Meet the MBA Class of 2021: The Go-Getters

Stephanie McCaffrey

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“A former professional soccer player on a relentless pursuit to challenge the status quo.”

Hometown: Winchester, MA

Fun Fact About Yourself: In my transition to the real world, I didn’t realize people could see if you stalked them on LinkedIn and did so shamelessly for the better part of a year.

Undergraduate School and Major: Boston College – Finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Professional Soccer Player: Chicago Red Stars, US Women’s National Team, Boston Breakers

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment on the field had to be scoring a goal in my first cap (appearance) with the USWNT in a game against Brazil during their 2015 World Cup Victory Tour. I always think back to that moment because it was the first time that, in a moment where I was under a lot of pressure, I was able to find confidence that could only come from within. Off the field, it is facilitating the expansion of my non-profit, Hidden Gems Soccer, to Chicago, Houston, and Salt Lake. We seek to connect young girls playing soccer in underserved communities with mentoring professional players in the NWSL.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Curious. The curiosity I’ve witnessed from my MBA classmates is ubiquitous not just in their academic and career advancement journeys, but also in their social life. I’m so fortunate to be around 800+ amazing people from all different walks of life that are so accomplished in their own right yet so eager to hear the stories and to invest in the people around them.

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? After assessing my options at a few of the top MBA programs in the country, it became clear to me that Wharton’s McNulty Leadership Program is the absolute best leadership development program available. Wharton truly attacks leadership education and development from all angles, through programs such as their one-on-one executive coaching and feedback program, the Wharton speaker series, and opportunities to lead different ventures across the world. This was pivotal in my decision-making process because of my desire to translate my leadership capabilities in sport to a leadership toolkit in business in the most effective way possible.

Talk to us about the team-based project you completed during the application process. What did you do that helped you stand out during it? Going into the team-based application event, I made the decision to not actively try to stand out. I trusted that given my experience in team-based environments, staying true to myself and not acting outside of my normal demeanor in those environments would be the best way to show Wharton what I could bring to the community.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m really looking forward to being a part of the Women in Business Club at Wharton. I was incredibly fortunate to play professional women’s soccer during a time where the sport was and continues, to play a key role in our fight for gender equality around the world. I look forward to being a connector between n my networks of female leaders in sport and female leaders in business, to make our movement that much more powerful.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging question for me was “Why Now?” simply because it was a question I had to sit down and think hard about when I started the application process. For me, the answer to that question had to nullify the idea that I was using my MBA as a halfway house to figure out who I am and what I want to do. I had to clearly state my intention for getting an MBA, which was that I knew the “what” and the “why” of my career goals, but I needed the business acumen to give me the “how.”

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I’m extremely interested in entrepreneurship with a focus on social impact. That being said, I thought the best way for me to develop a 360 degree understanding of what it takes to launch, run, and ultimately scale a business would be to attend a world-class MBA program like Wharton.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Chicago Booth, Harvard, Northwestern Kellogg, Columbia, NYU Stern

How did you determine your fit at various schools? In prioritizing schools, I had a clear system of what mattered most to me. These included the following:

1) Leadership development opportunities

2) Career support / network

3) Culture

To evaluate leadership, I sought out the options and answers each school had with regard to programming. To evaluate network support, I spoke to various alumni to gauge their responsiveness and connectivity. Finally, I attended all admit weekends to immerse myself in the cultures of the school to get a true read on their “vibe” and where I fit within that.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? During 2018, I got very sick with a neurological illness that sidelined me from everything I’ve ever known the majority of the year, most prominently professional soccer. My defining moment came in the late fall when doctors and I realized it was not going to be an option to go back play the sport that had, ironically, defined me my entire life. It empowered me to develop a new-found capacity for gratitude, for the full recovery I would eventually make, and for empathy, for those who may be fighting something that is invisible like I was for so long.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I can’t say with full confidence with “what” exactly I’ll be doing, but I do know I will be using business as a tool to positively impact our society’s perception about the role women play in our world. Furthermore, I see someone who is unapologetically herself in whatever environment I may be in and hope that inspires confidence in others to do the same.

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