2019 MBAs To Watch: Carmelena Moffa, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Carmelena Moffa

Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh

  • MBA—Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business
  • MPIA—Graduate School of Public and International Affairs

“Former Division-I softball player who enjoys traveling, mentoring young people, and volunteering in the community.”

Hometown: Greensburg, Pennsylvania

Fun fact about yourself: As a student-athlete, I began the Team IMPACT initiative at the University of Pittsburgh that matches local children with special needs to varsity sports teams at Pitt.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of Pittsburgh (Pittsburgh, PA)

  • A. English Writing, Non-Fiction
  • A. Hispanic Languages and Literature
  • Concentration: Portuguese

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Director of Female Affairs—Summer’s Best Two Weeks, CitiKidz

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? IBM—Sr. Financial Analyst Co-op, Hybrid Cloud Worldwide Consolidation, Armonk, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? IBM—Financial Leadership Development Program, Armonk, NY

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: (Include school awards and honors)

Community:

  • Student-Athlete Mentor: University of Pittsburgh Department of Athletics, Pittsburgh, PA (2019)
  • Volunteer with The Little Sisters of the Poor Nursing Home to spend time with nursing home residents, Pittsburgh, PA (2018, 2019)
  • Member: Ryan Catholic Newman Center, Pittsburgh, PA (2017, 2018, 2019)
  • Speaker: Professional Writing Lunch and Learn Workshop, IBM, Armonk, NY (2018)
  • Volunteer with New Covenant Food Pantry to prepare meals for local, impoverished residents, Stamford, CT (2018)
  • Volunteer with Saint Camillus Nursing Home to spend time with nursing home residents, Stamford, CT (2018)
  • Volunteer with Casa San Jose to assist with the societal integration of Hispanic immigrants in the Pittsburgh area, Pittsburgh, PA (2016, 2017)

Leadership:

  • Finance Club: Vice President of Careers and Recruitment (2018, 2019)
  • Project Manager: Omicelo Cares Consulting Project (2019)
  • Editor-in-Chief: Pitt Policy Journal at the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (2017, 2018, 2019)
  • Leadership team: University of Pittsburgh Varsity Softball Alumni Association (2018, 2019)
  • Leadership Team: IBM Women in Finance (2018)
  • Moderator: Hybrid Cloud Worldwide Consolidation Executive Q&A, IBM (2018)
  • Leadership Team: Director of Social Events, 2018 IBM Co-op Cohort, IBM (2018)
  • Student Researcher: United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), (2016, 2017)
  • Editorial Team: Pitt Policy Journal (2016, 2017)
  • Graduate Student Assistant: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (2016, 2017)

Awards:

  • Feature Story: International Business Center 2018-2019 Annual Report at the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business (2019)
  • Alumni Fellowship: Graduate School of Public and International Affairs (2016-2019)
  • Student Honoree: University of Pittsburgh Honors Convocation (2016, 2017, 2018, 2019)
  • Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship (FLAS), Portuguese: United States Department of Education (2018-2019)
  • Raymond Smith Scholarship: Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business (2018, 2019)
  • Howard Hanna Scholarship: Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business (2017, 2018)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am grateful for the time I have spent with nursing home residents. My grandmother suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease, and while visiting her in the nursing home, I learned that many residents have few visitors, if any at all. To say this realization was heartbreaking is an understatement. While interning with IBM, I began volunteering at the Saint Camillus nursing home in Stamford, Connecticut. I would spend time with the residents during their recreation time or chat with them while they had downtime between meals.

Upon returning to Pittsburgh, I learned of the Little Sisters of the Poor, who operate nursing homes for the elderly poor at no cost to the residents. I feel a deep connection to their ministry, and during several weekends, I have been able to spend time with the residents and attend mass with them. I always end up spending most of my time with a resident named Betty who can dance better than I can and tends to run places with her walker. There are few things that bring me more joy than spending the afternoon talking with her.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Professionally, I am proud of the opportunity to have served on the leadership team of the Women in Finance group at IBM. The group’s mission is to sponsor events targeted at community involvement, networking, and the development of young IBMers. For one initiative, I planned a “coffee chat.” This is an event when one or two executives speak about their career path to an audience of IBMers. In addition to my responsibilities as an Analyst, I oversaw the roping in of the executives, planning the event, and moderating it. We ended up having a turnout of over 100 IBMers, and it was a fantastic opportunity for young professionals to step away from their computers and learn from successful executives at IBM. From the event’s feedback, the stories of the executives inspired many of the young IBMers and opened a networking opportunity with two highly respected executives at the company. Overall, I am proud of this achievement because it advanced the mission of the Women in Finance group and inspired many IBMers.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Elise Boyas. Dr. Boyas was my first-year accounting professor and she managed to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of accounting while getting to know them personally. Her passion for accounting made the class enjoyable, and she would truly go above-and-beyond to help and invest in her students. While attending her office hours, we could have a conversation about everything from tax fraud to the best places to buy olive oil and mozzarella in Pittsburgh.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Market Manipulations. This is a unique course that I had the pleasure of taking at Katz. We covered the history of business from the creation of money to the onset of the 2008 financial crisis. The course took a deep dive into the historical manipulation of markets through bubbles, Ponzi Schemes, and the industrialist tycoons. I gained crucial insight into the role of history in shaping today’s markets. This knowledge is invaluable to make an impact in the workplace because to resolve industry problems, it is essential to understand the events that shaped them.

