2017 Best MBAs: Meganne Franks, University of Iowa (Tippie)

Meganne Franks

University of Iowa, Tippie School of Business

Age: 26

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I’m a passionate, empathetic team-player; I hope for the best, but always keep it real.

Hometown: Iowa City, IA

Fun fact about yourself: I have eight siblings but grew up as an only child. Strange, right?

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Iowa, Communication Studies B.A., Human Relations Minor

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Kinseth Hospitalities, Outside Sales Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Whirlpool Corp., Amana, Iowa

Where will you be working after graduation? Cognizant Technology Solutions, Senior Business Consultant (Chicago, IL)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Inaugural recipient of the Kathleen Dore MBA Scholarship for Women Leaders; Vice President of the MBA Association; Junior Achievement instructor; Panelist for various diversity workshops and women in business spotlights

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am extremely proud to be the first Kathleen Dore – Henry Tippie Women’s Leadership Scholar. This program is the first of its kind at Iowa and one of very few in the nation. As a scholar, I have helped create skills workshops, facilitate mentor opportunities, and shape the program into whatever it needs to be for our women. Since joining the program, I have been enlightened on the issues that women face in the workplace and the staggeringly low rate of women C-suite executives. With this knowledge, I encourage every woman that I meet to pursue an MBA and to never let the fear of work/life balance hold them back. I am also proud of the program’s first co-ed mixer, in which we invited men to join the conversation. The Iowa MBA program is investing in workplace equality by educating its students on present-day realities and how we can move the needle when we graduate.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of creating a non-profit organization, Bands for Life, which raises funds to be donated to social causes in the local community. After the death of my second sister to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), I felt powerless.This non-profit organization has provided me with an outlet for my anguish. I am able to fund SIDS research so that no one ever experiences the same heartache that my family has faced. Simultaneously, Bands for Life is an outlet for anyone to raise awareness and garner support for a social cause that is near and dear to their lives. My business partner lost his mother to breast cancer. Through Bands for Life, we were able to raise over $14K to be donated to the University of Iowa’s Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center for breast cancer research. Life can be unfair, but we are never powerless in how we handle these devastating moments. I am most proud of the foundation that I have created to support anyone going through adversity.

Why did you choose this business school? As a first generation graduate of the University of Iowa, I have always had complete trust in Iowa’s education system. Iowa City is home to two world-class companies, Pearson and ACT. I made it very clear that I did not want to spend my MBA experience doing “busy work” and was assured that real-world learning was a priority in the program. Having participated in seven experiential learning opportunities, I can safely confirm this claim. Lastly, I appreciated that Iowa is a small cohort of only 50 students which meant that I would get more personalized support. I knew from my undergraduate experience that hard work is rewarded and those unwilling to get their hands dirty are quickly weeded out.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The people. I have been exposed to so many different cultures and new ways of thinking. Also, traveling overseas for the first time was life-changing. I studied international business in Hong Kong and mainland China. Nǐ hǎo!

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? Universal business culture. I expected cultural norms to dominate business meetings and perhaps hinder team synergies. In reality, there is generally a common goal among all business professionals, which is to make smart, equitable business decisions regardless of personal biases. Business school gives new meaning to the word “objective.”

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be your genuine self. Yes, there is a certain “fake it until you make it” stigma about business. However, life is truly about finding where you fit naturally and thriving in that environment. Iowa has a never-ending pool of resources, so be transparent about your goals, and you will have a much more tailored and meaningful experience in B-school. At the end of the day, business professionals are trained to spot B.S. anyway.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That Iowa is just tumbleweeds and corn fields. In truth, it is a melting pot of diversity, culture, and entrepreneurial spirit. It is home to the renowned Writer’s Workshop and new Children’s Hospital. There is a festival almost every week during the summer, including the Arts Fest, Jazz Fest, Soul Fest, and many more. Every year alumni return to set up stock in a community that is extremely supportive of local entrepreneurs. Far from conservative, Iowa City embraces change and strongly supports equality. I am proud to be a Hawkeye.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not going on a second Global Learning Opportunity. I wanted to travel and experience international business as much as possible but could not fit a second trip into my schedule. I will travel overseas in the future, but I may never have another chance to pull back the curtain and understand how various companies are running their businesses.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lydia Neeley. Lydia is a straight-through student that has to get scrappy both inside and outside of the classroom to prove her worth as the youngest member of our cohort. She previously worked over 40 hours a week to pay for her 4-year undergraduate degree and simultaneously purchase her first home. I have worked on various projects with Lydia and am continuously impressed by her creative problem-solving skills. She won best presenter at the 2016 Fisher Case Competition and took 3rd place overall. Lydia will be an asset to any company she joins.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I felt more autonomous working for my non-profit than my day job. I realized how excited I was to be making a difference in my community, and wanted to channel that energy into a corporate role where I could effect change on a grander scale.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…traveling the world! Never fear, I still plan to put some miles on my passport post-MBA.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I plan to reorganize the non-profit, Bands for Life, after I graduate. It will no longer be a fund raising organization and instead, a scholarship fund. I am a steadfast philanthropist but fund raising can be time consuming with often less than spectacular results. Instead, I want to help others overcome adversity by helping them achieve their education goals. An educated mind is the most powerful tool that you can give someone to succeed. I believe that providing someone with support in this way can ultimately better position them to pioneer whatever hardship they are experiencing. The scholarship fund will start small, but my goal is someday cover a full year’s tuition.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My father. As a single parent, he has pushed me to create my own standards of success and never settle for status quo. We were poor, but he worked hard so that I would never feel like I had less than anyone else. In many ways, he is the reason I am continuously seeking to give back and support others.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Meganne is unconditionally honest but can always find the silver lining; you can count on her for a pep talk to get you back on track.

