University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
“Devoted family member, proud Houstonian, social justice advocate, hopelessly optimistic believer in humanity.”
Hometown: Houston, TX
Fun fact about yourself: I tried out for a modern dance company in high school and was told I would be a “better fit” for their new Hip-Hop dance team. I spent the next 8 years dancing with competitive Hip-Hop dance teams. Best rejection ever.
Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Texas – BBA, Finance and BA, Economics (Minor in Accounting)
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Deloitte Consulting, Senior Consultant in the Technology practice
Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Education Pioneers, placed with a nonprofit called DiscoverU in Houston, Texas, that helps inner-city high school students get college and career exposure through summer learning opportunities.
Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Associate
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
- Co-President, Entrepreneur & Venture Club
- Education Sector Team Lead, Social Venture Fund – a student-run impact investing fund that invests in for-profit social impact companies
- Frank S. Moran Distinguished Leadership Award – student-elected award
- Forté Foundation Fellow – partial, merit-based scholarship recipient
- Michigan Business Challenge – Top 8 Semi-finalist and Best Presentation winner in 2016 and Top 4 Finalist in 2017
- Dare to Dream Startup Grant Recipient – three-time participant in program that awards funding and access to resources to test entrepreneurial ideas
- Wolverine Women to Watch – 2016 article that highlighted 26 female innovators across the University of Michigan
- Zell Lurie Institute Scholarship – Kinnear Scholar – merit-based scholarship program for returning MBA students
- TechArb Fellow – student venture accelerator for University of Michigan student entrepreneurs. Accepted into the Winter 2017 cohort with 10 other teams.
- Team Lead – Detroit Revitalization & Business Club Impact Project: a team of seven multidisciplinary students worked with a Detroit-based charter school to explore and plan for the possibility of launching an entrepreneurship education program for high school students. My favorite quote from this project was, “These students are not being empowered elsewhere so we want to teach them to empower themselves.”
- Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) in Tamil Nadu, India, working with a team of four students to develop a business plan for an entrepreneurship education program for adult entrepreneurs in the region.
- As a member of the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (affectionately referred to as “The Consortium”), I have dedicated myself to the mission of helping to reduce the serious underrepresentation of African-Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in business school enrollments and the ranks of management. This has manifested in many small, nearly continuous ways throughout my two years. I co-planned a Black Lives Matter dialogue with students, co-created an event called “From Side Hustle to Full Time: Entrepreneurship After Ross” featuring entrepreneurs of color, and I also mentored and supported prospective and incoming students of color. This community has been the highlight of my time at Ross, and I could never do enough to sufficiently pay it forward.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As part of the Ross curriculum, all MBA students spend seven weeks working full time on a Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP). My team of four students was assigned to work with a nonprofit in Tamil Nadu, India, to help them develop a business plan for entrepreneurship education, training, and development in the region. We traveled for two weeks to Madurai as part of the project and interviewed more than 30 entrepreneurs. This project was an intense master class in entrepreneurship and international business; we learned so much in a short period of time. I am extremely proud of the project and any part we played in furthering the development of entrepreneurship as an engine for economic growth and personal development in this region. I am also perhaps even more proud of how my team bonded together during this experience. We used it to sharpen our design thinking skills, to honestly reflect on our leadership styles, and to inform our own entrepreneurial goals.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of founding my company, Sage & Grace. I came into business school with an idea of an industry that I thought might be worth exploring further: the funeral and death-care industry. Sage & Grace will be a digital marketplace and concierge service to help grieving families navigate funeral planning—a process most people do not think about until it is too late, and, as a consequence, overpay for subpar experiences. I hit the ground running with our Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurial Studies, and they have been invaluable mentors since the beginning. Sage & Grace is pre-launch, and even in these early stages I have made unforgettable connections with many people who have been willing to share their most personal and devastating memories with me. I am most proud of this venture because of how far it has pushed me past my comfort zone and how rewarding the ensuing journey has been.
What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Another tough question! My favorite courses have been the scary ones where the professors call you out for poorly structured arguments, expect that you have read the case multiple times before class, and cold call just enough to make you want to become invisible. These have been the courses where I ended up having the greatest bursts of development. If I had to pick one, I would say Strategy 672 Strategies for Growth with Professor Aneel Karnani. Professor Karnani uses the case method to pick apart and analyze the growth strategies of large corporations. This was my second class with Professor Karnani, and he was even more merciless in calling students out for not integrating different disciplines into our recommendations (“You cannot just forget finance!”) and teaching us to defend our answers with conviction (“Whatever you say, I will argue the opposite and I will win.”). He is an incredible professor and it was an incredible opportunity to spend time learning how he thinks about large, complex problems.
