2019 MBAs To Watch: Clare Quinlan, University of Chicago (Booth)

Clare Quinlan

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Enthusiast and lover of stories – the stories of people, art, organizations, cultures, and wines.”

Hometown: Princeton, NJ

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a super-fast reader. The year before I started business school I read 64 books.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Williams College, BA degrees in Art History and Spanish

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Manager of Individual Giving; Dia Art Foundation, New York

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? E&J Gallo Winery; Modesto, CA

Where will you be working after graduation? E&J Gallo Winery, Strategic Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Recipient of the merit-based Andrew M. Alper Honorary Scholarship; LEAD facilitator (one of 38 second years to create and deliver the leadership development curriculum to Booth first years); Co-chair of the Chicago Booth Wine Club; Chief officer of a startup competing in the Booth New Venture Challenge; Active member of the African-American MBA Association and the Dean’s Student Admissions Committee; and Squad leader for Booth’s First Day (accepted students’ weekend).

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being a LEAD facil was the best academic decision I made at Booth. It was the best possible use of my skills and also presented some of the most unexpected challenges – working with people is so tough and so rewarding all at once! I learned so much from my peers and honed my communication skills in ways I couldn’t have pulled off in my six years of work experience before Booth. The most unexpected surprise was the authentic bonds I formed with first years, which I’m so grateful for.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Over the past year (while at Booth), I’ve helped raise $250,000 in capital for a feminist, worker-owned wine importer and wholesaler out of Oakland, CA called RedHen Collective. It’s been the ultimate alternative capstone course in applying my background in major gifts fundraising, my MBA education, my passion for wine, and my commitment to the financial empowerment of women, laborers, and people of color.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Ann McGill. I took Managing in Organizations during my first quarter at Booth, and it was the course that made me feel like I’d made the right choice by going to business school. She’s brilliant, eloquent and funny, and made herself totally available to her students.

What was your favorite MBA Course I recently took Corporate Governance with Dennis Chookaszian. It’s so hard to even describe what the class was about – corporate boards, strategic decision-making, personal career planning, corporate ethics, crisis management…we covered those topics and more, mostly drawing from stories from Dennis’ 50+ year career in insurance. We learned that a life and career in business really does encompass all of those things, and he helped legitimize the holistic consideration of life during the business school experience.

Why did you choose this business school? Frankly, I didn’t get into business school the first time I applied! It was a discouraging experience, but I got a new job, gained new experience, and reapplied two years later. Booth not only welcomed my return application but celebrated the growth I’d cultivated in my life. The diversity office supported me throughout the process and introduced me to tons of students. Visiting campus taught me the biggest truth about Booth (in my book) – Booth’s students are the smartest, most high-achieving, and most humble group of MBAs I have ever met. Booth’s academic and professional reputation speaks for itself – it was the community that made it my top choice.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? There is no quintessential Booth student. I’ve been amazed by the diversity of students in my class on all the traditional parameters but also in schools of thought, ways of approaching problems, even attitudes toward the traditional MBA program. Booth welcomes the unusual, and I’d recommend that applicants spend lots of time thinking about what makes them truly unique and leaning into that.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Booth is that it’s a purely nerdy, commuter school. Nothing could be further from the truth. Boothies are extremely intellectually curious, and if that counts as nerdy, I gladly accept the stereotype. But they also REALLY know how to have a good time, particularly when it comes to taking advantage of the great city of Chicago. The city is our campus and it’s been the most fun two years of my life.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? How many opportunities would not only be available to me in business school but how many I’d want to partake in? I never thought of myself as a big “joiner” before Booth, but it’s been an environment that makes me want to develop my strengths and work on my areas of weakness. There are so many resources available to those willing to engage beyond the classroom, and I’ve learned so much about myself and about the world around me by stretching myself (and my calendar!) to its limits.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I started Booth with serious imposter syndrome, and Booth has given me the skills and confidence to lead. Coming from a liberal arts college, with a fine arts background, I’d never taken economics before and didn’t know what the terms P&L or ROI even meant, so I was convinced that no one would take me seriously. Never mind that I knew I could write and that at work I was killer at getting donors to write checks. Boothies recognized my strengths and welcomed them, and I was fortunate enough to be given opportunities to lead and share my expertise with my classmates. Over time, I began to truly believe in myself and my gifts, and it’s made me a better community member here at Booth, a stronger contributor to my employer, and (probably) a more fun person to be around.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My good friend Yan Zhang is perhaps the most “well-rounded” human being I’ve ever met. And he’s ordinary in exactly none of the ways that the phrase evokes. He’s exceedingly smart and ambitious and prioritized chasing his professional dreams at Booth. But he also gives seemingly endless quantities of his time and energy to improving and giving back to the community at Booth – our time together as LEAD facils was an education in selflessness. He co-chaired the Investment Management Group and is helping coordinate the giving for our class gift. But most importantly, he is the most fun-loving, open and vulnerable person I can think of in our class. There’s no one I’d rather spend the entire night within an ear-pounding club and follow it up with an hours-long heart to heart.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I was a member of the Management Leadership for Tomorrow MBA Prep class of 2015, and my coach Wendy Dukes (now at Purdue Krannert) was the first person to tough-love me into seeing that business school could really serve me and my goals. She whipped my applications into shape, saw me through the disappointment of failing in my first application go-round, and gave me a huge hug at the National Black MBA Conference where I first interviewed with my future employer. I owe her a huge debt.

What is your favorite movie about business? (It’s a bit of a genre leap, but Molly’s Game is fantastic. There are few better depictions of a female entrepreneur, and I was mesmerized by her hustle, attention to detail, adaptability, quick wit and people skills. It’s a riches-to-rags tale based on a true story – highly recommend.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? So sometimes Booth actually is super nerdy – I love that our Friday happy hours are called ‘Liquidity Preference Function.’ I even know what it means now!

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in the art group in a major NY bank wealth management group…and probably planning a move abroad.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Between the education, the network, and my own personal growth, I’d probably value the entire experience at roughly $300,000 – which (thank God) is more than I paid. Don’t get any ideas, hardcore Booth economists – my willingness to pay is probably a reflection of my premature nostalgia as a soon-to-graduate second year.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? To nail a handstand in yoga, which I’ve been practicing for 8 years – I’ve never mastered it. I’m also dying to go to South Africa.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I’d want them to remember me as someone who learned from every experience, and as someone who made them feel truly seen & heard.

Hobbies? Running, my book club, hiking, yoga, exploring art and films by black artists, speaking Spanish, wine tasting

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

“Clare’s journey from a liberal arts-trained fundraiser to marketer at E.J. Gallo captures the dream pivot of many MBA students. By challenging herself while building on her passions and strengths, Clare has blossomed.  Her transformation has inspired her peers, as has her tireless devotion to the Booth community – serving as a LEAD Facilitator, a leader of multiple clubs, and as a fun-loving colleague and friend.”

Stacey Kole
Deputy Dean for MBA Programs

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