Meet Minnesota Carlson’s MBA Class of 2018


Elisha Friesema

Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Dynamic leader dedicated to advocating for and inspiring others to improve the world we live in.

Hometown: Byron Center, MI

Fun Fact About Yourself: My dad was a veterinarian and one of his clients had a pet black panther that I got to play with it every time it came into his clinic. It surprisingly had less attitude than our house cat!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Michigan, BA-Psychology

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Northwestern University – ’07-‘16

  • Center Administrator, Center for Primary Care Innovation
  • Program Administrator and Research Operations Manager, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics
  • Research Project Manager, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics
  • Research Project Coordinator, Division of General Internal Medicine and Geriatrics

University of Chicago – ’06-‘07

  • Clinical Research Associate, Section of Hematology/Oncology

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I counseled a patient on his prescription drug costs that were averaging over $300 per month about ways that we could lower his monthly expenses. I was frustrated with our health system and his insurance because I could not get the monthly costs any lower. I feared he had become frustrated as well when he began crying. After a few moments, he thanked me. In his eyes, I had helped restore his dignity. He went on to explain that this would be the first month that he would not need to ask his children for money.

This experience reminds me that what I might consider being a failure might be a success from someone’s perspective so it’s important to always take a step back before evaluating a situation.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? Do not do what I did. Start the process early! I decided in October that I was definitely going to apply for the Fall ’16 and having been 10+ years post-undergrad, I knew it would be an adjustment getting back into the swing of studying for the GMAT and working without my trusted calculator. I was studying while simultaneously working on my applications and putting in 60+ hours a week at my job. I drank a lot of coffee those few months!

Luckily, I had exposure to many of the schools through my prior work and some amazing mentors, so deciding what schools I was interested in was simplified for me. I definitely recommend doing your research if you’re not as fortunate as I was. Visit the schools, talk to current students and alumni, and look at their websites and blogs. I ruled out the school that I had initially thought was my top choice after visiting it. I’m very thankful I was able to figure out that I did not love the campus as much as I remembered before I arrived for orientation.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I will be honest, I had not initially intended on attending Carlson, but the people in and associated with the program sealed the deal for me. I felt like I was at home from my first interaction with Carlson; that sense of community was crucial.

I was at a recruiting event waiting to talk to a representative from another school in a very long line that overflowed past Carlson’s table when one of the assistant directors of admissions and recruiting struck up a conversation with me. She asked me what my interests were. She then proceeded to tell me about this program I had never heard of, the Medical Industry Leadership Institute, and the personalized attention that is available to students through the program. It truly seemed like the perfect blend of faculty accessibility with my research and quality improvement background and my MBA education. We got so caught up talking about everything Carlson has to offer (from class sizes to affiliations with healthcare leaders throughout the country), I completely missed my opportunity to talk to the other school. I was sold and submitted my application to shortly after.  The day I interviewed, I met with a current student and our discussion resonated in a way that I had not felt at other schools. We talked at length about the issues we see the medical field facing, the ways we could help, and even attended an ethics class where we dove further. I walked away thinking, ‘if this is what my next two years would be like, I would be incredibly happy.’

When my acceptance offer came a week later, it was immediately followed up by an email from the Carlson Women’s Mentorship Program asking me if they could set me up with a mentor.  This was a differentiating factor for me.  Carlson proved true to their word and was investing in me before I committed to them. In the end, it was a gut feeling.  I belonged at Carlson.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? My journey began managing oncology trials in the south-side of Chicago where patients were often forced to choose between their chemotherapy treatment and medications to help them sleep at night due to the price. No human should ever be compelled to make that choice particularly when facing a life-threatening illness like cancer.

I’ve dedicated my life to advocating for access to quality healthcare regardless of a patient’s ability to pay for it. Over the last decade, I have worked in clinical research and quality improvement to prevent patients and practices from having to make tough choices that often lead to poor health outcomes.

With small industry changes, we can ensure that access to quality healthcare becomes a fundamental right for everyone and not just those who can afford it. It would be a dream come true, to help lead a large healthcare system that focuses on addressing the social determinants of health and other barriers to achieving health equity amongst the community it serves.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program?   I hope my integrity and dedication always leaves a place, be it an institution, program, or job, better than when I walked in the door leaves a lasting impact on my peers. I want them to smile thinking of the personal and professional support I have provided over the course of our program and about the ways they know I will impact and change those I encounter in my post-MBA life.

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