2019 MBAs To Watch, Melissa Abney, Wisconsin School of Business

Melissa Abney

University of Wisconsin-Madison, Wisconsin School of Business

“I am an outgoing person who is passionate about encouraging and maximizing potential in others.”

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: Growing up, I loved spelling and won two state titles and placed 4th in a national spelling bee in middle school.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Houston, Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? 3M Company, Sprayable & Hot Melt Adhesives Product Manager in its Industrial Adhesives &Tapes Division

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Procter & Gamble

Where will you be working after graduation? Procter & Gamble, Assistant Brand Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 2018 Graduate Business Association President, Madison Children’s Museum Board Member

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the achievements accomplished while leading the Graduate Business Association.  After a tumultuous time for our MBA program, I led the Graduation Business Association leadership team’s efforts to improve the relationship with the Wisconsin School of Business Office of the Dean and administration. I focused on improving communication and was also able to increase our budget for student organization events. Additionally, the GBA leadership team and I supported the creation of a mentoring program to help underserved students in our program.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of leading a corporate-wide volunteer initiative at 3M to recognize and help underserved citizens in the Twin Cities in honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. I was able to secure special funding and support from the 3M Foundation and the initiative resulted in partnering with nine non-profit organizations and touched hundreds of lives in the community.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Hart Posen for Business Strategy. He has an infectious teaching style that makes you dig deep. His approach truly made me approach strategic thinking and solve challenges differently.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Negotiations with Charlie Trevor. This class taught that daring to ask can unlock more possibilities than you can imagine.

Why did you choose this business school? There are so many reasons why I chose Wisconsin, but I’ll only share a few. First, Wisconsin’s commitment to diversity and inclusion through its partnership with the Consortium had a great impact on my choice. Additionally, the people I encountered along the recruiting journey were so genuine and resoundingly made me feel like I mattered. Lastly, the training and development that they invest in each student are differentiating factors. For instance, I received many hours of interviewing training, access to C-suite level mentors and career readiness training to help me be successful.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Don’t get consumed by the stress of test scores and rankings. Remember that schools are looking at the entire package and want you to present your truest self. If you keep that in mind, anything is possible.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One of the biggest myths is that some think that we are not high flyers because we are not highly ranked Ivy League school. But, they are wrong. When we are put up against other schools, Badgers always shine because of our work ethic, training, savviness and how people-oriented we are as leaders.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Taking the leap to invest in myself is the best decision I could have made two years ago. I would not trade my MBA experience for anything.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Absolutely! Business school has been a great environment for to sharpen my leadership skills. I’ve been challenged in ways that have brought out the best in me and have shown me how to think more critically and with more empathy.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmate and friend, Rodrigo Stabio. He is a great supporter and confidante. I am most impressed by his resilience. From being a Dreamer and gaining citizenship to giving his all to pursue dreams and raise a family, I am truly amazed by his ability to take on challenges and overcome them with great perseverance.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad was a great influence in my career pursuit in business. I watched him excel in his 20+ year career in the steel fabrication industry where he because the first African American to be promoted to manufacturing for the company he worked for his entire career. His work ethic, charisma, and compassion for others have always inspired me to be the best that I can be at all times.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Founder – The lesson I could from the movie is as follows: Don’t accept the status quo. Dare to optimize or change it.

The McDonald brothers demonstrated that applying learnings from a different industry can inspire innovation when you put it to practice. This was proven by taking the Henry Ford efficiency model and adapting the kitchen service and assembly process with drawings and lots of practice.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? “If I can build on that” – to emphasize or add commentary to a thought or idea.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…missing out on one of the best experiences of my life.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? Honestly, my MBA education is invaluable and I believe the experience alone is worth more.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

– Leave a legacy where people know my name and the difference I made on their life.

– Visit every country in the world.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope that my classmates remember me as someone who inspired them to reach higher and brought out the best in them.

Hobbies? Traveling, watching sports, painting, and spending time with family and friends.

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

“Melissa Abney is an excellent example of a great MBA student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In the spirit of the Wisconsin Idea, an education philosophy embraced by our university, Melissa through her leadership and actions has worked for the betterment of the quality of life for her student community.

Melissa was voted to serve as President of the Graduate Business Association (GBA), the governing body of the full-time MBA, and she embraced this opportunity to be the face of the student community. Her tenure started during a tumultuous time for the full-time MBA program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Nonetheless, this difficult situation put Melissa’s strong leadership traits on full display as she became the ‘go to’ person for her classmates to express their concerns, and her diligent and open communication with the Interim Dean helped rebuild trust in the program among the student population.

A person that worked closely with Melissa described her leadership style in this manner: “She leads but does not dominate. She is modest without being self-effacing. Melissa possesses an instinctive courtesy and natural civility. She demonstrates a ready but nonintrusive interest in others. Her cheerful disposition makes her a very comfortable person with whom to be.” She is an MBA student that exemplifies servant leadership.

Also during her tenure as GBA president, Melissa has led and supported several initiatives to improve diversity and inclusion among the university community. She institutionalized MBA program diversity efforts by working with the student board to ensure they are incorporated into the roles of the 1st year class representative, 2nd year class representative, and the international representative. In her leadership role, she supported and participated in the MBA International Night where international students display and educate the broader student population on their cultures and customs. Melissa was selected to interview and facilitate a conversation with Roger Ferguson, President and CEO of TIAA, and fellow Consortium member for the Weikel Leadership Speaker Series.

Melissa brings many stellar qualities to the Wisconsin School of Business, her intelligence, her caring attitude, and her leadership are just a few. She has been a joy to have as part of our Class of 2019 and we look forward to seeing all that she will achieve as an alumna.”

Mike Judge

Director Center for Brand & Product Management

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