2019 MBAs To Watch: Tracy Wolfbiss Cohen, University of Michigan (Ross)

Tracy Wolfbiss Cohen

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Empowering myself to empower others to unlock their abilities and celebrate their differences.”

Hometown: Woodbury, New York

Fun fact about yourself: I spent two summers during college shooting t-shirts into the crowd during New York Mets home games. Ten years later I got married at Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Pennsylvania, Bachelor of Science in Engineering (Major: Bioengineering; Minors: Engineering Entrepreneurship and Mathematics)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Huron Consulting Group, Life Sciences Strategy Manager and Talent Development and Connectivity Manager (Dual Hybrid Role)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? American Express, Human Resources Global Rotational Program, New York, NY

Where will you be working after graduation? BluePrint Research Group, Innovation Incubator Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-founder of The Comfort Zone – A wellness platform designed to help MBA students feel at ease & in control by minimizing levels of anxiety and stress
  • Forte Foundation Fellow – Full merit-based scholarship recipient
  • Michigan Business Challenge – Impact Track finalist, Best Showcase, and Center for Positive Organizations’ Small Giants Award for Adelie, a digital parental leave management platform
  • Dare to Dream Startup Grant Recipient – Two-time participant in a program that awards funding and access to resources to test entrepreneurial ideas
  • Entrepreneurship & Venture Club Intrapreneurship Case Competition Winner for The Comfort Zone
  • Center for Positive Organizations +LAB Fellow
  • Non-Profit Board Fellow with local non-profit, SOS Community Services
  • DEI Council, Section Inclusion Chair
  • Teaching Coach / Teaching Assistant for Flourishing at Work course
  • Building Leading a Good Life course
  • Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) in Solomon Islands, working with a team of six students to understand the opportunity for 3D printing technology to print water sanitation parts using recycled plastic
  • Selected to speak at Ross Diaries storytelling event
  • Admissions Student Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? There is so much about the MBA experience that pushes students “outside of their comfort zone,” resulting in feelings of anxiety, stress, and feeling overwhelmed – not to mention imposter syndrome. However, this often goes unspoken. I am immensely proud to have co-founded “The Comfort Zone,” a well-being platform at Ross designed to help students build a healthy and balanced graduate school experience, along with launching Ross’ Inaugural Wellness Week. I know first-hand the impact anxiety can have on everyday life and believe building a community that destigmatizes mental health issues can help students to feel at ease and in control.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I was working at a small boutique consulting company, Frankel Group, it was acquired by Huron Consulting Group, leading to approximately 30% attrition of the team. While grappling with the question – “Should I stay or go?” – I was asked to take on a specialized hybrid role designed to help integrate our team with their Life Sciences practice and boost retention while maintaining my role leading consulting engagements. During this time, I enjoyed the challenge of solving internal organizational issues and developed a strong passion for building a corporate culture designed to maximize the potential of every team member. In my role, I successfully developed a range of initiatives including professional development opportunities such as onboarding, training, and mentorship programs, as well as social connectivity events. It was through this experience that I witnessed the impact of a positive organization.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Jane Dutton, one of the co-founders of the Center for Positive Organizations, has been an extraordinary professor and mentor throughout my MBA. She is one of the reasons I chose to come to Ross in the first place. I am continuously inspired by Jane – she is beyond enthusiastic about teaching students and deeply compassionate. Despite being world-renowned in her field, Jane has humility and selflessness that makes her incredibly approachable and always willing to help others.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Jane’s class, Flourishing at Work, is designed to give students practical knowledge of the field of positive organizational scholarship – an interdisciplinary approach to leading and being in work organizations in ways that call forth the best in people, resulting in individual and collective flourishing. Though I had implemented many initiatives in my career described in the course, understanding the scientific research behind why these initiatives worked was incredibly meaningful. Further, I came to understand how to communicate with leaders to ensure they prioritize building a positive organization. It has been an honor to support Jane as a Teaching Coach during the second year of my MBA and become even more intimately familiar with the research.

