10 Amazing MBA Women To Watch

Caitlin Geehan / University of Chicago (Booth): Sometimes, people just take popular songs for granted. They assume staples like “Closer,” “Something Just Like This” or “Paris” just organically topped the Billboard charts. In reality, it takes a team to make a star, people who sacrifice the spotlight and handle the dirty work so everything looks smooth for the public. At Booth, Caitlin Geehan is the star-maker behind the scenes.

For years, Geehan served as a point person for Sony Music Entertainment in international marketing. Leading over 40 teams, she handled everything: branding, promotional trips, photo shoots, budgeting, and even merchandising. Her biggest success story was spearheading marketing campaigns for The Chainsmokers for over two years – an effort that proved that there is no such thing as overnight success.

“It was a path of consistent and strategic artist development,” she writes, “which made every single milestone challenging to achieve but ultimately extremely rewarding. It is incredible to remember where we started and then recognize how far the project has come with several #1 singles, a chart-topping debut album, multi-platinum sales, billions of streams, sold out shows, and even a few Grammy awards won along the way.”

Geehan isn’t yet sure which path she’ll take next. Looking back on her application process, she came away with a piece of advice for those who follow in her footsteps: Be honest with yourself. “Your GMAT scores and GPA are obviously important, but they do not explain what kind of person you are and they should not be your biggest strength in the application.”

Ximena Gonzalez Rojas / Georgetown (McDonough): “Keep moving north” is Ximena Gonzalez Rojas’ motto. A Texas native, Gonzalez Rojas followed her own advice after earning a degree in political science. Starting as an intern to First Lady Michelle Obama, she climbed the ranks to becoming Chief of Staff for Presidential Personnel in the Obama White House.
Her biggest accomplishment? “Serving President Obama and working on diversity and inclusion initiatives to create an administration that is representative of the people it serves.”

Now, Gonzalez has found a new mission: making a career transition to finance as a first-year MBA student at Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business. If you’re looking to join her at a top program like McDonough, she makes no bones about what it takes. “Study for the GMAT,” she urges. “If quant is not your strong suit spend twice the time practicing.”

Marilyn Vaughn / USC (Marshall): Marilyn Vaughn doesn’t take her good fortune for granted. When she was 17, she suffered a brain injury during a car accident. Although the injury impacted the part that governed her emotions and memory, it never hindered her sense of humor.

“Overnight I went from an introvert to an extrovert,” she jokes.

Vaughn persevered, eventually earning a degree from the University of Alabama. From there, her star skyrocketed, as she became a multi-media newscast producer with WHAS 11 News, one of Kentucky’s leading news sources. During her tenure, Vaughn found herself covering some of the nation’s biggest news stories. “[I was] managing and leading newscasts with national and global news value including burial services for Louisville-native Muhammad Ali, University of Louisville men’s basketball escort scandal, and Kim Davis’ same-sex marriage license refusal,” she says.

After earning her MBA, Vaughn hopes to manage her own production company. When she does, you can bet that her success will stem from the same meticulous preparation and commitment to quality that won her an acceptance letter at Marshall.

“Once I decided to apply to business school, I laid out a plan that had each day mapped out in detail from which subject I would study that day for the GRE to which alum I would reach out to for insight I could add to my essay,” she writes. “When you’re crafting your application, know yourself and know your story.  I believe I had a well-rounded application with a story that clearly articulated how Marshall was essential to me achieving my post-MBA dreams.”

Eva Hoffmann / University of Oxford (Said): Eva Hoffmann has done a little of everything in her career. Holding undergraduate and graduate engineering degrees from Stanford, Hoffmann has spent her “nomadic” career “catching sharks in the South Pacific; teaching 3D printing; sorting recyclables with Cambodian wastepickers; writing copy for pharmaceutical ads; and combing rats’ fur in Africa.”

Those may have been her jobs, but this “sustainability-obsessed” designer’s passion is reducing poverty. It is here where she put her engineering skills to work. At d.light, she was part of a team that produced a high quality solar lamp. It covered all the bases, making light more easily accessible in rural areas – and less dangerous to use than kerosene lamps. Best of all, the solution sold for just $5 – creating a savings that families could put towards food and education.

Now, Hoffmann has set up shop at Saïd, an MBA program renowned for innovation, impact, and entrepreneurship. For her, this reputation originates from her classmates and faculty, who’ve already shown themselves capable of stretching her thinking in “unexpected ways.”

“I love that Oxford has become a magnet for people that share this commitment to positive impact,” she explains. “The classmates I’ve met so far have already completely amazed me with how considerate, diverse, and globally-conscious they are. Oxford Saïd’s self-definition as “the business school the world needs” sounded like a catchy marketing slogan to me at first, but each conversation I have with students, staff, and professors here only reinforces how true this tagline is.”

Ashley Allen / Columbia Business School: Ashley Allen is a prodigy. That’s the only word to describe her. She skipped two grades in elementary school. She completed college in three years…when she was just 19! Oh…and the 26 year-old did all this while raising her nine year-old.

Yes, this self-described “finance junkie and super mom” has big plans. Allen chose Columbia Business School so she could learn from the best minds in investment. Chances are, they are going to learn plenty from her too. Come year’s end, she is hoping to have been accepted into the school’s second year Value Investing program and leave her mark in its Investment Management Association. You can bet she’ll achieve both.

In the meantime, Allen encourages future applicants to set aside the distractions and listen to their inner voice. “The business school application process is extremely taxing and it’s very easy to get wooed or discouraged by a school’s ranking or reputation,” she observes. “The opinions of others – whether it be family, friends or peers – can also be hidden influences. However, all applicants should really take the time to visit and explore each school to determine the best fit for them. The school community you choose should not only enhance your overall experience, but also challenge you and help you grow. Be sure you choose a school based on your own goals and personality – not the ideas or wants of others.”