2017 MBAs To Watch: Kathryn Flaschner, University of Rochester (Simon)

Kathryn Flaschner

Simon Business School, University of Rochester

“I am an athlete that leads with empathy, hard work, and an eagerness to evolve.”

Age: 25

Hometown: Buffalo, New York

Fun fact about yourself: I was an All-American athlete in college and consider myself a closeted thespian.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Rochester – Bachelor of Arts (Major: Political Science, Minors: Psychology and Film & Media Studies)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Assistant Field Hockey Coach at Tufts University, a nationally-ranked collegiate athletic program.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Cognizant in San Francisco, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? Cognizant as a Senior Consultant within the retail practice.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

  • President – Simon Women in Business (National Association of Women MBAs)
  • VP Partnerships – Simon Net Impact
  • Student Career Advisor, Consulting – Career Management Center
  • MBA Coach (mentors two first-year MBA teams)
  • Teaching Assistant – Market Research
  • Event Ambassador – Office of Admissions
  • Assistant Field Hockey Coach – University of Rochester Athletics
  • Recipient – Gleason Scholar
  • Recipient – Dean’s Leadership Award
  • 1st Place – Microsoft Challenge (marketing-focused case competition)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? An early goal for me was to significantly strengthen the presence of Simon Women in Business (SWiB) on campus, which I feel I was able to achieve as a result of my unique background. Last spring, my first task as president was to build a team. After recruiting a board of women from my class, I pitched the idea of a year-long collaboration between SWiB and the Forté Foundation, a consortium dedicated to increasing the presence of women in business. This unity brought together resources, like-minded personnel, and a united community. Throughout the spring, we worked on the branding and strategic focus of our collaboration. By gaining the support of key offices at Simon, we hosted a reception in late April that brought together the entire community, including 50 recently admitted students. It was a celebration of our MBA cohort, comprised of 44 percent women, our fruitful collaboration, and our diversity.

This early campaign enabled us to hit the ground running in our second year. Interest and participation skyrocketed as we tailored new leadership positions to six first-year MBAs, five Master’s students, and one Executive MBA. We attended the National Association for Women MBAs Conference for the first time, instituted biweekly coffee chats, kicked-off SWiB Consulting, and launched Forté’s Men as Allies program. Creating a safe space for my colleagues to be vulnerable, seek support, and grow has offered me a unique set of experiences that will inform the way I approach the workplace.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In the fall of my first year at Simon, I rejoined the varsity field hockey program as an assistant coach. The head coach that had mentored me through college was now my colleague. Complementing my full schedule at Simon – traveling to career conferences, networking, and completing class projects – were day trips to field hockey games, training sessions, and individual player meetings. My life was indeed full, just as I enjoy it.

That fall, we took the field hockey team to the Elite Eight of the NCAA National Championship Tournament, a first since I had been a part of the program as an athlete in 2012. This contrast between developing a marketing presentation with my Simon colleagues and staying after practice with a sophomore to help her perfect her reverse chip shot offered a unique perspective. Throughout my preliminary months at Simon, I was insecure about sharing my seemingly irrelevant background, but later realized that this team-oriented, competitive foundation was in fact, my core competency in the business world. The opportunity to invest in the success of others has become an integral part of my career, especially in my transition to consulting.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I sat in the front row of Professor Avi Seidmann’s Introduction to Computer Information Systems simply because I loved his energy. Little did I know, he would introduce me to my professional field, and the work I would do that summer at Cognizant. He kept in touch all summer, sending me articles on the forefront of retail technology, ensuring that I had a valuable nugget to bring up in meetings. Aside from teaching me how to think about disruptive innovation, enabling me to excel at my craft, he continues to show me the importance of being your authentic self and investing in relationships along the way.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? As a capstone to the first year at Simon, academic teams take a consulting practicum, working with businesses in Rochester. I was the project lead on a team of five, working with a nutrition education company that sources, produces, and retails prepared meal plans. Working with the founder and his staff on a competitive business analysis with exploration of growth strategies, we helped them better understand how corporate culture impacts the customer experience. As a result, we supported the client in repositioning his physical retail space and investing in an online platform, driving an increase in retention and acquisition.

The insight I took away from this course was that to be successful as a consultant, you must lead with empathy. Unless you take the time to align yourself to the client’s sacrifices, perspectives, and goals, your recommendations will not leave a lasting impact. When I was approached by Cognizant to work on their retail consulting team for the summer, it was this specific course that ignited my interest and informed my decision.

Why did you choose this business school?  As an undergraduate student at the University of Rochester, the Simon School was an ivory tower at the edge of my academic quad. I would frequently gawk at the diversely sophisticated professionals walking in and out, far too intimidated to set foot inside. During my sophomore year, a Simon MBA from the Netherlands approached my field hockey team, asking to play.