Favorite book: Animal Farm by George Orwell. Big thanks to Mr. Orwell for opening my eyes to politics and all its complexities at a young age. One of the best allegories ever written, this book made me realize that even the most intricate situations can be simplified to a basic level of understanding with the right analogy. Communication is key!

Favorite movie or television show: Ender’s Game and Avengers: Age of Ultron. I sympathize with Ender’s journey to leadership, overcoming each test and gaining respect from his peers. The monumental take away is that it matters how you achieve victory, more so than whether you were victorious. Truly, I love any MARVEL movie, but Age of Ultron speaks to my soul. “I’ve got strings, but now I’m free. There are no strings on me.”

Favorite musical performer: Bruno Mars. He has the voice of an angel and a heart of gold.

Favorite vacation spot: Dominican Republic. My fiancé proposed to me on the white sandy beaches, under the moonlight. It also helps that I speak Spanish and often get confused for a local. I’ve haggled my way into some fantastic prices!

Hobbies? I’m a DIY-er! I love to scroll through Pinterest looking for culinary recipes, household cleaning agents, arts and crafts, etc. If there is a cost-effective way to create something on my own, I will find it! I’m certainly no chef, but I’m a solid “instruction-follower.” My favorite thing to do is combine multiple recipes to create my own hybrid feast, which is later logged in my Tried & True cook book.

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

“Transformation is, potentially, one of the most overused words in business today, second only to innovation. Try as I might, I cannot come up with a better word to describe Meganne Franks’ past two years in our MBA program. In many ways, her story is both unique and cliché. She is a first generation college student from a broken home. She has experienced economic hardship and the unbearable loss of two infant sisters. She is hardly a product of a privileged upbringing that would have assured her path into graduate school. And yet here she is at the end of a full-time MBA program. Hers is the remarkable experience that we hope occurs in all of our B-Schools. And, finally, it is what truly can happen when the right student comes along and wholeheartedly embraces the opportunity of a great MBA program.

When I first met Meganne, she was an undergraduate here at the University of Iowa.  She bounded into my office along with one of my favorite students, and she fairly lit up the room with energy and enthusiasm for their emerging non-profit venture – Bands for Life. Bright, yes. Ambitious, undoubtedly. Outgoing, without question.  Here was someone with all of the raw potential for success. What she lacked, however, were the skills, the focus, and the maturity to channel her inherent gifts.  Her then-sales position was a start, but that path would be long and uncertain.

When a donor came along with a passion for building an exceptional leadership experience for our MBA women, including two full-ride scholarships, Meganne immediately came to mind. This program would not only provide her with the financial means to undertake an MBA, but it would also require her participation in the creation and implementation of the program that would, itself, become her leadership journey.  And it has truly been the hero’s journey, complete with stumbles, reality checks, and numerous opportunities to be tested. She will tell you that it hasn’t always been pretty. And there were times when we wondered whether her raw potential was, in fact, too raw. Perhaps our timing had been premature.  But again and again she proved herself to us all, and she has emerged as an impressive and effective leader, recognized by her peers and our faculty.

To be clear, the essence of Meganne has not changed. What has changed is her ability to focus, navigate, and succeed in a challenging career. What has changed is her ability to move from “me” to “we.” What has changed is her self-awareness and ability to listen to others. She has always been an unabashed dreamer. Now she has the sophistication and knowledge to turn her dreams into reality. I cannot wait to see what this young woman brings to our world.”

Sarah Fisher Gardial
Dean, College of Business

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