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2017 Best MBAs: Tom Allin, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Tom Allin

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“Husband. Son. Brother. Mississippian. Community Member.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Jackson, MS

Fun fact about yourself: I have performed “I Want It That Way” by the Backstreet Boys on Vietnamese national television.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, BA in American Studies, 2009

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • Full Contact Advertising, Strategic Planner, 2014–2015
  • The Ramey Agency, Associate Copywriter & Junior Planner, 2011-2013
  • Teach For America––Mississippi Delta, Corps Member, 2009-2011

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Condor Hospitality Trust in Bethesda, MD

Where will you be working after graduation? TBD. I’m considering several options in real estate development in the Deep South.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • William G. McGowan Fellow: Fellowship awarded each year to one second-year MBA at each of 10 top MBA programs across the country. As part of our commitment, fellows are working with Rush University Medical Center in Chicago to find methods for scaling a behavioral health program.
  • Business & Society Fellow: One of six second-year Tuck MBAs selected to study the intersection of business and society. My fellowship has included attending regular lunch discussions, conducting an independent study on the social impact of real estate, and organizing a trip to Mississippi on economic development.
  • Real Estate Panel Lead, Business & Society Conference: Organized one of the panels for the 2017 Business & Society Conference on the social impact and community development potential of real estate development.
  • Tuck Table Tennis Tournament Co-Commissioner: Helped organize the winter and spring school tournaments, compiled statistics and wrote round-by-round recaps with as many pop culture references as I could cram into a sentence.
  • Real Estate Club Co-Chair
  • Teaching Assistant for several first-year core classes

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Creating, organizing and leading a trip for 19 of my classmates (and two faculty members!) to Mississippi over spring break. This is an idea and goal I’ve had since arriving at Tuck––and thanks to the support (and patience) of students, staff and faculty, we’ve made this a for-credit course on economic development. Being able to tangibly contribute to the academic experience at Tuck by actually sharing my home with classmates and professors is both humbling and deeply rewarding.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Having never taken an acting class, I was really proud to have been able to create a year-long drama course during my first year as a Teach for America corps member.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Impossible three-way tie. As a former teacher myself, I was (and remain) in awe of Scott Neslin (Statistics for Managers) and Andrew Bernard (Global Economics for Managers). Both of their courses were master classes in pedagogy––balancing clarity with enjoyment while creating an atmosphere where students felt obligated to prepare yet safe to fail. Andrew King (Competitive and Corporate Strategy) is one of the most refreshingly honest and deliberately human professors I’ve ever had––a mentor and a friend.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Another impossible question, though, if forced to choose one, I’d say Ron Adner’s Entrepreneurship and Innovation Strategy. He fundamentally shifted the way I view implementing big ideas by considering (and planning for) the systems and environments that determine their success.

Why did you choose this business school? Not coming from a “business background,” I wanted a school, first, where I could build a strong foundation in business fundamentals; second, that valued great teaching; and, finally, was committed to building community among students and faculty. Tuck checked all three boxes. Plus, it’s far and away the prettiest campus I visited.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Besides my classes (which I loved), I’ve treasured the relationships that I’ve had a chance to build both with students and faculty. By virtue of geography, entertainment at Tuck is building relationships with the people around you.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Even though everybody says it, I’m still surprised by just how busy I am every single day. I think folks downplay the rigor and seriousness with which folks approach their coursework and extracurricular activities.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Really think a lot about why Tuck specifically makes sense for you. I’ve had a lot of phone calls with prospective applicants, who are clearly trying to look past all the reasons Tuck doesn’t make sense for them just because it’s a top-ranked program. There are actually a lot of differences between top-ranked programs that I think folks tend to gloss over because they think, “Well, it’s a top program, so it doesn’t really matter.” As an applicant, I definitely fell into that trap. As a result, I wasted a lot of time (and money) applying to schools that I had no business applying to––and that, in hindsight, would have been pretty poor fits.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not having a third year. There’s still a lot to learn, and I feel like I’m just now hitting my stride!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m cheating a bit here by going outside my class, but Jay Boren (a T’16) is someone of whom I think the world. From my perspective, Jay approached the MBA very much on his own terms––both sharing his talents in really authentic ways with the school, while also resisting the pressure to seek a job just for prestige. Plus, he’s just a really, really good guy.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I started dreaming about helping rebuild Jackson.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…raising our Wild Poodle while my wife, Sarah, kicks butt in her work.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Help play a role in making Mississippi a place where people want to (and feel free to) live, work and invest.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents without question. Genetics aside, they have both been such positive sources of support since elementary school. Somehow, they managed to be supportive and engaged without heaping on pressure. It’s an approach I aspire to with my own children some day.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? He is someone who was and is deliberate about finding the intersection of his talents and joys with his community’s wants and needs.

