Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

Jackie Callahan

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Adventure-loving Naval Officer with a zest for social impact in the technology sector.”

Hometown: Sewell, NJ

Fun Fact About Yourself:

In fifth grade, I won a scholarship to Space Camp. I was fascinated by space and wanted to become an astronaut. While there, I realized that a lot of astronauts attended the U.S. Naval Academy and my college goal was set!

Undergraduate School and Major: United States Naval Academy, Oceanography

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Navy, Surface Warfare Officer

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: While stationed in Bahrain with the U.S. Navy, I was responsible for coordinating the maritime operations for around 25 NATO warships in the Middle East. It was eye-opening to facilitate counter-smuggling operations, oceanic research missions, and warship transits through the strategic chokepoints, such as the Strait of Hormuz and Bab el-Mandeb.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Each classmate that I’ve met has been incredibly genuine and truly wants to get to know other classmates and their respective backgrounds. It’s exciting how many classmates have taken the initiative to set up camaraderie events, such as group hikes and family-style dinners, to foster genuine relationship building. The school’s commitment to admitting students based on a decency quotient is extremely beneficial to building a strong “Team Fuqua” spirit that extends beyond the classroom.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Growing up, my dad ran a nonprofit organization. By observing him lead, I realized that I also want to be a business leader that works to better society. Thus, at Blue Devil Weekend, I was drawn to Dean Bill Boulding’s motto of ‘Doing good and doing well in business’ because I also strongly believe that business leaders can influence positive change in the world. I chose Fuqua because I wanted to attend an MBA program that equips students with the tools they need to drive positive change in business.

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? Authentic engagement resonates with me the most because students take the time to get to know each other on a personal level, not just on an associate-level or enough to get a group assignment done. I chose Fuqua because I wanted to create a network of great friends that turn into family through the MBA journey and not use business school as a means to an end. The “Team Fuqua” culture, specifically the Authentic Engagement paired principle, really enables that experience. Additionally, authentic engagement demands that I actively listen to learn others’ backgrounds and stories, show genuine care for my classmates, and do all that I can to be a part of the community, both in and outside of the classroom.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am excited about participating in the Global Academic Travel Experience (GATE) program to learn in-depth about a country and its best business practices.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? The Navy offered me the incredible opportunity to earn an MBA while on active duty. I intend to pursue a leadership role in business after my time in the Navy.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, NYU Stern, USC Marshall, Georgetown McDonough

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The “Team Fuqua” spirit was my main draw to Fuqua. From my Naval experience, I’ve learned that I thrive in small teams and community environments and I wanted to attend an MBA program with a similar feel. I also chose Fuqua for its fantastic international learning experiences, the depth of experimental learning opportunities within each field of study (finance, consulting, marketing, sustainability, etc), and the opportunity to live in Durham, a city with an immense amount of growth and development and lots of trail running opportunities. Fuqua has been described as ‘having all of the benefits of a city school with the incredible Team Fuqua culture, just without the white noise of big city life and distractions.’

I evaluated schools by visiting them to gain a better understanding of their ‘feel’ (i.e. seeing what their classrooms were like, walking the halls, exploring the local town, and talking to current students about their experiences and the opportunities that they took advantage).

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Late one night in 2017, I was working a shift as a Battle Watch Captain, a position that monitored all of the maritime activity in the Middle East. I received a call that a helicopter had a mishap and had sunk in the middle of the Gulf of the Aden. Six people had survived, but one was still missing. I looked around the room and realized that I was the senior person charged with coordinating the rescue efforts among six disparate entities with limited information. Throughout the night, I worked to connect the assets conducting the search, and linked in the U.S. Coast Guard stateside to give the best guidance on how to conduct the search. Despite best efforts over the next few days, the person was never found. This situation was harrowing, but through it I learned how to quickly form a cohesive team, manage tensions under pressure, and gained confidence that I could act quickly under pressure.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I aspire to be a leader in a company that utilizes drone delivery to benefit society, such as in international civil emergencies and humanitarian relief efforts.

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