2017 Best MBAs: Abigail Oduro, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Abigail Oduro

Mendoza College of Business, University of Notre Dame

“I am an analytical, strategic individual, who enjoys working on and implementing new ideas.”

Age: 24

Hometown: Accra, Ghana

Fun fact about yourself: If you ask my little sister how many children are there in my family, she says we don’t count.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BSc. Business and a minor in Psychology, Regent University

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Executive Assistant to the Chairman, First Allied Savings and Loans, and Project Manager for E.P.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Corning Inc.-­‐ Corning, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? Business Strategy Manger, EIG Corning Inc.-­‐ Corning, NY

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: CFO, Women in Business. VP; Entrepreneurship & VC Club (working with faculty to define the concentration tracks within the Entrepreneurship Program, and the internships associated with it); Ambassador Program (speaking with potential students and giving tours).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It was hosting a workshop for Haitian entrepreneurs, in partnership with the Entrepreneurship Growth Initiative-Haiti. As part of the workshop kickoff, my team and I asked the entrepreneurs to fill out a questionnaire of problem areas in their businesses and their expectations for the workshop. As we went through the workshop, I enjoyed seeing the entrepreneurs working through and grasping business tools such as the income statement and the value proposition. After the trip, working on the impact summary drove home the impact we made in the lives of these entrepreneurs, and the difference a business can make in an economy.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I have had the pleasure of working on great projects-­‐ introducing non-­‐alcoholic drinks (non-­‐alcoholic wine and sparkling apple cider) to the Ghanaian market where a significant population do not drink, etc. However, my proudest achievement was when I discovered that some of our drivers from our 24 branches were taking advantage of our fuel program by purchasing fuel on the company card multiple times a week for the same car, and reimbursing for cash from the fuel provider. We would receive higher than normal final bill, which did not include the reimbursement portion. We put policies in place to check mileage with gas consumption and fuel tickets, and required that multiple people go to buy fuel, which saved the company a lot of money.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Viva Bartkus: she challenges us to step outside of our comfort zones and to do the best we can. She is also truly interested in our professional and personal development.

Why did you choose this business school? I choose Notre Dame for three reasons-­: ND’s values and mission of ‘Asking More of Business;’ classes like Business On The Front Lines, which applies service and problem solving to pressing world issues in international settings; and the strength of the alumni network, which I knew I could learn from and give back to.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The outside the classroom experiences, such as­‐ interactions with professors, alums and industry experts and my friends, case competitions, service initiatives in the South Bend community, and the international immersions.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? The availability of options for extracurricular activities! There are so many activities you can be a part of-: clubs, committees, leagues, conferences, guest lectures, programs at other schools, etc. You really learn to manage and guard your time.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Consider the culture. Find a school that you enjoy and can learn the most from. At the end of the day, the MBA program is more than just the classroom interactions. It is an experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about my school is that there is nothing to do in South Bend. Initially, I thought this was true. After a while, I found there’s something for everyone-­: sports, arts, outdoorsy activities (apple picking, lake Michigan), etc. Plus Chicago is close, so you can always get the big city fix.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I started interacting with the alums later than I should have. When I started interacting with them, I realized I had nothing to be anxious about; alums are a wonderful resource-­‐ extremely helpful and knowledgeable.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ben Hota. He is charismatic, outgoing, extremely honest, and can relate to anyone regardless of class or background.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that I was interested in international business, and wanted to start my own business.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a project manager. If I had not studied business at all, I probably would have been a psychologist.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would introduce classes that give students the opportunity to work with students from other programs-­‐ law students, etc. on projects.

What is your ultimate long-­‐term professional goal? My long-­‐term goals are to join my father’s company and expand his financial services company throughout Africa, and to start my own businesses in the field of education, etc.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family:‐ I could not have done this without their love, support and encouragement.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Resourceful, dependable and a go-­‐getter

Favorite book: From Good to Great by Jim Collins (Non–Fiction), and Marta’s Legacy by Francine Rivers (fiction)

Favorite movie or television show: Full House

Favorite musical performer: Piano Guys

Favorite vacation spot: Elmina-­‐ on the beach with my family

Hobbies? Reading, baking (trying new recipes), and photography.

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

“I believe that Abby has displayed the first rate intellect and creativity in problem solving, maturity and leadership among her colleagues, and the empathy, character and commitment to her teams that has earned her such a distinction.  Abby is also, in all my years teaching at the University of Notre Dame, one of the kindest students I have ever had the pleasure of teaching.

To start, Abby presents a truly unique combination of talents:  creativity and pragmatism, leadership among her peers, and commitment to getting to the solution despite difficulties.  As a retired former partner of McKinsey & Company, I can spot talent. I taught Abby in two MBA courses at the University of Notre Dame. The first MBA class is a rigorous problem solving one using client cases from my own ten years of experience.  Its emphasis is around diagnosing the problem from multiple symptoms, disaggregating the problem into issues and then driving to practical solutions. Abby thrived in such an environment. Her team’s solutions to a range of problems involving product launch, market entry, game theory and microeconomics revealed tenacity in data gathering, subtle understanding of the main issues, and creativity in driving to solutions.

In addition to possessing a first rate mind, Abby is also a natural leader.  I assign the problem-solving teams randomly, and unfortunately, Abby did not get the strongest of teammates.  She acts like a catalyst, though, bringing the best out of her team mates.  From my observation, she accomplishes this in two ways: first, by asking insightful questions; and second, by patiently listening to her team mates to get to good ideas.  Her team developed stronger answers as the term progressed, as Abby quietly took over its leadership.

Further, Abby has the stamina needed to wrestle down even the toughest problems.  On one of our last client case in class – a competitive bid strategy for a major multi-year customer contract in an oligopoly situation – Abby lead her team in market assessment, competitor profiling, and an analysis of the client’s capabilities in order to judge what sort of solution they could indeed implement. Under heavy questioning by my senior colleagues who came to Notre Dame to judge the case, Abby withstood the questions and presented a compelling case for the recommendation.

Finally, what distinguished Abby from the many other talented graduate students is her inspiration, caring and tremendous insight on a range of challenges. For Abby, business represents the opportunity to care about the bottom line for others besides herself.  Abby also applied for and then was selected into my other class, “Business on the Frontlines,” which is dedicated to exploring the role of business in rebuilding poverty-stricken and frequently war torn societies. In addition to course work on development economics, politics, and international relations, during which Abby displayed his uniquely versatile grasp of diverse issues, the course requires an in-country business- and peace-related project in Kiribati in the Pacific regarding the most significant killer of under five-year-old children – malnutrition.  Abby naturally rose to the lead the team of five Notre Dame graduate students who need to interview tribal elders, businessmen, civic and religious leaders, journalists, professors, and others on their unique perspectives on the possible ways to reduce malnutrition on these Pacific islands. Indeed, Abby became my right hand; I depended on her organizational abilities to complete the visit successfully, and make recommendations for nutrition programs to new our partner in country, Humanitarian Services of the Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter Day Saints.

There is no doubt that upon graduation, Abby will make an incredible difference in this world, and has already done so.”

Viva Bartkus
Associate Professor
Department of Management & Organization

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