2020 MBAs To Watch: Makda Sara Matthew, UCLA (Anderson)

Makda Sara Matthew

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“High-energy strategist committed to creating equitable spaces and to a life filled with laughter.”

Hometown: Clermont, Florida

Fun fact about yourself: I have been to Walt Disney World more than 50 times (My mother worked there!)

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Florida, B.S. Applied Physiology and Kinesiology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Program Manager, The Forum for Youth Investment

Where did you intern during the summer of 2019? PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) in San Francisco

Where will you be working after graduation? Senior Associate, People & Organization Advisory, PwC

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP of Diversity for Admissions Ambassador Corps
  • VP of Marketing for Black Business Students Association
  • VP of Social Equity for Net Impact
  • Co-Director 2019 Embracing Diversity Conference
  • December 2019 MBA of the Month
  • Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow
  • High School Riordan Scholars Mentor
  • 2019 Los Angeles Engaged Fellow, New Leaders Council

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My time spent as the VP of Diversity for the Admissions Ambassador Corps is something I am proud of. The team of students I have been working with to create both big and small changes at UCLA Anderson has ensured that diverse prospective students not only feel welcomed, but are able to feel and see that they can be their best and whole selves at Anderson. I have been so proud of both the allies who have stepped up to advocate and implement our strategies to increase underrepresented minorities (URMs), and an administration that has been incredibly receptive to our ideas and has jumped into action to make a change.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Professionally, I am incredibly proud of the work I did to pass, and in subsequent years expand, legislation for an innovative federal initiative called the Performance Partnership Pilots. My advocacy resulted in the Congressional authorization of up to 40 pilots across the US. The legislation allowed local and state leaders to reimagine and redesign government to eliminate barriers, create efficiencies, and better serve young people and their families. The pilot programs improved coordination across public systems, fostered public-private partnerships, and advanced data-driven decision-making in government.

After fact-finding and consulting with communities, identifying their pain points with the status quo, and bringing together a wide range of stakeholders, it was an incredible experience to create a federal policy that would eliminate bureaucratic barriers, fragmentation, and silos. These pilots allowed partnerships to form across systems and sectors to provide coordinated and comprehensive supports and services to communities that need it the most, which was an amazing feeling.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Gayle Northrop is a brilliant change agent. She teaches Social Entrepreneurship, a course that analyzes different business models for social impact. We got the opportunity to learn from social entrepreneurs themselves who shared their challenges designing, managing, and scaling organizations to achieve social good.

Gayle is also an informal advisor to our Business Creation Option (BCO) project (BCO is a master’s thesis track at UCLA Anderson where groups of students flex their entrepreneurial skills and conduct primary and secondary research to launch a business). Our team is exploring how we will build a truly responsible business driven by the triple bottom lines of people, planet, and profit to create economic mobility in communities living in poverty globally. Rwanda is our first country for production and employment. Gayle has incredible connections in Sub-saharan Africa after many years of working with nonprofit and social enterprises on the continent. She has been an incredible resource and wealth of knowledge for our team. We even coincidentally both ended up in Kigali, Rwanda (my team for primary research and Gayle on a consulting job) at the same time and she treated us to amazing dinner!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? UCLA Anderson’s Embracing Diversity Week and Conference is my favorite annual event. Each year, students, in partnership with the administration, plan the two-day Embracing Diversity Conference (EDC) geared toward prospective students interested in building community, engaging in topics around inclusivity in business, and learning about diversity at Anderson.

Attending EDC as a prospective student is why I chose to attend UCLA Anderson., I saw a strong community of students who were incredibly accomplished, passionate, and fun. I also saw a large representation from the administration, across departments, who were engaged and supportive. It was something I uniquely experienced at UCLA Anderson, which is why as a student I was excited to co-direct the 2019 conference.

Each year, the conference grows. This year, Heather Caruso, our Assistant Dean of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, worked with students to create a week of programming that preceded EDC. The caliber of speakers throughout the week uniquely reflected the beauty of being in Los Angeles.

Why did you choose this business school? I was very intentional about my business school selection process. I filtered top schools down based on whether they demonstrated a commitment to equity, diversity, and inclusion. They also needed a student body, despite what career path they came from or were pursuing, that cared about society more broadly. It was important to me that the program was a supportive community that championed its members. Being in one of the most diverse cities in the country with access to a wide range of industries and beautiful beaches was the icing on the cake!

