2019 MBAs To Watch: David Thomas, Emory University (Goizueta)

David Thomas

Goizueta Business School, Emory University

“Passionate about facilitating change in the world with a streak of energetic dance moves.”

Hometown: Conyers, GA

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve participated in a three-week adult overnight math camp at the Park City Math Institute/Institute for Advanced Study two years in a row.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Emory University, B.A. Economics with a concentration in Psychology.

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Alief Elsik High School, Head of the Mathematics Department, Internal Education Consultant, Girls Soccer Coach, Academic UIL Coordinator and Classroom Teacher.

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

Where will you be working after graduation? General Mills, Global Consumer Insights

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP of Alumni Relations
  • Chairman of the Graduation Committee
  • Chairman of Class Gift Committee
  • Co-Chair of the BBA/MBA Mentorship Program
  • Haiti Lead Week Pilot Selected Participant
  • Nominated for GBS core value awards:
    • Diversity
    • Integrity
    • Community
  • GBS Day 1 Challenge winner (4-hr Team Case)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  The Haiti Pilot Directed Study was one of my most powerful experiences to this day. We worked on a consulting project for Caribbean Craft in Haiti to help them develop an online presence to distribute their handcrafted artisanal products directly to consumers. What made this project meaningful was our team visit to Haiti, where we were met with USAID officials, city officials, business owners, community leaders, and families living in challenging circumstances. We wanted our efforts to help the local economy and provide more opportunity for local businesses. The CEO of Caribbean Craft, Maggie Dresse, welcomed my team into her home to present our recommendation. Our research helped Maggie and the 400+ amazing sculptors employed by Caribbean Craft gain more international exposure via social media.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? When I began teaching at 21 years old, like most first year teachers, I was in way over my head. It takes true dedication that will test the resiliency of any person. I’ve taught over a thousand different students over the course of my teaching career and my biggest accomplishment is creating impactful change in their lives. I haven’t changed the course of every student, but it’s so important for me to know that I improved the lives of just a few. Giving students the belief that they can achieve, learn, and then pushing them harder than they have before was my biggest accomplishment and will always be so meaningful. Now I get the chance to hear from my students from time to time, and it has made all of my hard work worth it!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Schumacher was my favorite professor for a few reasons. In my previous role, I used to evaluate teachers and their pedagogy. As I was learning how to become a student again, I couldn’t help but evaluate all of my professors. Professor Schumacher made difficult material accessible to all. He held a high standard, but created an environment where students were hungry to take risks and think deeper than surface level. The content was managerial accounting, and this was what I envisioned I would be learning when going to business school. He even had his TAs dress up as the “death spiral” and walk through our classroom. I will never forget the cost accounting death spiral.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Consumer behavior: I really enjoyed this class because it brought me back to my joy of learning about human decision-making. It tied so well with my undergrad degree, and let me further explore the psychological component, and the conscious and unconscious processes people use to arrive at a decision. It’s really fun when I can pair these ideas with the qualitative components I’ve been studying in my more data heavy classes. I really feel like I honed my craft and interest for consumer insights.

Why did you choose this business school? I was aware of the program since my undergrad years at Emory. I knew the potential Goizueta could provide towards my development, but coupling that with a smaller more intimate program, and after attending welcome weekend, I knew it was the place for me to call home.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be yourself, know your value, and be able to communicate your value. If an applicant can do these things and show how they can contribute their background and expertise to the greater mission at Goizueta, then they have an excellent shot at being accepted. Emory values diversity of experience, and I am just one of many testaments with my background being in public education.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Coca Cola University: It’s definitely true! You will never see a Pepsi on campus, and I think anyone caught brandishing a Pepsi might be banned forever.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Like many people who enter into a top business school, I have a Type A personality. It’s important to take risks and mentally be OK with not succeeding. Paula Fontana once said, “Stay in your lane,” and it stuck with me ever since. I do my best not to compare myself to my classmates. Different opportunities will present themselves in different ways for different people. Shoot your shot, some of them will land and others may not. However, don’t feel discouraged and keep improving oneself to become the best leader possible.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? I believe the interactions I’ve had with my classmates have been the most transformative. It’s been an amazing experience surrounding myself with some of the brightest in the world and sharing stories, cultures, and experiences. There is a unique bond developed with people during periods of extreme growth and I can say that my bond with my class has truly changed me.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Harrison Reeves: Harrison is our Class President, and I have seen him take the reins and dive head first into every situation. He has put himself out there and seeks to understand. He shows up for every affinity group to express his interest and willingness to learn about different people, their culture, and way of life. He has tackled tough topics and isn’t afraid to speak up when it’s challenging or controversial. I appreciate his willingness to lead in a difficult political time and his ability to be vulnerable in a competitive environment. Hats off!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It would be all three of my parents – and their belief and support of me accomplishing this dream. I’ll admit I have a touch of imposter syndrome, so every little boost of confidence is helpful. My parents pushed me towards pursing my degree and helped me pull my head above the weeds when I couldn’t see the work I was doing. I don’t think I would have tried if it wasn’t for them!

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? Term: “Meko’d.” In the beginning of business school, our class was getting on a bus to go to a dinner. Our friend and classmate, Meko, was running a little late and most of us were already on the bus ready to leave. During that time, we were on our GroupMe message app giving him directions on where the bus was, and if he still had time to make it. He was hustling to get to the pick-up location, but the bus ended up leaving him behind and he had to catch an Uber. Getting left behind was coined getting Meko’d. It only stuck for a few months, but when anyone says it (or really just me) the meaning is clear.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…in public education working to become a principal or school leader, and hopefully still coaching soccer and I’d also purse a career in sports psychology and become a therapist for adolescents.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? It’s hard to quantify the dollar value of experiences and knowledge, but GBS put a high price on it. I definitely think it was worth it and I could never replicate the experience I’ve had at GBS. They also helped me a bit financially, so I have no complaints.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Hike Mt. Kilimanjaro

Watch an Arsenal Champions League game at The Emirates

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope my peers remember me as a positive, gracious, and humble leader ready to stand up for what is right.

Hobbies? Soccer, cycling, puzzles, traveling, mentoring, Netflixing (I said it), Wikipedia rabbit holes

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

“Dave is a connector. He’s always positive and works really hard to connect across cohorts: first-years, second-years, students who are part of The Consortium, international students, and so on. He’s a former soccer player and coach and that experience has really been appreciated here because he has rallied his classmates and built bridges better than I’ve ever seen. As an Emory undergrad his familiarity with campus and culture has made his classmates, particularly international students, feel more at home.”

Brian Mitchell

Associate Dean of Full-Time MBA Program

Are you a friend of David Leave a note to congratulate him.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.