Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2021

Karima Kusow 

Simon Business School at the University of Rochester

Motivated to succeed while helping others succeed along the way.”

Hometown: East Lansing, Michigan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a Belgian citizen and I lived in Brussels while I was in 8th grade.

Undergraduate School and Major: Grinnell College. Major(s): Political Science, French

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Universal Service Administrative Company, Program Analyst

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment in my career so far lies in the relationships that I built. In my most recent position, I operated as the hub of the wheel for the company’s operations team. On a weekly basis, I collaborated with colleagues from many different teams – from legal to finance and everything in-between. I grew a tremendous amount in my capacity to develop strong and effective work relationships, which I believe will help me succeed as I pursue a brand management role post-MBA, which is a highly cross-functional position.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Diverse. I continue to be blown away by the diversity of my classmates – from their professional backgrounds and career successes to their countries of origin. I am surrounded by an extremely smart group of people who have accomplished so many different things in many different places. I am looking forward to learning from each one of them.

Rochester Simon is known for being “unabashedly analytical.” Why does the program’s focus on quantitative analysis and decision-making appeal to you? How do you intend to leverage this approach as a student and professional? One of the main reasons I decided to pursue an MBA was because I wanted to challenge myself to expand my skill set. I come from a “poet” and liberal arts background, so Simon’s focus on quantitative analysis presented a great opportunity to push myself to round out my skill set as much as possible. I absolutely intend to leverage Simon’s “unabashedly analytical” approach in my marketing career, where data analytics is becoming increasingly important. I am also pursuing Simon’s STEM-designated MBA option, which I can use to signal to employers the analytical rigor of the education I receive.

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? Program size. Simon’s program is very small compared to many leading MBA programs. My MBA class has 106 students, which makes for an extremely intimate and collaborative culture. I really like that I am able to get to know all of my classmates. Additionally, the small program size means leadership opportunities are much more accessible, which is something I hope to take advantage of while in the program.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am the VP of Partnerships for Simon’s Diversity and Inclusion Center of Excellence, which is an exciting opportunity for me to create impact that I am truly passionate about.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The question I found particularly challenging was “How would those close to you describe you in three words?”. The question gets at personal branding, which was something I had not given much thought to prior to being an MBA student. Now more than ever, I realize the power of personal branding and I am working towards developing my personal brand among classmates while in business school.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I knew I wanted to make a career pivot and that I was really interested in pursuing marketing. With no prior background in a marketing role, I believed that pursuing an MBA was the best way to transition my career towards marketing.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Georgetown (McDonough), Carnegie Mellon (Tepper), and University of Maryland (Robert H. Smith)

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The initial factor that I used to create a short-list of schools was location; I knew I wanted to pursue a career in the New York area post-MBA, so I prioritized programs on the East Coast. From my short-list, I used the interactions that I had with admissions staff and current students to determine the best cultural fit. The warm and welcoming reception that I received from Simon was above-and-beyond what I received elsewhere, which signaled to me that collaboration and connection is valued in the program. From there, it was history!

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I can’t speak to a specific moment, but rather a specific experience. Born to a Somali father and a Tunisian-Belgian mother, I grew up navigating the contrasting expectations, norms, and customs unique to each culture. The experience shaped me in two key ways: it taught me how to adapt to a variety of different cultural and environmental contexts and it instilled in me a passion for cross-cultural relationships.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself moving into a senior marketing role where I will have the opportunity to develop people and have a greater impact on the organization where I am.

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