2016 Best MBAs: Libby King MacFarlane, Duke

Libby MacFarlane Duke Fuqua

Libby King MacFarlane


Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Coming to business school, I had imagined that I would have to put on some sort of protective armor over my beliefs. I thought I would have to defend my core values – my values of sustainability, feminism, honesty, work/life balance, and being present with others. I soon realized just how many like-minded people walked the halls of Fuqua with me and that it was I who needed to open my mind and expand my definition of who goes to business school and how you can change for the better once you’re in it. This surprised, and also changed me.” 

Age: 30

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota


 Wellesley College (BA in Economics, Minor in Environmental Studies)

Dual Degree: Master of Business Administration (Fuqua School of Business) and Master of Science in Global Health (Duke Global Health Institute)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

World Learning (Global Health Trustees’ Fellow for International Honors Program)

Infosys Consulting (Business Associate – Product Innovation and Change Management Practices)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Genentech, Inc. (San Francisco, CA) – Global Product Strategy

Where will you be working after graduation? UnitedHealth Group (Director of Product Development – Optum)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

HeartMind International – Co-Founder

A 501(c)3 providing culturally-appropriate mental health care to vulnerable populations in Nepal and around the world.

Net Impact Club – Co-President (2015-2016) – An award-winning, gold chapter* club (and one of the largest at Fuqua) focused on using business as a force for environmental and social impact. One flagship event we host is our annual Sustainable Business Social Impact (SBSI) Conference where we host speakers (keynotes this year were CEO of Patagonia Rose Marcario and Barbara Bush Founder of Global Health Corps) to discuss topics such as sustainability, impact investing and global health.

*Gold chapter status is awarded by Net Impact National to recognize chapters that go above and beyond in providing members opportunities to professionally develop, positively impact their campus and surrounding community, and grow the Net Impact network.

Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) Fellow – An elite group of second year MBAs who act as ambassadors and work with the CASE team throughout the year to develop workshops (such as “Defining Success”), host speakers, write blogs and have small group discussions.

Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke Student Advisory Committee (SEAD-SAC) member – A select group of students across Duke University interested in global health and social entrepreneurship with the goal of informing thought around global health and social entrepreneurship education, practice and research. SEAD-SAC helps organize the SEAD Symposium, student case competitions such as the Ebola Challenge and Zika Challenge, and write blogs about interactions with social entrepreneurs.

Board Associate for KidzNotes – a 501(c)3 based in Durham, NC dedicated to changing the life trajectory of underserved K-12 students through orchestral training (served as part the Fuqua on Board program).

Social Entrepreneurship Teaching Assistant (TA) for Cathy Clark

Probability and Statistics Teaching Assistant (TA) for Alessandro Arlotto

Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) Student Advisory Board member – A select group of current students in charge of recruiting prospective students to the program.

Bass Connections team member – Selected to participate and travel to Amman, Jordan to conduct research on mental health of Iraqi and Syrian refugees with a group of undergraduate, graduate, post-doc and faculty members.

BOLD (Building Outdoor Leaders at Duke) team member –Part of a select group of highly motivated student leaders participating on a 5-day backpacking trip to Patagonia, Argentina to build outdoor  leadership skills.

Fuqua Merit Scholarship

Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) Merit Scholarship

American Association of University Women (AAUW) Career Development Grantee – Awarded a $12,000 grant for women to help prepare or advance her career.

Graduate Award for Research & Training Grant – Awarded $10,000 to conduct thesis research in Nepal.

Student profile for $20M Gates Foundation Grant – Selected as an exemplar of DGHI programs.

 Global Health Masters Thesis: Participatory Methods for Climate Change and Mental Health Research: Photovoice in Nepal. Published in BJ Psych International.

Featured in National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (an Institute of the National Institute of Health (NIH)) newsletter and website discussing fieldwork in Nepal: “Voices from the Field: Using Photovoice to Explore Impacts of Climate Change on Mental Health in Nepal”

Featured on Duke University’s website: Click on the following links (Career Development Award Winner, Student Promotes Mental Health In Nepal, Interest in Global Mental Health)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? After working on my Master of Science in Global Health thesis research on the psychosocial effects of climate change on farmers in Nepal, I was inspired with my advisor – Dr. Brandon Kohrt – to start a non-profit  – HeartMind International – which is dedicated to providing culturally-appropriate mental health care vulnerable populations in Nepal and around the world.

Fuqua and its community have been such great resources as we worked to launch HeartMind International (HMI). I was able to leverage my business skills in a variety of ways to found HMI including to:

  • Write grants for funding
  • Establish a financial plan, marketing strategy, and mission statement
  • Gain insight from my peers who have started or run non-profits in the past, and
  • Apply my experience on a non-profit board through the Fuqua on Board (FOB) program. Here I was a board advisor for a local non-profit board where I was able to see first hand how a high-functioning board operates.

With the support of Fuqua and greater community, HMI was able to respond to the Nepal Earthquakes in spring 2015, providing Psychosocial First Aid (PFA) while sharing mental health training to international organizations responding to the crisis. I am proud of this; and most proud that this is an example that together we can create a collective social impact in areas in which we are passionate.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of being a change agent for sustainability efforts when I worked at Infosys Consulting. During my first month at the company the (then) CEO, Steve Pratt said to me “If you see a gap, fill it. I fully support you wanting to make a difference.” I felt inspired by Steve’s call to action and in response, I founded the Infosys Green Initiative. I recruited and managed a team of 10 global employees. We made the business case within the firm to reduce our collective environmental impact – which included switching the entire firm from Styrofoam to compostable dishware, changing the lighting in all US offices, writing and disseminating a firm-wide Green newsletter and spearheading the theme of the 2009 All Hands around Environmental Stewardship.

