2017 MBAs To Watch: Cambrie Nelson, Washington University (Olin)

Cambrie Nelson

Washington University in St. Louis (Olin)

“I am a boldly-curious, collective-minded, empathically-activated, story-architect, catalyzed towards authoring the world that embraces the intersection of business and social justice.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Denver, Colorado

Fun fact about yourself:

I’ve been involved in the founding of three social enterprises and businesses. I once had a monkey fall on my head in Argentina (no joke).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Washington University in St. Louis; B.A. in Anthropology, Minor in Writing

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Social Entrepreneur —United Story/Civic Creatives

Educational consulting


Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? Accenture PLC— San Francisco

Where will you be working after graduation? Accenture PLC— Management Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Beta Gamma Sigma Member
  • Scholars in Business Student Speaker
  • Intern for St. Louis Community Development Financial Institution Coalition Consulting Project
  • Graduate Assistant for Social Entrepreneurship Department at George Warren Brown School of Social Work
  • Team Lead for Center for Experiential Learning Strategy Consulting Practicum
  • Teaching Assistant for Management Strategy course
  • Net Impact Club President
  • Student Government Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion
  • Appointed Rep. to University-Wide Diversity Commission

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I believe that a strong business education is one that emulates inside the classroom, the world that business leaders will be accountable to outside of classroom. My experience has been that many business school programs are not necessarily representative of the vast diversity of the world businesses serve, reach, and engage with. I am most proud of my work as an elected official to our student government as the VP of Diversity and Inclusion. I believe in the innovative initiatives and efforts we’ve been able to launch this year to better equip myself and my colleagues to be stronger—more inclusive— business leaders for all.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Thus far, I am most proud of my social entrepreneurial efforts. These efforts provided one of the impetus to pursue my MBA degree: to better understand the myriad of ways in which business can be democratized and shared with communities that are bastions of innovation but may have limited access to participate or shape the market in a way that support their interests. In helping to start an organization that works to address this, it was humbling to learn what it means to create, fail fast (and often), adapt, and try again. These skills have served me in business school and will be critical to my career in Management Consulting.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is John Horn because of his ability to illustrate how business is a nexus of global, local, and personal influences. Instead of rendering his students stagnate by the complexities, he teaches us how to identify, assess, strategize, and manage them through his unique case discussions and purposeful theory.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA Courses were Critical Thinking Processes & Modeling for Effective Decision Making and Competitive Industry Analysis. From these courses, I learned that business is about using both data to guide conclusions, but communication and relationship skills to guide influence.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Washington University in St. Louis because of its small cohort size, location, curriculum geared toward individualization (with specializations like Social Entrepreneurship), strong academic and research expertise, and its cultural emphasis of building compassionate, collaborative leaders.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Beyond getting up each morning to be challenged in a new way, I also appreciate and enjoy that business school is vastly team-oriented. Similar to the world beyond the confines of a school, the need to connect and collaborate to accomplish a task beyond what an individual is capable of is exhilarating and inspiring. Given the diversity of industry background inherent to any business school cohort, often my most influential instructors were my peers who brought their experience and perspective to each assignment we approached.

What was the most surprising thing about business school for you? How intensely it begins and how quickly it ends.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself. In a program the size of Olin’s, there is a vested interest in having individuals who are able to round-out a cohort, adding the diversity that a size triple its size may be able to acquire through its sheer mass. Olin values people who are committed to becoming leaders and view business as a tool, approach, platform, or venue to actualize said impact.

Also, an applicant hoping to get into Olin should love the Cardinals and Toasted Ravioli.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think Olin has a myth of being not widely known beyond its region. While it continues to increase its brand equity, I’ve experienced its brand as being wide-reaching, and only affiliated with quality and excellence.

What was your biggest regret in business school? As someone with a more “untraditional” background, my biggest regret it that it took me awhile to truly acknowledge that my perspective and experience were valuable components to my peers’ educational experience.

I also regret not leveraging the entire university more by taking more many cross-disciplinary courses.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Markey Culver. A fierce social entrepreneur, Markey exemplifies what it means to be driven by passion and purpose. An unyielding visionary, Markey sparks my (and my peer’s) imagination of what business can be and can do. And she has accomplished all of this by managing to juggle her full-time social enterprise whilst being a full time student.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I realized that the big “hairy problems” the world faces are not siloed to an singular sector and must be approached holistically, tapping into the symbiosis across public, private, and non-profit sectors. I also realized that business can be an instrument for inclusion.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…limited and less confidence in my ability to affect change in the world.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I think it is critical for MBA experiences to require experiential and applied learning beyond the internship. The MBA is certainly a business school degree, but it is also a leadership degree. Leadership transcends the walls of a business building and spills over into one’s community, home, and self.  Learning to lead takes immense practice that can be equipped through thought (the classroom), but I imagine it is best honed through action. If I were dean for a day, I would make student experiential learning leadership practicum (one business-focused, one community-focused) mandatory in the MBA experience.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I am excited to craft my career with the consulting firm I’m employed by! I would like to transfer my learnings from management consulting, eventually, into social impact design consulting. I would like to take my learnings from social impact design, and sculpt them into economic development public policy action-tank (like a think-tank but even more applied) work. I would like to take my action-tank collaborations and use it to inform curriculum for my final career (think, ages 70-90) in education. What I learn, I hope to teach.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My mother for her fortitude and my father for his artistry and humor. The ability to create, the ability to endure steadfastly, and the ability to find a humor-like joy in it all has been key instruments to my success thus far.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Cambrie knew me “by name and by story.”

Favorite book: Anything by Audre Lorde, James Baldwin, and Toni Morrison

Favorite movie or television show: Cool Runnings

Favorite musical performer: Tracy Chapman

Favorite vacation spot: Hoh Rainforest in Olympic National Park

Hobbies? My hobbies include writing, cooking (I’m working on a communal restaurant concept as we speak), social entrepreneurialism, meditation, road-tripping, long nature walks, and learning how to play the drums.

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

“Has there ever been a hurricane named “Cambrie”? Because a Hurricane Cambrie touched down on the Olin MBA program starting in August 2015. Cambrie Nelson is a force of nature. Her passion, energy, enthusiasm, leadership and willingness to do whatever it takes to get something done is simply extraordinary and exemplary. It is not great surprise that she will cross the stage several times at the student awards event next month, nor that she has been chosen as the student speaker at graduation. Hurricane Cambrie moves forward with a roar – never a whimper.”

Joe Fox

Associate Dean for Graduate Programs



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