Robert H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland
“Former teacher, current class president, future C-suite exec who believes in her big ideas.”
Hometown: Reading, Pennsylvania
Fun fact about yourself: After college I took a class about growing orchids, I now have 19 orchids in my collection.
Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. in English and B.A. in Economics, University of Vermont
Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Before business school, I was a Teach for America Corps Member. I taught middle school math at Atlas Preparatory School, a charter school in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? I interned at AT&T in Atlanta, GA, working in the company’s Customer Experience division as a part of its Leadership Development Program.
Where will you be working after graduation? Citigroup, Inc. in Wilmington, DE
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
President, MBA Association
Board Member, Net Impact
Forté Fellow Ambassador and Forté Fellow
Graduate Assistant, Office of Career Services
Student Consultant, Change the World
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Any business school student will tell you, the first semester of school is hectic and difficult, with classes alone. During my first semester I also signed up for a case competition and my team was challenged to propose two new applications of the Industrial Internet for GE. Unfortunately, at the time I didn’t even know what the industrial Internet was. With a lot of intensive research, creativity, and practice, we ended up winning the competition. I am proud that I learned so much in such a short period of time, and was fueled to success by my team’s energy. The best part of the day was when other teams asked us to send them our presentation so they could learn from it.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of graduating from Teach for America (TFA) after serving as a corps member for two years. When I entered TFA, I knew nothing about managing a classroom, developing instructional content, or relating to 11-year-olds. I failed at something every day, but I also overcame something, the same way my students did. Teaching required more perseverance, self-control, and humor than I knew I had, and the classroom taught me I have something to learn from everyone with whom I interact, no matter their age or circumstance. Through this experience I learned to motivate others, celebrate successes, and scrap plans when they weren’t working. It made me realize that I’m motivated by challenges and inspired me to continue pursuing ambitious goals.
What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it?
Private Equity and Venture Capital Fellowship taught by Mark Grovic. In this course I have learned how to recognize and finance compelling investment opportunities. Most importantly, the Venture Capital Fellowship has taught me to recognize the difference between a fair investment and an advantageous investment. Learning how to structure a term sheet to benefit both investors and entrepreneurs is one of the greatest insights I’ve gleaned from business school. It proved to me that a good deal is one that meets interests of both parties simultaneously.
Why did you choose this business school? I was attracted to Smith for its small size, tight-knit community, and opportunities for experiential learning and student leadership. However, I also chose Smith because I felt that throughout the admissions process the school’s representatives were trying to set me up for success in my MBA experience. I never felt pressured to choose Smith over other schools. Instead, the students and staff I spoke with during my admissions process acknowledged that I had a lot of options to consider and it was important to make the decision that was best for me. Smith staff helped me to make my decision with honesty, candidly weighing both the pros and cons of the program with me. Having almost completed the program, I am very pleased (and proud) that setting up students for success is an inherent characteristic of the Smith School’s culture, and something evident in relationships with peers, faculty, staff and alumni.
What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My favorite experience in business school was a case competition called Leadership Under Fire. Teams represent a company undergoing a public relations crisis and are questioned about it during a simulated press conference with actual journalists. During my first year, my team and I accepted absolutely no responsibility for the crisis and the media tore us apart! We did not win the case competition, but I learned a valuable lesson about public relations—sometimes even inside the company, you don’t have all the information available.
What was the most surprising thing about business school for you?
What surprises me most about business school is the influence students have over shaping the direction of the MBA program. Administrators throughout the Smith school—and even our dean—are receptive to meeting with students and enthusiastic about hearing our opinions about the student experience. Last year, my class requested more resources for executive communications training and now we have a department designated to developing relevant programming to help us build communications skills. Knowing that our feedback is taken seriously contributes to our strong sense of community.
