2018 Best MBAs: Ashley Ver Burg Soukup, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Ashley Ver Burg Soukup

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

Creativity-catalyst enthusiastically aspiring to improve her community and encouraging others to reach their potential.”

Age: 30

Hometown: River Falls, Wisconsin

Fun fact about yourself: I have produced over 20 videos as an amateur videographer, ranging from campaign ads to wedding videos.

Undergraduate School and Degree: College of Saint Benedict, Bachelor of Arts, Environmental Studies & French

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Urban Planning Consultant at HDR Inc.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Associate Marketing Manager Intern at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Where will you be working after graduation? Associate Marketing Manager at General Mills in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Forté Fellow & MBA Dean’s Scholarship
  • MBA Association, elected Vice President of External Relations
  • University Professional Student Government, elected MBA Representative
  • Graduate Women In Business, VP of Marketing
  • COMPASS (LGBTQ student organization), Board Member
  • MSP Small Business Case Competition, Founding Board Member
  • Carlson School Diversity & Inclusion, Graduate Assistant
  • Graduate Business Career Center, Contract Coach
  • Advertising and Promotion, Graduate Teaching Assistant
  • Carlson MBA Women’s Mentorship Program, Mentor
  • Carlson MBA Admissions, Student Fellow
  • Minnesota Women’s Leadership Conference, Planning Committee Member
  • MBA Association Constitutional Review Task Force, Co-Chair
  • MBA Class Gift, Chair
  • MBA Alumni Association, Student Representative
  • Stockholm School of Economics, Exchange Student
  • Case Competitions: 2016 Medtronic (1st Place), 2018 Innovation Days Sweden (1st Place), 2016 Elite 8 (2nd Place), 2017 Net Impact (Semifinalist), 2016 Deloitte Tech Challenge (Semifinalist)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my work in Carlson’s Diversity & Inclusion Office launching Project Emerge, a program that introduces women and diverse undergraduates to business as a possible career path. As the office graduate assistant, I developed the program’s marketing strategy, created the website, and led the development of a participant recruitment plan. I worked with talented Carlson staff to shape the program to appeal to students who, like me, pursued non-business undergraduate majors. In 2017, there were 32 participants in the inaugural Camp Emerge and the program is growing in 2018.

When it comes to increasing the diversity of business leaders, MBA programs have two options: compete over an existing talent pool or invest in growing that pool. I’m proud of Project Emerge because it takes a proactive approach to building access to business where it may not exist today. Growing up, my parents told me to do work that makes the world a better place. Business was not on my radar. Now that I understand the profound impact business can have on improving lives, I’m dedicated to sharing that knowledge with young people.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Government and innovation aren’t two words people from the business world often associate together, but my experience is quite different. Just as new product development in business has moved to lean, agile, consumer-first models that go beyond making design decisions in a boardroom, the same evolution is happening in government. While working as an urban planning consultant, I was a champion for design processes that creatively engaged citizen input, which led me to become a national resource on innovative ways to reach people.

I am most proud of my work on a project with the state of Minnesota planning the next 20 years of $20 billion in highway investments. As the consultant team project manager, I collaborated with an incredibly dedicated and brilliant group of leaders to transform the way decisions are made. In six months, we spoke to over 12,000 people, leveraging a dynamic dataset to adapt our online and in-person tactics to reach a diverse representation of perspectives. This work has been recognized with five state and national awards, including a Government Innovation Award.

What was your favorite MBA Course? At Carlson, we have a unique Enterprise program that gives you real client experience for academic credit. As a Carlson Brand Enterprise consultant, I led two project teams for clients as diverse as a startup ski apparel company and the nation’s largest private health insurer. Through working with my outstanding teammates, Enterprise Director Dave Hopkins, and faculty lead Joe Redden, I learned how to make data-driven, rigorous marketing recommendations.

