2017 Best MBAs: Caroline Collins, Vanderbilt (Owen)

Caroline Collins

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“Dependable team member, perpetual activity planner, enthusiastic dancer, aspiring world traveler.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Bloomfield Hills, MI

Fun fact about yourself: I played varsity soccer at the University of Michigan.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • University of Michigan, LS&A (Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience)
  • Vanderbilt University, Owen GSM (Human and Organizational Performance; Strategy)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

  • United States House of Representatives – Director of Scheduling and Finance
  • United States Senate – Deputy Scheduler & Intern Coordinator

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Microsoft Corp; Seattle, WA

Where will you be working after graduation? Microsoft Corp – HR Trax Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Owen Student Government Association – Executive Board VP of Communications
  • Women’s Business Association – Executive Board VP of Inclusion / Lean In Coordinator
  • National MBA Human Capital Case Competition: Communications Coordinator
  • Executive Women’s Think Tank
  • Peer Coach

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the success and growth in the Women in Business Association’s monthly Lean In Circles. As the VP of Inclusion, I worked to plan and facilitate discussions that would bring together a broader Owen population to engage more deeply in conversations pertaining to modern-day business experiences. After soliciting feedback about topics of interest and uncovering attendance barriers, improvements were made to make the events more relevant and accessible. As a result, the attendee base grew from the Owen student body to include staff, faculty, and students from other programs. I also involved guest facilitators, ranging from first-year students to Owen faculty, outside firms, and Owen’s Men as Allies group. Overall, I am proud of the stimulating discussions that resulted from these events, as they added more color to the content covered in class.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?

After completing a U.S. Senate internship, I was hired as a full-time staffer, where one of my first responsibilities was to manage the office internship program. After observing the low diversity on Capitol Hill, I designed and instituted a diversity and inclusion initiative. My efforts led to an 80% increase in applicant diversity and a 50% increase in hired intern diversity. Many of my interns were eventually hired into full-time positions in my office, other congressional offices, and the White House. Although I’ve had many fulfilling roles since then, this initiative drove my future ambitions to pursue strategic HR.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Corporate Strategy with Professor Brian McCann was my favorite course at Owen. It provided me with an understanding of the problems and choices that general managers face and the theoretical and analytical tools that they use to create a corporate-level strategy and build a sustainable competitive advantage. The course required students to think critically while integrating content learned in all other classes. Professor McCann didn’t let anyone get away with unsupported conclusions and challenged each student with developing and delivering cohesive business and industry assessments.

Why did you choose this business school?I was immediately drawn to the size and culture at Vanderbilt. With 170 people in a class, you get to know everyone. The personal scale played a large role when I was recruiting – every alumnus I reached out to went above and beyond to help. The size also influences the culture, and, given the amount of time we spend together, we’re definitely a family.

Additionally, Nashville’s food and music scene stood out as a perfect place to experience business school. There’s always something exciting to do to take your mind off classes, and it’s not all county music!

What did you enjoy most about business school in general?

My favorite thing about business school is that it serves as a low-risk testing environment for new ideas and skills. At Owen, I’m surrounded by people who worked in a variety of industries and functions, so I also love learning from my classmates with diverse experiences.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Make sure to talk to current students – they will be able to give you an accurate account of their experience so you can decide whether or not the school is a good fit.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about business school generally is that it’s a cut-throat environment. This is definitely not the case at Vanderbilt, where I feel extremely supported by my classmates.

What was your biggest regret in business school? There are so many opportunities to travel, given all of the school-sponsored trips and time off we have. My biggest regret is not traveling more, as there are so many resources and opportunities to do so.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I greatly admire all of my classmates who have kids. I have no idea how they do it, but they really do it all!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I visited Vanderbilt and Nashville for the first time.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would…still be in politics.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I know I would be happy working in a variety of functions and industries. Therefore, my ultimate professional goal is to be fortunate enough to see my mentees achieve remarkable success.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank my family for always supporting me personally and professionally. I am also very thankful for every boss that I’ve ever had for pushing me to be a better employee and team member.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who made a positive impact on their business school experience.

Favorite book: I’ve given into Hamilton-mania, so I’m currently reading and loving Chernow’s Alexander Hamilton.

Favorite movie or television show: I’ll watch any comedy.

Favorite musical performer: Beyoncé

Favorite vacation spot: Torch Lake and Traverse City, MI on the 4th of July. I’m also looking forward to visiting Havana, Cuba, next month!

Hobbies? Soccer, boxing, tennis, Blue Apron, decorating for Christmas.

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

“Caroline Collins has had a profound impact at Owen. The theme that cuts across her lasting contributions to the school is communication. It has been her distinctive advantage throughout her career on Capitol Hill, had her thriving at Microsoft, and has elevated both the classrooms and the culture of Owen. She has been an inspiration in the classroom – analytical, fearless, intelligent, thoughtful, and at the same time open and self-effacing. In nearly every class session, she was a model for her peers in what a learning orientation and a growth mindset really entails. Caroline would always distill the material to its conceptual essence and link it to a personal experience that made it practical and relatable. She was a model of humility in how she used her own experiences — always unafraid to show vulnerability, even when it meant sharing a failure, in the name of learning. It always set the tone and took us to a deeper, more impactful place. Her writing mirrors her verbal communication in its clarity, nuance, rigor, and sophistication.  Like her class contributions, it is also inviting and inclusive.

Her academic excellence coupled with her ability to set the classroom culture alone merit this recognition, but Caroline’s contributions extend well beyond the classroom. In her leadership role with Owen Student Government, she made OSGA more accessible, connected, and open to all of the student body. With the Women’s Business Association, she used her talents to expertly message to a broader audience that women’s challenges are everyone’s challenges. During one of the most challenging years in the Human Capital Case Competition, Caroline smoothed issues over with all the relevant stakeholders. She has also applied her uniquely honed skills to make an impact on a personal scale as a peer coach known for candid, yet developmental feedback that surfaces and convey hard truths in a way that enables meaningful growth and learning.

For being a model scholar-leader that has through her dedicated efforts to foster connection and inclusion as well as consistently embodying and modeling the best of what the Owen can be, Caroline Collins is one of the Best and Brightest of the MBA Class of 2017.

Tim Vogus

Associate Professor of Management


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