2017 Best MBAs: Isabel Chirase, Texas A&M (Mays)

Isabel Chirase

Texas A&M University, Mays Business School

“Open-minded, curious, and optimistic; I cherish relationships and always trust my gut.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Amarillo, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: I love St. Patrick’s Day! For the last 7 years, I have made sure to have a green breakfast on the table for roommates and/or friends.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Notre Dame, Bachelor of Arts in Economics, Supplementary Major in Spanish (2011)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Dish Network, Operations Strategy and Project Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Colgate-Palmolive in New York, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? Deloitte Consulting, Strategy and Operations Finance

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

  • Class of 2017 Recipient of the Jerry R. Strawser Outstanding MBA Student Award
  • Winner of Top Presenter for MBA Capstone Consulting Competition
  • Texas A&M University Graduate Diversity Fellow
  • Elected as Student Representative to the MBA Advisory Board
  • Graduate Teaching Assistant for MS Business Program
  • Career Management Center Mentor
  • Prison Entrepreneurship Program (PEP) Business Plan Advisor
  • Camp Life for All Counselor for children with special needs
  • Member of SHOC (Students Helping Our Community) MBA Service Organization
  • Member of Aggie Women MBAs

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud to have been the recipient of the Outstanding MBA Student Award. This award honors not just academic excellence, but also the student in each class who is integral to the spirit and cohesion of the class. I always try to focus on others by supporting my classmates, taking whatever role necessary to ensure high-functioning academic teams, driving cultural exchange within the class, helping to foster learning through dialogue, and just generally spreading positivity and creating fun within the program.

These goals, sometimes more than grades themselves, were what enriched my time in the MBA, so the acknowledgment that I made an impact makes me very happy. Additionally, it means a great deal to me that the program faculty and staff, who have taught me so much and helped me to shape my personal leadership ambitions, saw these values in me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At the age of 25, I was promoted to Manager at DISH. I was the youngest on the team I managed (by a decade) and intimidated by being a new leader. I had to quickly learn and master delegating, but also tune into the strengths and personal goals of my employees so that I delegated appropriately. This provided great experience in observing and listening to others in order to tailor leadership to each individual. Furthermore, I had to learn how to provide feedback since I was in charge of the team’s performance appraisals. Through this responsibility, I learned the importance of ongoing and actionable feedback, as well as how to be honest and stern with critical feedback.

All of my employees earn department-high performance appraisals, and most of them also received promotions. I am proud of my self-confidence to take on the role, my perseverance as I learned the aforementioned leadership skills, and the respect I gained from both my superiors and my team. I am also proud to have found my voice and learned how important it is that I use it in order to drive constructive change within the organization.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Asghar Zardkoohi was my favorite professor because his passion for teaching was infectious. During the most rigorous semester of our program, he kept reminding us of our gifts and our potential, and that we could find joy in anything (even taking a test).

