2018 MBAs To Watch: Sarah Caldwell, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Sarah Caldwell

Cox School of Business, Southern Methodist University

“Always curious, fiercely loyal, all-in or all-out, and I don’t take myself too seriously.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Midland, TX

Fun fact about yourself: While living in Madrid prior to business school, I walked over 100 miles in 4 days to complete the Camino de Santiago pilgrimage with my dad through Northern Spain.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Texas Tech University, BBA in International Business, Minor in Spanish & Certificate in Energy Commerce

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Contractor Operations & External Consultant, ISN Software Corporation (supplier/contractor management)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? ExxonMobil (Budapest, HU/Houston, TX)

Where will you be working after graduation? ExxonMobil as a Financial Analyst in the Controller’s organization

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership: Forté Fellow & Ambassador, Dean’s Scholarship Recipient, President of the Women in Business Club, Treasurer of the Energy Club, Maguire Institute of Energy Research Analyst, and SMU Cox Ambassador.

Community: Risk Advisor for the UT-Dallas Chapter of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority (alumna), member of the Junior League of Dallas, volunteer at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, and pro-bono consultant for Texas Scottish Rite Hospital through the SMU Cox Non-Profit Consulting program.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I would say I am most proud of my involvement in the Women in Business club. Before I became President, the club had very low involvement and low membership numbers of women, and particularly men. I’m very proud to say that nearly half of each class in the entire business school (all graduate programs) signed up as members of this organization this year – with record numbers of male participation. I think a lot of that had to do with the quality of the events we organized and hosted. My favorite event that we planned was our “Lean In” panel discussion, where we had four ladies from the C-suite across various industries in Dallas discuss issues related to Sheryl Sandberg’s novel, Lean In. We had a packed room, a very engaged audience, and perhaps the best discussion of women’s issues I’ve heard in a long time. I’m proud to leave that event as an annual fall panel discussion for years to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Although I did not have a very long professional tenure prior to business school, I am most proud of the work I did with the Mexican and Puerto Rican contractors I worked with while at ISN. Essentially, my role was to aid these contractors in reaching compliance with their operating client (mostly in oil/gas and manufacturing). It was especially difficult with these contractors because of a) the language barrier, and b) the lack of documentation or difference in documentation within the countries. I was also one of very few people in the entire company who could speak Spanish, which made me something of a main lifeline in performing everyday work for these company clients. It was such an accomplishment when even just one contractor was able to reach compliance. I’m proud to have left my previous role having contributed to a protocol that the company still uses and builds upon today in dealing with these special accounts.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Dr. Harvey Rosenblum, who taught our Financial Markets & Monetary Policy class. He was the Executive Vice President & Director of Research at the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas before he began teaching full-time at SMU Cox, so he has a wealth of knowledge and experience he was able to share with us. He is so passionate about monetary policy and how it impacts our nation and it was so captivating to hear him lecture each week.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite courses were also my hardest courses – the ones that have anything to do with financial valuations or modeling. Those skills did not come to me naturally, but it was so fun to learn – almost like a puzzle! I definitely made mistakes in those classes and didn’t always grasp right off the bat, but each mistake is something that I learned from. I now have a better understanding on how to approach a valuation.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose SMU Cox for a number of reasons, but it really boiled down to the people and the fit. Coming from a very large public state institution for my undergrad, I knew that I wanted a much smaller class size experience. I didn’t want to be just one of hundreds in a giant class again; I wanted my classmates and professors to know my name. Upon my first campus visit, I just “knew” that SMU was where I wanted to go. The academics were rigorous and catered to my interests, and I also genuinely felt the people at SMU Cox were the type I would want to surround myself with for the next two years of my life and beyond.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into any school would definitely be to visit and speak to alumni if possible. Each school will have a different feel and culture to it, and it’s important to gauge that before making such an important life-changing decision. Also, reach out to the admissions directors at each school you’re interested in before applying. One thing that really stood out to me in applying to SMU Cox was the ease of conversation with our admissions team, as well as the honesty and candidness I received, which really factored into my decision to ultimately attend.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about SMU is that it is a school only for those who want to stay in Texas, more specifically Dallas. This is not the case at all. My class consists of people from all over the country, and all over the world – and that diversity is growing each year, along with the growth of Dallas as a city. Many do end up staying in Texas or Dallas following graduation, but it is not for lack of opportunity outside the city or state. People fall in love with Dallas and want to stay because they recognize the opportunities the school and the city offer both professionally and personally.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I’d like to say ‘no regrets,’ but the one thing I wish I had done and didn’t was submit an entrepreneurial idea to the annual business plan competition. I always have a ton of random ideas at any given moment and wish I had had the confidence to submit one.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many classmates of mine who come to mind, especially the veterans in our class. If I had to pick just one, I would say John Sama, also one of our veterans. He is one of those types of people that everyone likes and respects – hard-working, and kind to everyone he meets. He is the epitome of inclusion, serving as President of our Strategic Alliances organization, as well as serving as a vice president on my board for Women in Business. He’s definitely one I look up to and one of the first I seek advice from in my class. I’m glad to not only call him a fellow classmate, but a dear friend as well.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It’s hard to say any one person influenced my decision. It was more of a culmination of various people and myself. My mom is one of the strongest people I know and my biggest cheerleader, and my dad has always pushed me since I was a little girl to be the best I can be, reminding me that an education is the one thing no one can ever take from you. Both my parents were first generation college graduates, and I actually am the first in my family who will graduate with a master’s degree! It’s been a long road, but thanks to them, a very patient boyfriend, and lots of coffee, I achieved it.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in law school.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? If I were dean for a day and had a magic wand to invoke change at the drop of a hat, I would like to see a day where business school classes were an even 50/50 with both men and women. Even though we’re in the “age of the woman,” there is still very much an evident gap between the sexes specifically in business school enrollment. Just from personal experience, I think there is a big misconception that business school is a “waste” for a woman who wants both a career and a family. I couldn’t disagree more – I think having this level of an education has better prepared me to go into a professional role with the tools I will need to succeed and balance my personal life. An education is never wasted.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I’m fortunate enough to have completed a rather large portion of my bucket list at this point in my life (one of which was to obtain a graduate degree!). I think one of my “top” items or goals would be to truly master the Spanish language – I used to be able to speak it fairly fluently during my time abroad, and it’s a life-long goal to continue that. A rather ambitious goal would be to write a book or a screenplay at some point in my life.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope they remember me as kind and inclusive and a dependable, hard worker that they were able to count on.

