2017 Best MBAs: Kate Archibald, Stanford GSB

Kate Archibald

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“A product of the West – circumspect, but independent and adventurous. I love mountains, impressionism & infographics.”

Hometown: Denver, CO

Fun fact about yourself: In the year before business school, I spent more than 100 days sleeping outside (mostly while thru-hiking the Colorado Trail and backpacking through Canyonlands, Utah)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Yale College, BA in English (Cum Laude, with distinction in the major)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Center for the New Energy Economy

A clean energy think-tank led by Former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter.

Yale University – Dept. of Economics & Institution for Social and Policy Studies

Yale’s interdisciplinary policy think-tank bringing together economists, political scientists, and other experts.

George K. Baum & Company – Education, Renewable Energy & Non-Profit Group

Privately held investment banking firm specializing in tax-exempt bond underwriting.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016?

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (Seattle, WA) – Strategy, Planning, and Management Intern for Global Programs. Also assisted the Measurement, Learning, and Evaluation team for US Programs.

Where will you be working after graduation?TBD – I am in the process of seeking a role funding social enterprises, either at a foundation or an impact investing fund/firm. Let me know if you’ve got leads!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Siebel Scholar – One of five MBA1s honored for academic achievement and leadership with a $35,000 scholarship.

Global Study Trip Leader – With four teammates I’m leading 25 peers on a 10-day trip through South Africa focusing on the theme “Building and Equitable Society 20 Years after Apartheid.” We have planned meetings with corporate, government, and academic leaders as well as with local students and small business owners to explore this topic.

Impact Labs – Impact Investing Associate – As part of the Impact Labs program, I drove a strategic visioning project for the impact investment fund ImpactAssets.

Fiscal Policy Course Assistant – I am responsible for grading weekly student policy memos and evaluating class participation for Keith Hennessey’s Fiscal Policy course.

Wilderness Guide for the Outdoor Club – As an official trip guide for the club, I hold a Wilderness First Aid certification and have completed Stanford University’s outdoor leader training course.

Boys and Girls Club of the Peninsula Volunteer – I volunteer weekly with bilingual middle school students. We speak exclusively in Spanish while designing and painting a mural to celebrate Latino/Hispanic culture.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am days away from leading the Global Study Trip that my team has been planning for the past 10 months. We are taking on a timely and challenging topic – economic, racial, and social inequality and the role of business in addressing these issues – and I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve done together to create opportunities for our students to engage with our topic from many different perspectives. We dreamed up this trip together and I’m so excited to see this abstract idea become a practical reality.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Professionally, I’m most proud of having gone from poet to quant. I graduated with a degree in English literature but a belief that business and market engagement was the best way to be a part of improving the world. I somehow managed to convince a bank to take a risk on my potential to learn, and then moved to real econometric modeling, never having learned statistics. I had never seen a line of code, and taught myself statistical programming at night while I was working as a banking analyst. I’m proud of having had the courage and confidence to take on roles that continually made me the least experienced person in the room.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? I took an advanced “Optimization, Simulation, and Measurement” class about auction and pricing theory. The class made me think a lot about the inherent tradeoff between equity and efficiency when allocating resources and helped me to connect the dots between business thinking and policy thinking.

Why did you choose this business school? I think it’s fairer to say that we chose each other. Most schools ask you to write an essay about what you’ve accomplished and what you hope to achieve. Stanford’s famous question “what matters most to you and why” instead gave me an opportunity to think really hard about who I am as a whole person, and what fundamental values drive me both personally and professionally.

I told them I cared most about the personal question of how to live rightly and about finding practical answers to the big challenges facing our world. Stanford is a community of pragmatic romantics – people who want to empower others and in doing so “change the world” – and I think this idealistic common mission is what made it the right fit for me.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I love the people and the community we’ve created. My class is full of some of the most intimidatingly successful and competent people I’ve ever met, but without exception they are down-to-earth, generous, and fundamentally kind.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? There’s no trick – just be yourself. Some of my classmates are rocket scientists, professional athletes, or serial entrepreneurs, but most of us are just very lucky regular people. Stanford’s culture is about authenticity, not dazzling credentials.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had taken fewer classes, slowed down, and spent more time on coffee dates with classmates (and I wish I had listened when all of the MBA2s expressed this regret last year).

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m not sure I can pick just one classmate who I most admire. In general, I admire the students who are here as non-native English speakers studying in the US for the first time. I know first-hand how hard it is to study in a language that you’re still in the process of mastering, and I’m continually astounded by how many of my peers are taking on subtle skills like public speaking, interpersonal dynamics, negotiation, etc. in a second language.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I visited Stanford’s campus for the first time and listened to a student talk about servant leadership. I’m not sure I knew I wanted to go to business school, but I definitely knew I wanted to be part of the GSB.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…finishing up an international policy and economics degree in DC, which was my initial graduate school plan. Or, more likely, living in Oaxaca, MX working on social justice issues and trying to be an artist.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I’d focus on restructuring the first year curriculum. I’d allow students to test out of some of the requirements and I’d try to offer more core classes taught by practitioners/lecturers rather than academics.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Ideally, I’ll get to have several careers. I think it’s important to spend the first half of my career acquiring a practical understanding of managerial, financial and operational best practices and I’d love to get this experience while investing in or directing social enterprises. Once I have the experience and expertise to really add value, I’d love to bring this background to the social sector and either lead a government agency or large non-profit. In a perfect world, I’d conclude my career playing a role in structuring bilateral trade agreements or government-business relations at the U.S. State Department.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I don’t have a particularly novel answer to this question. I’d like to thank my parents. They have given me an enormous amount of financial and practical support, but more importantly have been excellent models of how to live a purposeful life. Both of them have managed to attain professional success and personal fulfillment without once compromising their core values. I am so grateful to them for teaching me when to work incredibly hard and when to go climb a mountain or enjoy a good meal.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d like my peers to remember me as trustworthy, thoughtful, a little bit sarcastic, and as someone who contributed something tangible to serving both Stanford and the greater community.

Favorite book: The Razor’s Edge (W. Somerset Maugham)

Favorite movie or television show: Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater)

Favorite musical performer: Josh Ritter

Favorite vacation spot: Oaxaca, MX

Hobbies? Rock climbing, figure/architectural drawing, backpacking, skiing


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