Why did you choose this business school?  It came down to the people.  Ross is a tight-knit community and most students self-select to pick up their lives and move to Ann Arbor from around the world.  This means that almost everyone is looking to fully immerse themselves in the experience, creating a rich and vibrant culture of diverse perspectives and backgrounds, with a shared a common purpose.  I also applied to Ross with my partner, and Ross checked many boxes on both of our lists; we felt it had the best of what we were both looking for academically and professionally in an MBA program.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? My first piece of advice, though cliché, is to be your authentic self. Ross is a school that appreciates the diversity of perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. Own your story and share it loudly and proudly, even if you don’t think it is what the school is “looking for.” Second, do your research. There are so many great programs out there, but it’s like dating. It needs to be a mutual fit to maximize your personal growth. Otherwise, the relationship might not work out as planned.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I heard that at many schools, including Ross: “Grades don’t matter.”  While “grades don’t matter” in the sense that you can choose not to disclose your GPA to employers, grades do matter in that they reflect your understanding of the material, which is effectively part of the return on investment (ROI) of pursuing your MBA in the first place.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? I am an adventure seeker so the idea of picking up my life and moving to Ann Arbor was incredibly exciting to me, but the adjustment to becoming a student again and moving away from home was much harder than anticipated. The Ross MBA Program Office does a great job acclimating us to our new community during the first few weeks, but it still takes time to fully immerse yourself in your new environment.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? Though I was hesitant about leaving a career I was comfortable in the business school gave me dedicated time and space to explore and experiment in multiple areas I have always been curious about – namely entrepreneurship, organizational behavior, and well-being. Being able to test and learn through my experiences at Ross has provided me with a greater sense of self and understanding of my purpose.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is so hard to pick just one because I am truly impressed with so many classmates, but my friend Bidnam Lee would be at the top of my list. Bidnam was the Director of StoryLab, a Ross program that teaches students how to effectively tell their stories – both personal and professional. Bidnam plays the role of a coach in helping students prepare to share their story with the community of hundreds of students, faculty, and staff. I had the privilege of sharing my life story growing up as the twin of a brother with special needs largely in thanks to Bidnam’s empowerment and encouragement. I am in awe of his ability to bring out the best in others, even when doing so requires tremendous vulnerability.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? While I was initially pre-med in college, I ventured into some business courses through my minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. I still can hear my professor Tom Cassel’s voice in my head to “Look at the fish.” What this metaphor meant was don’t just see something at face value. Instead, look at the intricacies, like the scales of the fish and their colors; observe and analyze something even more closely than you think is necessary to get all the specific details and nuances. This applies to analyzing businesses and markets with a “no rock unturned” mentality that hopefully will allow me to stave off competition in my future entrepreneurial endeavors one day.

What is your favorite movie about business? Becoming Warren Buffet taught me that “you’re only going to get one body and one mind in your life, so you better take care of it.” This translates back to my efforts with The Comfort Zone –to be most effective, we must take care of our minds and bodies first.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? FACT Groups, or Functional Accountability Career Teams are essentially student-run recruiting prep groups separated by industry and function. To this day, I still don’t remember what FACT stands for and had to Google it for this answer.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…asking myself what if I went to business school?” I truly think I would have regretted not taking this leap of faith.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? This question really depends on the individual. We calculated the ROI of an MBA in our Finance core class, and it is positive, assuming you pursue a career with a salary above a certain threshold! I was fortunate to receive a full scholarship, but the opportunity cost of forgoing a salary has been worth it. My advice would be to save as much as possible beforehand, and budget closely once you are in enrolled.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Build a family and start my own business.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you?  As someone who went out of their way to improve the collective MBA experience of others.

Hobbies? Listening to podcasts, reading, running and group exercise classes, cooking, and playing with my new puppy, Shea.

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

“Tracy has excelled in achievement, contribution, and character throughout her time at Michigan Ross. As a student in my MBA elective, Tracy was purposeful, collaborative, and insightful. As a Teaching Assistant for another professor, Tracy was even more creative and proactive, creating a toolkit for the students with key learnings and resources for them to take into the rest of their careers.

Tracy’s life experiences and innate compassion lead her to care deeply about the well-being of her classmates. This is so important in an intense environment of academic excellence and recruiting rigors. A prime example of this: as a Fellow at the Center for Positive Organizations, Tracy drew on all of her resources to create a wellbeing and resilience organization called The Comfort Zone. Tracy’s legacy will serve her classmates, and all who follow in her footsteps through Michigan Ross.”

Christopher White

Managing Director, Center for Positive Organizations

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