The Pioneering MBAs In The Class Of 2019

Gheremey Edwards

Washington University in St. Louis (Olin)

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I’m a southern boy who lives by the 3 B’s—BBQ, Blues, and Beale Street.

Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee

Fun Fact About Yourself: I scout out people’s phone models and recreate imaginary profiles of their personality. Still got the iPhone 5s? You’re a high-achiever who reads The Onion. Are you rocking the Google Pixel XL? You’re a quick-witted techie/gamer who unapologetically rewatches Game of Thrones in 2-week spans.

 Undergraduate School and Major:

Vanderbilt University, B.A. Interdisciplinary:  Business & Society

Christian Brothers University, Master of Education

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

  • Teach for America
    • Manager, Teacher Leadership
    • Manager, Data Management
    • Director, Data Management
  • Frayser Achievement Elementary School: Classroom Teacher

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Successfully creating a library in a South African primary school was a landmark accomplishment. While in Cape Town, South Africa’s township, Manenberg, I taught English and math to elementary school students. Unfortunately, the lack of a community library limited the literacy ability of the Manenberg primary school. The literacy levels at Manenberg are one of the main struggles of the school. In an effort to address this problem, I initiated the gathering of books written in both the English and Afrikaans languages in the library. These books included a great variety of nonfiction, juvenile fiction, and picture books for all ages. Through the organizing of my peers, I gathered hundreds of books for 640 students. Putting in place a tentative checkout system until the next student group arrived, I felt comfortable knowing that teachers would in time be able to use a well-resourced library. I wanted the library to teach children how to hold a book, turn a page, find an author, discover new lands, and push their imaginations.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? A cohesive narrative for business school is critical for distinguishing yourself amongst your other fascinating and competitive peers. Your essays aren’t about how clever you can rearrange syntax to tell a story. Admissions teams want to see if you’ve taken time to explore yourself and your future. Before writing one essay, take about a month to figure out who you are as a person and a leader. I’d recommend taking a career and personal self-assessment like the Myers-Briggs and the PI Behavioral Assessment (any assessment will do just fine). Talk to friends, and get feedback from your coworkers. This will give you a great starting point to reflect on who you are and how you lead. This will help you understand your strengths and weaknesses, and it will help you see how you what you want to gain from an MBA program. Once you begin the business school application process, you will be bombarded with GMAT studying, school visits, reference cultivation, and conducting program research. Once the process begins, you won’t have time to explore yourself and your leadership without getting distracted. Your essays become more authentic and clearer when you can speak about your narrative in a clear, convincing way.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I chose Olin because Olin chose me. When Dean Taylor described the community as “elite but never elitist; confident but never arrogant,” I knew I had found my home. Olin prides itself on lifting up individuals and the community through leadership. There’s a spirit of winning here, but never at the expense of our peers. I’m here at Olin because they genuinely want me to win and bring a proprietary experience to our global community. The class size is small, which gives me the opportunity to connect with my peers authentically. I know my classmates and professors, which means we support each other in ways that other schools can’t logistically pull off. Being part of such an intimate, encouraging community takes away the competitive nature that can come with typical business school culture. The class size and class culture allows me to fearlessly invest in unfamiliar and challenging pieces of the MBA journey.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? Achievement is a concept many see as a final destination. This year, I plan to treat it as a journey. Success after my first year will be about getting uncomfortable. I’ve played it very safe during my academic journey in the past. In undergrad, I engaged in opportunities that only slightly stretched me; I took courses that I loved and understood. Even while obtaining my master’s degree, I veered away from intricate topics in fear I would embarrass myself in front of my peers.

This won’t be the case for business school. I plan to give up looking good. I’m going to step far out of my comfort zone because I need to extend my leadership skills and technical competencies in ways I haven’t. I plan on taking a supply chain course even though I’m concentrating in brand management. I’m going to join the case study competition team despite my fear of public speaking. I’ll also be attending every corporate networking mixer to learn from industry leaders even though I am quite the introvert. I’m finally going to invest in my learning, and I’m looking forward to my failures.