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class of 2022

MBAs Share How They Made the Most of a Challenging First Year, What They’re Looking Forward to in the Year Ahead

For the class of 2022, the conclusion of the 2021 academic year marks both a beginning and an end — the end of a challenging but rewarding first year, marred by both a global pandemic and racial injustices, but also the start of a promising year two in which many will be in the classroom for the first time. 

We checked in with members of The Consortium’s class of 2022 one last time to see how their first year went. MBAs Whitney Pollard, Alyssa Buchanan, Chumar Williams and Bryan Shepherd share some of the ups and downs they experienced, the ways in which they were both challenged and inspired during these unusual times and what they are most looking forward to next year.

Bryan Shepherd
Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Bryan ShepherdA unique MBA experience, the 2020-2021 academic year’s theme was “adaptability.” No one — no teacher, recruiter or student — planned for this environment, so the goal coming in was to play the hand dealt to me and make the most of an experience that didn’t happen exactly as planned. I was able to stick to my priorities of learning, earning an internship and helping give back to prospective students. Furthermore, I’ve made meaningful connections with classmates and professors, and in addition to business acumen and skills, I’m learning every day about myself. I’m looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead this summer and in my final year of business school. 

I’ve been blessed this year with an incredible Consortium family at Goizueta. Since the summer of 2020, we’ve supported one another personally, academically and professionally. As a first-generation student, being surrounded by people who look like me or share a similar mission to advance underrepresented minorities in business is empowering. I’m forever thankful for all of the experiences and information I’ve gained as a member and can’t wait to see what’s in store as we hopefully have more opportunities to connect and build relationships this upcoming school year. I’ve improved my ability to design presentation decks and my structured problem-solving skills, and have become more aware of both opportunities for improvement and my strengths as a leader. I’ve also had the privilege to meet international students at Goizueta from all over the world — students who challenge me, inspire me and educate me in ways I could’ve never anticipated; I’m continuing to develop in terms of empathy, global acumen and genuine networking skills. 

I start my strategy internship in June, and I am looking forward to building relationships across the firm, understanding how I can best add value. I’m also excited to be compensated for work again! Not only do I want to establish my professional brand with the firm, but I’m looking forward to learning new skills, to being challenged when it comes to modeling and analysis and to developing a balance with my physical/mental health and high performance, especially within a virtual environment. I look forward to a second year of helping incoming students secure internships as a Consortium liaison, to building more relationships as we transition to in-person instruction, to continuing to learn and to traveling as much as I can possibly manage!

Whitney Pollard
University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Whitney PollardI can not believe the first year of my MBA is already over. This year, I can say, has been nothing short of amazing — and definitely transformative. I moved from the sunny South to Midwest winters, adapted to being a student again and met some really amazing people. I started this journey because I wanted to help develop business solutions to address some of the world’s greatest issues, especially as it relates to underrepresented minorities and the working class. I wanted to use this time to get comfortable being uncomfortable so that I can advocate on behalf of those who are not in the room. 

When I started business school, I made sure I was involved and active in the spaces that would allow me to reach my goals. This year, I was able to lead Diversity Week, mentor students in the Detroit metro area, assist with raising funds for Color of Change and serve on panels to attract underrepresented students to Ross. I developed friendships with classmates and had tough conversations around race and inequality in America, I spoke up in classes to provide a different perspective than my classmates, and I made sure that in each space, I was bringing my most authentic self. Yes, I learned the core skills by taking classes in operations, accounting, economics, statistics, marketing and finance — I even learned frameworks on how to negotiate and how to be an ethical and fair leader. But my biggest take away from this year was learning how to recognize my privilege regardless of how the world may treat me as a Black woman. 

Getting an MBA during a pandemic forced me to reflect on the fact that I am privileged enough to be at a top-ranked institution, not having to worry about the fear of losing a job or the lack of access to healthcare and COVID testing. 

No, this degree will not decrease my chances of being killed by the police or of experiencing racism, but it does give me access to spaces to speak up, in rooms where change can be made. This year has taught me to always be bold even when I am afraid, to speak up no matter what and to be willing to risk it all, because the fight toward justice and equality is bigger than me, and change doesn’t happen [when you stay] in your comfort zone. So as I start my internship this summer as a summer associate at Deloitte and set goals for my second year, I plan to do exactly that: be bold, speak up and take risks.

Forever and always, Go Blue!

Alyssa Buchanan
The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Alyssa BuchananMy first-year experience overall has been fulfilling! Upon starting McCombs, I made a list of things I wanted to explore when I started the program, and thankfully, I’ve been able to accomplish them all. By taking an active role in curating my first year, I’ve been able to build meaningful relationships with my peers outside of the classroom. As a student leader it can be difficult gaining fellowship because everyone has so much going on. It was an interesting dynamic for me to learn about leading people while actually being seen as a leader by my peers. 

Furthermore, there is always the question of whether or not you are doing business school correctly. Time goes quickly, and everyone will tell you to be mindful of commitments because it can become overwhelming, and burnout is real. However, these two years are also meant for exploration and discovery. I’ve learned that there is no right way to do business school. By allowing myself to step outside of my comfort zone, I have flexed skill muscles that I previously was unaware of, which has allowed me to embrace new capabilities. When this happens, these are the best moments for me, and I am reminded of my “why.” 

I am very hopeful that my second year will be just as fulfilling — if not more so — than my first year. With the world getting back to normal, there is more opportunity to build and strengthen community, which I am excited about.  Thank you all for following along with my blog posts, and feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn. Hook ‘Em!

Chumar Williams
Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

Chumar WilliamsHey what’s up everyone? What a year! That’s genuinely the only way to describe the school year as a collective. Although it was probably more of a challenge to build relationships and establish connections in this virtual environment, I believe we all came together to make the most of the atmosphere. In the context of the rapid growth of my surrounding network, it became much easier to reach out and establish connections virtually than when I first started the program. This ease doesn’t necessarily imply I’ve been reaching out to anyone, but I did become much more intentional and directed in my efforts to seek guidance and mentorship.

Internally, the introduction and sharpening of the hard and soft skills required to excel in the business landscape were second to none here at Olin. Aside from the numerous practice reps in Excel and PowerPoint, I developed a values-based, data-driven approach to solving complex issues while communicating all of this in a digestible manner. Every class and seminar contributed to this, but none more so than the Center for Experiential Learning Practicum offered for real-world consulting experiences. I was staffed on a client engagement for the semester surrounding market identification and subsequent entry that equipped me with the innovative mindset and tools needed to start a promising career in consulting and other business landscapes.

Regarding my summer plans, I will be starting my summer consulting internship with ZS Associates, within Strategy Insights & Planning, as a summer associate. Consulting is the industry I came into business school targeting, so this makes for the perfect ending to my already experiential first year of b-school. I hope to maintain this momentum through my summer internship — building on my consulting experiences thus far — as I head into my second year at Olin, to further craft and refine these skills. The future’s looking brighter than ever, and I cannot thank The Consortium and Olin enough for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had thus far!

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