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Home planet – SOM, sophomore style

Jake Chused

"WHITTY AND DETERMINED": Jake Chused ’03. “We're all pretty different, but we know what we need to get done.”

Every fall the Isenberg School of Management prints its “New Faces” directory, with photos and names of all entering students. Beneath each name is a single word the student has provided as a description.


     “Fun,” say some. “Relaxed,” “zany,” “musical,” say others. And since this is a school bursting with leadership potential, a good number describe themselves as “ambitious,” “competitive,” or “outgoing.”

     Last year, Jake Chused’s word was “whitty.” He coined the term to describe his sense of humor — lighthearted with a dollop of sarcasm. A year and a half later, at our request, he offers an update.

     (In that time he’s become president of SOM’s undergraduate leadership council, a worker in its undergraduate placement office, a mentor to incoming students, a Bemis Corporation Scholarship winner, and maintained a GPA of just under 4.0, all while serving as treasurer of his fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi.)

     Now, says Chused without hesitation, his word would be “determined.” The sophomore from Concord is one of those students who “could have gone anywhere,” says Dennis Hanno ’90G, SOM’s undergraduate dean. “But he came out here and he liked what he saw. Whatever first impression we made was obviously very positive.” In fact, says Chused, it was Hanno himself who tipped the scales. “Dennis is one of the major reasons I came here – even though “I’d applied all over, to Harvard, Princeton, Duke, Yale, Tufts, UMass.”

     There’s a reason Chused lists UMass last: “This was the safety school,” he acknowledges. “But when it came down to decision time – ” he lifts his shoulders. “My mom said ‘Just in case, let’s go out to UMass.’” The family called to say they were coming to an open house, and Hanno set up a personal meeting with them. Chused, already impressed by SOM’s national ranking and selectivity, was further impressed by the attention. That meeting, and Hanno’s obvious enthusiasm about the school and Chused’s potential place in it, sold him.

     To Hanno, Chused represents, if not a new type of student, at least a type that’s becoming more common at UMass in general and SOM in particular in recent years. They’re the result of the increased selectivity: “We accept only 35 percent of applicants now,” says Hanno. “This is a recent phenomenon.”

As for Chused, he’s never looked back. He’s as pleased to have chosen UMass and SOM as if he had a winning lottery ticket gripped tightly in his hand: “UMass is a third of the cost of everywhere else, the reputation is great, it’s far enough away but it’s still close,” he says. When he was also invited to join the Talent Advancement Program, or TAP, his freshman year, he was initially leery: “When I read the description of it, I turned it down. It seemed you’re with these kids, you have all your classes with them, you live with them – he makes a face. But over the summer, he met other TAP members, and “after orientation, I thought, ‘I’m signing on to this.’” Next to his choice of UMass, this was “the best decision I made,” says Chused. “It was all different kinds of kids, all different kinds of interests. It was like having an apartment with 30 roommates.”

     Also in his first year Chused began working in SOM’s undergraduate placement office – where, he’ll tell you, you get to see everything, including just how much a UMass degree is worth. “Working there is amazing,” he says. “You see all the kids coming through, who is getting jobs for what reason – just sort of everything in perspective.” He’s not surprised by the school’s much-touted placement rate: More than 200 of last year’s grads were hired directly through the placement office, at an average starting salary of $37,000. SOM students are “all pretty different, but we know where we’re headed,” says Chused. “A lot of kids in this school are motivated by success, and know what we need to do and get it done.”

     Chused is one who’s definitely motivated by success. With a 4.0 his first semester and a 3.6 his second (“Pledging,” he explains, “but that’s not bad for a pledge”) he began casting around for more ways to get involved. The opportunity arrived in the mail over the summer – an invitation to join U-Lead, the school’s new undergraduate leadership council.

     Letters had gone out to all the school’s 1,500 undergraduates; Hanno expected perhaps a dozen responses. He received close to 200. Chused sees this as “indicative of the school itself – there’s a really strong sense of community and enthusiasm.” He was subsequently elected president by the membership.

     U-Lead is an “advisory board to the school,” says Chused, and that involves more than picking colors for the new wing. The council has started getting to the nitty-gritty in curricular matters; its academic assessment committee, for instance, “figures out which classes have issues and what needs to be done. We’re given a lot of opportunity to take the school where we want it to go.”

     Chused has also had the chance to see SOM alumni in action. He attended the Business Advisory Council meeting in November and was impressed with members’ willingness to give their time. “As a student, it’s really good to know alumni care this much about their school,” he says. “Even aside from the donations they make, which are great, it’s important and necessary to give back, even if it’s just coming back and voicing your opinions.” Chused expects to do so himself: “I’m very loyal,” he says. “One hundred percent, I see myself coming back.”

     After all, he’ll want to see the progress. Groundbreaking for the new addition was held in November; there’ll be a new computer lab, interview rooms for recruiters, a new lounge. A new information technology minor will be in place. Perhaps some of U-Lead’s recommendations will be also. “I think a large part of the school’s future is a collaborative effort between the way it’s running now and the way students want it to be,” says Chused. “Kids who come a few years from now will be in a fantastic position. But I think that to be here now, when we’re able to play a role in the process, is unique. I get to be one of the movers and shakers.”

     Chused’s major is finance operations management, and ideally, he’d like to work in upper management of professional sports some day. Hanno calls him “a CEO in the making.” When this is repeated to Jake he tries unsuccessfully to keep his smile to a minimum. Finally he chuckles, as if giving in to this fate: “I can see that, I can definitely see that.”

     For now, though, he’s just learning all he can from the school he fondly calls the Home Planet.

     “My school is SOM,” Chused says. “I can’t imagine if I wasn’t in SOM, what it would be like.” He pauses. “I wouldn’t have a home.”

– Karen Skolfield ’98G

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