Another academic year is underway, and that means many new MBA candidates have recently begun their journey toward career development and advancement, or a total career pivot. Despite a global pandemic, these students have chosen to move forward with their b-school plans and, as such, are facing some unique challenges and opportunities.
To learn more about these students’ motivations, goals and challenges, we decided to follow a few MBAs in The Consortium’s class of 2022. These students will share insights and experiences from their first year of b-school throughout the academic year. Read on to learn more about Consortium MBAs Alyssa Buchanan, Bryan Shepherd, Whitney Pollard and Chumar Williams.
The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business
My name is Alyssa Buchanan, and I am originally from St. Louis, Mo. I decided to pursue my MBA after five years of being a chemist because I wanted to expand my skill set and become a well-rounded leader. My post-MBA goals are to start a career in marketing so that I can be a voice for the consumer in my daily work. I knew that going to business school would provide the opportunity and exposure I needed to switch careers.
I chose to attend The University of Texas McCombs School of Business for three reasons: community, culture and brand. McCombs provides a community like none other; the culture is enticing, and the brand is world-renowned. Every person that I connected with prior to applying was very welcoming and eager to help me in any way possible. I am a strong believer in networking, so I knew that being able to rely on the McCombs community, even before I started as a student, was an asset.
School has only been in session for two weeks, and it has gone by very quickly. I don’t think any of my classmates, including myself, were prepared for the rapid downpour of information. (Nonetheless, we will survive!) I also didn’t have huge expectations for business school due to COVID-19. However, the McCombs program office has done a really good job making this experience enjoyable, despite the circumstances. I look forward to the remainder of the fall semester and to sharing with you all along the way. Hook ‘em!
Emory University, Goizueta Business School
I’m Bryan Shepherd, and I was born and raised in Decatur, Ga. I’m now attending Emory’s Goizueta Business School. I have spent the last six years leading organizational development and executive search projects in both large and boutique firms, focusing mainly on clients in the technology and life science industries. In transitioning from research-level work to client delivery, I discovered a passion for helping clients create solutions to their most challenging search problems and for the process of earning their trust. Though this work provided challenges as well as learning, I want the opportunity to work further upstream in the consulting process, so I’ve decided to pursue my MBA; this experience will allow me to further develop the necessary skills to drive meaningful insights from data and to add value to strategy clients.
I knew I wanted to pursue a career path in strategy consulting, so this allowed me to reverse engineer my search. After coming up with a target list, I made my rounds to recruiting events around the country. I asked questions of current students, alumni and staff to find evidence of a collaborative environment, how the program supported development and challenged students, and how the program prepared students to thrive in consulting. I also generally paid attention to my own energy during these visits. If I found myself exhausted after forcing conversations, it was quite clear to me that I may not be the best fit for that program.
I want to help the world see that treating people well and making money aren’t opposites. From my MBA experience, I expect to develop a rich network of friends and colleagues of all backgrounds, I want to secure a strong opportunity in strategy consulting, and I want to challenge myself to further develop my quantitative skills. To those points, Goizueta has been a welcome challenge. I’m proud of how my program and my cohort have adapted to the situation at hand; no one planned to be in remote or hybrid classes, but we’ve supported one another and are making the best of this opportunity.
University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
My name is Whitney Pollard, and I am from Baton Rouge, La. Fun fact: Prior to moving to Michigan for business school, I never lived above the Mason Dixon line. I went to Prairie View A&M University for undergrad and North Carolina A&T State University for graduate school, where I studied engineering.
Prior to business school, I worked in manufacturing, mostly as a front-line leader. In my last role as a manager, I started to see how people impact the bottom line. I also noticed that, often, when discussing productivity, the people strategy for hourly employees was often negated. It was then I started to realize that I rarely saw a retention structure for front-line workers, and I knew I wanted to advocate on their behalf. I thought the best way to do that would be to learn how business leaders think to develop a skill set that would allow me to differentiate myself as a leader in human resources management, so I decided to apply to business school.
I knew getting an MBA would be a major investment, and there were three major components I looked for in a program: career placement, alumni network and community. Not only did I find those things at Michigan Ross, but I also found a group of people who are focused on developing business solutions to address some of the world’s greatest issues. I knew that with starting business school during a global pandemic that would be another factor to consider when choosing a school. So, I closed my eyes and thought, “If I had to quarantine with a group of people, who would it be? When I lose focus, who would uplift me, and when I accomplish major milestones, who would celebrate with me?” The answer was clear that the University of Michigan would be the place I would call home for the next two years. I am proud to yell, “Go Blue!”
Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School
My name is Chumar Williams, and I am an incoming Consortium fellow at Washington University in St. Louis’ Olin Business School. I grew up in Champaign, Ill., under the roof of two entrepreneurs, which shaped my views and aspirations toward business, so pursuing an MBA was always in mind. After graduating from the University of Illinois and spending my early career working in academic and athletic administration, I decided that I was ready to pivot more toward business.
My decision to attend Olin was influenced by my desire to commit to a prestigious institution that could mold my future for the better while also remaining in the Midwest. Also, knowing that WashU professor Sterling Schoen founded The Consortium and how progressive such an organization is for underrepresented students was the icing on the cake that solidified my choice. [As far as my goals, I hope] to break into the world of consulting, but I’m also open to engaging in as many unique industry opportunities as possible to find my true fit and passions. Outside of industry expectations, I am even more excited to grow my professional and personal network while improving minority visibility in prominent positions.
We do not officially start classes till Sept. 14, but we’ve had ample preparation and development throughout the summer to keep us on track for success. The pandemic, increasing reminders of systemic racism and [my] own personal life trials and tribulations have made the transition to business school tougher than expected, but the support surrounding me has ensured me that it will all be more than worth it in the long run. My good friend utilizes the Spanish expression “Ponte las pilas” whenever life seems to lead you off track, and those words have stuck with me throughout everything we’re currently experiencing.
I am more than appreciative of the opportunity to represent The Consortium at WashU while benefiting my future aspirations in ways I once thought unimaginable — and I look forward to keeping you guys posted throughout the journey, so stay tuned!