2015 Best MBAs: Alyssa Callister


Alyssa Callister


University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Alyssa Callister has a funny habit of proving naysayers wrong. Don’t go to Africa? She founded a non-profit for African education that raised $100,000 in its first year…when she was just 20. Want to work for Goldman Sachs with little financial background? No problem. She put her head down and just kept studying until she became a top performer there. When she arrived on the Carlson campus, Alyssa says she was uncomfortable speaking professionally in front of large group. What did she do? Raise her hand at every opportunity to present to a class, compete in case competitions, and speak at club events. Along with being a top student, Callister is also a motivational speaker and board member for Project Give, a board member of the Singer Foundation and a Salvation Army volunteer. Armed with her MBA, she’s headed for McKinsey & Co.

Age: 28

Hometown: Palos Verdes, CA

Undergraduate School: Utah State University

Undergraduate Degree: Business Marketing

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Goldman Sachs, Equity Derivative Analyst and The Ungana Foundation, Founder

Where did you intern during the summer of 2014? Gallup, Client Development Consultant

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Associate

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I met the most intelligent, poised, female executive at Goldman. She was my mentor and was previously a management consultant. She explained the nature of work she did as a management consultant and from then on I was set on my pursuit of an MBA.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…pursuing a role in global investment research at Goldman. It is one of the most fascinating positions. I would be working toward becoming a leading expert in the economics of a geographical region/industry.”

What are your long-term professional goals? My goal is to have a long and impactful career at McKinsey. I hope to add value to my colleagues and clients through consistency, positivity, creativity, and tenacity. My goal has been and will always be to affect change and make the world a better place, wherever that may take me.

Favorite Courses: Consumer Behavior, Digital Marketing, Global Supply Chain and Operations, and Pricing

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? At the age of 20, I founded an international non-profit that brought technology education initiatives to Eastern Africa. Within the first year, the organization grew to $100K in capital through seed grants and fundraising efforts. I learned a lot of valuable, and sometimes tough, lessons reaching that initial funding goal and launching a venture for an initiative I am passionate about.

After working in the non-profit sector for quite some time, I realized that long-term sustainable change sometimes comes from the private sector impacting economic development, so, I pursued a career at Goldman Sachs. Stepping into equity derivatives with very little financial background, I was faced with a learning curve that seemed monumental. My biggest achievement was the achievement over self. I stayed late, ordered textbooks, took online courses, peppered just about everyone with questions, and worked tirelessly to fill in the gaps of my knowledge. I not only became proficient in finance, but ended up being one of the top performing members of my team.

Who would you most want to thank for your success (and why)? My mom. Throughout the years when I was surrounded by naysayers who insisted I could not accomplish things, she would constantly say, “Why not, you could do that!” no matter how crazy my idea was. When I was 19, I told her I wanted to move to Africa and start a foundation. Every person I talked to found a plethora of reasons why it was a terrible idea. If it wasn’t for my mom telling me I could reach for the stars, I may have given up that dream. I think everyone needs at least one person in their life who believes they can surpass the stars and reach the moon.

Why did you choose this business school? Carlson’s experiential learning program is amazing. When looking into schools, I knew that I was interested in consulting and I wanted a hands-on learning experience to help me feel comfortable about the transition from finance to consulting. The Carlson Consulting Enterprise gave me the opportunity to work with previous McKinsey and Boston Consulting Group consultants on real-world client engagements. I saw this as a huge opportunity to not only learn the concepts but put them to the test within a safe environment as I prepared for a future career. I also liked the smaller class size offered at the Carlson School because I wanted a more intimate experience.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Being uncomfortable. It sounds funny, but business school is a place where you can continually push yourself outside of your comfort zone. I was uncomfortable speaking professionally in front of larger groups of people when I got to school so I decided to raise my hand at every opportunity to present to a class, compete in case competitions, speak at club events, etc. Sure, it was uncomfortable for a while, but I was able to see immense growth and achievement in my professional communication and presentation skills. Soon you learn to be comfortable and even enjoy being uncomfortable. 

What is your most memorable moment from business school? Competing in Carlson’s annual marketing case competition, the Elite 8. I was on the team both years, but my most memorable moment was my first year. The administration buys the entire MBA class t-shirts they wear in support of the team and there is a lot of excitement and energy around the competition. Walking into the presentation, I will never forget looking at all of my smiling classmates dressed in those shirts and feeling an overwhelming sense of community.

Fun fact about yourself: I learned how to swim before I learned how to walk.

Favorite book: Man’s Search for Meaning, Viktor E. Frankl. “Happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue.”

Favorite movie: Alice in Wonderland. I love all of the underpinning themes around developing your identity, searching for creative solutions, speaking your mind, and laying an intentional path through an ambiguous situation.

Favorite musical performer: Asa, a Nigerian artist I fell in love with while living in Africa. Her music is beautiful.

Favorite television show: Sherlock Holmes (BBC)

Favorite vacation spot: Haleiwa, Hawaii

What are your hobbies? Yoga, painting, running, reading, photography, and travel.

Twitter Handle: @AlyCallister

What made Allyssa such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015?

“Alyssa is a truly gifted student leader who leads in a manner most unlike other students. She can look at a goal, expand it, and include the willing students around her to quickly take action and obtain results. The many MBA students that typically assert themselves in a leadership role gladly put that priority aside to follow Alyssa. She is not a braggart by any stretch, yet students are aware of her path and the wisdom and experience gleamed from it.

Alyssa is a mission-driven leader, proven by her past success with NGO in Africa and incredible indomitable drive. Her leadership in managing case competition team selection (no easy task) propelled the school’s success on the national and international stage. Her tenacity at leading within her Elite 8 team won a top position in the competition. Most importantly, she mentored several first-year MBA students who went on to apply their knowledge and expertise to contribute to winning a subsequent Elite 8 competition.

–Patrick McCarthy, director of student affairs, Full-Time & Part-Time MBA Programs

When informed of her nomination, Alyssa’s favorite professor Enno Siemsen wrote:

“Alyssa is a truly remarkable student. Whenever there is a more challenging question to address during a case discussion, I can see from the corner of my eye that Alyssa’s sharp mind has formed an opinion. I can always count on her to invigorate the argument. She is brilliant, respected by her peers, thoughtful, and innovative in her thinking.”

Best of 2015

The Story: Class of 2015: The World’s Best & Brightest MBAs

The Complete List: The 50 Most Exceptional MBAs of 2015


Katie Benintende: Making A Difference At UC-Berkeley’s Haas School

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.