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Come to campus and sit in the Anderson courtyard. Meet and talk to students in the clubs that reflect your interests. Take the time to learn about different students’ experiences and paths. An MBA is unlike any other graduate program; it truly should be a transformative experience in a space where you feel safe to grow and challenge yourself. Business school is a tough balancing act no matter what top school you choose (and is huge financial commitment!), so my advice is to make sure you are in place that reflects your values and has a community you could see yourself being a part of beyond the two years. A network is only as good as you want to and enjoy engaging with!

What is the biggest myth about your school? A myth about UCLA Anderson that is common among east coasters is that students are super relaxed and it’s a chill environment. As a recovering east coaster, I have learned that intense environments don’t necessarily translate to ambition and success. UCLA Anderson is indeed an extremely warm (literally and figuratively) environment where people don’t boast about their accomplishments. It is often not until you are in the Parker Career Management course or a workshop where you see your peers’ resumes and blown away by what they have achieved. I appreciate how students here are ambitious in professional pursuits while balancing life and personal goals (health, significant others/relationships, community, etc.).

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? During my first year, I would have traveled more on the student-led treks, but I am attempting to make up for it in my second year! I had an incredible time and learned so much during my Global Immersion Course to Peru where we met with CEOs of the country’s top industries and government officials, such as the General Manager of the Central Bank of Peru. We went to Machu Picchu and ate so much delicious food. Also, I, just got back from a 10-day trip in Rwanda where our team conducted research for our capstone project. We pitched our project and won travel funds from our Center for Global Immersion.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Ezra Glenn is our student government (Anderson Student Association) VP of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and a fellow Consortium member. He has been an incredible friend and accomplice advocating for equity on campus. He works hard and is brilliant. However, what I admire most about him is that he is unabashedly and consistently his full self in all settings, from the first moment I met him at A-Days before school began to networking with consulting firms (he successfully secured a role at McKinsey). I appreciate how fearless he is and how he chooses to live each moment of his life as an advocate for those who are often pushed to the margins.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Although I did not have many people in my immediate personal or professional circles who pursued a business degree, I often think back to a conversation I had with a woman I met as a White House intern by the name of Melissa Bradley. She was a fierce social justice warrior, a social entrepreneur, and an MBA. When I discussed with her that I was considering not pursuing an MBA anymore and exploring other graduate programs, she debunked each myth and concern I had. She helped me understand the power of expanding your network and the value add I would bring to a classroom coming from an “atypical” background. I am grateful for the guidance she provided because a UCLA Anderson MBA was absolutely worth the investment!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

One: Build out a workforce strategy to hire, train, and retain populations that experience barriers to employment (such as people who are experiencing homelessness, are refugees and are formerly incarcerated).

Two: Chief of staff for a passionate change agent that is committed to addressing structural and systemic inequity.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a thoughtful and kind person who was reliable and supportive and made others feel valued and motivated to be their best selves.

Hobbies? Listening to history-focused podcasts such as Stuff You Missed in History Class, Revisionist History, and Slow Burn. I also enjoy planning cheesy-themed events and hosting game nights for family and friends

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

“Sara stands out among my students not only for her valuable contributions to the course content and conversations but also for her quiet yet strong role in shaping the classroom experience. She brought a wonderfully fresh perspective to class, grounded in her tangible, real-world insights about the nonprofit, social impact space. And while she didn’t often raise her hand first (which I appreciated), I always knew I could call on her for a thoughtful, thought-provoking insight that would move our conversation forward. Sara and I had specific conversations about how to manage class discussion dominators that created a more balanced classroom experience.

Most of all, I really appreciated that Sara would come to class with her big smile, her informed optimism, and her commitment to helping me and her peers create an inclusive learning environment. I loved having Sara in class, and I love watching her chart her path forward to use her MBA for even greater social impact. We got to talk about and really dig into gritty, real-world challenges and specific opportunities to apply course concepts to real-world problems in Africa – and I think those conversations will lead to solid, creative, relevant solutions.”

Gayle Northrop
Lecturer and Senior Faculty Advisor for Impact@Anderson



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