What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be honest — with yourself, and the admissions committee — about what you’re looking to get out of the MBA experience and what differentiates you as a candidate. Smith looks for diversity in every sense of the word and your unique experiences and goals are what set you apart from other candidates. At Smith, we’re not just looking for a high GMAT score, so have fun with the admissions process. Let yourself shine with anecdotes about travels, hobbies, and goals you’ve conquered or hope to achieve.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Andy Matz. I realized what an incredible person Andy is when I completed my first semester case competition for GE with him. Since then, I work with him every chance I get. Andy has strong work ethic and an equally strong sense of humor. He is an excellent student and also has a rich personal life in which he serves on boards and plays basketball. I am constantly impressed by Andy’s balance between his personal and professional lives, his optimistic perspective about all things, his ability to get along with everyone, and his willingness to help others without deriving any benefits for himself. Andy has taught me a lot through business school, about finance theories, effective slide decks, and keeping perspective about what matters in life. I’m grateful to have crossed paths with him in this program and even more grateful that through these experiences he has become a close friend of mine.
“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…my students realized their greatest outcomes as a result of collaboration between departments at the school where I worked. They were my customers and their success depended on the efficiency and structure of the organization I was a part of. I realized that no matter the industry, business acumen is relevant and I wanted to be a credible part of promoting success in that sense.”
“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…teaching math to middle schoolers and potentially barre classes to adults.”
If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would make experiential courses a requirement for students to complete before graduating. Some of my most valuable MBA experiences relate to projects I’ve done for actual companies. In my angel investing course, I have learned to tell the difference between a sales pitch and an investment pitch, which is something that is difficult for many entrepreneurs. In a strategy course, I worked on a growth plan for a cloud computing company and learned both to manage client expectations as well as how to narrow the scope of a broad project to something feasible. In my venture capital course, I have worked on projects that have helped me to understand what it means to own a company and how to effectively grow a company. These experiences not only teach me through hands-on experience, but also they give me things to talk about with employers and add to my resume. The variety of options available at my school sets us apart from other schools and I would want every student to have these types of opportunities.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I look forward to eventually finding my way back to the education sector, working at the executive level in a startup related to curriculum development. Students have extremely diverse needs and generally we depend on teachers to differentiate curriculum delivery to meet the needs of all students. This is difficult and time consuming for teachers, and I hope to one day be able to make their jobs a little bit easier.
Who would you most want to thank for your success? My family, for supporting everything I’ve wanted and never questioning my “next step” or moves across the country. Thank you, Ma, for responding to my 7 a.m. text messages about what jewelry to wear to school; Dad, for collecting WSJ highlights for me;and Signe, for forcing me to have a social life even when I had a “teacher bedtime.”
In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like my peers to remember me as someone who could find the bright side of any situation and someone they could count on for an honest opinion.
Favorite book: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Favorite movie or television show: New Girl
Favorite musical performer: Sia
Favorite vacation spot: Colorado, my first home-away-from-home
Hobbies? Collecting houseplants, yoga, reading, making every week “restaurant week,” and watching cat videos on YouTube
What made Alexandra such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?
“Alexandra is a true MBA success story in terms of growth and self-discovery. She joined the Smith program as a Teach for America math teacher. Her rather unique background combined a dedication to self-improvement through education with the strong quantitative skills necessary to thrive in the data-driven business environment of today. As a career transitioner, she explored career opportunities in a variety of industries, securing an internship with AT&T’s prestigious Leadership Development Program last summer. Combining the skills set she obtained in our MBA program with her internship experience and her innate tenacity and self-assuredness, Alex will join Citigroup post-graduation.
Alex’s leadership extends to contributions to our community as well. Her leadership traits were recognized by her classmates, resulting in her election as MBA Association President, where she has excelled. In that capacity, she has worked with various stakeholders, always exhibiting professionalism and a commitment to bringing ideas for improvement to the administration that are practical and well thought out. She’s respected as a strong contributor to the Smith community and for helping bring students, faculty and staff together through her MBAA role. Externally, Alex represents the Smith brand exceedingly well. Last year, for example, she competed and placed first with her team at the GE Experienced Consumer Leadership Program Case Competition. Her leadership and accomplishments will leave a strong legacy here at the Smith School. She will be an alum that we will be proud of, and I look forward to staying in contact with her to follow the success that she will continue to realize.”
Associate Dean for Masters Programs
Robert H. Smith School of Business