Meet Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class Of 2021

Carmen Sheils

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

“Former teacher with passion for the French horn, dogs, and building a more equitable world.”

Hometown: Basking Ridge, New Jersey

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have performed at Carnegie Hall in New York twice. I play the French horn and had the opportunity to play there with my community band. The acoustics truly are incredible!

Undergraduate School and Major: Barnard College, B.A. Urban Studies; Hunter College, M.S. Teaching Students with Disabilities

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Noble Network of Charter Schools, 10th Grade English Teacher

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: With a team of 10 incredible educators, I co-founded Excellence Girls, an all-girls middle school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn serving 82% of students receiving free and reduced-price lunch. The moment that the founding class walked across the stage in their 8th-grade year represented so much hard work from staff, families, and the students themselves. At that time, our students were outperforming the state average in reading by 27%, with similar results in math. Of course, students are more than a number, but the reality is that higher test scores open doors for kids. I felt confident that my work at Excellence Girls put students on a path to be successful in high school, college, and beyond.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? At Day at Kellogg (Kellogg’s admitted students day weekend), I met students who care about the world and want to intentionally use their career path to make the world a better place. When I first arrived, I met a fellow incoming student who worked for an organization dedicated to improving maternal health care in Tanzania. I met another student who is interested in impact investing to ensure that people of color secure investment in their businesses. These kinds of conversations just happened over-and-over again at Kellogg, which was different from any other school I had visited. This genuine interest not only in one’s own career but how that career impacts the world, drew me to Kellogg.

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? When I arrived at Day at Kellogg, I was inspired by a speech from Professor Carter Cast, a venture capitalist and the former CEO of He argued that the two major qualities a leader needs are the knowledge that he or she is not perfect and the ability to adapt.

This overall message of being self-reflective and willing to grow pervaded throughout the entire time I spent visiting Kellogg. When the leadership sends a message of humility and self-awareness, it impacts how the students view themselves and relate to one another. I knew that I belonged in a place where everyone is committed to continuously improving themselves and their classmates.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am excited to participate in Board Fellows, a 20-month program that connects students to Chicago-area nonprofits for opportunities in board service. As a teacher at two charter schools, I have been working tirelessly on the ground to improve outcomes for kids. However, when teaching every day, I have wondered about how larger decisions on the network level are made. I have come to recognize that a board is such an integral part of a nonprofit organization, but I have not had experience sitting on a board meeting. I am interested in learning how a board makes decisions about the nonprofit it supports and to be a voice in those decisions.

Kellogg is often described as “team-driven.” In your experience, what is the most important quality of a team member? How do you intend to bring that in a culture where “students run everything.” The most important quality of a team member is to believe in the expertise of the other people on the team and be willing to learn from them. I am especially excited for this at Kellogg because there are so many talented people with diverse work and lived experiences. I am excited to learn from my classmates who have different skillsets than I have.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? It’s on this form: “Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?” I felt pressure to have my 10-year plan totally figured out during the admissions process. While I generally know where I’m headed, I am open to adjusting course with the new knowledge and insight I will gain at Kellogg.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? When I first became a teacher, I believed that education was the single greatest factor in eliminating income inequality. After eight years in the classroom – in Brownsville and Crown Heights in Brooklyn and most recently in West Humboldt Park in Chicago – I have come to see that inequality is the result of numerous factors. I am committed to equity, and I am interested in how the private sector can impact economic opportunity. In my work at two charter schools, I have also witnessed the value of a business skillset in effectively running non-profit organizations. I am ready to broaden my skill set and position myself to be a leader in promoting equitable economic development.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Chicago Booth, Harvard Business School, Georgetown McDonough School of Business

How did you determine your fit at various schools? In terms of academics, I was interested in a school that enabled me to gain real-world experience. With Kellogg’s location in Chicago, connections with existing organizations in Chicago, and classes geared specifically toward Chicago public policy, I knew that Kellogg was the right place for me to develop my business skillset. Additionally, I am excited about the opportunity to take classes with a global perspective, like GIM, where students spend a quarter learning about the economic development of a country and then travel to that country with a professor and their classmates.

In terms of culture, it was important to me to find an environment that would both challenge me and support me. I spoke to a lot of current students and alumni, and really took notice of how they talked about the school. With Kellogg, both current students and alumni were incredibly willing to make time to talk with me. I have a friend who recently graduated from Kellogg who generously gave his time to help me prepare for business school interviews. In my conversations with students, I learned that this was not an anomaly and that students consistently support each other throughout the job search process. Additionally, I was impressed by the way that Kellogg faculty relate to students. I left my visit at Kellogg having had individual conversations with two faculty members, which had not happened when I visited other schools. After visiting Kellogg, I was confident that this is a place where I will be pushed to develop into the best version of myself and also be supported along the way.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? In 2011, I graduated from college and began my first job as a teacher in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Since then, I have spent eight years teaching in the classroom, from history at an all-girls middle school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to 10th grade English in West Humboldt Park, Chicago. My experience as a teacher has defined my adult life. I have met people, including students, families, and fellow educators, who have different lived experiences from myself. Working with kids is one of the most dynamic ways to spend your professional life. However, it has also opened my eyes to the fact that my students face systemic injustices. Our country perpetuates the myth that personal success is achieved on an even playing field. The reality is, that’s just not true. It is my firm belief that the best thing that we can do for our country is to unlock barriers to opportunity, whether they are on the basis of race, gender, income, sexual orientation, ability, or any other factor.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself leading a non-profit organization that creates equitable pathways to economic opportunity.

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