2020 MBAs To Watch: Katie Nicolle, Babson College (Olin)

Katie Nicolle

Babson College, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business

“I am a Ravenclaw that believes that all children deserve a quality education.”

Hometown: Wenonah, New Jersey

Fun fact about yourself: I served as Miss New Jersey 2011 and competed for the title of Miss America.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Dickinson College, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies and a Certificate in Security Studies

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Reading Partners, Program Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I am in the one-year MBA program and therefore did not have an internship.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am not sure yet but I am exploring roles in or related to the education and/or non-profit fields.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I act as my class’s community development representative. I am a Babson Board Fellow serving on the board of Boston Scores in an advisory capacity. I am also a mentor for Babson’s Coaching for Leadership and Teamwork Program.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I have a lot of peers who are starting businesses that aim to address a problem in their community. Some have solutions for reducing the waste associated with fast fashion. Others are looking for ways to help anyone, regardless of income, gain professional skills. I have been so proud of their drive to make change in the world. I have also been honored to play even small parts of their journey; for example, such as helping people prepare a pitch for funding or helping someone map out the complex system in which their business is trying to operate.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My mom and I currently run the Miss New Jersey Outstanding Teen competition (little sister program to Miss New Jersey). Over the last four years, we have been able to raise scholarships by over 400%, awarding a total of $ 44,581.00 in scholarship to teenage women in New Jersey.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor has been Yunwei Gai from our economics department. I took Economic and Financial Forecasting with him and am currently enrolled in his Health Care: Markets, Analytics and Strategies course. It is great how Professor Gai loves to nerd out on anything from statistical analysis to Star Trek. His teaching style feels very straightforward and his expectations are clear. He is the type of professor where you work hard and you learn a lot (and do well). He has a sarcastic streak that is entertaining too.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I have yet to attend this event, but every spring the grad school hosts an event called Buffoonery. Members of the school community prepare skits to “roast” the school year. I have heard that it is a fantastically hilarious event that everyone enjoys. I am also looking forward to our International Dinner where students represent their countries and cultures, work with school chefs to prepare food, and perform.

Why did you choose this business school? I was looking for a school that had some type of social impact offering and Babson has the Lewis Institute for social innovation. After Babson checked the “social impact” box for me, I visited the school. From the moment I stepped on campus and started talking to students and faculty, it was clear to me that Babson does not have the hyper-competitive environment that I came to expect at other B-schools. It felt supportive, learning-driven, and “one-up-man-ship” is not impressive at Babson. It felt like a safe place to learn, explore and make mistakes. I have found that mentality still to be true more than halfway through my degree.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Make sure you express the things that you are passionate about. I do not know this for sure, but I suspect that the admission committees are looking for students who prove that they are not just coming to get a degree. There must be a deeper motivation to create some type of value in the world. When you can express that through your passion, then they know you could be a Babson Beaver.

What is the biggest myth about your school?

Myth: Everyone at Babson has or wants to start their own business.

Truth: Although Babson’s thing is definitely entrepreneurship, not everyone here is working on their start-up or family business.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I cannot think of anything that I would do differently. I will say that there is so much to do, so many people to meet, and so many things to get involved with that you cannot do it all. I sometimes think about if I had done the two-year program, I would have more time at Babson to do more things. However, I have no doubt I would still feel the same after two years.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Mijal Tawil owns and runs pet stores in Mexico City and started a non-profit called ACUMI that takes shelter dogs, trains them to be emotional support animals, and then links them with forever homes and owners. I find Mijal to have a strong growth mindset which requires both vulnerability and a fierce drive to learn. She also is an incredible listener, which I believe is related to how many people she has connected with across the school.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I worked at Reading Partners for five years before coming to Babson, most of that time under the executive directorship of Karen Gardner. Pretty early on, I thought to myself: “I want to be her someday.” Karen was a mentor to me and I felt valued under her leadership. She also happened to have her MBA. I spoke to her about her reasons for going to business school and I decided to pursue business school as well.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? In general, I want to leave every place that I work a little better than when I came.

I have had a lot of women in my life and career whom I have looked up to and I would love to be that for someone else especially to a young woman.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would love for people to feel like I am someone who took a genuine interest in them.

Hobbies? Taekwondo – I am currently a Red Belt, playing with my dog, and reading (mostly fiction)

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

“In Fall 2020, I taught my experimental MBA elective Reimagining X. The course asks students – by using the design process – to explore and ultimately re-invent an entire sector…in this case higher ed. This task was particularly challenging for two reasons. First, it asks students to reimagine their own education situation, including their own recent purchasing decision for an expensive education. Second, higher education and its consequences stretch over many years and do so in a currently rapidly changing environment. Together, these factors lead to a very high degree of uncertainty in the course. The students are asked to explore and navigate through a landscape that is shifting under their feet. This level of uncertainty is very uncomfortable for most people. In this setting, Katie was one of the students in the class who fully embraced the uncertainty. In discussions, she always offered new angles from which to look at a situation. When learning to use a new design tool, Katie always pushed the tool’s use to new limits and allowed herself to pursue entirely new questions. Katie’s willingness to enter new and unknown environments, and respond creatively to the challenges that she and her team encountered, made her an invaluable part of the course, and by extension of the Class of 2020.”

Sebastian Fixson, PhD
Associate Dean of Innovation, F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business
Professor of Innovation & Design
Marla M Capozzi MBA ‘96 Term Chair in Design Thinking, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
Babson College


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