2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Nile Imani Marshall, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Nile Imani Marshall

Owen Graduate School of Management, Vanderbilt University

First a New Yorker, 
then a Washingtonian. 
From student to teacher, 
and back again.

Hometown: Chestnut Ridge, New York

Fun fact about yourself: My friends and I founded Georgetown University’s first urban a capella group specializing in jazz, gospel, R&B, and soul music.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgetown University, BS in Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? DC Prep Benning Middle School, 4th Grade Math Teacher

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Human Capital Summer Associate, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Atlanta GA

Where will you be working after graduation? Human Capital Senior Consultant, Deloitte Consulting LLP, Atlanta GA

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Cecil and Amy Jorgensen Conlee Diversity Scholarship
  • Owen Admissions Campus Visit Coordinator
  • Fellow, Vanderbilt University Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership
  • President, Owen Black Students Association
  • Vice President of Events, Human and Organizational Performance Association
  • Peer Coach, Owen Career Management Center
  • Member, Dean’s Diversity Advisory Board
  • Mentor, National Black MBA Vanderbilt Undergraduate Chapter

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the volunteer work I participated in through the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership. I worked on an interdisciplinary team with two graduate students to build out an updated social media strategy for the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI), a non-profit organization working to disrupt systems of harm and create opportunities for autonomy and success by providing college access to people inside Tennessee prisons. The goal of the social media strategy is to provide a platform for THEI to eliminate bias by sharing student, faculty, and THEI supporters’ stories.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of leaving the classroom as an instructor and returning to the classroom as a graduate student to round out my professional experience. As a teacher in both Ward 7 and Ward 8 in Washington, D.C., areas with a majority African-American population and the lowest income per capita in the city, I directly experienced how funding and policy decisions impact student outcomes. During my second year of teaching, I created alternatives for students lagging behind. I developed a math club where students received tutoring during their lunch breaks. I utilized blended learning strategies, peer mentors, and small group tutoring during weekly after-school tutoring sessions. In the spring, I held Saturday morning remediation sessions for students below the 30th percentile. By utilizing these strategies, students’ standardized test scores increased an average of 15% after my second year of teaching. I grew significantly on the personal front while I was teaching, but I returned to school to grow professionally and further develop my business acumen.

What was your favorite MBA Course? My favorite MBA Course is Innovation Strategy, taught by Professor David Owens. Innovation Strategy is a course designed to teach students how to manage creativity, innovation, and change in business. We approached innovation in three phases: generating, assessing, and implementing our ideas to solve a business problem for a Nashville-based client. I loved how the course utilized a hands-on approach to learning for students to develop conceptual understanding of the subject matter.

Why did you choose this business school? Owen’s strong sense of community was evident throughout the application process. When I asked admissions officers and students what makes Owen unique, the first response was almost always, “the people.” Now that I am a member of the Owen community, I have had the opportunity to experience the warm and caring community first-hand. Owen students, faculty, and staff are invested in the success of everyone in the Owen family. The small class size allowed me to find my personal fit and develop relationships with members of the Owen community.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Create a project plan, and start as soon as possible! Make a list of deliverables for each school and work backward from the deadlines. Be sure to allow time for essay revisions. Allow ample time to study for the GMAT each day and create a progress monitoring tool. Be mindful of how you will balance work, studying for the GMAT, and completing your applications.

Craft your story. The goal of your application is to paint a holistic picture of who you are as a candidate and demonstrate the value you will add to a school’s community. Identify your long-term and short-term goals and what is driving you to pursue them. Identify personal and professional achievements and capture how those achievements will diversify your prospective school’s student body.