What is your favorite movie about business? While I love the movie Wall Street for obvious reasons, I’m going to take this a different route and say a more recent movie called Joy. It was refreshing to see a movie take on a much less represented narrative of a single mother with an idea and the grit to pursue it and succeed. There’s no one more determined than a mom with a motive and everything to lose. It was the ultimate ‘girl-power’ movie and makes you want to go after the world by the horns after watching it.

What would your theme song be?Bodak Yellow” by Cardi B (clean version, of course)

Favorite vacation spot: Kiawah Island, SC

Hobbies? Traveling, trying new fitness classes, walks around White Rock Lake in Dallas, Netflix binging, yoga, and I have recently rekindled my love of cooking.

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

“I have sponsored the Cox Women in Business Club for fifteen+ years and watched its annual programming ebb and flow under the leadership of each year’s new president. Though there have been two or three other exceptional presidents, I do not recall anyone who was a better, more effective leader than Sarah Caldwell.  She has been on top of things from the start, well before she and I even connected. Her executive meetings are well-planned and delivered. They include detailed advanced agendas, which reflect careful planning, teamwork, and thoughtful delegation.  She is sensitive to nuances—everything from the specific requests of a busy guest speaker to the smallest details of any event. The programs she has organized this year have been well-attended and well-received, something that simply does not occur without careful orchestration. Sarah’s success as the leader of this organization also demonstrates that she is putting to good use her range of business school experiences, as well as her past professional experience.    

Sarah deserves appropriate honors for leadership and administration, not to mention her contributions in the classroom and as an integral member of the SMU Cox MBA Class of 2018.  She gets five stars in my book!”

Barbara Kinkaid, JD, LLM S

Senior Lecturer in Business Law, SMU Cox School of Business





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