Meet Washington Olin’s MBA Class Of 2020

Kris Fenn

Washington University’s Olin Business School in St. Louis

Recovering public sector groupie, ready to explore the intersection between strategy and human capital.”

Hometown: Salt Lake City, Utah

Fun Fact About Yourself: I dig true crime podcasts and documentaries.

Undergraduate School and Major:

               Bachelor of Arts in Women’s Studies: Wesleyan College, Macon GA

Master of Public Administration: University of Utah

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Program Manager, David Eccles School of Business, University of Utah

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I led the University of Utah Alternative Breaks team in restructuring and building their program to focus on stronger community partnerships, measurable impact, and diversity and inclusion programming. As a result, we were named “Program of the Year” in 2014.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Generous: My classmates are willing to go above and beyond to make you feel welcome, explain a concept, or deeply explore a tough case study.

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? I developed a matrix to compare programs, and WashU consistently delivered on my priorities. While career placement, average salary, and the program’s academic rigor narrowed my list to 15 schools, my highest priority was diverse representation and program culture. I am thrilled to be a member of the 2020 class which houses the highest percentage of women Olin has ever seen. This is merely one data point that indicates the commitment Olin’s administration, staff, and faculty have to supporting diverse representation. During Women’s Weekend, Olin’s leadership talked openly about gender equity (among other equity topics) and explained their strategy for empowering individuals to address systemic disparities. The concepts of identity and inclusion were integrated into our orientation, and the students chosen for this program value this asset of our community. At Olin, I felt at home.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Olin’s Center for Experiential Learning projects provide real work experience for real world change. You are paired with a company, startup, local nonprofit, or national NGO to dig in and solve critical issues facing their organization. I am excited to work with nonprofits in St. Louis—an area I am quickly falling in love with! I also plan to be a part of the Olin Women in Business organization. They have several exciting initiatives happening around equity and ally ship I am eager to explore.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I enjoyed my time in the public sector, where I developed a strong sense of my ethics and values through my experience. After finishing a Master Degree in Public Administration and working in the field for another five years, I was struggling to identify future pathways for me that would provide the challenge and growth I craved. I started looking at alternative pathways and industries to apply my experience and skillsets to, and quickly realized that an MBA could help me pivot into the private sector and develop a business acumen.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? The ROI on an MBA is magnificent, especially for a previous public-sector employee. My decision formula was as follows:

If the following formula proved true, I felt it would be worth it:

(Mean Salary at end of B-School) – (Current Public-Sector Salary) > Anticipated Loans

The ROI is much more than a salary, however. At Olin, specifically, the network of alumni and peers I am instantly connected to was a large factor for me. This community will go out of its way to support and develop its own, and that investment was worth a higher cost for me.  Now that I am in and taking courses, I realize the education I am receiving delivers a value above the tuition amount. The faculty both challenge and support us, and the academic rigor expected in the classroom is demanding.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Notre Dame, University of Illinois, Vanderbilt, Rice

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I looked at school ranking, academic rigor, job placement, average salary, and company placement to start to narrow my search of schools. From there, I looked deeper at the culture and fit with the institution such as a clear focus on inclusion and diversity, social impact initiatives, and the representation of women the school reflected. From there, I frequented Poets & Quants, and researched cultural fit by talking to current and past students. I didn’t have the funds to visit many places, so I gleaned what I could from my interactions with the staff/students, and online resources.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? In my prior job, one of my responsibilities was creating and delivering diversity and inclusion trainings to students, staff, and faculty. To be able to perform in that arena, I had to do a lot of work on my own personal biases. This process was transformative and served as a catalyst for how I view and interpret the world in a more analytical way. It has shifted my approach to teaming, and how I engage with my community.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I have some exploring to do. In reflecting on my experience, I thrive at the intersection of strategy and human capital. I am fulfilled when I am building a team, goal-setting, and coaching a team to success. I hope to transfer this passion into the HR strategy and change management field.

Where do you see yourself in five years? My partner and I will definitely have adopted a dog or two, and I anticipate I will be developing the future workforce at an organization or company I resonate with.

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