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Female MBA Candidates on Their Experience in Higher Education

Photo: Courtesy of Esther Tuttle

Three current and former MBA Candidates sit down to talk about their individual paths to success.

Kelsey Kool

College of Charleston School of Business, 2018 MBA Candidate, Marketing Focus

When and why were you first inspired to pursue your particular career path?

I’ve had an interest in design since the moment my grandmother introduced me to sewing. Analyzing the fit of a garment was fascinating to me — who knew you had to have a zipper to get your pants on and keep them up? Diving deeper into problem-solving opened my eyes to a more entrepreneurial side of things. Apparel will always be my passion, but growing a successful business is what really makes me tick.

What aspect of your program caught your attention and motivated you to attend?

When I first moved to Charleston, I lived right down the street from the College. I curiously googled what programs they offered and found they had an MBA program and loved the fact that it was only a year long. By chance, I met someone who was in the MBA program at a coffee shop downtown. I spent a couple hours asking him questions and he introduced me to Karen Salem, the program’s director of admissions. After my meeting with her, I was confident it would be the right move for me.

What resources does your college/university offer to help students launch ventures/careers?

CofC’s mentor program was one of the major selling points for me. As a mentee, I’ve been connected to several different companies and individuals, which have turned into internship offers. Beyond job opportunities, the local business network that the School of Business has strong ties with is incredibly laden with talent. I have yet to meet someone who isn’t willing to spend time with me to help foster my professional growth and answer my questions. What they say about Charleston hospitality is true.

What is the biggest obstacle you faced during your educational journey and how did you overcome it?

I’ve been lucky enough to not have any true obstacles during my educational journey at College of Charleston. The majority of our group work has been more collaborative and fun than full of conflict. We have a such great cohort.

What female leaders inspire you and why?

Tory Burch. She’s an unexpected businesswoman who took a simple design and built it into a global corporation — and then formed a nonprofit for women entrepreneurs on top of that. I strive to be as innovative in business as she is. Ellen Degeneres is full of optimism and showers the world in positivity. The fact that she is constantly doing good and influencing others to do the same (in a world that is oftentimes bad) proves that she is a true leader in our society, and that is the type of person I want to be. And, JK Rowling. Her perseverance, humility, and generosity inspire me to stay motivated and always pay it forward.

Micaela Dobrereiner

SUNY Oswego MGA/BS Accounting Candidate

When and why were you first inspired to pursue your career?

My first accounting professor at SUNY Oswego, Dr. Susan Wright, noticed my participation in class and told me I should pursue an accounting major rather than business administration. At first, I didn’t believe this was what I wanted to do. However, she convinced me I had a knack for the work and opened my eyes to all the possible avenues an accounting career could take me into. She told me to keep an open mind beyond the numbers, that I could go anywhere with accounting — policymaking, strategy. After this encouragement, I stuck with the accounting program, decided to become a certified public accountant, and realized that business is the right field for me to be in.

What particular aspect of your program caught your attention and motivated you to attend?

I was familiar with SUNY Oswego because my sister had been a student here. I didn’t really have an idea exactly what I wanted to do, but I knew business interested me. I also knew of the positive reputation the School of Business had, so my decision to come to SUNY Oswego was natural. After narrowing down to the accounting program, I quickly learned about the five-year accounting MBA program and was encouraged to pursue it. The idea of having only one more year to go after undergraduate study made this program seem very worth it to me. Also, getting my MBA and continuing in school allows me to qualify for the 150 credit hours that are required prior to taking the CPA exams.

What resources does your college/university offer to help students launch ventures?

Starting a club at SUNY Oswego is very simple through the Student Association. One of the main things we were responsible for was securing a faculty advisor. We are very lucky to have as our advisor Heather Losi, who actively participates in Women TIES — a network of successful entrepreneurial women — and shares that valuable resource with members of the Women in Business club. We are so lucky to have advisors who are so engaged with student organizations.

What is the biggest obstacle you faced during your educational journey and how did you overcome it?

My biggest obstacle has been to not give up, not take an easier career path. There have been a lot of times I felt as though being a CPA would be too stressful, and just the thought of taking the exams overwhelmed me. I worked really hard in school and it seemed as though everyone else in the accounting program was landing internships while I was not. I felt as though I was working so hard for nothing. To overcome this, I found that networking helped a lot.

What female leaders inspire you and why?

SUNY Oswego finance professor Dr. Mary Rodgers, the first person to hold an endowed professorship at the college, continually inspires me. I first met her through Investment Club — a student organization that manages a $300,000 portion of the college foundation’s portfolio — where she is faculty advisor. I noticed how intelligent she is and the deep knowledge she has for finance. She has been a huge supporter of the Women in Business club. Professor Rodgers was a guest speaker for a general meeting and gave a very inspirational presentation on her own experiences as a woman working as an analyst for Merrill Lynch on Wall Street. Dr. Rodgers ended her presentation with excitement about the future for women in leadership roles. She serves as an inspiration to all of the women in the SUNY Oswego School of Business, because of the courage she displays in working hard and speaking up in a financial world dominated — so far — by men.

Jennifer Barnes

San Diego State University, Master Business Administration

When and why were you first inspired to pursue your career?

I’ve always been good at math, so pursuing a degree in finance made sense to me. I have always had an entrepreneurial spirit, but I didn’t begin my career to start my own business. I am however a natural leader and enjoy working with people. I love a good challenge and finding solutions that helps others. When the opportunity for me to start a business using my core strengths popped up out of nowhere, I knew it was where I needed to go. I truly believe that most success stories are a bit of talent, opportunity and luck.

