would make me prouder than if my legacy was convincing even a few more people to be nicer to sharks.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? The GMAT is not fun, but I didn’t let myself get obsessive about the process. I had a target score, and did enough practice problems and tests to know I was capable of achieving the score. That gave me the confidence during test day, which I think is necessary to do well on an adaptive test that doesn’t provide feedback on how well you’re doing. For me, the GMAT was more of a mental challenge than anything else.  Additionally, I found practicing the quant by doing drills of questions of the same topic – word problems, exponents, etc. – rather than in the order the GMAT Official Guide prescribes helped me learn the material.

The essays took much longer than I thought. The prompts are simple questions and have short word requirements, but are deceptively tricky. As with any writing, working on a draft, stepping away for a day, and then looking at it again with fresh eyes is helpful.

I would encourage people to interview on campus, especially at Ross. The group exercise doesn’t involve any prep and is a great way to get to know other prospective students to see if they are the type of people with whom you want to learn. It’s actually pretty fun.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I found lots of schools had guiding principles or tenants that are written all over their marketing literature that students and admissions staff would constantly say were more than just empty slogans, but truly embedded in the school. However, at Ross, they didn’t tell me their principles, they showed me. I heard from students who took risks by turning down lucrative internships to start their own company; students who were constantly trying to challenge their mind by taking classes at other graduate programs; and students who were making a positive difference by working on social impact projects in Detroit. And while all these students were impressive, they were also always humble. Without fail, everyone I talked with attributed Ross’ collaborative and supportive culture to their success.

So while there were a number of tangible program features I like about Ross – MAP, the Zell Laurie Institute, its social impact commitment – my decision mostly came down to a gut feeling. One thing I’ve learned as an entrepreneur is to not undervalue the gut. I noticed that every time I visited campus, I did not want to leave. I felt comfortable and left inspired by my experiences. As a non traditional student looking to enter a non-traditional industry post-MBA, the normal b-school stats (rankings, placement statistics) didn’t matter that much to me. I wanted to go to a place where the students want to learn and grow. That’s Ross.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? I took over my business DivePhotoGuide, an underwater photography digital media publication, when publishing was experiencing rapid changes. Self-publishing and the desire for free content meant that traditional revenue streams of display ads and subscriptions were declining. I believe there’s value in a publisher’s ability to curate, edit and distribute content, and was concerned by the threats to the industry. I was inspired, though, by the innovative new media companies that saw these changes as an opportunity, and adapted in creative ways (organizing events, becoming creative agencies) while staying true to their core mission. Experts across a wide range of industries are trying to make elements of old media models new and profitable, as digital publishing evolves in unpredictable ways. I want to be a part of this process.                                                                             

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I hope they say I helped them be a little more adventurous.   

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