I am most proud of these efforts because it brought my values to my work, showcased my leadership ability by leading a team of 10, and helped build community around a cause and achieved measurable results.

Favorite MBA Courses? Social Entrepreneurship, Healthcare Markets, Impact Investing, Managerial Accounting.

Why did you choose this business school? Fuqua’s dedication to creating social impact through business expertise impressed me. Fuqua is a pioneer in addressing the world’s greatest social and environmental challenges through programs such as Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) and I was excited to be involved once matriculated.

I also loved Fuqua’s energy, passion and team spirit – and wanted to join the team-based learning environment for which Fuqua is known.

What did you enjoy most about business school? I most enjoyed the space between…those small, surprising moments of connection with my fellow classmates that I will take with me the rest of my life. I will remember standing on top of glacier in Patagonia with nine other Fuquans on a 5-day backpacking trip with BOLD (Building Outdoor Leaders at Duke). I will remember the Net Impact Club weekend retreat with the second year cabinet where we redefined our mission and established our goals. I will remember being moved to tears listening to a classmate share a song she wrote on stage in front of 400 Fuquans. And I will remember being inspired by the CEO of Patagonia, Rose Marcario talking about how companies can be agents for change at our annual Sustainable Business and Social Impact (SBSI) conference. Within these small moments, I was inspired, moved and challenged and it was within these moments I truly saw what team Fuqua means to me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from business school? I have always considered myself a collaborator. Growing up playing team sports, singing in a 13-member a cappella group in college, and working on many diverse teams in my jobs, I consider myself well versed in collaboration. However, at Fuqua I have learned and practiced the power of collaboration at the next level and have seen the benefits of working in true partnership with other strong leaders. The phrase,  “the whole is truly greater than the sum of the parts” is alive here at Fuqua. This collaborative learning environment is created in our first year when we are on the same team of six people during the core business courses. By design, this approach pushed us to learn from others’ strengths and weaknesses (humbling experience), trust each other, and communicate effectively.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I had a conversation with a renowned global health entrepreneur at a summit where global health innovators from around the world had come together to share best practices from their ventures. I shared with her my passion to work at the intersection of global health and business and she responded enthusiastically, “Yes, there is such a gap and need here!” I drove home from the conference and began to build a case to create my own dual degree. I am honored to say I am the first dual-degree student studying global health and business at Duke.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working on the ground in an organization such as American Refugee Committee (ARC)  helping create access to mental health services in refugee camps.”

What are your long-term professional goals? I want to lead a mission-driven global organization focused on enhancing health care quality and access, which collaborates with all stakeholders across the value chain to collectively make our planet a healthier, happier place to live.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? They say it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m no different. I want to thank my village, starting with my immediate family: My Mom (Paula), Dad (Anson) and Step Dad (Steve). They have been incredibly supportive throughout my entire (and sometimes circuitous) journey. They have provided me a platform to jump – to soar, and sometimes to fall flat. They are always there for me – reminding me success is defined by me, and no one else.

Their willingness to not only let me learn from them, but for them to learn from me, has been inspiring. They have instilled values of integrity, curiosity, openness, fearlessness, compassion and kindness that I carry with me in all I do. They have taught me about gratitude, emotional intelligence, partnership and reverence for the planet.

Fun fact about yourself:  I can beatbox. I’m a singer-songwriter. I’m on iTunes.

Favorite book: Broken Open (Elizabeth Lesser)

Favorite movie: A League of Their Own

Favorite musical performer: Patty Griffin, Stevie Wonder, Lake Street Dive

Favorite television show: Homeland, HGTV’s Fixer Upper

Favorite vacation spot: Big Sur, California (USA). Wild Coast of South Africa.

Hobbies? Singing, backpacking, exploring new places, yoga, supporting local artists

What made Libby such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Libby MacFarlane stood out at Fuqua from the beginning. While we have a number of joint degree programs, I first met Libby when she asked that we consider her pursuit of a Masters in Global Health and an MBA concurrently as a joint degree student. In that first meeting, she impressed me as intelligent, multidimensional, optimistic, authentic, and kind. I have the same feelings about Libby two years later, only they are now much more strongly validated.

Libby is the rare person who has had local and global impact. She has been able to make Fuqua better through her involvement in CASE (Center for Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship) and as a research associate with SEAD (Social Entrepreneurship Accelerator at Duke). She has served on a local nonprofit board, KidzNotes, and led at Fuqua through her co-president role of the Net Impact club and other club involvement.  She has also had a profoundly more broad reach through her foundation which provides culturally-appropriate and sustainable mental health interventions to vulnerable populations in Nepal.  That foundation, HeartMind International, which Libby co-founded, provides development and resources for improved mental health in Nepal and was an early responder in the days following the catastrophic earthquakes last year.

The little things also make Libby a pleasure to have at Fuqua – an infectious smile, positive attitude, and musical talent that has contributed greatly to the two primary talent shows we have at Fuqua each year.” — Russ Morgan, Associate Dean, The Duke MBA – Daytime and Master of Management Studies, Professor of the Practice of Marketing Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business


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