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2018 Best MBAs: Linda Liu, Wisconsin School of Business

Linda Liu

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin School of Business

“Unexpected leader who draws on quiet strength, fierce courage, and thoughtful kindness to inspire others.”

Age: 26

Hometown: Manlius, New York

Fun fact about yourself: When my daycare teacher told my mom that I knew how to read, my mom initially didn’t believe her — because I barely even spoke yet!

Undergraduate School and Degree: Cornell University, B.S. in Applied Economics and Management

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? S.C. Johnson, associate brand manager on Windex, Pledge, and Ziploc

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Yum! Brands, Pizza Hut; Dallas, Texas

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

  • Leadership and community: The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management student liaison, Diversity in Business club treasurer, Wisconsin MBA ambassador, Wisconsin Fellowship in Enterprise Development
  • Awards and honors: The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellowship, Signe Ostby Wisconsin Distinguished Graduate Fellowship in

Business, Best Speaker Award (2017 Wisconsin Graduate Marketing Network Case Competition), Best Speaker Award (Fall 2016 Integrated Company Analysis presentation), 2017 Wisconsin School of Business Trailblazer Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In my first year at Wisconsin, I led a storytelling project for our Diversity in Business organization titled “Humans of Grainger,” inspired by “Humans of New York.” For this project, I photographed and interviewed my classmates about their most personal stories; the vignettes were shared on our organization’s social media pages and at our school’s spring arts showcase. I was inspired to create this project because it can be easy to think of ‘diversity’ only in terms of more visible traits like race or gender; I wanted to showcase the diversity that is evident only when you peer below the surface and really get to know someone as an individual. I was extremely gratified to hear from various members in the Wisconsin MBA community — including students, faculty, and staff — that the project broke down misconceptions about diversity, sparked deep and honest conversations, and helped everyone feel more connected with each other.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I interned at Pizza Hut last summer, I assisted with the three-year marketing communications plan. As the summer progressed, I saw an opportunity to optimize and formalize the planning process so that it could be both more efficient and better integrated with cross-functional planning. Although I already had plenty to work on with my official project responsibilities, I just couldn’t shake the idea that I wanted to act on this opportunity — so I did. I created a planning playbook, with new strategic and analytical frameworks, simplified processes, and actionable planning tools. At the end of my summer, I presented it to the Pizza Hut CMO, who asked that I help roll it out and train the brand marketing team and my cross-functional teams in it.

I’m proud of this achievement because it will help Pizza Hut’s marketing teams produce more efficient and effective plans, long after my internship is over and my other projects are forgotten.

What was your favorite MBA Course  My favorite MBA course was Negotiations, taught by Professor Charlie Trevor. When the course started, I felt very apprehensive because I felt that my quiet demeanor might be easily overpowered by more outspoken negotiators. But as I learned about negotiations theory and techniques and practiced over-and-over again in different scenarios and with different partners, I gradually gained confidence in my abilities. At the end of the semester, one of my classmates told me that her biggest takeaway from the course was that if she ever found herself in a negotiation, she should just call me to handle it for her. Although the comment was said in jest, I appreciated it as a reminder that with practice, we can turn weaknesses into strengths and strengths into towering strengths.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose this business school for three reasons. First, as someone who was already working in brand management and loved it, I wanted to stay laser-focused in my graduate studies; Wisconsin’s specialization model allowed me to do that with its flexible coursework, supportive advisory board, and connections to top companies with brand management roles. Second, it was important to me that I pursue my MBA in a fiscally responsible way. The Wisconsin MBA offers one of the best ROIs in the country, ensuring that its graduates leave the program with a strong foundation for financial success. Finally (and perhaps specific only to me), I had been doing a long-distance relationship and my fiancé (now husband) is a professor at the business school; I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to be able to spend the first year-and-a-half of my marriage finally living in the same town as my husband!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Make sure you feel a fit with the culture of the program! We’re a small program, with about 100 students in each class, so we spend a lot of time together and really get to know each other. If you visit and feel like you really click with the students, faculty, and staff, make sure to share that in your application materials and with the admissions staff; culture fit is valued deeply here. And, once admitted, it’s a great indicator that you’ll have a wonderful experience!

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth that I had heard and was worried about was that this community was very homogeneous. While it is true that Wisconsin is relatively homogenous demographically, Madison itself is such a diverse and vibrant community; I’ve always felt welcome and comfortable here.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? In all of my MBA classmates, there is something that I admire. But I have to say that I most admire Jason Neal, my classmate in the brand and product management specialization, who had the courage of his convictions to walk away from a successful law career to pursue his dream of a career in business. That alone would make me respect him — but what makes me admire him, and what I will miss most when we graduate — is his constant graciousness. Even in disagreements, even in trying challenges or three-hour lectures when everyone else is looking at their watches impatiently, Jason never wavers in his commitment to courtesy, kindness, and positivity. When I sit next to him in class, I’m a better student; for having him as a friend, I’m a better person.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The person who most influenced my decision to pursue business in college is my dad. I started college pursuing pre-medical studies. When I decided that I wanted to switch from medicine to marketing, my dad was skeptical that I really knew why I wanted to pursue a career in marketing, so he pushed me to consider a variety of other paths first —  engineering, computer science, finance, accounting, even a marketing Ph.D. Although

I didn’t appreciate it at the time, by challenging me to reconsider my career, my dad was encouraging me to explore and deepen my understanding of marketing, learn more about myself, and plan for my future.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…still fighting to open doors for myself.”

What are the top two items on your bucket list? (1) Write a book, and (2) learn to meditate.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a good friend, who always tries her best for herself and others.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Devil Wears Prada — Have respect for every job you take, every industry you join. A blue sweater is never just that.

What would your theme song be? Beyoncé – “Run the World (Girls)”

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere I am with my family

Hobbies? Hot yoga, cooking and baking, reading, sewing

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

“Linda Liu has made a lasting impact here at the Wisconsin School of Business throughout her two years with our MBA program. We knew Linda would bring impressive work experience in brand management, intellectual curiosity, and a strong drive for results to our program, but it has been her desire to help others that has made her a truly exceptional MBA student.

In her first year, she started a “Humans of Grainger Hall” campaign based on the “Humans of New York” project that seeks to provide glimpses into the lives of strangers and people around you. Her project was dedicated to sharing the struggles, and successes, of students in the Wisconsin School of Business with the hope that by knowing more about friends and colleagues’ histories we can better understand and accept one another and create a better learning environment for all.

Linda’s creation of the “Humans of Grainger Hall” campaign was a brave and remarkable forum for generating conversations and helping students within our community be more transparent. It helped the entire MBA community feel more connected to one another and has had a transformative lasting impact on our program. As a result, Linda was awarded the first ever Trailblazer award from the Wisconsin School of Business.

In her second year, Linda has served as one of our Consortium Liaisons. This role helps the school strengthen and support our Consortium students, and works to recruit more underrepresented minorities into our MBA program.

Linda brings many amazing things to the Wisconsin School of Business; her intelligence, poise under pressure, and empathy are just a few. She has been a joy to have as part of our Class of 2018 and we look forward to seeing all that she will achieve as an alumna.”

Mike Judge
Director of the Center for Brand and Product Management

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