Meet Minnesota Carlson’s MBA Class of 2018


Chris Grantham

Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Adventure-loving father and former U.S. diplomat

Hometown: Pullman, WA

Fun Fact About Yourself:  After I left a very urban life living abroad in the State Department, I moved to Minnesota and bought a hobby farm. Over the past four years, we have raised chickens, turkeys, pigs, honey bees and cows.  I really had no idea what I was doing when we started, but I had very sympathetic neighbors and you’d be amazed what you can learn from YouTube.

Undergraduate School and Major:  Whitman College, Sociology

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

University of Minnesota, Chief of Staff, Information Technology

U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer (Riyadh, Jerusalem, Washington DC)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I had the privilege of working alongside the lead U.S. negotiator for the Iran nuclear deal as those talks were getting underway in 2011-2012. Our team laid the groundwork for a deal that dramatically reduced the risk of nuclear confrontation in the region for the next decade-and-a-half. In the process, I received invaluable exposure to high-level, multi-party, cross-cultural negotiations. I learned first-hand what it takes to manage intensely complex and dynamic situations to create leverage even when the odds are stacked against you.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? There are lots of different ways to say “be yourself.” In my case, I think the lesson has been to be honest about yourself to the admissions staff about why you think getting an MBA is right for you. I am trying to make the leap from a decade of service in the Federal government to a business career. Being transparent that I understand how “non-traditional” I am gave me the chance to explain why I believe an MBA supports that transition and led to some very fruitful and honest discussions with the programs I was considering.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? I am most excited by the experiential learning opportunities presented by the four enterprises. Spending three semesters learning the ropes as a strategy consultant or running a $20m equity fund or learning how to translate a start-up’s vision into a real product was too good to pass up. Dean Zaheer and her team made a compelling case that a career changer like me could best supplement my previous global experience by developing concrete business skills. The experiential learning enterprises will provide me with practical experiences that I can highlight to future employers.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? I’ve loved roles where I’ve been able to help lead large organizations: there are lots of interesting problems to solve, smart people to work alongside, and opportunities to step back and give a strategic view of a situation. My dream job would be to lead an organization with a clear sense of purpose and a drive to use the tools of business to achieve social benefits.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I’d hope that we all leave the program feeling like our colleagues were fun, thoughtful, and committed to the shared experience of being a part of a great business school.

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