2018 MBAs To Watch: Laura Richards, University of Texas (McCombs)

Laura Richards

University of Texas, McCombs School of Business

“I’m action-oriented and find great meaning in creating value for under-resourced communities.”

Age: 27

Hometown: Santa Rosa, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I played the drums for 10 years.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Master of Global Policy Studies, University of Texas at Austin; Bachelors in Intensive Psychology, University of California at Santa Cruz

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Ryther (inpatient facility for mentally ill foster children), Program Supervisor

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Deloitte Human Capital, New York

Where will you be working after gradua9on? Deloitte Human Capital, Senior Consultant

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I served as the Co-VP of External Relations for Board Fellows, VP of Social Impact for Net Impact, Board Member of CATCH Global Foundation and facilitator of Open Dialogues.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As the VP of Social Impact for Net Impact, I organized an event on technology and gentrification in Austin and was able to secure not only an incrediblepanel of speakers, but also Former Secretary of HUD, Julian Castro as an opening speaker. I am especially proud of this event because it served as an engaging platform for MBAs to consider the negative impacts of tech in Austin and discuss solutions.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I started an NGO, called Business Innovations for Good, the summer before joining McCombs. Business Innovations for Good is a free entrepreneurship training program for women in Uganda and there’s nothing more I am proud of than having gotten the program funded, keeping it free for the women my organization supports.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor John Doggett was my favorite because he encouraged students to have difficult conversations with each other, fostering healthy debate in every class.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite course was New Venture Creation and the biggest insight about business that I will take forward is the importance of knowing your customer.

Why did you choose this business school? Both the dual degree program with the policy school and the team spirited culture made McCombs my top choice.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Have a positive attitude and reach out to people at McCombs early on, they’re always willing to chat.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that we’re in Texas so it’s highly conservative. Not true. Although it is more conservative than a coastal school, we’re in Austin and it’s a very progressive town.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not spending more individual time getting to know some of my professors.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Teresa Bayer because she is the most joyous person in our program and makes absolutely everyone feel appreciated and welcome.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The CEO of the nonprofit I was working for before I came back to school was a powerful woman with an MBA and a role model of mine, and I knew to reach her level I would need an MBA.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working on women’s economic empowerment in Uganda.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would set up more opportunities for MBAs to connect with the other incredible scholars, practitioners, and academics across campus to encourage more cross-pollinated learning.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Skydiving and seeing the northern lights in Iceland.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A dedicated team member, a loyal friend, and a positive community member.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Big Short. The greatest lesson from that film was the importance of continually critically assessing one’s assumptions about the status quo.

What would your theme song be? “Runnin’ Down a Dream” by Tom Petty

Favorite vacation spot: Zanzibar, Tanzania

Hobbies? Yoga, reading, hiking, and learning new languages

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

“Laura is an agent of social change. She has big ideas about social impact and she is unafraid to tackle them head-on. In fact, she literally has BIG Ideas, her Business Innovations for Good non-for-profit. Business Innovations for Good provides training in entrepreneurship and sustainable business development to women in East Africa. BIG ideas teaches women the essentials of budgeting, project management, marketing, accounting, and sustainable development to help their clients spearhead their own businesses. In her final semester of business school, she is studying abroad in India exploring doing similar work there.

As a dual degree student with the LBJ School of Public Policy, Laura is graduating with an MBA/MGPS (Master of Global Policy Studies). During her time at McCombs, she served as a VP with Board Fellows organization, helping place almost 50 students with not-for-profit boards in the Austin Community.

Professor John Doggett says Laura is a “born leader and a really bright and fun to be with person. Her work on her group project was exceptional. There is no doubt in my mind that Laura will be an outstanding corporate leader sooner than most.” Laura has consistently encouraged dialog and debate amongst her peers in the classroom and beyond. Through her work with Net Impact, she organized a panel on the gentrification of our city “Is Austin the Next San Francisco? Tech, Gentrification, and the Future of Our City” with Julian Castro, Former Secretary of HUD and she hosted Open Dialogues, our series to discuss hot social topics on campus. I have no doubt that Laura will continue to think big and be a constant force for change. I look forward to seeing what she tackles next.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean