2018 Best MBAs: Catie Venable, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Catie Venable

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

I’m a life-long nerd and loyal friend who loves new experiences and eating dessert.”

Age: 28

Hometown: Durham, North Carolina

Fun fact about yourself: I once served ice cream to Neal Armstrong while working at a dude ranch in Wyoming.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Richmond, BA

University of North Carolina Gillings School of Global Public Health, MSPH

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? The Advisory Board Company, Senior Analyst, International Research & Insights

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? McKinsey & Company

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of winning the Core Value Award for Teamwork this fall. This meant so much to me because I was nominated and selected by my classmates, who are an amazing group of people. UNC Kenan-Flagler’s teamwork culture is one of the main reasons I chose this school and it was important to me from day one to play my part in upholding it. I’ve benefited so much from the generosity of my classmates. Although my time in business school has been the busiest of my life, I’ve tried hard to prioritize giving back to them both professionally and personally. I deeply appreciated receiving this award because it meant this effort had not gone unnoticed and my classmates considered me a positive contributor to the program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my time at the Advisory Board Company, I was part of launching of a new global research product all the way from program design to scale-up in 19 countries. I started at the firm on a two-person team doing interviews with hospital executives around the world on their most pressing strategic and financial challenges. I remember actively trying to make my voice sound deeper in the hopes they wouldn’t realize I was in my early 20s!

The program we built, tailored to health care CEOs focused on new models of care, ultimately exceeded our year one revenue goals by 320% to hit $1.6 million of new business within the first year. This is my proudest professional accomplishment because I was involved in every piece, from designing the program features to creating the sales and marketing materials to developing inaugural roundtable meeting content in three different world regions. When I left the firm for business school, the team had tripled in size and I had co-authored two research publications on healthcare funding models and population health management. I loved being a part of that team and will always be grateful for all I learned from this experience.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? The teachers who have most impacted me are those that exposed me to a new world and, as a result, helped change the way I think. My favorite MBA professor at UNC Kenan-Flagler, Dave Roberts, led the Global Immersion Elective I took in Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. He is a very talented sales professor who knows exactly how to ask the thought-provoking questions that lead to deep reflection and authentic discussion. His leadership made the trip a moving experience that impacted my dreams about the kind of work I want to do.

What was your favorite MBA Course My favorite course was Corporate Governance because it dramatically increased my understanding of how corporate culture and management philosophies affect company performance. I’ve learned so much from my technical and quantitative courses in business school, but this was the class that drove it all home in terms of takeaways for us as future business leaders.

Why did you choose this business school? It was really UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Fellows weekend that made it clear this was the right place for me. Most importantly, it struck me in conversations with students that they considered giving back to their community a defining part of their UNC Kenan-Flagler experience and identity. As I saw how much the student culture centered around servant leadership, I knew this was an environment I wanted to be part of.

As a bonus, the timing worked out such that the first event of the weekend was legendary UNC basketball coach Dean Smith’s memorial service. As a Durham native and lifelong Tar Heel fan, I was very moved by the ceremony and in the midst of it realized I was ready to move back to North Carolina. Because I was interested in dual-degree programs, it was also perfect for me that I could complement my UNC Kenan-Flagler MBA with a Master of Public Health at UNC’s top-ranked Gillings School of Global Public Health.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I think MBA applicants often worry that they need to fit into a specific box, especially those – like myself – from nontraditional backgrounds. My best advice is to value your accomplishments, wherever they come from, and to be yourself in your interview. UNC Kenan-Flagler is looking for genuine people who want to be ethical leaders and can bring a variety of experiences to the table.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is that I didn’t branch out from my degree programs to take advantage of courses at some of UNC’s other top-ranked graduate schools. My public health work has made me extremely interested in city and regional planning, but I somehow just never made it over to the Department of City and Regional Planning for a class. I will have to come back someday!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My friend Leslie Morton, who served as the president of Carolina Women in Business this year, is one of the most hardworking people I know. I admire how she sacrificially dedicated a huge amount of time to grow the club’s impact, including starting a Male Allies initiative and almost doubling the number of recruiting and professional development events for women. On top of that she has a PhD, runs marathons and is a wonderful person.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I majored in French and history in undergrad and never imagined I would get an MBA. My decision to do so was driven not by any one person, but by two key experiences I had while working in D.C. after college.

