Hometown: Providence, RI
Fun Fact About Yourself: I finished third in the hammer throw at the 2016 NCAA Division 1 Outdoor Track and Field Championships. It was the highest finish ever for a Winthrop athlete in the NCAA Track and Field Championships, both indoor and outdoor.
Undergraduate School and Major: Winthrop University, Integrated Marketing Communication
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Inovalon, Product Marketing Manager
What did your parents do for a living? My mother was a Certified Nursing Assistant and my father was a Pastor
What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your father? High School Diploma
Which family member or mentor is your biggest inspiration or role model? Why? My high school coach, Robert Palazzo, always challenged me to push beyond my paradigms and strive for more. My reverence for him motivated me to do well on and off the field because I never wanted to disappoint him. I remember when I first started on the track team my freshman year of high school, I was mediocre at best and wanted to quit every single day. Despite my lack of talent, Coach P stuck with me. He invested time and energy into molding me to be a nationally-ranked athlete. As a result of his coaching and nurturing, I ended my high school athletic career as a three-time all-American, with several scholarships offers from D1 schools. Without those scholarships, I would not have been able to afford to go to the college of my choice.
In 2019, Coach Palazzo was one of ten high school athletic directors in the nation selected to receive the Distinguished Service Award by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA). His service and dedication to the youth in his community are worth emulation, and I hope to one day have the same influence and impact on the youth that Coach Palazzo has had on my life.
What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? Growing up, I always viewed college as the natural next step in my academic progression. Therefore, it is difficult for me to pinpoint when I decided to pursue a higher education degree. What I can pinpoint is the moment I knew college wasn’t a choice but a requirement for me.
Six months before my high school graduation, my home life had taken a turn for the worse, and I was homeless during the months leading up to graduation. I worked the evening shifts at McDonald’s and would try to get off early to catch the last bus to my best friend’s dorm at a nearby college. The days I couldn’t make the bus, I would sleep in an apartment building hallway until it was time to go to school the next morning. One evening, while in the stairwell of “my” hallway, I felt pretty down and was just tired of fighting. Knowing that I could not afford to breakdown, I quickly put an end to my pity party. I said a silent prayer that night and envisioned the life that I wanted for myself and my future children. In that moment, I promised myself that if I kept fighting for my future and went to college, then the nightmare of what was currently my life would one day be a distant memory.
What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? My journey to undergrad was a bit unorthodox. While most high school seniors are understandably worried and slightly excited about the transition from high school to independent adulthood in college, I was looking forward to welcoming the stability and routine that college would provide. At the time, I was so preoccupied with everything that was going on in my personal life that I didn’t take the time to process the hardships and impending challenges that I would encounter as a first-generation college student. While I may have been a bit naïve about the process, in retrospect, I’m glad that I was because worrying would have overshadowed the joy and excitement that I felt about going to college.
What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? The most challenging part of my undergraduate experience was performing the balancing act of being the decorated student-athlete that seemed to have it all, and the girl who was struggling to keep it all together. As a first-generation student, I went through undergrad feeling alone and frankly, very lost. My father, who lived in Liberia, passed away during my sophomore year, so that took an emotional toll on me. I found myself once again fighting to make it across the finish line. While undergrad presented its own set of challenges, both academically and personally, I enjoyed the experience and have fond memories of my time at Winthrop.
What didn’t your family understand about the higher education experience that you wish they would understand better? My parents were not as fortunate to have the same educational opportunities that I have had. Therefore, they could not give me a blueprint for an experience that they’ve never had. While they couldn’t comprehend the financial and psychological toll that pursuing a higher education degree took on me, I am nevertheless grateful for the life skills that they taught me, which allowed me to navigate the complexity of undergrad.
What led you to pursue an MBA degree? Before I graduated undergrad, I knew that I wanted to further my education by attending grad school. I’ve always been inspired by women who have broken barriers in their fields and have chosen to invest and mentor young professionals to have the same, if not better, outcome than they did. They’ve impacted and motivated young professionals like me to fight against the narratives society has created for us and be bold enough to write our own. In the spirit of that boldness, I decided to pursue an MBA to elevate my career and inspire other young people to do the same. Additionally, I plan to use the skills and knowledge gained from my MBA education to launch an academic resource center in my native homeland, Monrovia, Liberia. My organization’s primary focus will be to provide children from disadvantaged backgrounds with educational supplies and access to free tutoring and other resources to equip them with the tools that they need to excel in the classroom.
How did you choose your MBA program? Location, community, and global initiatives were the guiding factors that I used when deciding on an MBA program—Georgetown met all of my criteria and more! I love living in Washington, D.C. and being at the center of business and politics. In addition to that, I felt more connected to the students at Georgetown than those at other schools. After attending Diversity Weekend and the Georgetown Women in Business conference, I knew that the MBA program was the right fit for me.
What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? I was most worried about how I was going to finance my MBA education. I was fortunate enough to have my undergraduate tuition paid for through scholarships, so the idea of taking out large amounts of loans to pay for grad school was unsettling.
I also worried about not having the same pedigree as my classmates. Having come from a non-traditional family background, I felt that the majority of my classmates would not be able to relate to me due to our different upbringings. This worry was quickly put to rest when I started the pre-MBA recruiting process this summer through the Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) and the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management organizations. I had the opportunity to meet and network with other incoming first-year MBAs from all different backgrounds, many of which are now good friends of mine.
How were you able to finance your MBA as a first generation student?I am extremely grateful to Georgetown’s McDonough School of business for a generous scholarship package. The rest of my tuition will be covered with Federal loans.
What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? The advice that I would give a first-generation college student is “do not put limitations on yourself.” Allow yourself the time and space to grow and evolve into the person that you want to be. Understand that mistakes and setbacks are a part of the journey, and the lessons learned along the way are invaluable. Embrace ambiguity, and be okay with not always knowing when or how something will happen – but trust that you already have the tools you need to succeed. Most of all, be kind to yourself. Do not allow other people to project their fears, insecurities, and shortcomings onto you.
Audre Lorde said it best, “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.” So, tap into your strength, and use it to create the life that you’ve envisioned for yourself.
What do you plan to pursue after graduation? Post-MBA, I plan to pursue a career that is both challenging and exciting. My goal is to secure a consulting offer in the Retail and Consumer practice of a top firm. But while consulting is my main focus, I am open to other opportunities in CPG.