2018 MBAs To Watch: Mariela Berrocal, Duke University (Fuqua)

Mariela Berrocal

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

I’m a design thinker aimed at using the power of business for social change.”

Age: 29

Hometown: San José, Costa Rica

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve been studying acting since I was 16. I’ve done several plays and starred in a handful of short films.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, Industrial Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? PwC Costa Rica, Consultant

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Academy UX & Design Thinking Studio, New York

Where will you be working after graduation? Senior Strategic Designer for BCG Digital Ventures

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Co-President of the Design & Innovation Club

CASE Fellow (Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship)

Academic Fellow for Probability and Statistics

Producer for Fuqua Vision

Student intern at the Center for Advanced Hindsight, Duke’s research center for behavioral economics

Participant in NC State’s B Corporation Clinic

Dean’s List

Class of 1987 Scholarship Recipient

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  I’m most proud of the work my team has done in the Design & Innovation Club. To know that we have made great strides to help students navigate this unconventional recruiting path, to give them experiential learning opportunities in the space, and to make design more ubiquitous at Fuqua makes me very proud.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of my contributions to Starfire Effect’s Meaning Management System, a methodology we developed to bring the power of storytelling into the world of business. Aurelia and Massimo, the two founding partners, had this crazy idea to wield storytelling as a strategic tool to produce extraordinary business results, and together we accomplished just that. When we launched the service, we received outstanding responses from our clients. This work gave me the type of pride and excitement you only get when you help bring something totally innovative and transformational into this world.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji. His Advanced Corporate Strategy class, where we are challenged to think about how business impacts and is impacted by complex political and social issues, is one of my favorite classes of the MBA. Ronnie is incredibly engaging, humble, and truly cares about his students.

What was your favorite MBA Course? I really loved how my leadership class forced me to get real feedback and think about my leadership journey and style. The one thing that really stuck with me is that leading is hard and inconvenient, but I hope always to have the courage to choose to lead.

Why did you choose this business school?I prioritized culture above all else. I knew that business school was going to be an intense journey, so I needed to make sure that I was going to have the community and support that I needed in order to be my best. And boy has Fuqua delivered!

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Fuqua is all about community and the role each person plays in making it better. So, I would encourage applicants to think about what makes them unique and how that will allow them to contribute to the school and enhance other students’ experiences.

What is the biggest myth about your school? That Wednesdays are our free day. Though we don’t have class, Wednesdays are usually packed with team meetings for cases, club work, conferences, etc. Though if you are lucky, you can definitely squeeze in some down time too.

What was your biggest regret in business school?Not being better about keeping in touch with those I love back home.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Tatiana Montllonch. She is one of the smartest, most dedicated, and most universally liked people I’ve ever met. She is also weirdly able to balance school, extracurricular involvement, and social activities in an enviable way.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Both of my parents. My dad is an industrial engineer (as am I) and an MBA. I’ve always wanted to have his impressive ability to think and solve problems as both an engineer and businessman. And my mom has always pushed my sisters and me to push our boundaries and achieve more, in whatever moves us.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…getting a masters in Human Centered Design.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would do a networking event for students and professors. A lot of the time the focus is on students connecting with potential employers and fellow students, and I think there’s really a missed opportunity to promote the same thing with faculty. We don’t always get to take all the classes we would like, so connecting with professors that we don’t have a chance to see otherwise would be great.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Go to space.

Start a family.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as someone who is kind, optimistic, and has an indomitable spirit in the pursuit of leaving a positive mark on this world.

What is your favorite movie about business? Up in the Air. My biggest lesson is that at the end of the day, what matters most in business and in life are relationships.

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

Favorite vacation spot: Any beach in Costa Rica, where I can spend all day in the ocean.

Hobbies? Dancing, acting, filmmaking, crafting, baking, and scuba diving.

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

“Mariela Berrocal is a student that everyone looks forward to spending time with. She is an academic high performer who has shared her experience and ability with other students by serving as an Academic Fellow for Fuqua’s Probability and Statistics class. While Stats can be intimidating to a lot of our first-year students, having an Academic Fellow who is approachable and relatable has made a big difference.

In what some may see as a contrast to her depth of quantitative skills, Mariela is also the co-president of the Design and Innovation Club and one of our Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) Fellows. Through these roles Mariela has led a number of initiatives.

Mariela is currently working on a human-centered design project to help Fuqua better understand the international student experience. One potential benefit of this project is the identification of points in the student experience where we may be able to better enable participation in leadership development. Her commitment to the project stems from her passion to serve others so that they can have the best possible experience as they get their MBA.

Mariela exhibits an authenticity and support for others that is the backbone of Team Fuqua. She gets the best out of everyone by being inclusive and demonstrating her commitment to the experience of other people and engaging in the things she feels matter. Mariela is a positive, optimistic person with boundless talent, including a recent demonstration of skill and courage as she performed rap to a full auditorium of students, staff, and faculty at Fuqua’s Got Talent!”

Russ Morgan

Senior Associate Dean

Full-Time Programs

Professor of the Practice of Marketing

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business





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