In my role at the Advisory Board, I served hospital CEOs who I realized could only continue the important mission of their organizations if they could keep them afloat in a challenging financial environment. I also volunteered with a nonprofit serving youth in foster care that had an incredible mission and passionate staff but was struggling to expand and become financially sustainable. My resulting interest in effective business leadership and how the private sector can contribute to the public good made me decide to pursue a formal business education.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in public health, wishing I understood finance and how to better manage my organization. And I would not be engaged to my fiancé and best friend, who I met at UNC Kenan-Flagler!”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? One of the most incredible things about being an MBA student is the opportunity to explore a spectrum of career paths and interact with business leaders from real estate development to Wall Street to premier CPG marketing groups. I would like to see students have a few more weeks to explore their interests and build their confidence in a supportive environment before having to commit to and execute on a specific recruiting path.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Learn to play guitar and become half as good a cook as my fiancé. I’m planning to make serious progress on these goals this summer!

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I strive to live my life so that I’ll be remembered as a generous, inclusive, and hard-working person who treated everyone with dignity and always tried to do the right thing.

What is your favorite movie about business? I love The Big Short, both the movie and the book. I think it does an excellent job making complex but important financial dynamics approachable to a wide audience. More importantly, it shows clearly the cost incurred when business leaders fail to act ethically and think beyond their own self-interest.

What would your theme song be?Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift – mainly because I just got to perform this at UNC Kenan-Flagler’s Legacy Cup karaoke competition with my classmates!

Favorite vacation spot: Montreal, Quebec

Hobbies? Throwing dinner parties, making progress on my book list, trying new gym classes and obsessively researching real estate in in the hopes of someday being a first-time homebuyer.

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

“At UNC Kenan-Flagler, we recognized that Catie was special from the time she applied to our program. She was selected to for a special distinction as one of our Dean’s Fellows, which represent only 10 percent of an incoming class. Since arriving on campus, Catie has only strengthened the already strong opinion we had of her as a candidate. What I find most striking is the number and variety of ways that Catie has contributed to the student experience at UNC Kenan-Flagler. She started in her first semester as a first-year representative to two club’s executive boards; was selected as VP of two of our most active, impactful clubs and a project leader for a STAR project (where students act as consultants for real companies on real issues); served as a career mentor for first-year MBA students and a Nonprofit Board Consultant (where she served on the board of directors of a local nonprofit to assist the organization in advancing its goals).

Catie’s contributions as a member of the Consulting Club leadership team are an example of her impact on our community. In her role as VP for Learning and Development, she led an effort to significantly strengthen the quality and delivery of content to improve student outcomes. She leveraged the knowledge she gained from her experiences of successfully recruiting in consulting and secured a full-time offer from her internship at McKinsey, to provide students with tactical ways to prepare. What makes her one of our best and brightest is that through her preparation, she always ensured that her new classmates engaged in preparation the UNC Kenan-Flagler way – reminding students to help each other in situations when they could, embodying our core value of teamwork. During one of the sessions, Catie personally shared a story of a networking event where she and her classmates made introductions for each other when they saw a classmate looking to enter a conversation.

This speaks to Catie’s reputation among classmates and staff as the consummate team player, which resulted in her being recognized during an annual ceremony as a Core Value Award Winner for teamwork for which she was nominated by her classmates as the epitome of this core value of UNC Kenan-Flagler.”

Kara Kravetz Cupoli

Director, Full-Time MBA Program


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