2017 Best MBAs: Lydia Islan, University of Washington (Foster)

“Compassionate, Driven, Engaged,” MBA graduate Lydia Islan says about herself. Learn about this member of Poets & Quants Best & Brightest 2017

Lydia Islan

Foster School of Business, University of Washington

 “Compassionate, Driven, Engaged.”

 Age: 31

 Hometown: Riverside, CT

 Fun fact about yourself: I have played Ultimate Frisbee since college and have traveled thousands of miles to get to tournaments (including Hawaii, and driving from New Hampshire to Florida)

 Undergraduate School and Degree: Dartmouth College, AB in Mathematics, minor in Chemistry, 2008

 Where did you work before enrolling in business school? My career prior to B-school was in non-profit healthcare.  I spent a lot of time working with doctors and patients to improve their clinic experience.  Going to the doctor is stressful, so small improvements can make all the difference.

  • Swedish Medical Center – Operations Coordinator
  • Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center – Session Assistant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Boston Consulting Group, Seattle

Where will you be working after graduation? Boston Consulting Group, Seattle

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Executive Vice President of Finance, MBA Association
  • Vice President, Strategy Club
  • Vice President, Consulting Society
  • Vice President, Healthcare and Biotechnology Association
  • Leader of the Year (voted by classmates)
  • Mentor for undergraduates through business school and Women in Business Club
  • Peer Advisor for Career Services
  • Dean’s List 2015-2016
  • Denman Family Scholar, Orin Smith MBA Fellow, Dean’s MBA Fellow, Albert O. Foster Fellow
  • Dartmouth District Enrollment Coordinator (undergraduate interviewing)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Leader of the Year.  Before I came to business school I never saw myself as a leader.  I have been testing out what leadership means to me and how leaders can have an impact on the people around them. To know that my classmates recognize my efforts and progress makes me extremely grateful.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Quitting my job at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center!  For a risk-averse person such as myself, quitting a job to move across the country was terrifying. I knew I needed a new challenge and new city, so it was the right thing to do, but it was terrifying.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is such a tough question because I have had so many fantastic professors. Kathy Dewenter, who taught Competing in a Global Economy, really expanded my grasp of what it means to live in a global world.  Her class was fast-paced, and like the real world, there were no excuses for being unprepared.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? Core Finance!  I was so nervous to come into an MBA program with no finance and accounting knowledge, especially when I knew that many of my classmates had extensive experience.  The class was challenging, but the curriculum was designed to be approachable, and gave me a solid foundation.

Why did you choose this business school? Foster appealed to me with its small class size, location, and amazing faculty.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? My classmates.  They all have such amazing experience and a diverse set of interests, ambitions, and skill-sets.  I’m so excited to be tracking what they accomplish in the next 5, 10, and 15 years.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be honest.  Foster has a unique culture that makes it special, and the school is looking for individuals who will maintain it and contribute to it.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not going to more Pub Clubs!  I think there are so many ways to interact with your classmates, and that is one that I haven’t experienced as much.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am terribly biased here, but my sister, Abby Schilbach, who is a year behind me at Foster. She has worked in non-profits and smaller businesses throughout her career and has amassed such valuable people and project management skills. Whoever hires her is going to be extremely lucky to have her!

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I looked at the professionals that I admire and realized many of them had an MBA.  There are skills that you can get on the job over time, but that you can get in two years with an MBA.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be… helping my patients navigate through the healthcare system and connecting them to services.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would extend our leadership development class into a lecture series that lasts through the whole program.  School is a fantastic time to re-evaluate your leadership style and priorities, and I want to see continued work on that front.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To be in a position to affect company-wide change and feel confident in the decisions that I make.

 Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents.  My mom for being an amazing example of how to be a successful woman in business and for being someone who always takes the high road.  My dad for supporting me no matter what and for always pushing me to think better of myself.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As someone who is willing to step up, take responsibility, and is never a bystander.

Favorite book: I have so many favorite books!  My recent favorites are The Martian, Maus, and A Man Called Ove.

Favorite movie or television show: Parks and Recreation is wonderful.  I also just started watching 30 Rock and identify perhaps a little bit too closely with Liz Lemon.

Favorite musical performer: Allman Brothers – So many memories of sing-a-longs on road trips as a kid.

Favorite vacation spot: Alta, Utah – I grew up having family reunions there and had the best time exploring some of the most beautiful terrain in the US.

Hobbies? Reading, Ultimate Frisbee, and making dinner with my significant other

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

“On the very first day of orientation, I do an opening presentation to new MBA students.At the end of my presentation, I ask any student who plans to be a leader in the program to come down to the front of the room.Then I take a picture of the group and tell them I will watch for each of them to demonstrate that commitment later. Unforgettably as soon as I finished the invitation in 2015, Lydia was racing to the front of the room. Lydia’s bounding determination and eagerness to lead and contribute to the program has not flagged since that day. Regardless of the task or the need, Lydia is invariably the first to step up to help classmates or help the school in small ways or big ways.

Of course, there are students who may push others out of the way to be lead, but that is not her style.  If someone else has a project, Lydia is the first person to say, “How can I help you?” Lydia is the leader or an important student officer in multiple student organizations. In every case, she has things planned well in advance, other students have been consulted and involved in the process, and the activities run successfully. Further, her insights are valued by many because she is able to communicate both compliments and suggestions for improvement with deep thoughtfulness and tact. I have watched Lydia in meetings with other students, faculty, alumni, company executives and our dean. All of them appreciate her intelligence and her ability to discuss the different perspectives of people in ways that facilitate mutual understanding and bring people to agreement on ways to move forward together.”

Dan Poston

Assistant Dean of Masters Programs




Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.