Attend preview days or weekends. This is the best time to get a feel for a school’s culture because you can attend classes, engage with faculty and students, and learn more about what makes a particular program unique. Preview days also allow school faculty and admissions officers to get to know you as a candidate. If you cannot attend preview days, be sure to attend information sessions when prospective schools are in your city.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Business School has been transformative for me because it provided me with an opportunity to expand my leadership skills and strategic thinking ability.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Caitlyn Harrison is the classmate I most admire. Not only is she brilliant, she speaks Mandarin and is a finance whiz, but Caitlyn embodies integrity. She treats all of her classmates with kindness, builds genuine relationships, and has been a role model for me and the class of 2019.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My former student, Z. Parker, influenced me to return to school for two reasons. I taught Z. Parker twice, in fifth and seventh grade. Z. Parker is driven and ambitious and knew she wanted to attend Stanford University since she was in sixth grade. One day, Z. and I were chatting about college, and she asked why I only went to college once. That conversation gave me pause and caused me to think about how I taught middle school students knowledge is power, and college unlocks a world of opportunity, but I was afraid to apply to graduate school.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…I would be a natural hair social media influencer so I can use my platform to advocate for black women in Corporate America and disrupt the Eurocentric standard of beauty that had traditionally been established for us in the workplace. We are living in a time when “diversity and inclusion” is a hot topic in corporate America, and employees are encouraged to bring their authentic selves to work. However, wearing natural hair has been criticized for decades as an embodiment of “blackness” and has been a point of contention for black women in the workplace. If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be a natural hair influencer to not only raise awareness around the challenges women of color face when they choose to wear their hair in their natural state, but also celebrate the beauty of being happy with who we are and not changing ourselves to make other people feel more comfortable.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? The value of an MBA is priceless. It was worth the tuition payment.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • See the Nile River. My name is Nile Imani, and I want to see the beauty of the longest river in the world. Even though I am named after the river, I’ve never had the opportunity to travel to Africa to see it in person.
  • Teach myself how to play acoustic guitar and perform at an open mic night in Nashville before I graduate. I have been playing woodwinds since fourth grade– clarinet, alto and tenor sax, and would love to learn how to play a string instrument.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I want my classmates to remember me as someone who embodies integrity, a person who remains true to herself and her values and treats everyone with respect and kindness.

Hobbies? I am a fashionable eyeglass enthusiast who loves to read young adult books.

What made Nile Marshall such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“Nile is someone who embodies integrity, a person who remains true to herself and her values, and treats everyone with respect and kindness. She is a broad and deep thinker and fully embraced every aspect of her Owen experience. She seized this unique opportunity for personal growth but remained committed to enhancing the experience of her classmates by sharing the richness of her previous experiences in the corporate and educational sectors. Nile was awarded the 2018 “Heart of the Class” SP award where students in the class of 2019 nominated and voted for a classmate who embodied Owen’s culture, community, and values. Her leadership experiences were numerous and impactful.

Nile served as an Owen Admissions Campus Visit Coordinator where she co-planned admissions preview weekends. The CVC team proposed an update to Welcome Weekend 2019 with the intent to yield a year over year increase in the percentage of students who accept their offers post-Welcome Weekend. The proposal was accepted by the Director of Admissions and will be implemented in April 2019. Additionally, Nile planned and facilitated diversity symposium for prospective students of color which included creating a current/prospective student buddy program, coordinating welcome breakfast hosted by OBSA, moderating student/alum panel, and planning social events. In her role as President of the Owen Black Students Association (OBSA), Nile revamped the Ed Alston speaker series by bringing four black CEOs in for a month-long series. In this capacity, she has also served a mentor to National Black MBA Vanderbilt Undergraduate Chapter and helped build out the NBMBAA mentor program which paired undergraduate students with MBA students pursuing careers in the undergraduate student’s intended field of interest. Nile led the effort to design a pre-MLK day lecture with Mr. Kwame Lillard, a Nashville freedom rider, who shared his experiences being at the forefront of the Nashville civil rights movement and OBSA week to highlight achievements of black Americans. Nile is also a member of the Dean’s Diversity Advisory Board.

As Vice President of Events, Human and Organizational Performance Association, Nile orchestrated recruiting and educational events for students pursuing a human + organizational performance concentration. Events included HOP Symposium, Lunch and Learns with HRLDP recruiters, and lunch and learn to explore Tim Vogus + Jessica Kennedy’s research. Additionally, she served as a Peer Coach, Owen Career Management Center, focusing on HOP students as they prepared to apply to internships.

Her leadership over the past two years has reached beyond Owen.  She has been a committed participant in the Cal Turner Program for Moral Leadership where she worked on an interdisciplinary team with two graduate students to build out an updated social media strategy for the Tennessee Higher Education Initiative (THEI), a non-profit organization working to disrupt systems of harm and create opportunities for autonomy and success by providing college access to people inside Tennessee prisons. The goal of the social media strategy was to provide a platform for THEI to eliminate bias by sharing student, faculty, and THEI supporters’ stories.

Nile has been a phenomenal contributor to her class, Owen more broadly and Vanderbilt.”

Melissa C. Thomas-Hunt, Ph.D.
Vice Provost for Inclusive Excellence
Professor of Management
Owen Graduate School of Management

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