Why did you choose this business school? I often tell people that Ross was never on my radar before I moved to Ann Arbor with my husband who was starting at Ross. After starting to get to know the Ross community as a partner, I quickly decided I was going to take the GMAT and apply only to Ross. I believe Ross was the best program in the country for my MBA. It was an environment where I could thrive around many brilliant, humble people who were passionate about and willing to debate the same things as me (e.g., social impact, entrepreneurship, social justice issues). Ross has been a place where I found my people and found an environment in which I could safely stretch in new directions. I hope everyone considering going to business school finds a program that allows them to thrive.
What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Hands down, the diversity of the student body and their willingness to learn about each other. There are very few places in the world where you can work side-by-side with such a mix of people. I believe the key to counteracting the increasing polarization of our world is to figure out how to build bridges to people who are different from us. Business school has created a space for me to build what I hope will be lasting friendships with people from many different nations, races, religions, and identities. That is just not an opportunity that most people get in their lifetime.
What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I have been surprised at how busy I am in business school. After a few particularly grueling projects at work, I thought, “I will go get my MBA and take it easy for a couple of years.” But I have found so many things to be excited about that I work harder and often get less sleep than when I was a consultant. It’s a good problem to have.
What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Visit schools before you apply and identify the unique aspects of the program that resonate with you that you can include in your application. Michigan is looking for smart, talented, passionate people from diverse backgrounds. Figure out how to convey that you are someone they are looking for and how the many unique aspects of the program are going to help you get closer to your goals.
What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t think I have one. This whole experience has been one big learning opportunity. My mantra has been, “Let someone else tell you no,” which pushed me forward through the many times I doubted myself and hesitated before raising my hand for an opportunity.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jinya Sato, one of my friends and classmates from Japan. Jinya was one several Japanese students who led a trip of 50+ classmates to Japan last summer (a trip that went off without a hitch!). He also split his summer between multiple internships, one in banking and one in management consulting at a top firm (who does that?!) along with several other competitive, short-term career exploration programs. Most incredible to me, he has been pursuing his MBA at Ross while his wife and two children stayed back in Japan. Jinya is one example of many classmates who are quietly hustling and making sacrifices for their families while being strong contributors to Ross’ student-led culture. I am incredibly inspired by him.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I moved to Ann Arbor with my husband, who was joining the Ross MBA program, and his classmates, who were some of the most impressive people I had ever met and instantly welcomed me as one of their own. There were so many people who were ambitious and convinced that an MBA was a critical step in their journey to changing the world—I felt I would be lucky to be a part of this program.”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working at Deloitte as a manager in the Technology practice. I was fortunate to have a network there that kept me on my toes and continued to push me; it was hard to imagine leaving. In fact, I quit work the week after I started business school because I was so reluctant to leave.”
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I try not to focus too much on long-term goals because I am afraid of inadvertently blocking myself from an opportunity I would have never thought to consider. That being said, my dream long-term job right now is Chief Technology Officer for a public K-12 school system.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? Oh gosh, my husband Joe. Without him I would have never pursued this life-changing experience and we joke that I am basically getting to iterate on his Ross MBA (he graduated last year). He understands all of the highs and lows of business school and has supported my craziest dreams and ideas during this process. Without him, I would not have been nearly as bold in my endeavors. I am a huge fan of going through business school with your partner!
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who helped others take a step outside of their comfort zones and started to break down barriers between different backgrounds and cultures.
Favorite book: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory by Caitlin Doughty. This is the book that threw back the curtain on how messed up the death care industry can be for grieving families. It started me down my entrepreneurship education by inspiring me to try to design technology solutions for some of the problems described in the book. It is an incredibly funny, witty, and important book if you can stand the subject matter!
Favorite movie or television show: Sister Act II
Favorite musical performer: Beyoncé
Favorite vacation spot: Kauai, Hawaii
Hobbies? Vinyasa yoga, photography, and genealogy
What made Holly such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?
“Holly has an amazing spirit and the gift of relating to people on a deep level that makes them feel important and heard. These are two things that will undoubtedly serve her well in life and on the job. At Ross, she has excelled in leadership, academics, and being an integral part of shaping the student community. She is perhaps one of the most resilient people I know — someone who can stay positive even when things may be turning downward. Whether starting her own business, helping to lead the Social Venture Fund, or leading the Entrepreneurship and Venture Club, she puts forth the same level of commitment, energy, and enthusiasm. Her peers recognized her contributions to the Ross community by voting her to be the recipient of the School’s prestigious Frank S. Moran Leadership Award. Holly is an inspiration not only to her peers but also to the faculty and staff. She is wise beyond her years and is admired for her inclusiveness, ability to collaborate, and the positive impact she has had on her peers. Her impact at Ross has been so great that it won’t quite be the same without her.”
Managing Director, Full-Time MBA Program
Ross School of Business, University of Michigan