Meet the Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2019

Gregory Phillips 

University of Michigan, Stephen M. Ross School of Business and School for Environment and Sustainability (MBA/MS) 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Bagel connoisseur, blues guitarist and cast-iron pan aficionado interested in expanding renewable energy market share.

Hometown: Washington, DC

Fun Fact About Yourself: My college funk/soul/blues cover band opened for Smash Mouth at our school’s annual spring concert.

Undergraduate School and Major: Carleton CollegeEnvironmental Studies

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

The White House, Obama Administration – Analyst in the Office of Presidential Correspondence

ICF International – Research Assistant and Junior Climate Change Consultant

Carleton College GIS Lab – Educational Associate and Research Assistant

Eos Energy Storage – Business Development Intern

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The nature of the work that I did at the White House in the Office of Presidential correspondence is such that it is not characterized by major individual projects or accomplishments, but rather collective, long term goals and an ongoing mission. Being a part of that team is my proudest accomplishment of my career. While at the White House, I was responsible for, amongst other things, the energy and environment correspondence portfolio. This meant that I was part of a team that worked to communicate the President’s environmental policies and initiatives in response to constituent letters, as well as to help ensure that the administration was informed of the constituent feedback we were receiving. One specific experience that I am particularly proud to have been involved in the planning and execution of President Obama’s visit to Flint, Michigan, specifically in helping to choose the constituents that the President would meet with on his trip.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? I think it is important to focus on being a holistic candidate and not to get too caught up in scores and stats. Advice that I received that I found particularly relevant to my application process is to make sure your career path is focused on what you want to do, not what you want to be. A title or seniority doesn’t necessarily mean you’re in the best position to make the most positive change or to make an impression on an admissions team and interviewers. If you are working on what you are passionate about, and not simply title driven, you will have greater impact – and that will be evident in your application. Top schools pay attention to every detail, not just scores, stats, or title, so focus on being a complete candidate.

Another part of being a holistic candidate is maintaining past relationships. When asking for recommendations, while your current boss is vital (especially if you have a good relationship with them), it is important to gather recommendations from multiple facets of your life. I have maintained relationships with college professors whom I believe were able to provide unique insight into my potential as a grad student.  They also have been wonderful sources of career and grad school advice. Also, make sure to ask for these recommendations as early as possible!

Get to know current students.  I was lucky enough to have a few friends from college who were in some of the programs that I was applying to. They were able to provide incredibly valuable advice on the application process, interview prep, and general insight into what it was like being a student at that school. Admissions offices will happily put you in touch with students, so definitely take advantage of that.

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? Ross is obviously a highly prestigious business school, with an incredibly strong alumni network, and a celebrated history of excellence. While all of these factors played into my choosing Ross, the number one factor that led me to choose Michigan is the strength of the joint MBA/MS program with the School for Environment and Sustainability (SEAS). The Erb Institute, which is the partnership between Ross and SEAS that runs the dual degree, is one of the most highly-regarded business and environment joint programs, and provides various specific resources, including funding, academic counseling and a tight community of students interested in using business to build a sustainable future. While this is the particular joint degree program that I will be doing, there are various other strong dual degrees at Michigan, which is reflective of the access to the broader university that you have while at Ross. These resources make your business education more wholesome and provide ample opportunity for partnerships in future endeavors.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school?  I want to use the tools of business, markets and strategy to change the way we produce and consume energy. Long term, that might mean bringing these skills to the public sector and working on clean energy policy or it might mean working for a cleantech startup. After my first year, I would like to try the tech route.  I hope to intern at a clean tech firm advancing a new or improved clean energy technology, or working to expand the market share of existing renewable technology.

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