2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Nari Malkhasyan, Boston University (Questrom)

Nari Malkhasyan

Boston University, Questrom School of Business

Pragmatic but hopeful servant leader who believes that doing good will help you do well.”

Hometown: Yerevan, Armenia

Fun fact about yourself: I have helped build 10 houses and 5 water catchment systems in 6 countries on 3 continents through my volunteer work with Habitat for Humanity.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Massachusetts, Lowell – BS in Chemical Engineering; Northeastern University – MS in Chemical Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senior R&D Engineer at GVD Corporation in Cambridge, MA.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I was a Senior Vendor Manager intern at Amazon in Seattle, WA.

Where will you be working after graduation? I’m excited to be returning to Amazon to join their Retail Leadership Development Program.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Graduate Student Council President 2019-2020, 1st Year Cohort Representative 2018-2019
  • Internship Fund for Social Impact Fundraising Chair 2018-2019
  • Boston Impact Summit 2019: Panel Chair
  • Questrom MBA Admissions Ambassador
  • Marketing Learning Community Student Lead
  • MBA Peer and Undergraduate Mentor
  • Boston University Advisory Committee on Socially Responsible Investing: Graduate Student Representative
  • Teaching Assistant for core Business Analytics, core Marketing, core Organizational Behavior, and Branding classes
  • Artemis Topjian Nazarian Scholarship recipient
  • BU Women’s Guild Scholarship recipient
  • Beta Gamma Sigma Honors Society
  • The Revies Questrom Graduate Talent Show – 3rd place winner

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m incredibly proud of having served as Fundraising Chair on the Internship Fund for Social Impact during my first year. The Internship Fund is completely student-led. It enables the Questrom MBA students to create lasting social impact by funding purpose-driven, and often unpaid or underpaid, internships. Last year, I helped lead the campaign to exceed our fundraising goal of $80,000, with 100% of first-year class participation. 30% of the student-donors donated a day’s worth of salary for their summer internships! The fund empowered 10 of our brightest classmates to create sustainable change in their internship organizations. I think the Internship Fund is the perfect embodiment of the collaborative culture of Questrom.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my role as a Product Development Engineer with Bemis Associates, I developed a range of different adhesives that were used in the manufacturing of garments and shoes of all the biggest brands. The project I’m particularly proud of was the one that got our materials into the footwear market, which was a strategic objective for Bemis. I worked with designers and developers from Under Armour on the early prototypes of the Speedform running shoe. As a runner myself, this was very exciting. What was particularly satisfying was that the material I developed allowed our footwear factory partner in Vietnam to redesign their manufacturing process and cut out several steps utilizing liquid adhesives that off-gassed volatile organic compounds, potentially harmful for the workers’ health.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I think Link Day is the event that best exemplifies the spirit of Questrom Business School. It’s a one-day consulting event that connects student and faculty teams with local non-profit organizations that bring to us the different challenges they are facing. It gives the non-profits access to consulting resources for free and provides the students the opportunity to practice their skills to make an impact in the community.

This year, my Link Day team partnered with Cradles to Crayons, whose mission is to combat childhood poverty, by providing children in low-income households with the essentials they need in order to thrive. Our non-profit clients wanted to know how to best engage their partner organizations in order to most effectively reach the nearly 300,000 children in Massachusetts who needed their services. This was by far the best way to spend a Saturday!

Why did you choose this business school? What initially drew my interest to Questrom was that the school had a Social Impact program that was layered onto the traditional MBA curriculum. You could be taking Finance and Leading Sustainable Enterprises classes simultaneously and be challenged to look at the bottom line in more than just one way. And when I started to have conversations with current students at the time, I realized that Questrom’s impact focus wasn’t just a poster value, but rather a value practiced by students, faculty, alumni, and administration. I knew that by coming to Questrom, I would find a community of people who had similar values, worked hard, and lifted each other up.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Give yourself permission to be yourself instead of what you think people want you to be. At Questrom, there is no idealized version of what a successful MBA candidate looks like: there are people of different races, genders, ages, backgrounds, countries of origin, and experiences. At Questrom, the diversity of viewpoints is valued and appreciated; what unites us is our deeper values. When I came to campus to interview, I immediately knew that these were my people. If Questrom is a match, you’ll know!

