2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Nathan Stevens, University of Michigan (Ross)

Nathan Stevens

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Risk-taker addressing big problems without taking myself too seriously.”

Hometown: East Grand Rapids, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: I was once evacuated out of Libya.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Yale University, BA Political Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Norwegian Refugee Council, Cash and Livelihoods Sector Advisor – Erbil, Iraq

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Align Impact – Santa Monica, California

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company – Middle East Office, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Recipient – Skip and Carrie Gordon Scholarship Award for having “demonstrated an outstanding commitment towards pursuing avenues to solve complex social challenges”
  • Director of Investment – Social Venture Fund
  • Coach – Michigan Sailing Team
  • Selected Participant – Sanger Leadership Center’s Ross Leaders Academy
  • Treasurer – Net Impact at Ross
  • Student Ambassador & Strategic Taskforce Member – Ross Business + Impact
  • Coach – Michigan Business Challenge

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of leading investments for the University of Michigan’s Social Venture Fund. SVF is the first student-run impact venture capital fund in the country and I was responsible for leading 40 of my fellow students through the entire investment process – from sourcing deals to executing investments. I love the challenge of engaging and leading peers while diving deep into the impact investing world. Of all the things I did at business school, the experience was the strongest preparation for my future career.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While working in Turkey, I developed and implemented the first NGO-led good governance training for newly-elected Local Councils in Northern Syria, the first democratically-elected bodies in Syria since the start of the Civil War. The program tied community services and utilities with capacity building for these nascent governments. In total, I led programming that provided assistance to over 750,000 Syrians affected by the ongoing conflict. For as much as the program did, it was clearly not enough, leading me to search for larger, more sustainable solutions to support populations in need.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Finance and the Sustainable Enterprise – The course was the hardest I have taken at Ross. I was surrounded by investment bankers who were far more comfortable with the concepts and models being used, and yet I have never been happier with the community of learning that Ross fosters. The course examined the unique financial valuation and management issues faced by a sustainable business and compared them with more traditional and modern financial methods in enabling corporations to develop and implement sustainable strategies.

Why did you choose this business school? I wanted a school with a strong focus on social impact and the resources to actively engage through experiential learning. I was also excited to be close to home after having lived in the Middle East for the past few years and the East Coast before that. It didn’t hurt that my sister and father both have business degrees from Michigan as well.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be extremely honest with yourself about what you want out of a school and where you want to be in two years. The MBA program is a rush – with more opportunities than you can possibly take advantage of, and it is easy to be swept in it all and try to do everything. Be authentic in what you are hoping to achieve and remember to check back in on those goals throughout your time at school.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? There are too many things to write here, but I would first tell myself to take time to prepare before jumping in (i.e. don’t show up the night before orientation and think everything will be smooth). The MBA program is a unique blend of school and work, yet I don’t feel past experiences at either work or previous schooling prepared me for it. This is an investment of time and resources; take time, talk to people who have done it before you, and be prepared.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? The past two years have not been a perfectly linear path to my next career step, but they have been an excellent time to reflect on the work I have done previously, what mistakes I have made, what my strengths (and weaknesses) are, and how to improve myself. School has also given me the mental and functional tools to approach problems from a stronger analytical framework. I’ve also learned a huge amount about myself – from feedback from peers to self-reflection – that has helped me evolve from how I defined myself through my work prior to school to who I want to be after school.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Bidnam Lee – Bidnam leads Story Lab at Ross, a hugely popular series of storytelling workshops and events that encourage Ross students to improve their speaking ability and presence through telling personal stories. Bidnam and I have had the opportunity to compete together in a large pitch competition and as board members for Net Impact. He continually brings his story crafting skills to the team, pushing us to define our message and inspire action by giving meaning and arc to the solutions proposed. Bidnam is deeply involved in Design + Business at school and worked at VSA Partners this past summer, a global creative and strategy agency that was a little too cool for me to fully understand.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I do not think any one person convinced me to go to business school. Rather, it was the experience and frustration of working in international economic development in post-conflict settings without the organizational structures and economic framework to achieve difficult goals. This experience pushed me to look for a better, more economically sustainable approach while improving my ability to manage an organization in a challenging environment.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? ABC – Anything But Consulting

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…getting my degree in International Relations and appreciating the absence of Excel.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Business school taught me that value is what one is willing to pay, so I’ll have to say somewhere around $160,000. I got a job that I would not have been able to get without an MBA, so I think it was worth it but check back in a few years for me to give a more definitive response.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I would like to: 1) Skydive over Namibian sand dunes; and 2) run my own investment fund focused on emerging post-conflict markets.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I challenged the status quo – both among my peers and the faculty / administration – to encourage and empower students to address complex problems that business school can give us the tools to fix but not the direction to do so.

Hobbies? Traveling, Cooking, Reading, Sailing, Soccer

What made Nathan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Nathan Stevens has many unique qualities that make him stand out at a top business school. He possesses the ideal combination of academic curiosity and interest in practical applications of state-of-the-art business frameworks. These stellar qualities, when combined with his deep interest in using business to create impact beyond the boundaries of a company, make Nathan truly exceptional. Impact has become the new way to differentiate yourself, but Nathan’s walk more than matches his talk. He has led the entire Investment process of the Social Venture Fund, probably the most rigorous academic and action-based-learning experience at Ross managed by me. This involves overseeing the sourcing of 150+ deals, leading the due diligence process, the selection of a company for investment, and the closing of the deal. Most of us do not get such an experience in our lifetimes. Nathan is also deeply involved in many other impact initiatives and has pushed himself to also take some of our most challenging and advanced courses on sustainability.”

Gautam Kaul

Professor of Finance

Robert G. Rodkey Collegiate Professor of Business Administration

Stephen M. Ross School of Business



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