2018 Best MBAs: Kristen Steagall, University of Michigan (Ross)

Kristen Steagall

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

A strong, driven and generous leader who is passionate about her community, impact and legacy.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Crystal Lake, IL

Fun fact about yourself: After graduating from undergrad, I tried to move to Russia with an unintentionally incomplete visa – and surprise, they wouldn’t let me in! I got stuck in Sweden for awhile before having to fly back to the U.S., but was eventually able to move to Russia later that year! It taught me to be tenacious about my dreams and to pay more attention to details.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Michigan, B.A in Russian and Eastern European Studies

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? ClassPass, Head of Studio Marketing & Communications

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? McKinsey, Digital Chicago Office, Summer Associate

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey, Digital Chicago Office, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

President, Tech Club @ Ross: One of the largest professional clubs on campus, helping MBAs recruit for and secure jobs in technology. The club has more than 550 members.

+Lab Fellow, Center for Positive Organizations: As a fellow, I study and live by positive leadership principles.

Sanger Crisis Challenge, War Lord: Organized and led more than 30 volunteers during the 24-hour crisis simulation challenge at Ross.

Runner-up at Haas Tech Challenge Case Competition: Sponsored by Google Fiber on the future of high speed internet.

Teaching Assistant: Assist in teaching a capstone course for BBA seniors on innovation and business strategy.

Peer Coach: Help fellow MBAs prepare for recruitment and lead a weekly recruitment prep workshop

Prospective Student Panelist: During prospective student visits, I sit on panels to help share what a Ross experience is really like.

Performer in Ross Follies: Awarded Best Actress in a Leading Role.

MBGay Choreographer: 1st Place Routine raising money for local LGBTQ+ youth shelter

Frank S. Moran Leadership Award Nominee

Dean’s List

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I have a deep passion for the performing arts. Leveraging strong relationships with my professors, the larger Ann Arbor community and Ross’ support of action-based learning, I crafted a unique MBA experience by consulting and doing research for the University Musical Society (UMS), a performing arts organization that received a 2014 National Medal of Arts. My work this year has ranged from writing a case on the turnaround of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra for a popular class at Ross to helping UMS conduct a capabilities study on introducing more “pop-up” events to its repertoire. Next month I am helping to host a panel talk of top performing arts leaders at Ross. Being able to combine my passions with my MBA learnings has been a highlight of my MBA, especially if it inspires my peers to be on the boards of arts organizations in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Reputation is incredibly important to me: I always seek to be known as a hard-working, motivated and innovative leader. After working in the startup space in New York City for a few years, I had sufficiently built up a reputation that when ClassPass, one of the fastest-growing startups in the country, was looking to launch its B2B marketing department, one of the co-founders reached out to me about the opportunity. Having that kind of validation of my reputation made the years of hard work worth it. The work I did there building ClassPass’ B2B marketing strategy is some of my favorite and best work.

Why did you choose this business school? I realized that the two things I wanted most in a program, a supportive community and access to resources outside of the business school, are two qualities that Michigan Ross has. I came back to campus for my interview and fell in love with Ann Arbor, the university and my future peers. I haven’t looked back since.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?  Get to know everything Ross has to offer, both within the program and outside of it. The University of Michigan has a Top Ten program in practically every subject so it’s possible for you to pursue your passions no matter what they are…whether it’s engineering, education, law, the environment or the performing arts. Additionally, think about what sort of leader you want to become and how Ross can help you get there. Michigan Ross’ Sanger Leadership Center, as one example, has a ton of great programming that can be utilized!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Because we emphasize community here, I think we get a reputation of being overly social and too nice. And while people here genuinely care about each other, it isn’t to the detriment of being competitive, determined and driven. We are all in an MBA program after all! People have big plans and work hard towards making them happen.

What was your biggest regret in business school? That I didn’t make time for working out during MBA1 year. Coming from a fitness company, it was a bit embarrassing.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My fellow section mate Dedeepya Palla. Dedeepya manages to balance having two pre-teen children at home with coursework, recruiting and still manages to be an active participant in the social thread at Ross. She always has a smile on her face and a kind word no matter how stressed she is! Being a mother and an MBA is no easy feat. Dedeepya is quietly changing the norm of what an MBA looks like and I love it.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I have had two incredible mentors during my career thus far: Jaime Razcka, Head of New Markets at Lyft, and Jen Burke, Head of Studios at ClassPass. They both pushed me to strive for more in my career and taught me both the hard and soft skills I needed to excel. They both have MBAs and I knew that to be like them one day I would need to pursue one as well.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…performing with a house improv team at the People’s Improv Theater in New York City.”

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Ride a horse across the plains of Mongolia and learn to play the piano.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Someone who left the room a little brighter than it was before.

What is your favorite movie about business? This one is pretty cheesy, but the 1987 film Baby Boom. It features Diane Keaton as a top management consultant who gets pushed out after she decides to raise a child she adopts. By the end of the movie she has built a company so successful the consulting firm that fired her approaches her to buy it for a client. Few movies have powerful women business leaders in them so watching this as a young girl gave me a role model to aspire to and taught me that it’s possible to achieve success on your own terms.

What would your theme song be? “No Regrets” – Aesop Rock

Favorite vacation spot: My sister’s house outside Burlington, VT. I love traveling to far-flung regions, but there is something so relaxing about the Vermont countryside. Nothing beats swimming in a mountain creek during a hot, August day!

Hobbies? Reading fiction (especially sci-fi), tennis, yoga, ballet, baking and traveling!

What made Kristen such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

Kristen displays and embraces the epitome of a Michigan Ross leader by always thinking of the greater good and paying it forward.  She is President of the Tech club, which is one of the largest professional clubs on campus with 30 Officers and 550 members. Kristen has a unique ability to challenge her peers and hold them accountable while also nurturing their passions and acting as a confidant. As a peer coach for the Career Development Office, she was often sought out by students to get real, honest feedback, and for her ability to help them think through tactical career strategies.  I have most appreciated her partnership with the Career Development Office to help us think through the next level of service we can provide students and corporate partners. She is thoughtful, respectful and a true partner who wants what is best for the school and her classmates. Kristen is admired by her peers, faculty and staff for being gracious, confident, smart, generous and inspiring. She has left Ross a better place than she found it and we are all indebted to her for her contribution to the Ross experience.”

Heather Byrne

Managing Director, Career Development Office

Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan


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