2018 MBAs To Watch: Bianca Marie Harris, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Bianca Marie Harris

Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University    

“Bianca is family-oriented, dedicated to achieving her goals, honest and passionate about helping others succeed.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Kansas City, Missouri

Fun fact about yourself: I was a recreational boxer for four-years before attending graduate school.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Undergraduate School: University of Missouri – Kansas City

Degree: Bachelor of Business Administration

Graduate School: Northwestern University

Degree: Master of Science, Integrated Marketing Communications

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Dell – Business Development Consultant within the acquisition sales division.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017?  Bayer – Consumer Health, Whippany, NJ

Where will you be working after graduation? Whirlpool, Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:


  • Forté Fellowship
  • Dean’s Circle – SMU’s Business Leadership Center

Campus Roles & Activities

  • Cox Career Management Center – Peer Coach
  • SMU Cox Honor Council Board Member
  • Black Graduate Student Association Member
  • Marketing Club Member

Local Extracurricular Activities

National Black MBA Association Dallas Chapter –  Marketing & Student Relations Committee

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being selected to assist the Cox Career Center with coaching students to gain MBA internships and full-time opportunities. I truly enjoy helping others when I can and it has been a pleasure assisting my peers with prepping for interviews. Within this role, I have also developed programs for marketing for students to gain further insights and develop interviewing skills and techniques when pursuing specific marketing roles.

I am also proud of becoming a member and volunteering for the National Black MBA Dallas Chapter to increase the overall awareness of the organization. Within this organization, I’ve had the ability to collaborate with other members to create intellectually enriching events that contribute to the development of the Dallas Black MBA community. I have also conducted Marketing and Public Relations initiatives that assisted the organization in gaining awareness by diverse local high school programs that focused in prepping and equipping their students with the necessary skills to interview successfully for the Dallas Mayor’s Intern Fellow Program.

Furthermore, I am also proud of being selected by Professor Steve Denson to represent not only the SMU Cox MBA program, but also his negotiations strategy and tactics class in an appearance on a Dallas TV news segment. Professor Denson gave me the honor to speak to a local news outlet to voice my views concerning the gender wage gap and discuss the skills taught in his class that empower women and men to effectively negotiate a salary based on their own perceived value.

 What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement that I am most proud of in my professional career was at my summer internship at Bayer as an Assistant Brand Manager. Marketing Brand Management was a career that I was truly interested in, and I was excited to gain experience within this realm. I was given a challenging, but motivating problem to solve within the Bayer Aspirin division. I am most proud of my ability to utilize my previous skills in accounting, project management, marketing communications and sales with my current MBA knowledge to solve a complex problem in the area of Brand Management. I appreciate the experiences that I have gained over the years, and I am excited to utilize my current education to solve more challenging marketing problems in my upcoming career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is a challenging question to answer, as I have encountered many great professors in my MBA program. Marci Armstrong’s class in Research for Marketing Design was very beneficial and she was a great professor. She structured the material for students to effectively learn and gain hands-on experience in conducting, analyzing and interpreting marketing research data for large real-world clients located in the Dallas area. She took a genuine interest in the learning and development of her students. She was very passionate about students succeeding in her class and presenting exceptional work to clients.

What was your favorite MBA Course My favorite MBA course was “Starting a Business.” This class was very difficult, but very rewarding. Before attending business school, I had many great start-up ideas, but I was unsure of where to begin. “Starting a Business” teaches students to think about the intricate details involved with entrepreneurship and requires them to create a business plan for their own start-up idea or company that touches on all areas of business such as accounting, finance, operations, human resources, marketing, sales and technology. This class also prepares students with presentation techniques, and it arms them with a sound business plan that can be used to pitch to investors as soon as the class is completed.

Why did you choose this business school? Before attending business school, I conducted research on all the MBA programs in the Dallas area. I quickly discovered that SMU’s Cox School of Business has a great reputation among the Dallas business community. Not only does the SMU Cox MBA program have an extensive alumni network, it offers smaller class sizes that enable students to connect one-on-one with administration, faculty and staff. I also chose the SMU Cox MBA program, as it offers a global leadership component that gives students the ability to visit other countries outside of their comfort zone, and gain knowledge about how business is conducted in the global marketplace. Overall, I wanted to attend an MBA program that was going to be invested in helping me gain the education, skills, experience and connections I needed to be successful. SMU’s Cox School of Business offered everything I needed and much more.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? The biggest advice that I would give to applicants is to be genuine and show passion towards business in their desired field of study. They should think about the experiences they have gained in their pre-MBA careers, especially in leadership, and speak diligently about those experiences. I would also advise them to reach out to alumni in their desired field of study to learn more about the post-MBA experiences of alumni. Develop a “Dream” plan, strategically mapping out the steps required to succeed and make their “Dream” a reality.