Favorite book: Kafka on the Shore by Haruki Murakami (Fiction) and The Unwinding by George Packer (Non-Fiction)

Favorite movie or television show: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (movie) Game of Thrones (TV)

Favorite musical performer: Radiohead, no question.

Favorite vacation spot: Coming home to my wife and two dogs every day.

Hobbies? Making cocktails, besting my wife in board games, watching UNC basketball, being a long-suffering (yet ever-optimistic) Mississippi State football, and reading (when I can)

What made Tom such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“My wish for Tuck is a class full of Tom Allins. He is a thoughtful leader, an uncommonly effective communicator with sound judgment, is dedicated to learning and community building and has very strong ethical values. He is a passionate advocate for community engagement. While at the University of North Carolina as an undergraduate, Tom was elected President of the Student Union, the largest student group at the university. He spent several years in Clarksdale, Mississippi teaching fourth graders at Booker T. Washington Elementary School through Teach For America. At Tuck, Tom has been a Fellow for the Center for Business and Society, Real Estate Club Co-Chair, and an Academic Teaching Assistant. Most notably, Tom was selected to be our McGowan Fellow which is a fellowship program through the William G. McGowan Foundation. The fellowship is a one year tuition fellowship offered to one second year student who has achieved academic excellence (top 5%), exhibits demonstrated leadership and makes ethical and societal concerns part of their professional and personal journey.

Tom’s lasting legacy to Tuck is the upcoming trek to his home state of Mississippi borne of an idea he had when he first arrived here last year. Mississippi’s struggles are well documented as it grapples with persistent poverty, racial divide, large disparities in health and education, and a reputation for restrictive social policy. Tom is dedicated to returning to his home state and making a difference through business development and civic and social entrepreneurship. He combined his interests with Mississippi’s challenges and sought to bring some of the best and brightest minds of the Tuck School to the state for a week long program. The students will meet with political leaders such as Phil Bryant, Governor of Mississippi, economic development professionals like Joe Max Higgins, leader of the LINK, the economic development engine of the “Golden Triangle”(recently featured on 60 Minutes), and organizations like the Mississippi Developmental Authority. They’ll examine topics such as what role public and social institutions play in supporting economic growth, which development strategies can reduce inequality and how can private business help speed up regional development. Tom put this trip together, he made it happen. This has truly been a labor of love for him.

In my 24 years at Tuck, I have encountered few students who have galvanized and inspired both faculty and fellow students on such important economic and social issues. Rarely does an individual student have the opportunity to help create an actual course for academic credit and then get 15 of his fellow students to sign up and take the course!

I am constantly in awe of Tom Allin. He acknowledges that much has been given to him and with that comes a great responsibility to give back. He is an integral member of the Tuck community, recognized for his humility, integrity, kindness, and inspired leadership. He is the consummate team player in everything he does and we know he will continue to be the catalyst for change. He is the wise leader who will better the world of business and beyond.”

Sally Jaeger
Assistant Dean and Director of the MBA Program
Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth
 
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