2020 MBAs To Watch: Alyssa Forbess, University of Florida (Warrington)

Alyssa Forbess

University of Florida, Warrington College of Business

Service-driven and action-oriented go-getter who is passionate about driving change, building community, and following Jesus.

Hometown: Jensen Beach, Florida

Fun fact about yourself: I once went to the airport with just a carry-on bag, closed my eyes, and picked my destination by blindly pointing to a spot on the departures board.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Florida; Bachelor of Science in Event, Tourism, and Hospitality Management with Minors in Business Administration and Leadership

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Before beginning UF’s one-year accelerated MBA program, I worked as a Human Resources Best Practice Consultant at CareerBuilder.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? I am in a one-year accelerated Full-Time MBA program, where students do not complete an internship and instead go straight into full-time employment after graduation.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be joining NextEra Energy as a Senior Business Management Analyst. In that role, I will help develop strategic plans and coordinate strategic initiatives across our renewable-energy business.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: During my tenure at the University of Florida, I was given the opportunity to serve our program through our student-led MBA Association, the University of Florida’s MBA Admissions Department, and the University of Florida MBA Student Affairs Department.

As the Head Ambassador for the University of Florida MBA Admissions Department, I work alongside the UF Admissions team to ensure that prospective students make meaningful connections with current students throughout their interview process. This includes coordinating campus tours, coffee chats, and other outreach events to showcase the true University of Florida experience.

In addition to serving as the Head Ambassador, I was also selected by the Admissions Department to serve on the Student Board for the 1st Annual Diversity and Inclusion Weekend. Here at the University of Florida, we are dedicated to embracing and supporting our MBA students from diverse backgrounds and I was lucky enough to have had the opportunity to help mold the weekend experience for our diverse group of prospective student attendees.

I also was elected by my peers to serve as our Cohort Representative. As Cohort Representative, I gather feedback on the MBA experience and share that feedback with both UF MBA’s Student Affairs Department and our student-led MBA Association to ensure the continued growth of our program.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of executing the first-ever Diversity and Inclusion Conference for the Warrington College of Business. This conference was a student initiative that brought diverse candidates from across the globe to Gainesville to learn more about what the University of Florida MBA program is doing to embrace and support our MBAs from diverse backgrounds. During this three-day conference — a conference that was jointly planned and executed by the student committee and our admissions team— we introduced prospective students to our top-notch career services team, our career-driven curriculum, and our diverse student body. Our goal was to demonstrate The College of Business’s dedication to diversity and inclusion and show that everyone can find a home here at the University of Florida. As a student committee member, not only did I get to attend the entire conference, I saw firsthand the true impact this event had on the attendees, our college, and our current student body. The community that was created during this weekend between current students, attendees, and all of the faculty/staff involved is something I will look back on and be proud of for the rest of my life. I am so honored to attend a school that is focused on creating a diverse student population and I can’t wait to attend the Diversity and Inclusion Conference at the Warrington College of Business for years to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my tenure at an HR software company, I was tasked with saving our most at-risk accounts. My strategy for the project was to review historical client usage data in hopes of identifying trends that would help us save future accounts. Through an analysis of client exit-survey data, I discovered a correlation between low software adoption rates and clients leaving our platform. Based on my industry knowledge and data from the client feedback surveys, I worked with product managers to build client-facing reports that detailed specific usage trends and requested ROI metrics. I then created industry-specific training manuals to show clients how they could increase their return on investment. The project was very successful in increasing client retention and client satisfaction rates and my retention technique was later implemented across the entire salesforce and customer retention department. I am most proud of this achievement because I used data-driven decisions to impact positive change within my organization.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Dr. Klodiana Lanaj. I had the pleasure of learning from Dr. Lanaj in both the Organizational Behavior and Leading Teams classes. Dr. Lanaj not only equips her students with the knowledge and tools necessary to successfully lead high-performing teams and organization, she also provides them with insight into their own leadership and influence style through various individual surveys and reflection projects. Dr. Lanaj encourages students to be reflective so that they can identify their specific strengths and use them to lead people in ways that benefit not only their team members but also the larger organization. Dr. Lanaj’s classes challenged me to learn the most about myself and promoted the development of the necessary knowledge and skills to be an effective leader and team member.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA tradition is going to game day in our football stadium —”the Swamp”— with my classmates. Our cohorts are smaller in nature, which creates a tight-knit community. Whether we are traveling to watch a game at another college, or we are setting up our tailgate right in front of the Swamp, we come together on gamedays to form this really unique family unit. Our tradition is to have yard games set up, someone cooking food for the group, and for us all to sit together in the stadium. The energy in The Swamp is electric, and unlike anything else I have ever experienced at a sporting event.

