2017 Best MBAs: Jessie Wright, University of Wisconsin

Jessie Wright

UW-Madison, Wisconsin School of Business

“I chase the work that doesn’t feel like work.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Minneapolis, MN

Fun fact about yourself: I have a book blog that tracks my attempt to read a piece of literature set in every U.S. state (readableroadtrip.com)

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Virginia, B.A. in Foreign Affairs & B.A. in Religious Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Aspect Foundation, Publicity Coordinator (San Francisco, CA)

Virginia Film Festival, Event & Guest Manager (Charlottesville, VA)

Heritage Theatre Festival, Company Manager (Charlottesville, VA)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Artspace Projects, Inc. Minneapolis, MN

Where will you be working after graduation? New York City Ballet (Manager, Major Gifts)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Overture Center for the Arts — Development Project Assistant; Artful Business Collective — MBA Arts Showcase Coordinator; Joint Venture Club — Co-President; 2nd Year MBA Team Coach; MBA Program Office — Student Ambassador; All Ways Forward Campaign — Team Member; GMN Marketing Case Competition 2016 — Best Speaker; ICA Project — Best Female Speaker

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Working at the Overture Center for the Arts part-time for the duration of my MBA program has been integral to my graduate school experience. I have been part of the development department at Overture for the last two years and am most proud of some of the projects I have gotten to lead there. These include writing and receiving grant money totaling $60,000 and working with our new Director of Diversity and Inclusion to reach new and underserved audiences with outreach programming and access to performances.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was a one-person department at my most recent job. They had never had a dedicated publicity person before, so I had the opportunity to really build something from the ground up. This organization places international exchange students with host families around the U.S. and American students with host families around the world. What a joy to publicize those stories! I am most proud of how many aspects of that position I developed — from the new company website to streamlined internal communications to a new social media strategy.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Erwan Quentin, professor for Data to Decisions. It’s not only that he did the impossible, which was to help me appreciate and like statistical analysis. Erwan earnestly loves what he teaches and is challenging, but fair. It also helps that he has a strong appreciation for the arts.

Why did you choose this business school? For me, the Wisconsin MBA’s specialization model was key. Coming from the nonprofit arts world, it was essential that the school combined both a core MBA curriculum with a focus on arts administration and management. The ten specializations also create a study body where students, by and large, are working within the field they are most passionate. It allows us all to learn from one another while at the same time grow and network in our specific industries.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? How enriching and different it is to have classmates of all different ages, backgrounds and career stages. I have had the opportunity to work with colleagues who have run their own businesses or some who would be several years my senior in the working world. It has been an incredible opportunity to work collaboratively with these classmates on a number of different projects.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Fit is really important here, especially because it is such a small program. Really spend some time thinking about what the top three elements of a school are that are most important to your goals. Be able to communicate why Wisconsin is the right place to fit those needs.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That it is freezing 8 months out of the year! With few exceptions, I have been able to ride my bike to and from school every day the past two years.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Gurmukh Mangat. This guy is one of those people who really thinks before he speaks — a quality that is hard to come by. He has a real heart for social justice and takes on projects that have a larger-than-self impact. He also spins a mean record as a DJ.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I discovered there was a way to learn new analytical and strategic business skills alongside a concentration in arts administration.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in the arts, but most likely less effectively and with a much smaller professional and personal network.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would offer the opportunity to work in a local business or nonprofit to all MBA students. My experience at Overture Center for the Arts has served as a living case study for the last two years. I have been able to apply the new skills I am learning right away and bring my day-to-day experiences at Overture into discussions and projects at school. The position also has made me feel connected with Madison as a community, rather than simply a temporary graduate student.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I would love to serve as Executive Director or Producer of a performing arts organization that challenges and inspires people with its work.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents. Creativity, curiosity, independence, empathy, strength. These are the things that they constantly encourage. No matter what my career path is or will be, these matter.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? You can count on her — to do what she says she will, for support, or just for a laugh.

Favorite book: His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman

Favorite movie or television show: 30 Rock

Favorite musical performer: Cynthia Erivo

Favorite vacation spot: The Netherlands

Hobbies? Creative writing, beach and indoor volleyball, improv comedy from time to time

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

“It gives me great pleasure to support the nomination of Jessie Wright for the Poets&Quants Best and Brightest MBAs for 2017. I can think of no one more deserving of this award, and here’s why:

Jessie was the quintessential MBA candidate for the Wisconsin School of Business—and particularly for the Bolz Center for Arts Administration. She already had a great start to her professional work experience, having worked in both the arts and education sectors. She knew she wanted a strong business background to undergird her future work in nonprofit arts administration, but a degree that would allow her to focus her skill set as a senior manager in any sector. Social responsibility and applied learning were two constants woven through her WSB experience, by participating in such organizations as Net Impact and by serving as a board member for Forward Theater Company, as part of a service learning course in the Bolz Center.  Jessie is always the first person to volunteer to the assignment, the first person to raise her hand to the question, the first person to organize the project. In short, Jessie is a natural born leader and demonstrates that leadership through active involvement and collaboration.

Add to her impressive list of accomplishments that she began her time with us as a Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellow, has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout the program, participated as a team coach to first year MBAS, was co-chair of the Joint Venture Club, and led and produced the annual Arts Showcase event for the MBA program. She has found the connection between arts, creativity and urban planning, as she has explored nonprofit real estate development and programs in service to artists and other under-resourced communities, like the homeless population in Madison.

She has brought recognition to the Bolz Center approach to the Wisconsin Idea by successfully managing and producing strategic plans and recommendations for two impact consulting projects (one with a regional municipality, one with a national arts service organization in Washington, D.C.). Combine all that has been mentioned, and you quickly realize that Jessie has used her time well—and been able to bring more experience to her resume, more valuable contributions to the classroom experience, and more attention locally and nationally to the Bolz Center and the WSB.

As teachers and mentors, it is always our hope that we can facilitate and provide the most valuable experience possible to our students. In light of those opportunities provided, students have to be the ones to immerse themselves in all that our learning community has to offer. And Jessie Wright has optimized those opportunities to the best of her abilities and capacity, demonstrating her future leadership in our industry, but more importantly, in our world.”

Sherry L. Wagner-Henry
Director, Bolz Center for Arts Administration and Arts Business Initiatives

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