2017 Best MBAs: Jennifer Nicole Miller, Duke University (Fuqua)

Jennifer Nicole Miller

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Socially-minded Midwesterner passionate about finding inclusive, people-centered solutions to business problems.”

Age: 33

Hometown: Clarkston, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: I received my black belt in karate while teaching English in Japan

Undergraduate School and Degree: Kalamazoo College, BA in International Relations

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Firm: Engility International

Role: Principal, Business Development and Growth Partnerships

*Engility is an international development contractor implementing projects on behalf of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016?

Firm: Deloitte Consulting, Human Capital

Location: Chicago, IL

Where will you be working after graduation?

Firm: Deloitte Consulting, Human Capital

Role: Senior Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Social and Community Cabinet Chair, Association of Women in Business (AWIB)
  • Board Associate, Ronald McDonald House of Durham & Wake
  • Coach K Center on Leadership and Ethics (COLE) Fellow
  • Service Cabinet, MBA Association
  • Teaching Assistant, Management Communications
  • Creator and manager of the “Fuqua_Serves” Instagram account
  • Volunteer and Fundraiser – ALS Association, Boys & Girls Club of Durham, KaBoom
  • Consumer Behavior Case Competition 1st Place Winner
  • Paul Sticht Fellowship Endowment Fund scholarship recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  Coming from a non-traditional background, I arrived at Fuqua excited to improve my quantitative knowledge and skill set. But early on in the core accounting and finance classes my confidence was shaken, as my classmates were easily grasping concepts I struggled to comprehend. But I survived, and eventually enrolled in Gavan Fitzsimons’ Consumer Behavior class. The course culminated in a case competition, where we presented a business solution to a panel of esteemed business executives. Long story short, my team won! It was the confidence boost I needed in that moment, and a reminder of the hard skills I bring to Team Fuqua.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Helping individuals and institutions in East Africa acquire and apply the skills, resources, and processes to effectively manage their own development priorities. In 2011, I served as Chemonics’ East Africa Regional Representative based out of Nairobi, Kenya, and was fortunate to coordinate an innovation lab for a group of young women entrepreneurs who founded a mobile app called “M-Farm.” Through targeted facilitation, we were able to help them discover new ways to effectively provide crop price information to the farmers they served, ultimately increasing the profits of some of the poorest populations in Kenya.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? It’s definitely a tie between Detecting Earnings Management, Corporate Finance, and Raising Capital. These classes cemented my understanding of the value levers that drive financial decisions.

Why did you choose this business school? Former Dean Blair Sheppard once said Fuqua wants to produce graduates “who can drink champagne with the rich and famous and can drink chai with those who that’s all they can afford.” Given my deep commitment to social impact, this quote resonated with me. During my student interview, I asked how the school was able to accomplish this. My interviewer’s response: “Fuqua teaches you how to get your point of view across without being brash.” This dedication to teaching both hard and soft skills is what set Fuqua apart for me. This is why it’s the only MBA program I applied to (thank goodness I got in!).

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? How truly transformational this program is. Fuqua has allowed me the space to uncover hidden interests and ambitions, reflect on how my activities impact my personal purpose, and discover the type of friend, colleague, and leader I want to be.

Also, meeting my boyfriend (a fellow second year) was pretty awesome.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  Ask yourself these questions…

– Do I like fun?

– Do I like being in a team-oriented culture?

– Does the phrase “global leader of consequence” resonate with me?

If the answer to all of these questions is yes, definitely look into Fuqua more. From there, my best advice is to be honest and authentic with yourself and others throughout the application process. Fuqua wants to know who you really are and what you honestly want to get out of the MBA experience – not what you think we want to hear.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That it’s located in a small town where there’s not much to do. Durham and the surrounding Research Triangle community have a lot to offer! Frequently labeled one of the South’s tastiest towns, Durham boasts a passionate mix of chefs, farmers, brewers, and baristas who spoil residents with their kindness and creativity. Neighboring Chapel Hill and Carrboro are easy local options when you want to explore beyond Durham, while Asheville and Boone are the perfect trip for those who love the mountains. Durham offers such a high quality of life…it’s going to be hard to leave.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I didn’t take more time to stop and reflect in my first-year. Business school is such a whirlwind, it’s easy to forget to stop and appreciate what a privilege it is to be here.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many! Though the person who immediately comes is mind is Alejandra Rossi. Ale is one of the most truly selfless people I’ve ever met. A proud Uruguayan, Ale focused her 7+ year career on generating social impact through economic empowerment, entrepreneurship and education. At Fuqua, Ale does it all! She co-leads a group of CASE Fellows, a Net Impact Club cabinet member, a Board Associate for the Greater Durham Black Chamber of Commerce, and is involved with Walltown Children’s Theater and Keep Durham Beautiful. She’s also a member of a 10-person Fuqua group sponsoring a Syrian refugee family of 8, which includes raising funds to cover the first three-month expenses for the family, helping them acclimate to U.S. culture, and generally providing emotional support. One of my favorite Ale quotes is, “I’m simply fascinated by how much we can do if we simply open ourselves to the different and unknown. Because it’s much more similar and known than we think it is.” She humbly inspires others to make the world a better place.

