2017 MBAs To Watch: Melissa Freeman, Boston University (Questrom)

Melissa Freeman

Boston University, Questrom School of Business

“Genuine, well-intentioned, occasionally clumsy, pretty reliable, and trusting to a fault.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Fresno, California

Fun fact about yourself: In one summer I went camping in all six New England states.

Undergraduate School and Degree: California State University, Fresno

  • Bachelor of Science, Business Administration
  • Bachelor of Arts, Linguistics

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Macy’s, Store HR and Operations

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? GE Transportation in Chicago, Illinois

Where will you be working after graduation? General Electric

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Scholarships

  • Dean’s Achievement Award
  • MS-MBA Summer Scholarship
  • Katherine M. Nolan Scholarship, inaugural recipient

Clubs

  • Leadership and Organization Transformation: organized company treks
  • Asia Business Club: launched a simulation competition within the business school
  • Link Day (student consultant): supported a local organization to digitize their evaluation tools
  • President of Questrom Graduate Council (elected student government)

Case Competitions

  • Human Capital Case Competition, 2015
  • IBM Challenge 2016, First Place Best of the Best
  • Net Impact Case Competition, 2016

Teaching Assistant

  • Statistics
  • Operations

Culture Shaper

  • Organized out of class events for my cohort
  • Initiated the Questrom Yearbook

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was given the honor to represent the graduate students of the Questrom School of Business. In the elected position of President of the Questrom Graduate Council, I was able to work alongside talented people to be a voice for the students and create opportunities for camaraderie throughout the various graduate programs. Together we affected the curriculum offerings, spearheaded Questrom Serves (a day of service), and created resources for internship and job hunting.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At one point when I was at Macy’s, I managed a team of over 40 sales associates. I was able to coach someone on my team through a promotion which eventually allowed her to fill my roll when I left the company. Later, I found out that she was promoted again to an even bigger role at a new store location.

She had a level of grit and work ethic I found both impressive and inspiring. I am excited to replicate this process many times over in career focused on talent management.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Ben Lubin, Information Systems.  Professor Lubin taught three of my classes, one of which was part of our core curriculum capstone project. His coaching played a role in my team’s success at Best of the Best. It is also pretty fun that another of his classes had us use Python to write an introductory computer game.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Spreadsheet optimization and simulation. We all know that decisions and arguments are more powerful when they are backed up by the data.  This class taught me how to use data to answer meaningful questions.

Why did you choose this business school? The Questrom School of Business has a unique program that offers a dual degree MBA and MS in Information Systems. It was just a plus that there is a focus on teaming and self-reflection that I will take with me after graduate school. And I just got lucky that the administration responds to feedback, making changes to programming at times immediately.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Hands down, the people. Questrom’s full-time program admits about 150 students each year, and those carefully selected individuals shape the experience, both in and out of the classroom. I am humbled by my peers who excel in the classroom, who dedicate their lives to amazing causes, and who are patient enough to help me grow in technical skills and human skills on a social impact level.

As an example of the MBA memory I’ll never forget, my Questrom friends gathered to celebrate a little boy joining my family. In between a presentation and a final, around 40 students, faculty, and members of the administration filled the grad lounge to surprise me with my husband and son. It was so special to have the excitement and support of a community I respect so much.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The enormous amount of self-awareness I gained. Each step of the way, I learned more about myself and the type of authentic leader I want to become.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be your true self. Just like any other major decision in your life, it will work out best if you make a genuine choice. We are all human and will thrive in the community with the best fit. That means you should visit Boston and meet the current students. Otherwise, reach out to me; as someone interested in human capital, I love finding fit!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Questrom MBA students are scrappy.  And it is true! We have a reputation for diving into problems to find solutions, not afraid to take action or listen to others’ ideas. My classmates know how to work in teams and get stuff done.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I couldn’t do more to ease the anxiety around finding internships or jobs.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many that this may be the hardest question listed here. I have classmates who do a tremendous amount of work for our school behind the scenes, creating impact without lots of recognition. I have classmates who create value in communities in other continents and even down the street. And I have classmates who are just amazing people in general who got me through the ups and downs. I could not have imagined these two years without any of those groups. But to name one…

I was on a case competition team with Kelton Artuso who advocated for a population when the rest of the team was ready to disrupt the community to increase the bottom-line. She repeatedly brought up this concern, at least three or four time, and persisted until we finally heard the words she was saying—our proposal was disregarding the fact that many people would be losing their homes or livelihoods.  That was a reality moment for me in the way I had been looking at business problems through an internally focused lens. Kelton exudes this care for others in the work she does as well as the extracurricular activities she chooses, supporting students and communities.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I wasn’t growing my leadership skills fast enough to make the impact I wanted.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…trying to go to business school. Or, I would still be in retail HR/operations, making magical experiences for our customers.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Questrom really is a place where student feedback is taken and acted upon very quickly (within days even), so Dean Freeman and his team have been extremely responsive to student feedback. In reflecting on what could be changed about the student experience, I struggle because many of the challenges we face are part of the personal and professional development an MBA program offers. If I had to change something around student experience, it would probably be to find a solution to more course elective availability. This most definitely could not be solved in a day, though, considering our program size.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Ultimate seems so final, but I intend to grow a career in HR that will allow me the chance to create organizational cultures where people are given opportunities to work and grow in their strengths and to be treated with dignity and respect every step of the way. I want to build communities where people support each other no matter if the hierarchical direction is up, down, or sideways.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My husband, Jason, who has been with me every step of the way in my adult life, and my family.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Melissa is full of integrity and work ethic, the person you would want on your team and who always has your back.

Favorite book: The Hobbit

Favorite movie or television show: The Walking Dead

Favorite musical performer: Taking Back Sunday

Favorite vacation spot: visiting home in California

Hobbies? Rock climbing, knitting, camping, attending concerts

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

“Melissa is the first student body President I’ve had that did not serve on the Council in her first year, and by coming into the role without preconceptions, has been able to push her role and the role of the Council beyond what’s been done in previous years. She’s worked tirelessly to improve life for her fellow MBAs, from getting 100% participation rate from her class on an internship survey to assist the incoming class, to increasing the lines of communication between the students and the faculty and administration. New initiatives have been developed under Melissa’s leadership that will continue to grow and benefit classes in future years.

In addition to being student body President, Melissa is the unofficial cheerleader of her class. Her excitement and enthusiasm have been boundless since she arrived on campus, first organizing gatherings within her cohort, to heading a committee to create a class yearbook. Her energy at school has not diminished, even as her family commitments grew considerably this year. Melissa’s dedication to her studies, her program, and to all of Questrom are evident every day and it has been an honor and a joy to work with and alongside her.”

Gina Galland
Associate Director of Graduate Student Engagement

 

DON’T MISS: MBAS TO WATCH: THE STORIES OF 100 EXTRAORDINARY GRADUATES FROM THE CLASS OF 2017