Why did you choose this business school? I chose the Mays MBA because it rejects the notion that bigger is better. Instead, it is a small program where each individual is a critical piece of the puzzle. When I visited, I observed a tight-knit community of people that were all contributing so much to the student life of the program, but also receiving a lot in return. Furthermore, I already knew that Texas A&M has a strong focus on work ethic and humility. These values, the MBA family, and an unrivaled ROI made me feel in my gut that I belonged in the program.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? I am surprised by how fast the experience has moved. There is so much going on in and out of the classroom, which makes it easy to fly through the weeks without savoring them. I had to learn just the right balance of being fully immersed, but also reflective of the journey. On a related note, I was surprised to see that grades really aren’t everything. Most of what I learned, and is of added value as I go to work for Deloitte, never appeared on an exam. The real competitive advantage seems to be the sort of leaders we become while tackling business school.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? As I have mentioned, the Mays MBA is an intimate one. This means that who you are is actually more important than how smart you are because you will become invaluable to academic discourse and essential to the character of your class. Therefore, be authentic when you present yourself on applications, and make sure Mays gets a sense of the real you and what you’re passionate about.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Because we’re outside of Houston, people think we’re a program that caters mostly to oil and gas professionals. As a result, the MBA doesn’t have universal recognition. This isn’t what I’ve found at all! The program is cultivating well-rounded, hard-working, ethical global change agents. Graduates have gone on to every industry you can think of. Secondly, the MBA program is small, but the Aggie network is not. I’ve connected with Aggies everywhere from New York City to Shanghai, which means you really can go anywhere with a Mays MBA.
What was your biggest regret in business school? I guess I’m not allowed to say “no regrets.” But in all honestly, the closest thing to a regret is perhaps that I didn’t get out of my MBA bubble enough and interact with the broader graduate community at Texas A&M. Interdisciplinary innovations will be essential to solving many of the world’s problems so I now see even greater value in building relationships and engaging in dialogue with future researchers, engineers, policy makers, etc.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire one group of classmates, which are our veterans. I think we can take the little things too seriously in the private sector, especially in contrast to the challenges that many of our vets have faced. The stress of being away from families, making split second decisions that can be life altering for their peers, the physical toll of being a soldier…I just can’t really fathom it. And now those service members have to reinvent themselves in an environment that doesn’t operate like the one they’ve learned to thrive in. I could go on and on, but suffice it to say I find our vets to be very selfless and incredibly adaptable. It has broadened my worldview significantly to be able to connect with some during the MBA.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I observed the level of strategic thinking possessed by the leaders I admired at DISH. I was impressed with how they integrated so many aspects of business operations to make informed, large-scale decisions that had big impacts on the company.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…blogging or writing. I’ve always enjoyed putting thoughts into words. With more life experiences, I will hopefully have more to say.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Mays has optional international learning experiences which I have taken advantage of. As Dean, I would make these experiences mandatory for program completion. They have been some of my most valuable and hands-on learning experiences, and I believe each of my classmates would benefit immensely from observing business operations in other countries.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I’m eager to soak up knowledge about as many industries as possible through consulting. Ultimately, I am interested in leveraging consulting experience to better understand how private sector corporations can alleviate public sector challenges. I was born in Ghana and hope to drive entrepreneurship and capital investments back there and to all of Africa.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents have always been my champions, but also very sage when helping me navigate new opportunities such as pursuing my MBA. They’ve also become my best friends over the years. I also have to thank my leadership team at DISH. I was fortunate to work for leaders who gave me autonomy, high-impact work, and great opportunities for growth. My first boss and SVP were both women, so they served as strong role models for how to “lean in.” Lastly, I am so thankful for the friendships I hold from many stages of life. These friends keep me sane and happy no matter where I am in the world!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Dependable, sharp, and determined, Isabel is a trusted colleague, but also genuine friend.

Favorite book: Bloomability by Sharon Creech may be a young adult novel, but it fundamentally shaped how I approach life and change (and also triggered the wanderlust that I suffer from to this day).

Favorite movie or television show: The Mindy Project

Favorite musical performer: A tie between Paul Simon and Beyonce

Favorite vacation spot: Lugano, Switzerland

Hobbies? traveling, reading blogs, concerts/music, playing soccer, brunch

What made Isabel such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Isabel had a significantly positive impact on our program as I am sure she will on business in the future. Isabel served as a leader on the Student Advisory Board and was the student representative on the MBA Advisory Board, where she served alongside executives from a variety of companies to develop a vision for the MBA program and help us execute that vision. She also served as a career mentor for first years in their internship search, providing personal coaching and marketing training.

Our faculty consistently praised Isabel for her exemplary work in our program. One faculty member said, “Isabel is one of the best all-around MBA students we’ve ever had. She brings intelligence, hard work, and dedication to the classroom every day. Her biggest gift though is that she makes those around her better.” Another said, “Isabel brings her best–not just on game day but every day.  She delivers both individual excellence and leadership that brings out the best in her classmates. She continuously seeks to improve her skills and inspires others to do the same. An outstanding communicator, Isabel can lead from the front as well as from behind.” These quotes exemplify Isabel.”

Shannon Deer
Director, Full-Time MBA Program
Mays Business School
Texas A&M University

DON’T MISS: THE COMPLETE HONOR ROLL: BEST & BRIGHTEST MBAS OF 2017