Exit Interview: Last Words Of Advice From Michigan Ross Gatekeeper Soojin Kwon

Soojin Kwon: “I think one of the biggest challenges that business schools face today are students’ growing expectations for schools to deliver on their multiple goals, most of which fall outside the classroom”

Relationship quotient, sometimes called emotional quotient, is about leadership. Great leaders don’t just manage; they create quality relationships, motivating teams toward a shared set of goals. It’s about giving yourself to work relationships in ways that are not selfish or conditional.

Trust is important; integrity and compassion are critical.

In her last media interview, one of the best in the MBA admissions business says developing better RQ/EQ is the single most important thing a B-school student can do to improve their career trajectory.

“Build your RQ (Relationship or Relational Intelligence),” says Soojin Kwon, who spent the last 17 and a half years as director of admissions at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. “It will not only help surface new career opportunities, it will help you build a more meaningful and fulfilling life.”

Kwon stresses the importance of authenticity — for MBA applicants, students, and basically everyone else. “In all things that involve screening or evaluation — from MBA admissions to dating — show up as your authentic self so you end up with a good match,” she says. “Showing up as someone you’re not can lead to one, or two, disappointed parties.”


Long the face of admissions at Michigan Ross, a top-10 business school in the United States and, with UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business, one of the top public B-schools in the world, Kwon announced in May that she would step down to accept a new role with consulting giant McKinsey.

Her departure leaves a big hole at Michigan. A 1999 Michigan MBA, Kwon helped guide the growth of the Ross program into elite status: The B-school is currently ranked 12th by Poets&Quants and 10th by U.S. News, and in 2021 Poets&Quants named Michigan Ross the MBA Program of the Year. In its most recent class the Ross MBA program had achieved 46% women, 36% students of color, 42 countries represented, almost two dozen veterans, and over 50 MBAs who were the first in their families to go to college. Additionally, the Ross MBA Class of 2023 boasts a record-high GMAT average of 722 and consecutive No. 1 rankings for Best-Administered MBA Program (2020 and 2021) in The Princeton Review.

“As an outstanding alum herself, Soojin Kwon has been a great champion of the Michigan Ross Full-Time MBA Program,” says Brad Killaly, associate dean of full-time MBA programs at Michigan Ross. “During her 17 years at Ross, she has helped us achieve many significant admissions and program goals, including attracting a more diverse student cohort and creating an even better MBA student experience. We congratulate Soojin on her success at Ross and wish her the best as she pursues this new opportunity.”


Kwon’s focus on the importance of RQ is no surprise. She made it her calling card as head of the Ross School’s admissions, Killaly says — leaving the school, which also has a new dean, in a very strong position as the 2022-2023 school year looms.

“Soojin has been part of an exceptionally strong full-time MBA admissions and program team,” Killaly says. “We are fortunate to have these talented individuals in place to guide us both in our transition period and as we embark on our search for a new managing director. With our new dean, Sharon Matusik, joining us in August, it’s an exciting time for Michigan Ross, and we are confident that we will be able to continue to innovate our top-tier MBA program and enhance the student experience in the years to come.”

Below, see Soojin Kwon’s thoughts on changes over the years in MBA admissions, how the programs themselves have dramatically changed, and the overall state of graduate business education today.


Poets&Quants: Reflect on your time at Michigan and the biggest changes that have taken place. How far has the school come in GMAT average, women in the program, under-represented minorities in the program? What is the biggest difference now from when you started in admissions?

Soojin Kwon: In the 17 years I have worked at Michigan Ross, the school and our Full-Time MBA Program have changed a great deal.

At the school, we have launched new degree programs and formats, new centers and institutes, new concentrations, and countless new co- and extra-curricular options. Classmates who graduated with me would barely recognize the program! While much change has happened, Ross has maintained its commitment to action-based learning and building a collaborative community.

In terms of changes in the profile of our FTMBA class, that, too, looks quite different than it did 17 years ago. We have seen huge increases in applications, increases in average test scores, and more diversity in our student body. From 2004-2021, we doubled the total number of applications and the number of apps from underrepresented students. We have more than doubled the number of apps we receive from women and veterans. During that period, the percentage of women in the class increased from 31% to a record of 46%, and the average GMAT score increased from 690 to a record of 722.

How we achieved this involves many changes and improvements; it’s hard to isolate just one or two, but here are some that I’m proud of.

See the next page for the rest of Poets&Quants’ interview with Soojin Kwon, conducted via email.


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