2017 Best MBAs: Vanessa Kritzer, University of Washington (Foster)

Vanessa Kritzer

Foster School of Business, University of Washington

“Strategic leader focused on cultivating cross-sector partnerships and innovative management for social impact.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Seattle, WA

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a huge board game geek; I own more than 40 strategic board games. Luckily, I’ve found many of my kind at business school and Seattle has many board game bars for us to hang out in.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Daniel J. Evans School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Washington, MPA (Dual degree with MBA to be completed in 2017)

Vassar College, BA, Political Science and Latin American and Latino/a Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • League of Conservation Voters – Director of Digital Strategy
  • Latin America Working Group – Communications Director
  • Grassroots Campaigns, Inc. – Field Director for Democratic National Committee during 2008 Obama Campaign

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Microsoft, Redmond, WA – Audience Marketing Manager Intern for Enterprise Marketing

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft, Redmond, WA – Business Development Manager for Worldwide Public Sector National Empowerment Plan

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • UW Board of Regents – appointed by Governor Jay Inslee to serve as the only student member on the board that governs the University of Washington
  • UW Audit Advisory Committee Member
  • 2016 Husky 100 Award Winner
  • Dean’s List, Winter and Autumn 2016
  • Washington Conservation Voters 2016 Young Leader Award
  • VP of Foster Net Impact Chapter
  • VP of Women in Business Club
  • Mentor to Undergraduate Women in Business
  • UW Provost Advisory Committee for Students
  • UW Services and Activities Fee Committee
  • UW Health and Safety Task Force
  • Endorsement Chair of National Women’s Political Caucus of Washington
  • Graduate Washington Board Member
  • Chapter President, Pi Alpha Alpha Honor Society for Public Affairs and Administration
  • Volunteering for local political campaigns – including helping elect my MBA mentor Lisa Wellman to the WA State Senate!
  • Singer for The Network Effect (MBA Band)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my service on UW’s Board of Regents during the first year of my MBA. It was a major opportunity and honor to be selected, but also a challenging responsibility to fulfill. As the only one out of 47,000 students who got to sit in the highest governing body for our university, advise leadership, and vote on issues like tuition rates and capital projects, I felt an obligation to use my position to improve the university and engage the diverse group of stakeholders in our community. In the end, I was able to help advance efforts to address race and equity issues, support campus wellness, improve access and affordability of higher education, and empower students on all three UW campuses to make their voices heard in university decision-making processes. A huge perk was that I got to collaborate with the other regents, who are executives from companies such as Microsoft, Costco, Starbucks, Boeing, and Alaska Airlines, and I learned an incredible amount from them about good governance and strategic leadership.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of my work leading teams that leveraged technology and quality marketing campaigns to civically engage people on issues that matter like climate change and international human rights policy. In particular, I am proud of how I used digital tools to educate U.S. citizens about the displacement crisis in Colombia and organize them to convince our government to support human rights, humanitarian aid, and an end to Colombia’s half century-long conflict. At the Latin America Working Group, I led a coalition effort to mobilize more than 40,000 people in communities across the U.S. and Colombia to call for peace. As Colombia’s government negotiated a peace agreement this past year, it felt good to know I had been a part of supporting something that important.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I have to go with two!

Christina Fong, who teaches leadership and negotiations. She believes that any of her students can become effective leaders and savvy negotiators, and pushes us to stretch ourselves. She gives great personalized feedback that helps students address their weaknesses and capitalize on their strengths.

Lance Young, who teaches entrepreneurial finance. He has an incredible amount of energy that is infectious in the classroom. He also has the ability to explain the deeper logic behind finance that really changed the way I think about financial decision-making and I know will stick with me in the years to come.

Why did you choose this business school?I wanted to transition from the nonprofit sector in DC to working in business in my hometown of Seattle. I realized that UW’s Foster School of Business not only had a quality academic program, but also had deep connections to the many fantastic, sustainable companies we have in the Pacific Northwest. It also gave me the option to do a dual degree with public administration at the highly-ranked Evans School of Public Policy and Governance.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The people I met were definitely the best part of business school. We are a relatively small program, so I got to know my colleagues and my professors very well. From making it through the intensity of the core courses in close-knit teams to doing mock interviews for internships and jobs, I have been astounded by the kindness, intellect, and support of my classmates. I also have loved being able to connect with student leaders and administrators across the University of Washington, and find exciting ways to improve the student experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Its current ranking, which vastly undervalues it. From the quality of the professors and curriculum to its ability to turn out high power graduates that are running major companies in Seattle and beyond, Foster is an incredibly valuable program at a world-class university.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had more time in my first year to get involved in clubs. While I wouldn’t ever take back serving as a Regent, I was not able to take a leadership role within business school student groups until my second year and I would have loved to have had more time to work on the projects I’ve started with my classmates this year.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Emily Palmer (who was actually featured here last year). She was a second year when I first started as an MBA and served as my leadership fellow. She offered me great advice on how to get the most out of working with my first-year teams and set such an inspiring example of how to add value to your whole community. I am so impressed by her audacity to go from being a singer-songwriter to an Amazon Product Manager and her ability to prioritize sustainability in her work.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that our ability to solve complex global problems hinges on building strong public-private partnerships and enabling social enterprise.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in philanthropy or nonprofit management.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Right now, I’m feeling very excited about becoming a leader at Microsoft in identifying technological solutions to global public sector problems. In the longer term, one of my dreams is to become an elected official and make data-driven, innovative policies that help our government better serve its citizens. My classmates like to jokingly ask when they can volunteer for my gubernatorial campaign – little do they know, I plan to take them up on that offer one day.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My fiancé, who moved to Seattle with me when I decided to go to grad school, has been a great networking wingman, and has been patient even as I spent many late nights and weekends working.

My mom and sisters who are inspiring strong women that set a great example for me and have always been my biggest cheerleaders even for my craziest dreams.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A supportive collaborator and a creative, inclusive leader.

Favorite book: 100 Years of Solitude by Gael Garcia Marquez

Favorite movie or television show: Amélie (Delightful, eclectic, and infinitely watchable)

Favorite musical performer: Alexie Murdoch (Great music for studying and dreaming!)

Favorite vacation spot: Vashon Island – Great getaway just a 15-minute ferry ride from West Seattle. It has incredible views of the Olympic Mountains hovering over the San Juan Islands on a clear day and a great farmer’s market in the summer and fall.

Hobbies? Playing music, politics and activism, seeing theater, playing board games, hiking, biking, and being a devoted aunt to some very cute kids.

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

“Vanessa’s broad leadership with the campus community and her extensive experience working on policies that impact our country and world make her very well qualified to serve as a student regent.” This quote came from Washington State Governor Jay Inslee in a statement naming Vanessa Kritzer as the student member of the UW Board of Regents in June of 2015, just as she was about to begin her MBA courses. Her year-long appointment made her one of only ten members of the University of Washington’s governing body. It was a huge responsibility including oversight of a $6.8B budget and communication with a student population of more than 45,000 across three campuses. Her service was invaluable. She was, and remains, someone who is always listening, sharing and learning. Rarely has a week gone by in a year and a half that I haven’t seen Vanessa multiple times across campus engaged in discussion with classmates, university administrators, alumni, or business leaders.   Vanessa is believable, trustworthy, caring, perceptive, sharp, engaged… the type of person who I, her classmates, and many others will be excited to cast a ballot for someday. Her belief in the power of service is the reason Vanessa is an integral part of Foster’s Class of 2017.”

Andrew Krueger

Director of Alumni Engagement


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