Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Breanna Spurley, Emory University (Goizueta)

Breanna Spurley

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

I’m a tap dancing, violinist trying to better the world through finance and equitable education.”

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Fun Fact About Yourself:  I decided in 2017 that I wanted to pursue my MBA, but after falling asleep during my first GMAT study session, I figured I was not quite ready. The next day, I signed up for tap dancing classes and have been clicking my heels ever since!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Georgia – Accounting and International Business

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Harlem Children’s Zone – Senior Financial Associate

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? I was drawn to Goizueta because of its values. During every interaction, I could see that the values were more than just words framed on a wall or plastered on the recruiting handouts and brochures. They were present in the admissions activities, the classroom during sample lectures that I attended as a prospective student, and throughout all aspects of the campus life.

As I advance and expand my career ambitions, a large portion of my work has moved from the “hard” finance and technical skills into relationship building and strategy development. It is important that I continue to grow in a close-knit community where I can further my business acumen and develop my unique leadership and working styles that are informed by my peers, but still authentic to myself. I am happy to join a community where investing in and pushing others to be their very best is not optional but is expected.

What excites you most about getting your MBA at Goizueta? What makes you most nervous? I’m most excited to surround myself with peers who will push each other to be their best while still supporting one another. There’s nothing better than a strong community that is full of diverse ideas and experiences! I’m also really excited to start my IMPACT project and be a “mini consultant” to businesses during the first year. It will be a chance for me to apply what we learn in the classroom to real life situations and business challenges.

With the great uncertainty that COVID-19 has placed on the world, I’m most nervous about establishing authentic and tangible relationships with my classmates and instructors in a virtual setting.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: If anyone were to look at my resume, they’d see that I have worked with a variety of people. From calculating trading desk earnings at an investment bank to building expense models at a nonprofit, I have been heavily involved in finance. That being said, my greatest accomplishment relates to process improvement and development. Using the knowledge I’d gained at the investment bank, I established and implemented several contract review processes across the Harlem Children’s Zone. While the processes have reduced financial and contractual risk, I am most proud that I was able to act as a reliable resource and equip my coworkers with new skills. Whether it was explaining legal and insurance requirements or explaining budgeting components, I was proud to help them learn new skills that allowed them to fulfill their roles more efficiently.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I felt that I had fulfilled my growth potential in my particular role. Throughout my career, I have learned skills and tasks that I love, dislike, or need to further develop. I was often the recipient of information and was typically tasked with stress testing against predetermined goals. This helped me realize what direction I wanted to take in my career. I now want to lead initiatives and build supportive teams to accomplish these tasks. An MBA will help me pivot towards my goals by providing me with more technical skills, networking resources, and relationship-building opportunities.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?  Georgetown

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I remember being asked, “Why do you want an MBA?” during the admissions process. Though I knew the answer, I wanted to make sure that I articulated it clearly and with a balance of confidence and humility.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? There were a number of factors that I looked for when determining my choice for schools. I prioritized the top 20 ranked programs in the U.S. Before attending admissions events, I examined the social media presence of each program to identify programs that not only posted about their students and alumni, but also about their staff and current events. I frequented school websites to compare the core and elective classes. When I began meeting the admissions staff, current students, and alumni, I made sure to speak with various individuals and noted common themes across each school. How strong was the alumni base? What was the student-professor relationship like? Were the schools’ missions integrated into my discussions without seeming like a generic advertisement? Are the school’s values aligned with my own? These questions guided my assessments of each institution.

After attending a number of admissions events, I knew Goizueta was “the one.” I had gotten a little worn down by the constant hustle and considered skipping one of Goizueta’s last events in New York, but I decided to go at the last minute. I was grabbing a glass of water when Heather Holland shouted my name from across the room. I was shocked that she’d remembered my name after meeting me over a month prior to the event. At that moment, I knew I was supposed to attend that event. Heather made me feel welcomed in a room filled with over 50 people. In my mind, she embodied every piece of the Goizueta community that I knew I wanted to be a part of.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Fourth grade. I wanted to follow in my sisters’ paths, so, when given the option, I elected to play either the clarinet or flute. Most people got their first choice, so I just knew I would be in the band! You could say that I was shocked when I was assigned to play the violin. My orchestra instructor, Ms. Thompson, was a strong black woman who played more instruments than I can name. I admired her at the age of nine and I still do today. She emphasized embracing new challenges (through difficult sheet music), improving through hard work, and cheering on our peers in her classroom. No excuses were allowed. My three years in Ms. Thompson’s class, along with the support of my family, showed me that I was the only author of my story and that the path that we set for ourselves may be prone to detours and re-routes. With hard work from my end and with empathy for those around me, I can do whatever I want.

What is the most important attribute that you are seeking in an MBA employer – and why is that important? It would be an authentic commitment to ethics. I want to work in an environment where “doing the right thing” is not simply in fashion, but the company’s lifestyle. This should be inherent in our work product and every employee interaction from coffee breaks to board meetings. By establishing a culture of ethics, employees can better encompass the values into their daily work. Loosely defined ethics and values lead to insincere services and a deterioration of the company’s community and team mentality; rather, everyone ends up fending for themselves. I want to work with an employer where the values align with my own and where that culture of ethics is genuinely embodied in the company’s core.


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