Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Amanda Braun, North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler)

Amanda Braun

University of North Carolina, Kenan-Flagler Business School

“Inclusive, cross-cultural service and travel professional transitioning to solve environmental problems through business and science.”

Hometown: Minneapolis, Minnesota, but spent the past 11 years in Aspen, Colorado

Fun Fact About Yourself:

I have been obsessed with the Himalayas and the country of Nepal since middle school. I developed a close connection with the Nepali family I lived with in Kathmandu while I was volunteering with a small NGO focused on water access for four months in 2011. My life was changed when I  have celebrated the most auspicious holiday Dahsain with my Nepali family in a remote rice field in the Himalayan foothills.

I celebrated the Hindu holiday with many of these same family members in a Waco subdivision several years ago. The tikka blessings my Nepali grandparents placed on my forehead represents the deep connection I have to their family, and the respect the Nepali people and I have for our elders. I returned to Nepal to spend a month with my family last summer I and am thankful that we have a life-long connection.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Colorado State University. Double major: sociology and Spanish

Certificates in international development and Latin American studies

Earning a dual-degree Master of Environmental Management at Duke Unveristy and MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

The Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions, Duke University, Strategic Communications Graduate Assistant

This was a summer internship for my Master of Environmental Management degree at Duke.

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? It was important for me to pursue a program that would allow me to pivot in a direction that turned my environmental passion into my career. I was specifically looking for MBA programs that had a sustainability concentration or the possibility to pursue environmental coursework outside of the business school. The deciding factor to pursue my MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler was the possibility to marry strong environmental course work through the MEM at Duke with additional sustainability coursework at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Driven. Every classmate whom I’ve had a chance to meet virtually or in-person has demonstrated significant drive to pursue their passions and impact their community. I have been impressed by students drive to connect virtually with each other prior to the start of our program. I am excited to see how this drive plays out in the virtual classroom.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I’m most looking forward to participating in Carolina Women in Business, especially attending their annual conference this fall.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As a professional ski instructor, my performance was measured by a private lesson request metric that was calculated by the percentage of private lessons I taught by request, out of all the lessons that I taught. Guests would request to book a private lesson with me because they had enjoyed a previous lesson with me or because I had been recommended to them by their friends, family, or another instructor. In essence, I was running my own small business within the structure of the Aspen Skiing Company. I strove to attract and retain clients who returned year after year to ski with me.

I took great pride when I rose to the top 5% of the 800 instructors for the private lesson request metric at Snowmass, quicker than many of my peers who had reached the same milestone. I am proud that I developed a large international client network as I utilized my Spanish degree and taught myself Portuguese through self-study and multiple trips to Brazil. I believe I succeeded in this position because I am cross-culturally perceptive, and I understand how to read emotions and motivations from people of all different backgrounds.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I always knew that I wanted to pursue a graduate degree, but struggled with finding a program that married my skillset with my environmental interests. Like most ski instructors who decide to move to the mountains for one season, I ended up pursuing a seasonal lifestyle for much longer than I expected – and it was great! During my 20s, I was more financially stable than most of my peers, worked eight months of the year, and traveled abroad extensively. As I entered my 30s, I realized that I wanted to make a bigger societal impact in my career, have a more stable lifestyle, and be exposed to perspectives and experiences outside of my mountain bubble.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Pepperdine, Duke Fuqua, Arizona State University, University of Colorado – Boulder, University of California – Irvine, University of California – Davis

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Describe a conflict you were involved with at work and how you handled it.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized diversity of the student body, the possibility to pursue a concentration in sustainability or environmental coursework, and financial aid offers. I researched culture by talking with admissions reps and students and attending admitted students weekends. I also updated my friends and family on my progress and was very surprised by their number of connections to students and alumni in the programs I was considering. I even found out I had a good friend from high school in admissions at one of my target schools!  Even though we hadn’t connected in 10 years, we jumped on a call and he was able to help me evaluate how the schools I was interested in matched my values and goals.

Because I was accepted during the fourth round at UNC Kenan-Flagler, I wasn’t able to attend the Experience Weekend. I learned about the UNC Kenan-Flagler culture by scouring the past several years of Poets & Quants’ “Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class of 20XX,” speaking with current students, and researching career paths of MEM/MBA alumni on LinkedIn. It is really important that my work post-graduation ties to the environmental field. I found that some of my target schools had sustainability concentrations  within their MBA programs, but that alumni who pursued these concentrations often didn’t end up with roles related to sustainability or the environment. The strength of sustainability coursework and the MEM/MBA alumni network were deciding factor to pursue my MBA at UNC Kenan-Flagler.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? When I decided I wanted to transition out of the seasonal work lifestyle, I secured a remote position to expand and support the driver partner network for one of the largest ride-sharing technology companies in the Rocky Mountain region. As you can imagine, the market in this region is very different than in large U.S. cities. Local and visiting customers were continually frustrated that their experience with the platform was not as smooth as in other locations. Many driver partners struggled with how to best utilize the platform given the unique characteristics of the region like limited phone service, unique peak hours, and a sharp seasonal demand curve.

Although I had considerable support for many of my localized marketing and communications ideas from my direct supervisor, most were never considered for implementation by upper-level management because they were not directly measurable through the company’s established marketing metrics. A few months later, I saw our direct competitor implementing all of the marketing ideas that I had presented to my upper management. This moment made me realize that my skills customizing services and experiences for customers from diverse backgrounds in my roles in hospitality, tourism and recreation had value in the business world. I started to trust in myself, believe that my ideas had worth and that I add value to an enterprise. I decided that an MBA would be the most logical step to give me the skills that I needed to give me the authority to make impact and change at an organizational level.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I am proud to have worked for Aspen Skiing Company for 11 winter and several summer seasons and thankful for the opportunity to continue to work for them during breaks from my graduate program. Business students can learn the values of commitment, flexibility and teamwork across seniority levels from Aspen Skiing Company.  During the busiest days of the season, you will see the CEO shoveling snow from a lift tower and the mountain manager scanning lift tickets. During recessionary or low snow years, ASC eases the pain of low hours for non-salaried staff by hosting free company dinners and rearranging duties across the organization instead of eliminating positions. I admire how they take a strong stance on climate change, LGBTQ+ rights, and immigration policy at a national level. As a privately-held company, ASC is able to take more risks than their competitors. Through recognizing this advantage, they are able to push their competitors to examine these pressing issues.

DON’T MISS: Meet UNC Kenan-Flagler’s MBA Class Of 2022


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