Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Elizabeth McLaughlin, University of Michigan (Ross)

Elizabeth McLaughlin

University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business

“Former journalist but a forever news buff; happiest on or near the water!”

Hometown: Manhattan Beach, CA and Spring Lake, MI

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a competitive water skier for the University of Michigan, twice qualifying for and competing in the national collegiate tournament. I’ve been water skiing since the age of 3.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Michigan, Communication Studies (I’ll be a double Wolverine!)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: ABC News, Pentagon reporter/producer

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school, and why was it so important to you? When comparing MBA programs, I found the Ross consulting practicum, called Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP), to be second-to-none. Because MAP is a full-time 7-week course and required for all first-year Ross MBAs, it is a core part of the curriculum rather than an extracurricular offering. Coming from a non-traditional background, I wanted to tackle a major consulting project to bolster business skills and gain experience within a new industry.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I’m really looking forward to the Sanger Leadership Center’s Story Lab. As a Pentagon reporter, I had the privilege of telling a lot of important and often complex stories that affected peoples’ lives. But now, it’s time to write my own story! Through Story Lab’s workshops and events, I can craft my unique narrative, continue to hone my writing skills and get to know my classmates in an open, vulnerable environment.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Ross? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? As funny as it sounds, I am most excited by the things I can’t even imagine yet: the class that introduces me to a new skillset, the project that changes my recruiting plans, and the classmate who challenges my preconceptions about something. As much as the pre-MBA process has prompted developing short- and long-term plans, I am reminding myself to stay open to the unknown. What makes me most nervous for business school is the coronavirus! I’m hopeful that our campus and country can overcome this health crisis so that our Ross class can take advantage of everything this incredible program has to offer. #wearamask

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest career accomplishment was quickly and accurately reporting complex, consequential stories in competition with some of the most renowned reporters in journalism. I was assigned to report from the Pentagon for ABC News at the age of 24. Suddenly, I shared a hallway with journalists I had long-admired — many of whom had spent more than a decade deeply entrenched in military and foreign policy issues. Though intimidated at first, I quickly learned how to break news and report stories with confidence and precision, hopefully having earned the respect of sources and coworkers along the way. An ABC Pentagon colleague and I tackled major news events like a well-oiled machine: confirming details of events with sources, consulting with network executives on reporting plans, publishing stories on, filing radio pieces that would be disseminated to dozens of local ABC stations, and preparing show teams to air our reporting on ABC’s television broadcasts. From the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria, to the resignation of Defense Secretary James Mattis, and the creation of the Space Force, there was never a dull day covering the U.S. military.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? While I loved my job at ABC, I was finding that I was more interested in the topics I was covering at the Pentagon than in the act of reporting itself. I considered a transition directly into the aerospace/defense or technology industries but realized the MBA would provide a holistic understanding of the business world, along with the technical skills and network I desired to optimize a career change.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Dartmouth (Tuck), Duke (Fuqua), UCLA (Anderson), USC (Marshall), UNC (Kenan-Flagler), Washington (Foster)

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Many of my admissions interviewers asked behavioral questions framed (unsurprisingly) in a business context – questions about project management, team dynamics, and critical thinking. My challenge was to think about how I could best relate my experience in journalism to these ideas, despite the fact that the language used in the industry can be very different than the language in the question. For instance, when asked about overcoming a difficulty faced during a project, I talked about reporting a breaking news event like North Korean missile tests (my version of a “project”) and described the constraints and challenges that went along with it.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? I’ve read some fantastic books! I particularly enjoyed “The Four” by Scott Galloway and “Dare to Lead” by Brene Brown. I’ve also been reaching out to Ross students and alumni to learn about their recruiting experiences and careers. It’s been amazing to see the Ross network at work before even stepping foot on campus, and I so appreciate how every person I’ve contacted has taken the time to speak with me.

What was your defining moment, and how did it prepare you for business school? I never thought I’d fly in a Black Hawk over Baghdad, seek shelter from the cold in a yurt in Nur-Sultan, visit an airfield in Ho Chi Minh City, or produce an exclusive interview in Kyiv. But my role as a Pentagon reporter took me to 18 countries, flying with secretaries of defense and state as one of a handful of journalists invited to travel with these senior leaders. These trips became the defining moments of my career as I was pushed mentally and physically. Though I worked for ABC News, during these trips I sometimes represented all five TV networks – ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC – as the pool reporter and was responsible for sending video and editorial information back to their DC bureaus. It wasn’t unusual to average a new country every day or two, fly overnight, and encounter logistics challenges like transmitting a press conference out of a desert in Saudi Arabia and or a base in Afghanistan.

The stakes were high, especially when communicating breaking news being made by these officials in real-time. The inaccurate characterization of a situation or the misquoting of an official would mean hundreds of TV reporters and producers had it wrong. I am hopeful that this kind of fast-paced, complex news coverage prepared me for business school by strengthening my ability to make decisions quickly, produce accurate reports under pressure, and act professionally in any number of difficult circumstances.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I love how Trader Joe’s provides high-quality, health-conscious, and diverse products at an affordable price point. The store’s smaller footprint, efficient checkout, and friendly employees make the grocery store a dare-I-say pleasant trip! I think Trader Joe’s can teach business students the value of consistency – with customers knowing they will get the same excellent experience at any store across the country.

DON’T MISS: Meet The MBA Class Of 2022: The COVID Cohorts

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