I also deeply admire our Fuqua heroes – the veteran and active duty military MBA students (specifically Alex Dulmage, Libby Rybacki, and Matt Thacker). The student community at Fuqua is imbued with what is known as the “Team Fuqua” spirit – a spirit of camaraderie, leadership, and teamwork. Our military leaders excel in upholding this spirit, and bring a richness of perspective and insight to Fuqua that’s irreplaceable.

Finally, I must add my admiration for Mikaela Rodkin, currently at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business. I had the good fortune of interning with Mikaela over the summer, and was immediately impressed by her positivity, drive, intelligence, and kind-hearted nature. Her first year at Ross, Mikaela launched a social enterprise with three other graduate students addressing food access in Detroit and went on to participate in a plethora of entrepreneurial opportunities at Ross, including the Michigan Business Challenge. From leading Prospective Recruiting for the Armed Forces Association, serving as a career coach, fellow in the Center for Positive Organizations, and on the leadership team of Ross Open Road (formerly MBAs Across America), Mikaela demonstrates empathy, and total dedication to her community.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I was negotiating public-private partnerships and realized how linguistic and cultural differences were impeding the ability of the two sectors to work together. The industry lacked professionals who could understand the priorities and motivations of both sectors. I wanted to bridge that gap and serve as a connector of the two communities. I look forward to working on issues such as these as a Human Capital Consultant.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working with USAID and the private sector to jointly design, fund, and implement partnerships aimed at improving social and economic conditions worldwide.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? The amazing thing is, at Fuqua, you feel like you can be dean throughout your entire experience. Senior Associate Dean Russ Morgan goes out of his way to encourage students to identify gaps in Fuqua programming, and then empowers them with the resources and support they need to fill those gaps. Russ is a huge part of why Fuqua is so great.

One initiative I’ve been working on with Russ that I’m particularly excited about is an Inclusive Leadership Experience Workshop. The objective of the workshop is to develop future business leaders that promote an inclusive culture (both at Fuqua and in the workplace) by fostering dialogue that builds awareness of and strategies to address unconscious bias.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To marry my passion for human capital and social impact by helping socially minded businesses maximize the value of their workforce.

If that doesn’t work out, I’d love to try my hand at sustainable agriculture and open up an organic farm in rural Montana! 🙂

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My huge, caring, generous, supportive family!

My sisters – Sara and Christy – have always been my #1 cheerleaders. They are my role models and best friends, and their support has meant the absolute world to me.

My brothers – Mike, Mark, and Matt – insert an indescribable amount of joy and laughter into my life. They help me maintain perspective and remind me to never take life (or myself) too seriously.

My mother taught me about the incredible power of kindness, empathy, and resilience. She would speak the same way to the poorest and weakest, or richest and most powerful person. I’m honored to be her daughter.

Finally my daddio, who passed from ALS in 2011. A self-made man, my father taught me the value of hard work, generosity, and integrity. He constantly pushed and challenged me, and had confidence in me when my own confidence faltered. Even as his body failed him, he approached each day with courage, tenacity, and a child-like sense of wonder.  He was and will always remain my hero. Any success I have is a direct result of his love and encouragement.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?  Laughing!

Favorite book: The Sound and the Fury, Euphoria, Little Women, I Dreamed of Africa

Favorite movie or television show: Home Alone 

Favorite musical performer: Chance the Rapper

Favorite vacation spot:

Domestic: Around the dinner table in Clarkston, MI with my enormous family

International: On safari in the Maasai Mara National Reserve of Kenya

Hobbies? Fawning over my seven adorable nieces and nephews (they seriously are the cutest), hiking in the beautiful parks of NC (I highly recommend Eno River), baking while listening to Christmas music (this will put anyone in a good mood), exploring the world with my amazing friends (next stop – a road trip down the Pacific Coast), and beating my boyfriend in cards (just kidding – he beats me every time).

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

“While it may not resonate with strong meaning for those outside our community, internally we are intentional about seeking and developing students who can connect with and contribute to our “Team Fuqua” values.  Nobody personifies these values better than Jennifer Miller. Through everything she has done the last two years, we have become better.

Engagement with others in an authentic manner is one of the elements of Team Fuqua that is important in leader development. We encourage students to be themselves and engage in things they are passionate about.  Jenny provides us a model of that leadership on a daily basis. Through her work prior to business school and during her time at Fuqua, Jenny is continually committed to serving others.  Some contributions are more observable, like loading boxes of food on a truck for Stop Hunger Now or helping with a holiday present drive for children in the Durham community. But I’ve also witnessed support she has provided to individual classmates in non-public ways.

Underlying her commitment to service is her demonstrated passion and enthusiam, always providing positive support with a smile and helping everyone else feel good about contributing in whatever way they find authentic for themselves. This comes not only through formal relationships as a Leadership Fellow and Social Entrepreneurship Fellow, but also through the day to day interactions. One student captured this well in a nomination of Jenny for a student award:

I’m nominating Jenny Miller for this award because of her consistent engagement and welcoming attitude towards everyone at Fuqua.  Jennifer is one of the most thoughtful and cheerful people I’ve ever met.  Jenny brings her authentic personality every day, and is always a joy to be around.”

Russ Morgan

Senior Associate Dean, Full-Time Programs