2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Madeleine Carnemark, University of Michigan (Ross)

Madeleine Carnemark

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business and School for Environment and Sustainability (Dual MBA/MS)

MBA Focus: Strategy
MS Concentration: Environmental Justice

“Part environmental justice student, part MBA trying to bring together unlikely allies to create a more equitable and sustainable world.”

Hometown: Bethesda, MD

Fun fact about yourself: I went on tour with Neil Young and the Promise of the Real in the Summer of 2015.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Tulane University: Double Major in Environmental Studies and Philosophy

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Center for Food Safety; Pollinator Program and Policy Coordinator

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Summer 2018- Environmental Defense Fund + Business; Bentonville, AR; Summer 2019- McKinsey and Co.; Denver, CO.

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey and Co. in Denver, CO; Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership Positions:
* President: Erb Institute Student Advisory Board
* VP of Membership Engagement and Coalition Building: Michigan Ross Net Impact
* Head of Programming: Women in Leadership Conference
* Peer Mentor: Ross Peer Support Network & Compass Mentorship Program & Erb Coaching Program
* Student Life Committee: Go Blue Rendezvous
* Ross Ambassador/Interviewer: Ross Admissions

Teaching Positions:
Five Semesters Serving as a student instructor for graduate and undergraduate Courses:
* Business and the Natural Environment
* Policy and Practice of Social Change
* Master’s Project Planning Course

School Awards:
* 2-time recipient of the Percy Community Service Award 2018 & 2019
* Dean’s Challenge Fellow (School for Environment and Sustainability)

Case Competitions:
* 1st Place, Ross Net Impact Case Competition
* Finalist, Patagonia Case Competition
* Finalist, Ross Accenture Case Competition
* Finalist, Ross Deloitte Case Competition
* 2nd Place, PWC/Community Consulting Case Competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Working on the Women in Leadership Conference (WILC) was the most transformative and fulfilling experience I had during my time in school. Growing up in a family of five girls and starting my career in a predominantly female-driven field (non-profits), I had taken so much of my female identity for granted. Leaning in to my experience at Ross, I came to understand both the tremendous power women have in the workplace, but also the hard work that men and women must still do to create an equitable working environment. Our goal as a planning committee was to push the envelope on typical “conference” conversations. Instead, we moved towards programming that brought out the authentic experiences of women in the workplace and highlighted the need for intersectionality, vulnerability, and allyship in women empowerment. I designed sessions on intersectional allyship, emotional labor, and internalized bias to foster deep reflection and growth for our community.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In the business world, my professional career is only now taking off. Before school, I was incredibly proud of the work I got to do at the Center for Food Safety. I’ll save you from the boring science jargon, but you may have heard that bees are dying (at alarming rates!). My day-to-day job before school was to research pollinator decline and develop campaigns and policy initiatives to save this critical part of our ecosystem. I have always been a bug nerd and a food enthusiast, and the opportunity to combine these passions by lobbying on behalf of farmers, beekeepers, and community members to protect ecosystems and our food system was incredibly rewarding. I met so many people from across the country and learned the importance of collaboration even with the most unlikely allies.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event is the Diwali celebration. Ross loves a good dance party and our favorite way to celebrate our differences is to get together and dance! We have events like Afro Beats, Latin Vibes, MbGAY, A-Pop night, and more – but Diwali is definitely my favorite. Teams get together to learn incredible dances and perform for their peers in a night of celebration! The energy at Diwali is contagious and gets you through the Michigan winter.

Why did you choose this business school? This is a hard question for people who go to Ross. When you are a Rosser, as soon as you visit, you know there’s no other school for you. I predominantly looked at schools with strong dual-degree programs and a focus on impact. If you’re a dynamic learner who wants to be both supported and challenged by your peers while exploring what the future of business could be, there’s no school better than Ross.

Our community is the core of what makes us great and it’s an intangible asset that makes this degree impossible to put a price on. Coming from a very non-traditional background, I have loved going to a school that is collaborative at its core. With a major focus in impact and sustainability (particularly with the Erb Institute), I have always felt at home at Ross.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be authentic! I was scared of applying to a school that I wasn’t good enough to get into a top MBA program and that my weird background would hold me back. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Ross encouraged me to bring my full self to the interview and embraced the interesting perspective I could bring to our class. It turns out the admissions team was right and I found that while I had no background in business, I was able to always contribute to the conversation in class and challenged my classmates to think beyond the bottom line.

