2020 First Generation MBAs: Jessica Ahn, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Jessica Ahn

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

Class: 2021

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was on the frontpage of a newspaper for winning an art competition.

Undergraduate School and Major:

  • University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), Political Science B.A.
  • Loyola Marymount University (LMU), Education Administration and Policy M.A.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Management Consultant at Accenture

What did your parents do for a living? My parents are extremely hard-working individuals and have modeled first-hand what grit and entrepreneurial drive looks like. Since immigrating to the states, they have operated a pizza joint, liquor store, fabric manufacturer, gas station and now proudly own a dry-cleaning business.

What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your father? Both my parents graduated from high school in South Korea. My mother, however, earned her bachelor’s degree in 2014 at age 53 – the same year my younger brother graduated from his undergraduate program and when I graduated from my master’s program. It was an incredible year for my family.

Which family member or mentor is your biggest inspiration or role model? Why? My parents. I am where I am today because of the sacrifices they have made and their belief in me. I grew up watching my dad be the first to wake up and leave the house promptly for work, a routine that continues to this day. My mother had breakfast ready for my brother and me to eat in the car as she drove us to school – a school that was further away but had arguably better resources.

What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? There was not one definitive moment. Getting into college was the dream for my parents and for many in my community. I pursued this dream believing my parents and community knew what was best, but it was only after graduating from UCLA and starting work full-time that I realized how life changing higher education would be for myself and my family.

What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? Finances – I was not sure how I was going to fund my undergraduate studies.

What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? Balancing studies, extracurricular commitments, and social activities. Admittedly, I did not know how to prioritize my time and learned some difficult lessons in college as a result.

What didn’t your family understand about the higher experience that you wish they would understand better? I do not think there is anything my family failed to understand. There are areas of the higher education experience I wish my family knew more about to inform me. For instance, I did not know to look for internships throughout my undergraduate years nor did I know the breadth of resources I should have taken advantage of.

What led you to pursue an MBA degree? I wanted to understand how capital works, especially when thinking of how to maximize it in the public sector. I also wanted an immersive experience and professional network to lean into and contribute to throughout my career.

How did you choose your MBA program? When selecting undergraduate programs, I frankly did not know any better than to apply to the schools that were well known in my community. I did not visit any schools back then, nor did I research into the benefits and considerations of each program. As grateful as I am for my undergraduate education (and I am a proud Bruin!), I believe the program was not the best fit for me. So, when it came to selecting my MBA program, I was very selective. I knew I wanted to join a program that was small/medium sized with a strong alumni network that could help me achieve my career aspirations, and was a cultural fit. Tuck was easily my top choice.

What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? This time around, I was more concerned with recruiting than finances. Knowing the time and financial investment going into my MBA, I wanted my internship and post-MBA role to make it all worthwhile.

How were you able to finance your MBA as a first generation student? Combination of scholarship funding as a Forte Fellow, loans, and savings.

What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? In my opinion, two of the biggest disadvantages of being a first-generation college student are: a lack of an existing network, and awareness of do’s and don’ts. Explore the resources around you, build meaningful connections and learn from those around you.

What do you plan to pursue after graduation? I plan to pursue opportunities in human-centered design and innovation consulting where I can use my skills to creatively solve problems and build solutions advancing the human experience. Over time, I hope to develop an expertise in business and inclusive design to enhance our public sector and services.