What is the biggest myth about your school? I don’t know if Questrom is a particularly “mythical” place, but our MBAs are known for being effective team players. The program’s focus on teaming comes through early on when project teams are charged with building rafts out of barrels and planks. Your raft better work. Otherwise, you and your team are getting dunked into the Atlantic! But really, we have a lot of team projects, and the mentality that the rising tide lifts all ships and that we all do better together is pervasive throughout our community.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? If I had to pick just one person it would have to be Sara Adelsberg. I’ve been on a few teams with Sara and have learned so much about leadership just by watching her. She knows how to bring out the best in her teammates and leverage their strengths. She navigates conflicts with grace and has the ability to transform them into collaboration. She’s one of the hardest workers I’ve met and has so much poise, even when it’s 2 am, and you two are several coffees deep – still working on a business plan for a non-profit.

Sara was also the co-chair for my favorite event at Questrom: Link Day. She and her team worked to connect 15 non-profits with nearly 100 MBA students and faculty to come up with solutions to the problems these organizations are facing. It was a tremendous task matching the non-profits and the student teams in order to both inspire and motivate the students and deliver the best results to the non-profit partners. Sara and her team made the event a roaring success: the day itself went seamlessly, the non-profits were grateful for all the strategic insights and tactical implementation plans, and students were buzzy with the good vibes of having used their business skills in service to the community.

I think Sara exemplifies the Questrom values in action: a reliable team-mate, a genuine and caring friend, a servant leader. I’m lucky to have met her.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? In my case, it was less of a who and more of a what that influenced my decision to go to business school. I’d spend most of my professional career in the apparel industry – and much of it working with manufacturers in SE Asia. I loved my job and had fun working on projects where I could see someone wearing a garment on the street that was the final outcome of my work. As time went on, I started recognizing that many of the practices in the industry did not align with my values.

Simultaneously, I started volunteering and leading Global Village teams with Habitat for Humanity. My teams and I would go to remote communities in countries like Guatemala or Nepal to partner with families and help them build decent places to live. But what I couldn’t get out of my head was how much the communities in which I volunteered looked like the communities in which garments were manufactured. It may have been different countries, but these were people who didn’t have much and didn’t have much choice.

Coming from a developing country myself, I wanted more for these communities. I grew up in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Union when Armenia went through an energy crisis. Put more simply: I grew up without electricity or running water. So I knew what it was like to make tough choices: my parents’ generation had to choose between having firewood to keep their children warm and preserving the forests in Armenia, and I think the country’s ecology is still recovering.

It was the confluence of these realizations that made me want to go to business school. I wanted to learn what the financial outcomes of making sustainable decisions could look like, and how to successfully lead an organization while incorporating social context and environmental stewardship into its governance.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Not really a bucket list per se, but professionally I want to be a part of the movement in the retail/CPG industry that helps our society move past consumerism and leverages the rental economy, more sustainable materials, more socially conscious manufacturing, etc. to ensure the longevity of our planet and our already-scarce resources.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope they remember me as reliable, always willing to help, and deeply dedicated to the community.

Hobbies? I love running, hiking, and dancing Brazilian Zouk with my partner. At the moment, I’m spending a lot of time practicing my circus skills: aerial hoop and handstands.

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

“She is the soul of the Class of 2020. From the time she came to campus, she has had an impact on students, faculty, and the spirit of her class and the class behind her. If you wonder who is organizing the Marketing Learning community, it is Nari. If you wonder who is helping the first years get acclimated, find an internship, and not totally stress out, it is Nari. If you wonder who is intellectually pushing faculty because of her curiosity or push fellow students to think deeper, it is Nari. I have never seen one student impact the entire community- students, faculty, and the program, as much as Nari has.

During the two classes in which I have been fortunate to have Nari as a student, I have seen her inquisitive mind push the discussion so that all students delve into more thought-provoking and interesting content. Her organizational skills had her jump into action and rally the class when an experiential project with a live client almost went off the rails. Others respected her in taking that role, yet she provided space for each student to also be able to excel on their own, an important part of Nari’s uniqueness. While she leads, she doesn’t take over. In her leadership she opens the door to allow others to go through yet doesn’t compromise her high standards and intellect in doing so. In the end, we are all better.

Ms. Patricia Lynne Hambrick
Senior Lecturer, Questrom School of Business
Boston University




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