What particular aspect of your program caught your attention and motivated you to attend?

As a controller for a fast-growing company in 2005, I was short on time, but I needed to increase my skill set in order to get to the next level. I had heard great things about the EMBA program at SDSU so was excited when I was accepted. It was a rigorous but very worthwhile program and I truly believe that getting my MBA helped me to get to where I am today. Having an MBA adds that extra bit of credibility that aids in overcoming the perception that a young female may not be cut out to be in a powerful executive role.

What resources does your college/university offer to help students launch ventures?

SDSU has an awesome entrepreneurship program, The Lavin Program. I’m currently mentoring a young girl from the program and she comes to me with all sorts of questions about how to start a business. Having a program that aligns students with executives is immensely valuable and can open up doors that can change the course of your career. She has already made huge strides and is showing signs of being a tenacious leader in the future.

What is the biggest obstacle you faced during your educational journey and how did you overcome it? Balancing work and school put me at 70 hours a week, so it was hard to prioritize everything. I found ways to organize and learned how to delegate. Also, being able to depend on a group of people and work in a team is something I needed to improve, and the EMBA program definitely helped with that.

What female leaders inspire you and why?

I can’t particularly name a leader that “inspired” me, but I meet amazing women every day that are doing inspiring things. I am currently looking for a successful woman CEO that can help me gain more poise and polish because at 38 years old, there are many things I could learn about how to gain respect in a male dominated industry. I’ve been fortunate to see the value and inspiration in the people around me and am receptive to constant improvement.

Julie Kessler

Bowling Green State University, Bachelor of Science Administration

When and why were you first inspired to pursue your career?

Growing up, my parents always tried to impress upon my siblings and I the importance of making smart financial decisions. Saving money is something my mom will still call me to share about because she has so much fun mailing in a Menard’s rebate to get the item she bought for free. I think this eye for cutting costs in our personal lives is what fostered my interest in Supply Chain Management. Once I started learning about the various ways companies use supply chain to save money – in logistics, inventory management, lean six sigma projects, etc. – I realized I knew very little, but I was already passionate about the field.

What particular aspect of your program caught your attention and motivated you to attend?

Here in the College of Business at BGSU, Dean Braun sets the tone at the top by creating expectations of high levels of engagement. I think this atmosphere changes the way students feel about their impact on the college. When I visited the college, I was drawn to the level of comfort I felt. Students were hanging out casually in the Hub, an area set up with couches and work spaces in the middle of the second floor; I saw students and professors interacting, talking about personal topics from internship opportunities and personal growth, and ultimately, this college felt like a place I could excel.

What resources does your college/university offer to help students launch ventures?

Bowling Green State University actually has a program called The Hatch designed to get students’ business ideas to market! It’s set up just like the TV show “Shark Tank”, so our students have the opportunity for their ideas to become fully funded. This is an amazing opportunity to launch a new business, but it’s also an invaluable growth opportunity for participating students.

What is the biggest obstacle you faced during your educational journey and how did you overcome it?

On occasion, I’ve been known to bite off more than I can chew, and my sophomore year it taught me a huge lesson. Fall of 2015, I was enrolled in a full course load and highly involved in Honors College and College of Business organizations. When an influential professor was starting a Mediation Team, I bit at the opportunity to join that too.

After the International Mediation Competition in early November, my workload continued to be unreasonable because I had put off coursework to keep on top of mediation preparation. I still see most of that semester as some chaotic blur between a lack of sleep, lack of social interaction, and an excess of caffeine. It taught me the importance of prioritizing my own happiness.

What female leaders inspire you and why?

Female leaders who inspire me often do so because of their mission or their determination. Women who are passionate about making a positive impact on the world in both their personal lives and the reach of their organizational involvements, be those corporations or non-profits, inspire me most because I see their success in their purpose and impact rather than their net-worth.

Kari Nacy

Director of Intelligence Programs and Facility Security Officer, Ian, Evan and Alexander Corporation

When and why were you first inspired to pursue your career? 

I was inspired at a young age by my history and government teachers, and other leaders who mentored and allowed me to shadow them in their positions. I was drawn to the idea of working in government and national security to help our country. Being able to make a difference in the lives of people and serving my country in some aspect has always been important to me, and while I am in the private sector of that, to be able to have a career where I feel like I’m accomplishing that is extremely rewarding.

What particular aspect of your program caught your attention and motivated you to attend? 

The AACSB International accreditation of Shenandoah University’s MBA program definitely caught my attention as did the flexibility of class times and places offered. I was motivated to attend when I interviewed for the MBA program. I loved the university and the professors, and realized I just had no other excuse not to dive in.

What resources does your college/university offer to help students launch ventures? 

Shenandoah University is a huge advocate of partnering with businesses and within the community, and it even allows opportunities within classes to help students to launch ventures.

What is the biggest obstacle you faced during your educational journey and how did you overcome it?

Time. Being a mom, having a husband who works shift work, having a very demanding job, and pursuing an MBA make it hard to juggle. But I know the time invested will be well worth it in the end. No way I could do any of it without the amazing support of my family, who jump in and help when needed.

What female leaders inspire you and why?

I can’t say I have a specific one in mind, but any female in a CEO role is always inspiring. Sometimes, as women, we must work a little harder to prove ourselves and to overcome the challenges that can come with that, and to rise to the top is truly inspiring.

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