2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Tiana Birawer, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Tiana Birawer

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

“Striving to learn, grow and improve her community, all while having fun.”

Hometown: Cape Coral, FL

Fun fact about yourself: I was in an episode of Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Florida, BS Journalism, Minor Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Ryan Companies, Regional Marketing Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? General Mills, Minneapolis, MN

Where will you be working after graduation? General Mills, Associate Marketing Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Association, Vice President of External Relations (second year)
  • MBA Association, Social Chair (first year)
  • Minnesota Women’s Leadership Conference, Logistics Chair
  • Arts and Business Club, Board Member
  • Carlson School Diversity & Inclusion, Graduate Assistant
  • Graduate Business Career Center, Peer Coach
  • Carlson Brands Enterprise, Graduate Teaching Assistant
  • Carlson MBA Women’s Mentorship Program, Mentor
  • Carlson MBA Admissions, Student Fellow
  • MBA Class Gift, Chair
  • Case Competitions: 2018 Elite 8 (3rd Place), 2018 Small Business Case Comp (2nd Place)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of my work as a Diversity & Inclusion Graduate Assistant. Working with our admissions team, I get to meet with prospective students and help them along their journey from inquiry to matriculation. We spend time working with young adults, especially communities of color and women, getting them to see that an MBA can be a great stepping stone to career advancement. I had a friend help push me to get my MBA, and now I am humbled to be able to help others. 

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I was working, I was president of a local chapter of the Society of Marketing Professional Services. The mission of the organization was to educate, connect, and advocate for marketers. I was able to lead my chapter to record attendance and membership levels and introduced new programming and philanthropic events. At the end of my presidency, I was awarded President of the Year by the national association, beating out more than 60 other presidents. The award was a direct link to the hard and dedication of my fellow board members and I was thrilled to bring home the award.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? David Hopkins – Dave leads the brand management experiential learning courses. Dave is a great teacher, helping students gain the needed skills to go back into the workplace. I appreciate that Dave didn’t hold my hand in learning, but instead steered me to projects and teams based on my post-MBA goals. I know that I can directly tie my success at my internship this past summer to the tools and experience that I received in Dave’s class.

Why did you choose this business school? The Carlson School is a major connector and business resource in the greater Twin Cities area. When I was making the decision to go back to school, I met with many women that I admired in my life and realized that so many of them got their MBA at the Carlson School. The network was a strong draw, as well as career opportunities and high career placement statistics.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself. Getting into business school is more than just your GMAT score. The Carlson School is looking to make a robust, diverse class each year. With an intimate program like ours, each person brings something unique and different to the classroom. Figure out what you bring to the table and make sure the atoms see that.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? That you should stick to your “why”. The pressure cooker environment that is business school makes a lot of students lose or forget the reasons why they returned to school. But you need to be true to yourself. Just because everyone is chasing after one company, doesn’t mean you have too. Stay firm in your goals, whether they be top 3 consulting, or simply getting a better job.

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’s made me realize that I have what it takes to be a senior-level executive at any company. Many times before school, I would compare myself to others and think that they were smarter than I was, had better connections, or had better working experience. The truth is there was no magic to their success. Getting my MBA has really allowed me to unlock the potential inside and know that I can strive and achieve my dreams.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire Napoleon Howell. He is one of the hardest workers I know, setting incredible goals for himself and then figuring out how to achieve them. Napoleon was the first one of our class to secure an internship, he brought back lapsed alumni into the fold, and he has raised money for charities that affect our community. When I get stuck, I know I can simply talk to Napoleon and he will be able to get me motivated with a game plan to move forward.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was influenced to get my MBA by the lack of diversity in the C-Suite my previous companies. Many of the managers and leaders had MBAs and started realizing that was the key to continuing to advance and move up in my career. In addition, I had several friends who got their MBA’s at the Carlson School, and I saw the changes they made during and after school and I wanted to be a part of that world.

What is your favorite movie about business? Trading Places. It shows that given the right opportunity, we can all succeed in business.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? There are so many overused business terms that they all start sounding goofy – core competencies, leverage, 30,000-foot view – the list goes on-and-on.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…marketing director at a real estate development firm.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I can’t put a dollar value on my education. I’ve gained way more than classroom knowledge. I’ve met some of the most interesting and inspiring classmates; I’ve traveled and learned about business in other cultures, and I’ve helped local companies with strategic brand and marketing problems. These opportunities are worth more than the price of tuition. In fact, they are priceless.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Become a C-level executive and learn how to fold a fitted sheet.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as a friend who cared about everyone and was inclusive, and who liked to have made even the dullest parts of life fun and bright.

Hobbies? I enjoy trying new restaurants and breweries with my husband, listening to all types of music, and planning our next travel adventure.

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

“Tiana is an incredibly active and engaged community builder at the Carlson School of Management. She is a leader in Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work, serving on multiple committees and as the full-time MBA program office’s teaching assistant for diversity. She also supports our recruiting efforts and has been instrumental in the structuring of the Carlson Admissions Buddy program for admitted students.

In the classroom, Tiana is a strong leader and performer in her experiential learning teams. She has shown outstanding commitment to supporting the School’s programming for women as a key member of the Women’s Leadership Conference planning committee.

She serves as vice president of external relations on the MBAA student government.”

Philip Miller

Assistant Dean, MBA & MS Programs



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