What is the biggest myth about your school? You have to be a football fan to go here! I thought that all that Michigan pride you hear about was focused around athletics, but it’s not. They must put something in the water in Ann Arbor because the second you become a Wolverine you feel a deep loyalty and pride in this school. Whether you go to every game or never step into a stadium, you’ll find that you bleed Maize and Blue. This comes in handy when you can go anywhere in the world and find a friend in a complete stranger who is also rocking the giant M.

Looking back over your MBA, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I don’t know if I would change anything because I have had an incredible journey over the past three years. If I could give advice to my first-year self, I would tell her to learn to say no. Rossers want to be involved in everything (because there are so many great things to do!), but learning to say no strategically opens you up to saying yes to the things and people that really matter.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Choosing one feels impossible! I spend everyday fangirling over my peers. Arjun Verma is a classmate I truly admire. After serving in AmeriCorps and six years at Deloitte, Arjun is intentional about everything he does. Not only is he a numbers powerhouse, but he also is everyone’s go-to person for advice and support. He always lifts the conversation in class and sets a high standard for his classmates. After recognizing that MBAs were craving connection, he and a peer brought to life a series of community dinners where students can talk about their beliefs and connect on a deeper level. He is a deeply compassionate ally for women and other peers of color and always makes time for people. If I had to build an effective team, I would always choose him.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I didn’t know anyone with an MBA when I applied and have had a strange journey getting to where I am today. I decided to go to business school in 2016, sitting at a community meeting of farmers in South Dakota. They all desperately wanted to figure out how to make environmental goals and financial goals to align with our food system. I never would have imagined sitting there, listening to this farmer advocate that I would end up in an MBA one year later, and going to work for McKinsey only four years later. I thought an MBA would give me a general understanding of business but never imagined that Michigan would help me transform into a more critical thinker, a better leader, and a more confident problem-solver.

Getting to the point of submitting my application took a village of incredible people helping me overcome my imposter syndrome: Diana Economy, director of MBA admissions, my four incredible sisters, MBA peers I met at admissions events, and my past manager, Larissa Walker. The incredible support of these women taught me a lifelong lesson on the shared gains that can be realized when women lift one another up.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? People say business school opens doors–but I could never imagine how many it could open. My experience at Ross, makes me feel like the opportunities are endless and what used to seem like a bucket list is absolutely achievable. I am excited to work with a global firm and get exposure to new ideas and top thinkers at McKinsey. My ideal project would be anything where I get to work with good humans and good food. I have been working in food systems from the start of my career, including community organizing around food justice in New Orleans, 10 years in the service industry, agricultural research and policy in D.C., and navigating food supply chains at Walmart. My life goal is to work toward a world where historically marginalized communities are empowered and brought together through food. After years of travel and learning from people all over the world, I hope one day I get to return to New Orleans to help bring to life the vision of young food entrepreneurs and community leaders.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? She always tried to make time and space for her friends to be their most authentic self.

Hobbies? Fermenting foods, geeking out over flora and fauna on local hikes, and giving compliments.

What made Madeleine such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Since the first day she arrived on campus, Madeleine has been a bright and energetic member of the Erb Institute and the Ross community. In addition to an MBA from the Ross School of Business, she is also pursuing a second Masters, an MS, through the School for Environment and Sustainability. As a member of the Erb Institute, Madeline serves as president of the Student Advisory Board where she supports a network of 70+ dual- degree students at Ross.  As an active member of the student community, Madeleine has forged tight connections with her peers, prospective students, and business leaders in sustainability. Madeline also works as a Graduate Student Instructor and has been an influential leader, supporting undergraduate students with an interest in business and sustainability as they manage the complexities of the field inside and out of the classroom. In addition, Madeline has pursued a certificate in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion through the University of Michigan; is a member of the Community Consulting club; a facilitator trained to use design thinking for human-centered problem solving; a member of the Detroit Revitalization and Business community; and a leader in the Michigan Business Women organization. She is a student ambassador at Ross and has served as a resource for countless students pursuing their MBA. It’s pretty clear to all who know her that Madeline isn’t in it for herself; she’s all about the team! It’s for this reason that she was nominated by her peers for the prestigious Percy Community Service Award, awarded to members of the Erb Community for their outstanding commitment to enhancing the student community.”

Joe Árvai
Director, Erb Institute
Max McGraw Professor of Sustainable Enterprise
School for Environment & Sustainability and Ross School of Business


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