2018 Best MBAs: Brenna Humphries, Washington University (Olin)

Brenna Humphries

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

A warm, humble leader determined to impact the world and look fabulous while doing it.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Marietta, GA

Fun fact about yourself: I lived in the Republic of Panama for four years.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Elon University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration

Where did you work before enrolling in business school?

Oracle, Cloud Software Solutions Consultant

Kids Read Inc., Founder & CEO

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Accenture, New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? Accenture, Management Consultant for Healthcare & Public Service Sectors

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • • Student Government, Vice President of Diversity & Inclusion
  • • East St. Louis Initiative, Community Engagement Director
  • • Consortium for Graduate Study Management, Fellow
  • • Olin Black MBA Association, Vice President
  • • Olin Management Communications Center, Student Consultant

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the impact that I’ve made through the East St. Louis Initiative (ESLI), a student-led pro-bono consulting organization for entrepreneurs from the city of East St. Louis, one of the nation’s most underserved communities. As the Community Engagement Director, I recruit outstanding entrepreneurs from East St. Louis and the surrounding area to participate in our program. ESLI hosts an annual pitch competition in which entrepreneurs compete for six months of free consulting services from Olin student consultants. This school year ESLI had our largest number of participants.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of impacting more than 5,000 children globally through my organization, Kids Read Inc. Founded in 2007, Kids Read Inc. promotes childhood literacy through educational programs and donations of new and gently used children’s books to hospitals, elementary schools, and other organizations that serve low-income children.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? In December 2017, I had the opportunity to travel to Mekelle, Ethiopia for one week to complete a consulting practicum through Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning. Dr. Hilary Anger Elfenbein was our faculty advisor who traveled with us to Ethiopia. Dr. Elfenbein is not only a distinguished professor, but a down-to-earth individual with a knack for comedy. (You may find her doing stand-up comedy when she’s not teaching or doing research.) She is committed to helping her students excel in and outside of the classroom.

What was your favorite MBA Course My favorite MBA course was Global Business Environment in the 21st Century, which focused on understanding the role of government in shaping the competitive and institutional environment in which firms operate. We ended the course with a two-day residency at the Brookings Institution and visit to Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. My biggest insight from the course was that business leaders and firms can use their influence to impact dynamic regulations, social welfare, and economic growth.

Why did you choose this business school? The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management initially led me to Olin Business School. I was impressed that Olin was the founding school of the Consortium. Upon further research, I realized that Olin offered everything that I wanted in a full-time MBA program: a close-knit community, global learning experiences, and opportunities to impact my community. Once I visited the campus, I was sold!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program?

 Start early. The process of applying to business school is a long one that is sometimes difficult to balance while working a full-time job. Set aside time to prepare an application that is the best representation of yourself.

Be yourself. Olin is a welcoming community that celebrates uniqueness. Don’t be afraid to be your authentic self in the application process. Diversity of experiences, backgrounds, etc. is something that we value at Olin.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I imagined that Olin may be a cut-throat, overly competitive environment. I was wrong—in my time at Olin I’ve seen my classmates offer to stay late to tutor other classmates for a tough upcoming exam and meet before classes to do mock case interviews.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not taking even more classes that were outside of my comfort zone.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmate Neelam Vyas. She is our student government president and works tirelessly to make these two years memorable for each MBA student. In addition to being one of the kindest people you’ll meet, she is passionate about advocating for her fellow classmates.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Since I was young, my parents and loved ones encouraged me to pursue entrepreneurship and business, so business seemed like the natural choice for a major when I started college. Upon graduation from Elon University, my mother started asking me regularly when I was going to apply to business schools. Some years passed, and I finally decided to follow her advice. (Thanks Mom!)

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working for a cloud technology company.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I thoroughly enjoyed my experience in Ethiopia completing a consulting practicum for a menstrual health organization, Dignity Period. I believe that every Olin MBA student deserves the opportunity to do an international practicum through our Center for Experiential Learning. Currently this is a competitive process in which some applicants are turned away, but I would love for every Olin MBA student to have the opportunity to do an international practicum.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Travel to the Seven Wonders of the World and start a scholarship fund at my undergraduate or graduate school.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who was always willing to help others and who made Olin a more inclusive community.

What is your favorite movie about business? (What was the biggest lesson you gained from it?)

We watched and analyzed 12 Angry Men in one of my Olin classes. My biggest takeaway is that it is important to hold on to our core values and convictions, even in the face of pressure from others.

What would your theme song be? “Run the World” by Beyoncé

Favorite vacation spot: Bali, Indonesia (It was one of the longest flights I’ve ever taken, but well worth it).

Hobbies? International travel, photography, and reading

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

“Brenna Humphries is the epitome of quiet strength and she has used that strength to make an impact at Olin Business School that will not be forgotten.

WashU’s Olin Business School is a place where individual contributions matter—and Brenna’s contributions are no exception. She is a thoughtful and ardent leader, and her ability to lead and influence is evidenced both prior to and during her tenure at Olin. In her role as vice president, Diversity, Brenna leads by example and precept. Her leadership inspires and promotes an environment where change is leveraged for forward movement. Case in point is the manner in which she waved the banner for recognizing Black History Month at Olin. Brenna bravely took steps that have not been seen during my six year tenure to encourage the community to stop and reflect, including organizing events and designing artwork and signage that was displayed in print and on electronic signage.

Brenna is also an advocate for continuous quality improvement. This trait has been most often observed in her contributions to the Olin Diversity & Inclusion Committee, where she has voiced strong support for a more inclusive community. As the committee considered the need for partnerships for community service, Brenna advocated for a large outreach that would require cooperation from the entire Olin family instead of the easier route of limited outreach. The committee quickly adopted her recommendation.

Brenna is leaving a legacy of leadership and inclusion at Olin Business School.”

Annetta Culver

Associate Director, Weston Career Center, Olin Business School


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