Paige Ford, Columbia Business School: The leadership vocabulary is packed with allusions to war. But few executives have outrun bullets during a firefight. And meeting the street’s forecasts barely moves the needle compared to getting your platoon home safely. Such experiences are routine for veterans like Paige Ford, a Columbia MBA candidate and former platoon leader in Afghanistan. During nearly a decade of service, Ford has managed 32 combat soldiers, not to mention construction projects and equipment worth millions.
Ford admits that taking off her army uniform was the hardest thing that she has ever had to do. Describing herself as a “small town, southern girl,” Ford moved to the Big Apple to start a new career at an Ivy League program among people “who might not be able to relate to what I’ve been through.” While naturally wary, she is confidently forging ahead, knowing she has excelled in far more adverse conditions.
“Tell me, what consulting gig, what hedge fund, what start-up will allow me to feel the adrenaline and the raw sense of worth that comes from successfully patrolling through the streets of Kandahar City wherein every decision I make is a matter of life or death? It’s not a question of if I’ll find that same sense of purpose, but where and when. Before I graduate, I will find that purpose. I will immerse myself in the Columbia Business School experience by developing life-long friendships, traveling the world, bettering myself as a member of society, and transforming into a chameleonic leader who can perform critical assessments and make accurate, on the spot, decisions in a business environment.”
If employers are looking for a safe bet with a high ceiling, they won’t find a more ready and reliable candidate than Ford.
Nicole Burns, Dartmouth College (Tuck): Most people enroll in business school to land a gig like Nicole Burns enjoyed. After five years of climbing the rungs at JPMorgan Chase, she was promoted to being a vice president of operations. Despite living the twentysomething dream of a high-paying banking job in Manhattan, Burns wanted to push herself out of her comfort zone. So she joined the Tuck Class of 2017.
A Brown University graduate with extensive experience in analytics, strategy, and retail banking, Burns humbly came to business school to learn from her peers and take her abilities to the next level. “I would like to grow in my application of core business knowledge to solving real world, complex issues, as well as build and customize my leadership style through the small group learning component at Tuck,” she tells Poets&Quants. While Burns’ opportunity costs may have been high, expect her to be an even bigger difference maker wherever she ends up after graduation.
Alexdia González Vera, University of Toronto (Rotman): Traditionally, the public and private sectors have been considered sworn enemies. Organizations deride government for its endless red tape and seeming immunity from business cycles. Come election or recession, public officials are guaranteed to paint companies as reckless caretakers of the greater good. In the age of sustainable enterprise, social concerns have become business concerns. Recognizing that partnership trumps rivalry, many officials are arming themselves with business tools at MBA programs. Alexdia González Vera is one such student.
After earning her bachelors degree in actuarial science at Anáhuac University, González Vera entered the Ministry of Science and Pubic Credit in her native Mexico. During her five year stint there, she has been the deputy director for both financial programming and domestic debt. After nabbing several scholarships, including a CONACYT Scholarship from the Mexican government, González Vera enrolled at the University of Toronto with a clear mission to broaden her perspective of how business works.
“I want to widen my financial knowledge, improve my leadership and communication skills, and get an integral education by learning from other fields and subjects I haven´t studied before (i.e. strategy, marketing and sustainability) given my technical background. In that way I can become a better leader with a clear perspective of every important aspect in an organization,” she tells Poets&Quants. In other words, González Vera is looking to use her experience to bridge the gaps between business and government that often breed distrust and strangle growth. We can think of few endeavors more worthwhile.
Elizabeth Miller, University of Michigan (Ross): To get anywhere in business, you need backers. Not just advocates and mentors, but deep-pocketed, business-savvy patrons who can turn ideas into inventions. Elizabeth Miller knows this better than anyone. For the past 13 years, she has flourished in the world of political and non-profit fund-raising. In her most recent role, he headed up development and alumni relations for the George Bush Presidential Library Foundation. Here, she oversaw a $2.5 million dollar P&L and donor outreach efforts that produced a 133% increase in funding year-over-year.
Already holding a Masters of International Affairs from Texas A&M University, Miller hopes to expand her international business experience so she can move into global strategy. And she has found the Ross MBA program, with its focus on experiential learning and overseas outreach, to be just the ticket. “I am a kinesthetic learner, meaning I learn best by doing,” she tells Poets&Quants. “Michigan pioneered the action-based learning method through their MAP program which takes students around the world to apply the concepts learned in the first year to company projects. It serves as a second internship which, I think, will make me more valuable and productive in my summer internship.”
With Miller’s track record, you can bet that plenty of firms are vying for her to be their intern this summer.