Why did you choose this business school? Support for students is unrivaled at Carlson. I learned quickly that you are not just a number when I decided to do early internship recruiting the summer before business school. Our amazing career center met with me for coaching sessions, connected me to alumni, and helped me prep for interviews … all before I was a paying student! This ultimately helped me secure four summer internship offers before my first day of class—a possibility that still sounds crazy to me as a liberal arts undergrad.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Think about how you want to shape this MBA program. Carlson’s smaller class size means each student plays a significant role in shaping our tight-knit community. For example, I came in passionate about creating more space and power for diversity in our business school. Now, I’m leading our class gift campaign. We have an amazing, passionate committee that recently decided to create new scholarship opportunities for incoming students, helping our admissions office better compete for diverse talent. It’s surprising the power each student has to effect change; my advice is to tell the admissions committee what you want to do for the program as a student.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I did a national business school search and ended up deciding between Carlson and a top-five MBA program. It was thrilling to be admitted to such a prestigiously ranked school, and I wondered if a better-ranked program would equate to a better MBA experience. For me, this ended up being a myth at Carlson. Take case competitions, for instance. Our MBA class placed (in the top three) in seven case competitions last year alone, remarkable for a program of our size. I had the chance to experience my classmates’ ingenuity and charisma in action on five placing or finalist teams. My MBA experience has taught me that while rankings have value, they don’t measure everything, and they cannot tell you which program is right for you.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sneha Ravindar. When I met her at orientation, she shared that attending the Carlson MBA program was her first time living outside of India and that she intended to make the most of every opportunity. I was so inspired by her courage. My awe of Sneha has only grown as I’ve watched the positivity, commitment, and poise with which she has achieved her goals and landed a full-time job post-MBA at Amazon. I have an immense amount of respect for all my international classmates, and Sneha’s energetic spirit exemplifies their drive.

 Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It’s a grueling decision to opt out of the workforce to go to school full time. You need someone to keep you honest about your goals. My husband, Mike, was undoubtedly that person for me. As a literary fiction writer, he’s the most disciplined and talented person I know. He inspires me each day to work toward my goals.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…launching my own civic engagement consulting firm.”

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Solve the problem of America’s poor paid parental leave system and learn to ski.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? She created communities, teams, and relationships that were inclusive and enabled each person to shine.

What is your favorite movie about business? A League of Their Own. You don’t need to be the manager to be a leader.

What would your theme song be? “Don’t Stop Me Now” by Queen

Favorite vacation spot: Northern Minnesota

Hobbies? Triathlons, photography, cooking, yoga, meeting new people, traveling, going north, and solving the worlds problem’s over juicy lucy burgers in Minneapolis-St. Paul’s excellent food and drink scene.

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

“It has been a joy to work with, and frankly, just watch Ashley Ver Burg Soukup take Carlson by storm. She is a master communicator (really, it is truly unbelievable to watch her manage a debate, moderate a panel, or simply provide constructive feedback). She is incredibly smart and driven (obtained the first internship of her class early in the fall with General Mills). She is passionate about diversity and inclusion (developed and oversaw our first Project Emerge event, which is a three-day event aimed to raise awareness about careers in business for underrepresented juniors and seniors). Most impressive of all of these traits and accomplishments, though, are Ashley’s kindness and generosity.

Ashley gives back to the Carlson community every chance she gets. She has coached and trained countless first-year MBAs on interview tactics and resume writing. She speaks and advocates on behalf of her class when curricular change is needed and identified the need for and developed the first ally training here at Carlson. Ashley also knows how important it is to expose our students to the small business community here in the Twin Cities. She worked with a team to create our first Small Business Case Competition, which raised the awareness of our students’ talent within the social sector. Additionally, she has taken what seems like half of the class’s headshots in her spare time (because yes, she also has creative skills too)!

Post-MBA, Ashley is going to General Mills as an associate brand manager working on strategy and innovation. In this role, she will bring her pre-MBA experience as an analyst and project manager with her as she continues to lead cross-functional teams to make change happen. Prior to her MBA, she won the Minnesota Government Innovation award for a transportation project she led, and I know all of us at Carlson can’t wait to see what awards will come her way post-graduation.”

Maggie Tomas
Director, Graduate Business Career Center

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018