Meet Notre Dame Mendoza’s MBA Class of 2019

Sean Gwaltney          

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza School of Business

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Third generation entrepreneur; rock climbing to commercial development, I view every activity as a project.

Hometown: Anchorage, Alaska

Fun Fact About Yourself: At age 32, I took on the unexpectedly difficult challenge of changing my handwriting from an engineering style (caps-only print) to cursive as physical therapy for a tremor in my right hand. Changing a habit inextricably tied to my daily experience felt humbling, occasionally humiliating, and exciting even though it sounds trivial to most grade-schoolers.

Undergraduate School and Major:

University of Idaho, Dual Major

B.S. Business: Production Operations Management

B.S. Philosophy

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation (Most Recent First):

Consolidated Business Services: Owner/President

Schlumberger: Coil Tubing FST (Glorified Oil Field Grunt)

Various Alaskan Construction Companies: Project Manager/Estimator

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2016, while managing my consulting startup, I dedicated the time to mentoring undergraduate students at the University of Alaska Anchorage, establishing a new robotics club. As one of the first donors and team project manager, the contributions helped the group achieve funding, design, and construction goals. With more than 30 students actively engaged, the team represents the largest cross-disciplinary competitive academic project on the UAA campus. Three engineering firms recruit undergraduate students for internships directly from the program; not bad for a first-year academic club. I look forward to facilitating similar projects when I rejoin the work force, perhaps in association with current Notre Dame programs.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Have more substance driving your selection of schools than the ranking tables. Know why a specific program is a good fit for your personality and goals. Communicating substantive matching qualities (e.g., philosophic approach to business, specialization in a field of study, etc.) will overpower weaker candidate applications who may rely too heavily on high GMAT scores.

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? “Ask More of Business,” the mission of Notre Dame, communicates leadership and integrity. One aspect of leadership is the willingness to make difficult choices, even when the mainstream does not see the bigger picture. Mendoza’s curriculum empowers students to explore these qualities within the context of complex real-world situations. The development of leadership skills and the application of those skills in competitive and innovative situations sets Notre Dame apart.

My professional experiences convinced me that being smart is not good enough. Tomorrow’s leaders must empathize with their customers, clients, and team members alike. Exposure to leadership opportunities is more important to me than attending a “top ten” school. Notre Dame leads by asking more of students during coursework; giving us the opportunity to engage with communities, funds, and each other in situations fraught with the stresses of the marketplace. This approach allows graduates to Ask More of Business once we re-enter the workforce. Philosophically speaking, my goals are in perfect alignment with this mission.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? In June 2018, the Notre Dame class of 2019’s consulting focused students will be better prepared for internships and entrepreneurial endeavors than previous years. Specifically, my goals include helping students maximize academic success, consultant case interview preparation, and expanding access to team organization tools by applying my expertise with adaptive project frameworks. I also hope to publish data related to team-interaction effectiveness, focusing on soft-skill development using maturity models and 360-feedback techniques.

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