Why did you choose this business school? I decided to attend Katz for several reasons. I sought to attend a graduate program where I could build meaningful relationships with professors, classmates and the career services team. The small class size at Katz made this goal possible, and I have cultivated great relationships and an extensive network as a result of this small cohort. Katz also presented a unique opportunity to pursue a dual degree. I saw the chance to earn an MBA in Finance and an MPIA in International Political Economy as invaluable. Overall, my desire to earn a well-rounded education through a comprehensive understanding of international finance and economics, the access to a broad and well-nurtured alumni network, and the small class size made attending Katz an easy decision.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I would tell applicants to focus on their strengths rather than their limitations. Katz offers a flexible MBA curriculum that targets students’ strengths to propel them towards their career goals. The MBA program at Katz encourages students to dream big, so even if a student doesn’t believe he or she is qualified for a role, go for it anyway. You never know the opportunities that will transpire through a vision, determination, and a strong network.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that the grueling academic schedule during the first semester is futile. The rigorous semester develops a toughness within students that is a necessary skill in the workplace. The first semester pushes students to their limit, which develops a strong work ethic and prepares them to learn quickly. These skills are essential in the workplace.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? In hindsight, I should have pursued a more ambitious course load early in my tenure as a graduate student. Although managing internship/job hunt with coursework is difficult, I believe I could have handled taking one or two more courses during the beginning semesters that would have added value to my skillset.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? During business school, I developed a toughness and confidence that is necessary to work in business. From interviews to case competitions to networking events, business school forces students into situations where they speak about themselves and their work in a confident and concise manner. These skills are not only essential in the workplace, but also in the cultivation of one’s determination to achieve his or her future goals.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is a tough question because my classmates are truly incredible individuals. I admire international students. As a student of foreign languages, there are few experiences more humbling than traveling to another country and speaking a language that isn’t your own. I deeply respect the international students who must overcome barriers that are unknown to many of their classmates who are native English speakers.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father, who is also my role model, influenced my decision to pursue business school. When it was time to apply for graduate school, my dad proved that he knew me better than I knew myself. He saw my eagerness to understand the world through international finance and economics paired with a desire to work with people. He recognized, before I did, that law school may not be the best option for my skill set and goals. He found the dual degree, MBA and MPIA program offered by the University of Pittsburgh. As soon as he sent me the information about the program, I knew that was where I wanted to be.

What is your favorite movie about business? I recently watched a documentary about the onset of the financial crisis in 2008. It did a fantastic job of explaining the role of credit default swaps, U.S. banks, and the U.S. Government in shaping the financial crisis, in addition to highlighting the similarities between the ’08 crisis and the Great Depression. Through the documentary, I developed an appreciation for the need of transparency, ethics, and an understanding of history when making business decisions.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? During class it’s common to say, “Just to piggyback off of that.” Even though the phrase is technically used to link their thought to what was just said, what comes next is sometimes completely unrelated.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…an international corporate attorney for a U.S.—based company that has a presence in Latin America.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? It sounds corny, but I have to say my MBA education was priceless. The friendships, career opportunities, and advising support exceeded my expectations for a graduate program.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • To travel to Turkey
  • Open a non-profit targeted at supporting new and expecting mothers who live in socio-economically depressed communities

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Carmelena was a kind, dependable, and passionate individual that approached everything with humility, determination, and an eagerness to learn.

Hobbies? Attending church, working out, reading, cooking dinner for friends, trying new restaurants, volunteering in the community, and snuggling with my cat

What made Carmelena such an invaluable member of the Class of 2019?

“In the time that I have known Carmelena, I have watched her take on any and all challenges gracefully while pursuing both her MBA and Master of Public and International Affairs. I am time and time again in awe of her kindness, dedication to education, and commitment to the betterment of her classmates.

During her first semester in the MBA program, I quickly came to realize that Carmelena was not an ordinary student. It is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of an MBA program – especially at the beginning. Students are suddenly thrown into four or five high levels, quantitative courses all while applying and interviewing for internships, attending the nation’s largest MBA career conference, and trying to retain some sense of normalcy in their lives. While juggling her MBA commitments, Carmelena chose to take on more. In her work with Citikidz Summer’s Best Two Weeks, she became close with the organizing family. When their young son became ill, Carmelena offered to shoulder some of the responsibility and stay with the young boy a couple of nights a week. Carmelena would leave straight from class and spend the night at the hospital with him. She did this for weeks with a smile on her face. I truly believe her kindness brought perspective to the 2019 cohort. It showed them that life wasn’t all exams and resumes. Life is bigger than the business building and the work done beyond our walls truly matters.

It was during this time that Carmelena accepted a highly coveted co-op opportunity with IBM. She was named Senior Financial Analyst in their Hybrid Cloud Worldwide Consolidation business unit. This meant that she would need to put her formal studies on hold for a semester. She so impressed her supervisors that they extended her co-op and offered her a full-time role as a Senior Professional Financial Analyst in their Financial Leadership Program. After her return to the program this past fall, she made herself a resource to anyone interviewing with IBM. When a first-year student was offered the role, Carmelena was quick to take the student under her wing. She answered any of his questions as he was deciding whether or not to accept the position. Once he made a final decision, she worked with him to connect with people at IBM and find housing near the office.

While at IBM, she applied for and was granted the Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellowship. Dozens of students from across the University apply for this prestigious fellowship every year. As a fellow, she would have the chance to further hone her Portuguese language skills from her undergraduate studies. While it would have been easy to rest on her laurels and finish out her programs, Carmelena once again chose to take on more. She knew that becoming a Fellow would sharpen her business acumen while broadening her career to the global stage.

Carmelena Moffa has been such an asset to the Class of 2019. She continually strives for more while raising the level of discourse among her classmates. I truly believe she is one of the Best and Brightest MBAs of her generation and am excited to see how her story unfolds.”

Simone Jurinko
Senior Graduate Advisor
University of Pittsburgh Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

Are you a friend of Carmelena? Leave a note to congratulate her.