Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Jana Parsons, MIT (Sloan)

Jana Parsons

MIT, Sloan School of Management

Economic policy researcher who’s ready to turn research into action to solve pressing problems.”

Hometown: Hallowell, ME

Fun Fact About Yourself: Before moving to Cambridge, I was a clarinetist in my local community band.

Undergraduate School and Major: Middlebury College class of 2016, economics major

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Research Analyst, The Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution

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? After working in economic policy research for the past four years, I want to pivot from “researching” things to “doing” things. Sloan’s emphasis on experiential learning really appealed because it will enable me to get hands-on practice and exposure to industries and problems that I’ve never encountered. I’m looking forward to practicing everything I’m learning in the core semester starting on day one with the Enterprise Management Lab.

When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How have your experiences with the Sloan program thus far reinforced or upended these early impressions? From the outside looking in, it seems like MIT brings together the world’s smartest minds to tackle the world’s toughest problems. My early experiences with MIT and Sloan have absolutely confirmed that. For example, I have been so impressed with MIT and Sloan’s COVID response. Sloan has set a true example with the care and organization that many experts have put into the development of a plan for the fall semester.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Nerdy, but in the best way possible! I’ve never thought of nerdy as a negative term, and I wanted to go to a school where intellectual curiosity was valued and encouraged. It’s still early, but in connecting with my future classmates I’ve been so impressed by the passion and enthusiasm they have shown for their work and learning new things. A really wonderful side effect of the intellectual curiosity is a collaborative nature that permeates student interactions. When the goal is learning for the sake of learning, collaboration gets you there faster.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I co-authored a public comment on USDA’s proposed rule on SNAP work requirement waivers, which would have made it harder for states and localities to get work requirement waivers during bad economic times. In the comment, I modeled SNAP waiver eligibility under current and proposed regulations.

We were able to convincingly show that the proposed changes would have gutted SNAP’s recession-fighting ability. In its final rulemaking, USDA cited the evidence from our comment as reason for some of their changes. This was one of the first times that I was able to directly see the effect of my work on a policy that had the potential to affect the lives of millions of people. In addition to the changes that my analysis engendered, when the final rule was released, it contained elements that were not in the proposed rule, I was able to build on my initial work to quickly provide analysis for the lawsuit that halted the implementation of the rule that was supposed to go into place on April 1, 2020.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? In my most recent position at The Hamilton Project, I helped academics turn their research into data-driven policy proposals. It has been valuable to see how evidence can inform the idea-generation process. However, I have realized that I don’t want to stop at putting the words on the page. An MBA will give me the skills and confidence to lead and the ability to translate research into a strategy to tackle real-world problems.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Booth, Haas, Kellogg, and SOM

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? For me, the variations on the “what’s most important to you?” question were the hardest to answer because I had to bare my soul to admissions committees. And coming up with the answer to that question was a mixture of soul searching and therapy—not the easiest things to do under application deadlines!

What was the most impact factor in choosing a business school? How did you evaluate fit according to that factor? I wanted a rigorous program that was going to expand my horizons and get me up to speed quickly. I looked for rigor both in the curriculum and in classmates who were excited to take on the challenge. I also looked for schools that had diverse employment outcomes for graduates as a proxy for a student body with a diverse array of interests.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I’ve been working at places where the typical path for someone in my position was to leave and get a Ph.D. in economics.  Over the past few years, however, I realized that the Ph.D. route wasn’t for me, and therefore academic research was not going to be my comparative advantage. Instead, doing things—making decisions based on data and research and executing those decisions—is where I can make a difference. And once I shifted my perspective on next steps away from the Ph.D., the MBA was the clear option. While this wasn’t a single defining moment, my decision to forgo the Ph.D. was built over several years of research and soul searching, and it allowed me to feel confident in pursuing the MBA.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from studying it? The Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op, my local co-op when I lived in the DC area, stood out to me in its response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In the early days, when other institutions were slow to take decisive action to protect their employees and customers, the TPSS Co-op closed its doors and, in about five days, turned its brick and mortar business into an online-only grocery store with a streamlined pickup process. Their efforts were even featured in the Washington Post. I was so impressed by, and grateful for, the Co-op’s adaptability, as they were my only source for groceries! Business students can learn from their process of rapidly transforming a business model—the managers were communicative with members, responsive to feedback, and constantly trying to improve.

DON’T MISS: Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2022

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