2016 Best MBAs: Emily Claire Palmer, University of Washington

Emily Palmer Washington Foster

Emily Claire Palmer


University of Washington, Foster School of Business

“For a while, I thought I needed to become someone else to make the switch from music to business. Now I realize that my background gives me a unique set of experiences that informs the way I see the world.”

Age: 31

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Education: Oberlin College, BA in Comparative Religion

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Self-Employed: Musician, Band Manager, Yoga Teacher

Where did you intern during the summer of 2015? Talking Rain Beverage Company, Preston, WA, Brand Management

Where will you be working after graduation? Amazon, Senior Product Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School

  • Resilience Committee, Founder
  • Leadership Fellow, 2015-2016
  • Board Fellow (City Fruit), 2015-2016
  • Dean’s List, fall 2014
  • C4C Auction Committee
  • Business Plan Competition, Investment Round Selection
  • Environmental Innovation Competition, Co-Chair
  • Net Impact, Chapter Leader
  • “The Network Effect” MBA band, singer

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The Resilience Committee is one contribution to Foster I feel I was able to make as a result of my specific background. As almost any MBA will tell you, the internship and job hunt during school is anxiety-producing. It’s easy to compare yourself to peers and feel discouraged when rejection letters start rolling in. As a former yoga teacher, I saw an opportunity to help Foster build a culture of greater resilience and perspective. Thus began the Resilience Committee, a loosely formed body of students and teachers that contribute their talent, ideas, and resources to the cause of increasing resilience within our community.

So far, we’ve offered ongoing Office Yoga classes, a mindfulness training, and a series of Resilience Dinners. By creating spaces where people can de-stress and share stories about trials and triumphs, we are helping to create a culture a where failure is not seen as an end, but merely a necessary step towards success. I felt I had achieved something important when, a year after starting the Committee, our head of Career Management told me that she had noticed student stress levels markedly down from previous years.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Running a Kickstarter campaign that successfully funded the production of my band’s last album was definitely a major life highlight. The way our fans rallied into a community around us was actually magical. We screen printed T-shirts, baked cookies, and sent our donors goofy thank you songs. We ended up surpassing our stretch fundraising goal a week early.

Most musicians will tell you that they are never satisfied with their recordings, but this was an instance where I felt it truly captured the heart of our music. We worked with two phenomenal producers (including Pat Sansone from Wilco), and tracks represent years worth of songwriting. I don’t plan on going back into the music industry, about which I rest easy because I’m so satisfied with that final album. It’s basically my magnum opus.

Favorite MBA Courses?

  • Finding Your Voice with Judy Kalitzki (public speaking))
  • Stratecon with Charles Hill
  • Quantitative Methodologies with Mark Hillier
  • Cases in Sustainability with Elizabeth Stearns
  • Entrepreneurial Finance with Lance Young

Why did you choose this business school? My initial reason for considering Foster was that it would be a good excuse to move to Seattle. I had visited the city numerous times, and had fallen in love with the outdoorsy culture, the weather (a definitely improvement over Chicago), and the smell of pine in the air. As I researched more about Foster, however, I was delighted to find that its small class size, excellent entrepreneurship center, and socially-minded student body were the ideal fit for me. In the end, the choice was a no-brainer.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Being a Fritzky Leadership Fellow. As part of this program, I worked on my leadership skills through coaching first-year students (individually and in teams) and being coached by other fellows and the instructors. It helped me realize how happy and comfortable I am in this type of role, and I plan to seek out mentoring opportunities after Foster. The most rewarding part of the program, however, was bonding with my fellow Fellows. We got to know each other really well, and created a space of real trust and appreciation. I know we will be friends for a long time.

What was the most surprising thing about business school? How wildly varied my classmates’ backgrounds and interests are, and yet how much I like them.

What was the hardest part of business school? Time management. There are a million opportunities during business school and, as a career switcher, I wanted to explore them all. In the end, I had to get clear about my priorities and make choices about what interests to pursue. Managing time around my priorities was definitely a life skill on which b-school gave me ample opportunities to work.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your school? Be yourself. As you can see from my background, Foster embraces “non-traditional” career paths, as well as more traditional ones. My peers are all brilliant, but in very different ways. Don’t be afraid to be different.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I got the acceptance letter. Up until then, I knew it would be a good option, but I was still considering other paths. For some reason, the acceptance letter clarified a lot.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…either a farmer or an acupuncturist.”

Which executive or entrepreneur do you most admire? John Peirano, the CMO at Talking Rain where I interned last summer. I asked him one day what his guiding leadership principle is, and he said, “The Golden Rule.” Never have I met someone who made such an effort to make their employees (including their interns) feel valued and appreciated.

What are your long-term professional goals? To change the world. The reason I settled on business school is that I realized how powerful business is as a tool for change. I’m particularly passionate about food and sustainability. In the short-run, my focus is on building business acumen and developing myself as a general business athlete. In the long run, I want to be a leader in shifting our food and farming industries towards environmental, social, and economic sustainability.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? First, my mom. She is the wind beneath my wings.

Secondly, my meditation teacher Savitri. I would not have had the clarity or courage to go to business school had it not been for the meditation techniques I learned from her.

Fun fact about yourself: I spent a summer after college as a Park Ranger at Mount Rainier National Park. I nearly bumped into a bear early one morning, but luckily he was too busy eating blueberries to care.

Favorite book: Fire of Love by Aadil Palkhivala, and Mindset by Dr. Carol Dweck.

Favorite movie: Some that come to mind are Avatar, Spirited Away, WALL-E, and A League of Their Own.

Favorite musical performer: Rachel Price of Lake Street Dive, with whom I once hiked a mountain in Switzerland.

Favorite television show: I don’t own a TV and try to avoid it. But a friend made me watch Mozart in the Jungle recently, and I was seriously impressed.

Favorite vacation spot: Most recently… Pondicherry, India. Or my Aunt’s house in Maine.

Hobbies? Aside from music, I enjoy yoga, meditation, hiking, dancing, and learning new things.

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

“A fresh perspective is one of the things that made Emily Palmer an integral part of Foster’s Full-time MBA class of 2016.

From the development of a children’s theater camp to manager of a band, Emily arrived with a really unique background. An MBA program was big change of course and a significant challenge. So, when she heard talk of a Resiliency Committee, she immediately hopped on board.

It didn’t hurt that Emily was also a trained yoga teacher. She quickly developed an “Office Yoga” class and offered it regularly to her classmates as a much-needed opportunity to ground themselves and refocus. The class has contributed to a more mindful and resilient culture at the Foster School, something that her fellow classmates will take with them into the next stage of their careers.” — Andrew Kruger, Director of Alumni Relations, University of Washington, Foster School of Business


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