Why did you choose this business school?There are three major reasons why I choose to pursue my MBA at the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business. The first reason was the scholarship opportunities. Currently, all full-time MBA students at the University of Florida are eligible for a full scholarship. This was attractive to me because the ROI of getting my degree is unmatched against any other MBA program. The second reason is program flexibility. The University of Florida offers multiple full-time program options. There are ten-month, twelve-month, and two-year traditional full-time program options, all of which cover the same material, but vary in length and acceleration. The third reason is that I was attracted to the smaller more concentrated cohorts. Everyone knows your name here, from the faculty to the staff, and the students. Our success is their success and our challenges are their challenges. It really is a tight-knit family-style program, which is something I valued in my MBA search. An MBA from the University of Florida isn’t just a piece of paper— it is an experience that forever shapes and influences your professional and personal development.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Embrace what makes you different! As an intentionally smaller MBA program, we are looking to add quality candidates who can diversify our experience and add value to the conversation in classrooms.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about my school is that the University of Florida has a small program size and therefore does not have a large network of employers that recruit here. This is completely false. Our top-ranked career services team has relationships with top employers across the country. Employers often seek out candidates from the University of Florida and we interview alongside top tier MBA programs. Our network is also not limited to a certain geographical location nor is it limited to a specific type of industry or a specific sector of work. As they say— The Gator Nation is everywhere.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would take courses that pushed me sooner. It wasn’t until the second half of the MBA program that I took courses that were completely out of my comfort zone. The MBA program is a unique learning experience designed to foster growth in a safe and supported environment. If you are not embracing discomfort, you are not doing it right.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Nicole Howe. Nicole is the CEO of our student-run business, Gator MBA Gear. Under Nicole’s leadership, we have had the best sales in the business’s history. Not only is she successfully running a business while maintaining an impeccable GPA, but she also serves on multiple case competition teams. Nicole has a high level of professional competence, and she is always willing to help another MBA in need. I am so thankful to have the opportunity to know and learn from Nicole, and thank her for her continued pursuit of excellence.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? While I received a lot of support from friends and family, I believe my former Vice President of Sales, Elizabeth Schillo-Ploch most influenced my decision to pursue an MBA. As a Wheaton MBA alum, Elizabeth had both a comprehensive and impressive business acumen. Elizabeth built and scaled a customer-focused department, developing a GTM strategy for a new customer segment, and expanded channel partnerships to drive additional revenue. During my time as her direct report, Elizabeth thoroughly invested in my career development and encouraged me to pursue my MBA degree. I am very thankful to have spent time under Elizabeth as she is a strong leader who is blazing the trail for women’s business leaders behind her.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? A short-term goal on my professional bucket list is to speak at a TED conference on how to best drive change in an organization. A long-term professional goal of mine is to become a C-Level executive at a Fortune 500 company.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I hope my classmates remember me as someone who lightened up every situation, someone who they could consistently rely on, and someone was dedicated to creating community and building authentic relationships.

Hobbies? In my free time, I enjoy volunteering in the community, partaking in spontaneous travel adventures, going to the dog park with my very large Goldendoodle, and doing anything on the water.

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

“As an alumna of the University of Florida, having completed her Bachelor of Science in Tourism and Hospitality Management, Alyssa Forbess knew that returning to her alma mater for her MBA was the right choice.

Alyssa hit the ground running from the first day of orientation. Her ability to cultivate and maintain relationships while grabbing an audience’s attention was immediately evident when she was elected to serve as Cohort Representative for the one-year all majors program here at UF. In this role, Alyssa serves as the voice of her cohort, not only creating a streamlined communication pathway between her peers and program administrators but also providing feedback and addressing concerns with the MBA Programs Office.  Additionally, she serves as a member of the Student Engagement Committee, where she and the Cohort Representatives for 21 other cohorts come together to improve the overall MBA experience for both current and future students. In this capacity, Alyssa’s involvement, suggestions, and enthusiasm for bringing together our entire student body have significantly contributed to a more connected sense of community among all UF MBA students.

On top of these initiatives, Alyssa’s involvement as Lead Admissions Ambassador, team member for our Women in Business Organization, and participation in our inaugural UF MBA Diversity Weekend event, has played a crucial role in the creation of a cohesive and inclusive environment for our prospective and current students.

In short, Alyssa energizes and lights up a room when she walks in. As said by Dr. Klodiana Lanaj, Martin L. Schaffel Professor “Alyssa is the perfect combination of warmth and competence. She elevates every conversation she joins because she is a sharp thinker and possesses a keen sense of humor. She is a community builder who inspires others to be creative and courageous in their endeavors.” Her infectious personality, motivation to learn, and grow, coupled with her humility and empathy have made her an outstanding asset to UF MBA this year – she truly embodies a passion for people. Upon completion of her degree this May, Alyssa will join NextEra Energy, Inc. as a Senior Business Management Analyst.”

Shane C. Van Deree
Academic Program Specialist for Student Experience


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