First Gen: Inspiring Stories Of MBAs Who Beat The Odds

Linda Horner

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

Class: 2020

Hometown: Kampala, Uganda

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have fallen so in love with Spanish Reggaeton that my YouTube ads all play in Spanish now. This would be fine, except that I don’t currently speak Spanish. I am ambitiously adding that to my to-do list during the two years of business school.

Undergraduate School and Major: The Master’s University; BS in Business Administration, with a concentration in Accounting.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Audit Project Manager for Delegation Agreements at Aetna

What did your parents do for a living? My father was an army officer in the Uganda People’s Defense Forces, and my mother was a stay-at-home mom.

What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your father? Both my parents graduated high school.

Which of your family members is your biggest inspiration? Why? My mother.

Growing up, my father was not around because he was fighting the war in Northern Uganda. This was very challenging for my mother, especially because we often would not hear from my father for months at a time. I remember her strength, playing the role of a mother and a father, making sure we never worried about anything. Not only did she raise us, but she also raised my cousins during a financially and emotionally difficult time. When she helped people, my mother made sure that she also empowered them to better their lives.

She would say, “akwenda amate nomuha ente,” which means “if someone asks you for milk, give them a cow.” She made sure we attended the best schools, which was challenging. I remember her spending countless hours in my grade school’s finance office asking for a tuition extension.

Now that I too am a mother, I want to be that kind of role model to my children. I want my sons, Peter and Michael, to see me as a woman who empowers individuals to become the best versions of themselves.

What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? From the time I was a child, my parents encouraged my siblings and me to pursue higher education so that we could achieve what they desired but did not accomplish. I cannot recall a specific moment in which I decided to pursue higher education. It was an expectation that I always embraced.

What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? I was worried that it might be difficult to go to college while adapting to American culture. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I adapted because I was in a very supportive small community.

What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? Because it was costly (international students do not get student loans), I worked hard to complete my undergraduate degree in three years, while also working. I took more than the average course load, which meant going on lots of “homework dates” with my boyfriend (now husband) and surviving with very little sleep.

What didn’t your family understand about the higher education experience that you wish they would understand better? My family has always been very supportive of me pursuing higher education. While I do not think they understand every aspect of my experience, they always lend a listening ear. I have thrived on their wisdom and encouragement.

What led you to pursue an MBA degree? I had always wanted to pursue further education, but the death of my cousin in Uganda made it more urgent. My cousin had been sick for a while. What had begun as a seemingly small pain in his foot grew to prevent him from standing, walking, or even performing the simplest of tasks. I sometimes wonder if it was ALS, but he died undiagnosed. Losing him and other loved ones reminded me of how bad the healthcare sector is back in Uganda. One day, I plan to take the sustainable business insights learned from my MBA education to help already established organizations utilize intelligent affordable solutions to improve healthcare access and delivery—providing the care that my cousin did not get.

I knew the tools I’d acquire in an MBA would help me do just that. This degree will give me an opportunity to build upon the core skills that I have developed in my career thus far, and become the kind of leader that uses my education to make a difference in my community.

How did you choose your MBA program? The Tuck School of Business was a no-brainer because it fit with my goal of learning more about the healthcare industry. At Tuck, I benefit from exposure to the renowned Center for Health Care and the opportunity to learn from industry influencers like Vijay Govindarajan. The academics are just icing on the cake.

I chose Tuck because of its tight-knit community. I have the opportunity to get to know my classmates and contribute to the community in an intimate setting. I experienced the Tuck community outside the classroom when I was going through the application process and again after I was accepted. I saw the support my husband received from the Tuck Partners Club and the love my two “Tiny Tuckies” would feel living in Sachem Village with other Tuck and Dartmouth families. All of my hopes for my MBA have come true.

One program offered close knit relationships with fellow students, professors, and industry leaders; world-renowned academics; and the support and culture perfect for families: Tuck.

What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? As I contemplate the next two years, I am worried about remaining focused. The MBA comes with a lot of wonderful opportunities, but not enough time to explore all of them. It is a balance. I have written down a list of priorities and the reasons why I came to Tuck to help me remain focused while not being afraid to try new things.

How are you able to finance your MBA as a first-generation student? I am attending Tuck as a Consortium for Graduate School of Management Fellow, Robert Toigo Foundation Fellow, and Credit-Suisse MBA Fellow. These organizations are pivotal in my ability to cover the cost of my MBA education.

What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? Do not be afraid to take the leap. When I started applying for MBA programs, I almost gave up because I thought I could not get into a top-ranked business school. I also worried about being able to afford the transition, since I knew it would require quitting my job and moving my family across the country to attend school for two years.

I would tell first-generation college students to think of the opportunities the MBA will present to them and encourage them seek financial assistance, if that is a worry. Never give up because of the obstacles you speculate that you may face along the way. In the end, the education we receive can be instrumental in changing the lives of our families and the communities from which we come from.

What do you plan to pursue after graduation? Post-MBA, I plan to go into investment banking, eventually specializing in healthcare investment banking. Ultimately, I would like to either work for the World Bank’s International Finance Corporation or in a start-up doing healthcare-related venture capital. My hope is that the MBA combined with my post-MBA career experience will give me enough expertise to start an advisory non-profit organization that could bring innovative low-cost solutions to improve healthcare access in Uganda.