Meet The MBA Class Of 2020: Profiles In Courage

Sophia Duncan

University of Toronto, Rotman School of Management

“Quirky, curious, softhearted nerd obsessed with food, the outdoors, and social justice.”

Hometown: Newton, MA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I love to go on long canoe trips. For our honeymoon, my partner and I went on an amazing 25 day canoe trip in Wabakimi Provincial Park in Northern Ontario and brought all our own dehydrated food.

Undergraduate School and Major:  Wesleyan University, History

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Milton Community Youth Coalition, Youth Programs and Food Access Coordinator

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While managing a farmers market in rural Vermont, we more than doubled our vendors’ total sales from the previous season, and increased federal food benefit redemption by low-income community members by 172%.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Approachable. The classmates I’ve met so far have such impressive accomplishments and backgrounds but are still so approachable, friendly, and interesting to talk to.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Class diversity was a huge factor for me. Coming from three years living in Vermont, which is certainly not known for its diversity, working with and learning from diverse peers was a big priority. When I visited Rotman and sat in on a class, I was particularly struck by students’ diverse backgrounds not just in country of origin but also in work experience and career goals.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m looking forward to joining Rotman Net Impact and also getting back on the soccer field.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt I was learning a lot in my day to day work, but needed a serious skill boost to move forward in my career. I considered Planning and Public Policy programs but decided that an MBA would be the best fit and would provide essential leadership and financial skills as well as a greater degree of career flexibility.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Primarily, I spoke with mentors, family friends, and acquaintances in fields that I’m interested in. I also looked at school salary reports.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Yale School Of Management

 How did you determine your fit at various schools? I wanted to find both academic rigor and a supportive community. I knew I wanted to get a strong foundation in classic MBA skills like finance, accounting, management, etc., but also wanted some flexibility to learn about my specific career priorities. I looked at Poets and Quants, spoke with admissions and with current students, visited a class at Rotman, and did a lot of online research to determine which schools would be a good fit. Finally, I put a lot of thought into school location and how that fit with my partner’s and my plans for the future.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I spent 2013-2014 in Morocco on a Fulbright Research grant. My focus was on traditional food and ideas about authenticity, and I traveled around the country learning from farmers, rural cooperatives, home cooks, chefs and restaurateurs. I loved speaking Moroccan Arabic, and spent most of my time asking taxi drivers, elderly ladies, and anyone else who would listen endless questions about food. That year really shaped my world view, solidified my interest in working with rural communities, and strengthened my ability to adapt to a different environment, to work independently, and to forge a network in another language (and often with shaky phone reception).

 What do you plan to do after you graduate? I plan to work in a non-profit or social enterprise focused on social and economic justice.

Where do you see yourself in five years? I hope to start my own non-profit or consulting organization in Ontario. I plan to work with community members and farmers to facilitate equal access to food and land while building strong, just rural communities.

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