I would suggest they do this prior to the application process. Being proactive and developing time management skills are key. The first-year curriculum is challenging and requires balancing time not only to complete course-work, but to gain internship opportunities as well.

What is the biggest myth about your school?  The biggest myth about my school is that the program only caters to students majoring in finance. Although SMU has a strong reputation in that area, there are many students who attend the MBA program looking to study and gain opportunities in other sectors of business. Every concentration offers a challenging, well-rounded curriculum for students to gain knowledge and great exposure to opportunities in areas of consulting, general business, operations, and marketing.  The school offers extensive resources within the area of entrepreneurship, as many students utilize the resources provided by the school to start and develop business ideas while pursuing their degree. Overall, the school provides a valuable education in all areas of business, not just finance.

What was your biggest regret in business school? The biggest regret I have is not attending the marketing treks that gave marketing students the ability to visit companies in other cities. I would have liked the opportunity to network with those companies to learn more about their industries from a strategic and marketing perspective.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate that I most admire is Femi Olamolu. Coming from a military background, she is very determined to pursue her dreams and succeed in business. I admire her strategic thinking skills and her ability to be straightforward. She takes pride in being an advocate in helping her peers succeed. She is someone that I see being truly successful in her post-MBA endeavors.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother was the ultimate person who influenced my decision to attend business school. She knew that I always had aspirations of pursing my MBA, even before I received my first master’s degree. She has always been a strong supporter of anything that I want to do, and she instilled in me the belief that I can accomplish anything that I set my mind towards.

Another person who influenced my decision was a role model I had while completing my first master’s degree. This role model attended the same program I did, but she had already received an MBA and had established great success in the field of marketing. She credited her success to her continuous curiosity of wanting to learn. This role model also influenced my decision as I saw first-hand the benefits of continuous learning.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…attending business school was always my plan, and I was determined to go after finishing my first graduate degree.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? The one thing I would change about the MBA experience is making the “Starting a Business” class, as I discussed above, a core or required class within the curriculum. Recognizing gaps in the market place and developing innovative solutions to fill those gaps to meet consumer needs is not only essential in entrepreneurship, but also essential in developing and growing a successful business.  Going through the process of creating an idea based an unmet need in the market and developing that idea into a detailed business plan allows students to truly see the correlation between each area of business.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To live abroad either in Europe or South America and follow through with a business idea I created surrounding the development of a beauty servicing platform and mobile application.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?I would like my peers to remember me as being hard-working, supportive and dedicated to helping others.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite movie about business is the Pursuit of Happyness. The biggest lesson I learned from the film is “when you are armed with drive and perseverance, it is possible to overcome adversity and achieve success.”

What would your theme song be? Bodak Yellow

Favorite vacation spot: Aruba

Hobbies? Attending concerts/live music performances, discovering new restaurants, traveling, hiking and cooking.

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

“No one makes it through an MBA program without being determined, but Bianca Harris takes determination to a new level, thanks to her ability to focus and strategize. Early on, Bianca set a major goal for herself: to achieve a successful career in marketing. First, she earned her BBA, and then gained a range of professional experiences—ensuring a solid business foundation. Next, she pursued a Master’s Degree in Integrated Marketing Communications. To get the kinds of offers she dreamed of, to distinguish herself in a job market teeming with competition, Bianca realized that an MBA was the next logical step. Once she set her sights on SMU Cox, she worked to earn a Forté Fellowship and other scholarship funds.

I’ve watched Bianca apply that same determination as she’s strategized how to achieve short-term goals—like  leading a successful team presentation—as well as long term goals, like landing a pivotal marketing position at a high profile corporation. In my negotiations class, Bianca distinguished herself as an innovative negotiator. Her classmates chose her to be spokesperson and team leader in many negotiation simulations because she was so effective at forging deals that worked for everyone. Somehow, while she was laser-focused on achieving her goals, she found time to apply to, and be selected by, Cox Career Management Center’s highly competitive process to become an MBA Student Career Coach. As such, Bianca has given countless hours of her time coaching dozens of her peers in career planning and interview preparation. She single-handedly ran programming efforts that boosted placement for SMU Cox. All in all, her dogged perseverance, coupled with her strategic thinking and her giving heart, ensure that Bianca will achieve greatness on many levels. Here at SMU Cox, we can’t wait to see how the next chapter of her life unfolds.”

Steven Denson

Director, SMU Cox MBA Diversity Initiatives and Adjunct Professor of Management/Negotiations  

Shanna Upchurch

SMU Cox Associate Director & Career Center





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