I was so captivated and inspired by Ruth – I would run back to my dorm after practice and google financial concepts she had mentioned. Five years later, I am finishing my program at Simon, and Ruth is a distinguished Associate for Goldman Sachs in London. The University of Rochester has become home, and the Simon School was something I had always dreamed of.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The community – hands down. In a business school that places a strong emphasis on diversity in student experience, geographical background, culture, gender, race, and personal perspective, my peers are brilliant, but in different ways. My very first academic team consisted of five students from five different countries – Ethiopia, the US, Tanzania, China, and India. That cultural education set the tone for how global this experience would be, and it has enhanced my leadership capabilities tenfold.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you?  It was the immense personal growth. While I expected to come in and receive a world-class education, I did not expect this community to reshape and strengthen my identity as a businessperson, innovator, and woman. I will be leaving here with a clear understanding of my value as a teammate, my voice as a community leader, and the areas to continue seeking feedback on.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  Our motto at the University of Rochester is Meliora, an ethic that translates to “for the pursuit of the better.”  It becomes a powerful description of who we are and what we value. Know who you are, and do not put limits on what you could become.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the biggest myths I hear about Simon is that Rochester is isolated geographically, which can limit our opportunities. It is a fact that we are a bus ride away from New York City, but we are scrappy. Simon attracts talent that is willing to work for the doors they open, and then give back to the institution that supported them along the way. Our geographic location is not a myth, but I often feel that people do not give enough credit to this city. As VP of Partnerships for Net Impact, I have sourced various consulting projects with clients in the city. As MBAs, Rochester gives us an exceptional opportunity to gain experience while making an impact.

What was your biggest regret in business school?  I wasted precious time doubting myself. Coming from a unique background, I was hesitant to approach certain companies and advocate for myself in the classroom. The guidance of my colleagues and the confidence that Cognizant had in me were two key factors that pushed me to overcome that little voice inside my head. Do not spend time doubting your abilities – understand who you are and be proud it.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Three women whom I admire endlessly:

Sarah Spoto, President of Simon Net Impact, for her fearlessness in the pursuit of social enterprise and the laser focus she has demonstrated in pursuing the automotive industry.

Erika Nathan, President of Simon Volunteers, for her commitment to economic development in Rochester, which goes without seeking attention, yet reminds us how important it is to give back.

Zakia Barnes, Co-Founder and Co-President of the Data Analytics Club, for being not just a mentor but a sponsor, pushing her classmates towards vulnerability, only to watch them grow and prosper.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I heard Dina Powell, president of the Goldman Sachs Foundation, speak about 10,000 Women, a global initiative that fosters economic growth by providing women entrepreneurs around the world with business management education, mentoring and networking, and access to capital. The clarity I felt in that moment was a call to action, and business school was the first step.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…pursuing a doctorate of drama and coaching collegiate field hockey.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?  Dean Ainslie is an exuberant leader with fantastic hobbies, so I certainly would not mind being him for a day. If I was, I would work on incorporating mindfulness into the weekly routine. Offering yoga or meditation sessions would encourage students to pause, reflect, and breathe. Throughout the rigor of the job search, curriculum, and extracurricular projects, my yoga practice has been a necessary component of my time at Simon, and integral to my effectiveness as a leader.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To leave the world a bit better than I found it by continually advocating for the advancement of young women. I aspire to establish my own benefit corporation that utilizes technology to democratize education for young people and empower women in underprivileged regions. Simon has helped me think strategically about how I can take my education and use it to serve those around me. I believe in cultivating passion in every environment you enter, and that being at the forefront of innovation with Cognizant is that next environment for me.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank my father for showing me the resilience of standing by your professional passions, even in moments that test you; my mother for consistently reminding me to stay grounded, laugh frequently, and lead with love; my big sister, for teaching me what it means to build a life on intention; and my little sister, for motivating me to be someone to look up to.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As the friend with the optimistic and ambitious view of what was to come, and what we were capable of.

Favorite book: The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz

Favorite movie or television show: Good Will Hunting (1997) and Mulan (1998)

Favorite musical performer: Stevie Wonder

Favorite vacation spot: My yoga mat. I take 75-minute vacations 4-5 days/week.

Hobbies? Exploring new regions and cultures (most recently Thailand and Cambodia), yoga and meditation (pursuing my 200-hour teaching certification this summer), and continuing the quest for Rochester’s best burger.

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

“Kathryn is an alumna of the University of Rochester and made the conscious decision to return to the University and join the Simon Business School to pursue her MBA. She’s a native of upstate New York originally from Buffalo, and she is an amazing ambassador of the region, university, and Simon Business School. She literally bleeds blue and gold, and I know she will be an engaged and involved alum moving forward.

Kathryn came to Simon as one of the youngest students in the MBA program and other than her collegiate coaching career, did not have the work experience typical of an MBA. I’ve seen students in the past use this as a crutch or an excuse, but she used her inexperience and youth as a motivator to learn from her classmates with rich experience and make the most of her personal MBA experience. Kathryn took every opportunity to learn from and work with second-year MBAs during the first year of her program, and worked extremely hard to land an internship and full-time offer with Cognizant.

What impresses me the most about Kathryn is her involvement with Simon Women in Business.  She took on the role of president at the end of her first year, and made it a priority to strengthen the relationships of the women within Simon and create a sense of support throughout the community. She also helped establish a clear relationship and collaboration with the Simon Forte Foundation members, offering joint networking sessions, career conference prep panels and workshops, bi-weekly coffee chat socials, and other events highlighting women in business. She has done more with the club in one year than I have personally seen over the last ten years!

I can say with confidence that if Simon were full of Kathryn Flaschners, we would be ranked #1 in every single business school survey.”

Nathan Kadar
Simon Business School, University of Rochester
Director of Student Life

 

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