2022 MBA To Watch: Jayce Smalley, UC Davis

Jayce Smalley

University of California, Davis, Graduate School of Management

“A passionate young leader looking to blaze new paths for people to follow.”

Hometown: Kaneohe, Hawaii

Fun fact about yourself: I played Division I football for the UCLA Bruins and then the UC Davis Aggies while earning my MBA.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Los Angeles. Bachelor of Arts Communication.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Analyst, C2 Commercial, Santa Monica, Calif., which provides real estate financing for a wide variety of properties including retail, multifamily, single-tenant, office, industrial, healthcare, and more.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Upwelling Capital Group, an investment consultant with comprehensive institutional knowledge in the areas of private equity and alternative asset management. The company, founded by a UC Davis MBA alumnus, provides investment advice to financial institutions, family offices, endowments, and foundations, corporate pension plans, sovereign wealth funds, governmental entities and private investment funds.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be rejoining Upwelling Capital Group as financial analyst.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  1. Director of Health and Wellness for the UC Davis Graduate School of Management’s Associate Student Management, a non-profit dedicated to enhance the value of the MBA student experience at UC Davis.
  2. MBA Student Ambassador, connecting with prospective students to share our experiences and answer questions about the UC Davis MBA program.
  3. Finalist for the Stephen G. and Shelley A. Newberry Distinguished Fellowship, recognizing the leadership potential of top MBA students.
  4. Big Sky All-Academic Honors (NCAA football recognition).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being selected as a finalist for the Stephen G. and Shelley A. Newberry Distinguished Fellowship was the highlight of my UC Davis experience. The Newberry Leadership Award is the highest achieving award for any UC Davis Full-Time MBA student, in which nominations are made by your peer students and/or faculty. The award is presented to standout students who have made difficult decisions that were not popular, took responsibility, accepted accountability, demonstrated great leadership potential, and exhibited long-term CEO or COO potential. Being nominated for this award made me realize the impact I have on my classmates, and how I positively impacted their experience through my leadership role and daily actions.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my professional career, my biggest achievement was underwriting and modeling a Latin American Venture growth fund. This fund had a few businesses that had the potential to be unicorns; we recognized this potential and now observe their success. Completing this proper underwriting allowed me to gain the trust of my team and built confidence in myself to trust the tools that I learned in school and how they will translate to my professional career.

Why did you choose this business school? The cultural fit and support system that nurtured and challenged me simultaneously made me want to call UC Davis home for the next two years. I truly believe that what you put into business school is what you get out of it. After talking to Dean H. Rao Unnava, Assistant Director of Student and Academic Services Jaqueline Romo, and Associate Director of Admissions Jessica Moon, I realized that they all had the same goal, which was to push you to become the best you can be. Surrounding yourself with people who genuinely care about your development as a well-rounded person, rather than just your professional career success, creates an environment that encourages you to try things out of your comfort zone and find new passions. Creating the best you, you can be.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Ayako Yasuda, who teaches Fundamental Finance, and Technology Finance and Valuation. Her classes have challenged me intellectually and have had a huge impact on my ability to apply theory to real-world situations in my professional career, whether that be valuing companies, reviewing term sheets, or building leveraged buyout models.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back, the one thing I would do differently would be to connect with my classmates more when we were virtual during our first year. Enrolling in an MBA program during the height of the pandemic was challenging, but I understood the circumstances; you will be in a bubble and focused on school work. However, this had negative side effects in which we didn’t connect as a cohort outside of teamwork and class. As we transitioned back to in-person classes in our second year, I noticed how many memories I can create in the classroom and the intriguing discussions about new product ideas that happen in the hallways or student lounge. Those types of bonds were difficult to establish over Zoom, though I wish I had created weekly virtual hangout sessions or meet at a park so we could benefit from getting to know each other better.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the biggest myths about UC Davis is that it is boring and there is nothing to do besides see (and smell) cows. However, Davis is full of fun things to do, ranging from floating down the Sacramento River to going to the local farmers market every Saturday to indulge in tasty treats (cinnamon rolls) or buy fresh produce. There is also a close-knit community that the school provides that allows you the space to try new things. In my case, this was playing pickleball, which I have never heard of before, but I now play weekly with my classmates. And, Davis is within reach of all that Northern California has to offer. It’s a day trip to the beach, snowy Sierra mountains, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, the state capital and six national parks!

What surprised you the most about business school? All the teamwork. I feel like I have more meetings for group assignments during school than I ever had in my professional career.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? My extracurricular activity of playing Division I sports allowed me to display my leadership capabilities outside of my professional career. It also allowed me to showcase my work ethic, discipline, and ability to work with others since I have reached one of the highest levels of my sport.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ash Singh. I find him very brave because he had to leave his wife and two kids in India to pursue an MBA to better his family’s life. I admire this bravery because, if I had kids, I would want to see them every day. With his wife and children thousands of miles away and in different time zones, it must put a big stress on their relationship, yet he always has a smile on his face. I admire his ability to always find the good in people and always create the best out of a bad situation.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father. He has a master’s degree of his own and has always pushed me to pursue higher education. Growing up, he emphasized the importance of education and how it can open doors for you that were once locked. Being an African-American man in finance, there aren’t too many people who look like you or come from the same background. Still, education can create an equal playing field to negate biases in the industry.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Raise my own venture fund
  • Take a company public or be a part of an initial public offering

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic showed me the flexibility of work. You don’t have to work at the largest private equity firm or live in a big city to have exposure to amazing deal flow.

What made Jayce such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Jayce was in my Evaluation of Financial Information course last year. He was consistently one of the top students in the course and set a very high bar where he demonstrated a strong work ethic, intellect, and maturity and brought an ethos of collegiality, collaboration and leadership that stood out among his peers.

As an investment professional and adjunct lecturer at St. Mary’s College and the UC Davis Graduate School of Management, I seek to bring a real-world financial and management perspective from my 30-year business career to the classroom to help students on their academic and professional pathways. I hold the students to high standards and expectations that some already possess and others develop to prepare for future professional endeavors.

With that critical and experienced lens, I am proud to support the nomination of Jayce. His track record of academic success at UCLA and UC Davis, his impressive athletic achievements on the football team at both institutions and professional work experience with an impressive position at Upwelling Capital Group shortly after graduation sets him apart from his MBA peers as one of the finest students and a worthy Class of 2022 nominee.”

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