2019 MBAs To Watch: Daniella De Franco, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

Daniella De Franco

University of Minnesota, Carlson School of Management

“I love to learn by talking with people who have lived different experiences than mine.”

Hometown: Managua, Nicaragua and Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Fun fact about yourself: I am a coffee and cocoa farming geek thanks to years spent living in Latin America

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA with a major in English from Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Economic Recovery and Development Officer at the International Rescue Committee in Washington, DC

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Corporate Development and Innovation Intern at Partners in Food Solutions in Minneapolis, Minnesota

Where will you be working after graduation? Corporate Strategy and Development Associate at Cargill in Wayzata, Minnesota

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Managing Partner, Graduate Volunteer Consultants (Pro bono consulting for non-profit organizations)
  • Vice President, Graduate Women in Business
  • Vice President for Academic Affairs, MBA Association
  • Co-President, Food and Agriculture Club
  • Student Representative, Diversity and Inclusion Committee

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Serving local non-profit organizations as a pro bono consultant has been a great way to give back to the community while developing new skills. I am proud to have led 60+ students from Carlson as they engaged in pro bono consulting projects for 12+ non-profit organizations through Graduate Volunteer Consultants.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am an advocate for gender equality – it makes sense from both an economic and human rights perspective – and proudest of my work to help close gender gaps. At TechnoServe, I advised a business accelerator in Central America which supported hundreds of women entrepreneurs. At the International Rescue Committee, I worked with a group of refugee women as they started up a small business in Charlottesville, Virginia. Both of these experiences shaped my decision to earn an MBA and commitment to mentoring future female leaders.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Kate Reigel stands out to me as a professor who pushed my analytical thinking and mentored me.  Kate led a global business practicum in Shanghai and Guangzhou, China, during which the class worked on a marketing project for a Fortune 500 client. We logged many travel miles together and I appreciated her willingness to share both her professional and personal experiences.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Responsible Supply Chain Management was my favorite course at Carlson, as we tackled the economic, environmental, and social tradeoffs of where and how to source and transport products.  Engaging with current practitioners from companies such as Target and General Mills, which shared insights on how they deal with issues such as forced labor and climate change, opened my eyes to the day-to-day challenges of building sustainable supply chains.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Carlson for its small class size, emphasis on experiential learning, and proximity to the Twin Cities’ food and agriculture industry.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I advise that students from non-traditional backgrounds embrace their differences. I came to business school from the non-profit sector, seeking to transition to the private sector, and found that what I originally perceived as a liability was actually an asset in both applying to MBA programs and making the most of the experience while in school.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I was surprised by how collaborative people are at Carlson and their willingness to share their time, knowledge, and networks – the culture bucked the stereotypes I had in mind about business school as hyper-competitive.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? The job search starts early — even before you arrive on campus.  Invest time during the months before starting business school in self-reflection and meeting new people in the industries you are exploring.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Prior to business school, I had worked in a dozen countries and with clients from diverse cultural backgrounds. However, business school tested my ability to work with diverse teams and in changing environments in new ways.  I have developed a deeper sense of conviction and greater confidence in myself as a leader.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Sonya Ewert — I admire her intellectual curiosity, work ethic, and integrity. Sonya is one of the most positive people I know, yet she does not shy away from tough conversations.  She draws on her experience managing a farm and leading food service teams to draw attention to critical environmental and labor issues affecting business. Sonya has served on the Professional Student Government (PSG) and started up the Food and Agriculture Club at Carlson to enable students to tap into the related resources that exist in the Twin Cities.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents have been the greatest supporters of my MBA journey — from funding my early start-up ideas when I was a kid to always cheering me on as I take on new challenges.

What is your favorite movie about business? Arrested Development – There’s always money in the banana stand.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? BATNA — Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…leading agricultural value chain or entrepreneurship development programs with a non-profit organization.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? I see the biggest payoff in my increased confidence as a leader, which was worth the time and effort.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Writing a novel and starting up an entrepreneurial or intrapreneurial venture.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope my classmates remember me as someone who brings together ideas and people from diverse backgrounds and is committed to business doing good for society.

Hobbies? I enjoy reading, writing, hiking, botany, and traveling.

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

“Daniella is deeply involved in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion activities, and has served as a leader on the MBA Student Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee.

She is our student vice president for academic affairs, a role in which she represented the student voice to MBA faculty and sat on the faculty committee. She also holds a leadership position in our Graduate Women in Business club, which implemented a series of important conversations around challenges women face in business.

In addition, she serves as president of the Carlson School Graduate Volunteer Consultant student club, providing free consultation work to non-profits in the Minneapolis area.

Daniella is a Sands fellow, and her social venture focuses on creating opportunities for refugee women by sharing their food culture and recipes with the community. She is an active mental health advocate, and has secured a full-time position in Strategy and Development at Cargill.”

Philip Miller
Assistant Dean, MBA & MS Programs

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