Meet Washington Foster’s MBA Class Of 2020

Maggie Polachek

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

I am a mission-driven problem solver.”

Hometown: San Anselmo, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am passionate about summer camp! I spent seven years as a camper and three years as a counselor at Camp Tawonga, a sleep-away summer camp right outside of Yosemite National Park. I now serve on Camp Tawonga’s Young Alumni Board as a way to pay it forward.

Undergraduate School and Major: Wellesley College, Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Employer: Center for American Progress; Title: Director of President’s Initiatives

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At the Center for American Progress (CAP), the country’s largest progressive think tank and major advocacy organization, I worked with our President and Development Team to devise and implement the President’s fundraising strategy. Following the 2016 election, we needed to raise more money than ever before to ensure that we could grow and operate to meet the challenges of the new political era. We set a goal to raise our budget by 25% by the end of 2017. I created new internal processes to streamline communication between the President’s Office and the Development Team and helped to re-vamp some of our donor outreach practices. Not only did we meet our goal to raise 25% more than our 2016 budget, we exceeded that goal by $1 million. It was definitely a team effort, but I’ve never felt better about the value I added towards meeting such a critical goal.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Warm. Foster students, both current and incoming, are remarkably warm. From the moment I was accepted into the program, I received friendly emails from current students who were eager to share insights and answer questions as I made my decision. The warmth of the Foster Community was also in full display during Foster’s Welcome Weekend. I was blown away by the inclusiveness of the student body. Even my fiancé, who will be joining me in Seattle, was welcomed to Foster with so much enthusiasm. I can’t wait to contribute to this incredible community.

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? It really was all about fit for me. Of course, Foster’s incredible job placement statistics along with its incomparable location in Seattle drew me in, but what sealed the deal was the “Foster Fit” I felt when I was on campus. One of Foster’s mottos is “We > Me.” Foster students live and breathe that mentality – that we are always stronger together than we are on our own. I knew that I wanted to pursue my MBA at Foster because I believe Foster’s ethos of collaboration is critical for future leaders to embrace.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Women’s leadership has always been extremely important to me and I can’t wait to get involved with Foster’s Women in Business Club. We continue to live in a world where women are paid less than their male counterparts, and those discrepancies are even worse for women of color. I believe that providing support systems for women and educating male allies on the challenges that women face at work is an important step towards ending gender inequality in the workplace. As a member of WiB, I hope to work with the admissions office on recruiting efforts that target women. I am also excited to bring in women speakers from the business, government, and nonprofit sectors to share their experiences and advice.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have always thought an MBA would be the right graduate degree for me. While working in Washington, D.C., I learned that while I cared tremendously about policy as an engaged citizen, my professional talents were in strategy, operations and as I say, “running things.” Eventually, I realized that I was lacking the quantitative skills necessary to effectively manage large organizations, and that the time was right to go back to school to develop that important skillset.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? Foster boasts impressive post-graduate salaries and a very low debt to salary ratio, so those figures were meaningful indicators that the ROI on my Foster MBA would be high. But beyond traditional metrics, I firmly believe that taking two years to fine-tune my strengths and work on my weaknesses will empower me to be a better employee, leader, and citizen moving forward.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Berkeley Haas, UCLA Anderson, USC Marshall

How did you determine your fit at various schools? My career goals of social impact and social enterprise, while increasingly popular among MBAs, are not your run of the mill post-MBA pursuits. Therefore, it was very important to me that the school I attended had connections to local nonprofit and philanthropic organizations. I found Foster’s relationship with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be incredibly exciting. I also wanted to be sure that the student body was socially conscious, which I was able to get a sense of through my many conversations with students at each school and by reading profiles of students and alumni featured on Poets and Quants. Ultimately, though, the best way for me to evaluate fit was to visit during the welcome weekends and Foster’s welcome weekend really sealed the deal!

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? In high school, I created a club to raise awareness about the genocide in Sudan. At the time, the crisis in Darfur was at an all-time high. After learning about the issue, I felt compelled to do something. What I thought would be a club with just a few students grew into a campus movement with over 100 active members. We raised thousands of dollars to aid Sudanese refugees, and soon, even parents were reading up on the situation and getting involved themselves. What I was most proud of, however, was a mandatory assembly that our club hosted for the entire student body. We brought in a San Francisco Chronicle photojournalist who showed us the harrowing images he had captured on the front lines of the conflict. Devoting precious classroom time to a social justice issue was unheard of at my public high school, yet somehow, we convinced the principal and school administrators to break away from protocol and made it happen. This experience was a defining moment for me. As my first foray into activism, it gave me the momentum I needed to emerge as a leader in college and inspired me to find a career that channeled my passion to help make the world a better place.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? I hope to work in a strategy role at a nonprofit or philanthropic organization, but would also be open to working on a corporate social responsibility or diversity and inclusion team at a private sector company.  I’m excited to explore my options at Foster this fall.

Where do you see yourself in five years? Three years after Foster, I hope to be settled into a job I love – hopefully at a nonprofit or philanthropic organization, or on a CSR or D&I team in the private sector. I also hope to be active in the Seattle community and still closely connected to my classmates who I know will be doing awesome things out in the world.

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