Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Marissa Cooper, University of Michigan (Ross)

Marissa Cooper

University of Michigan,  Ross School of Business

“Avid traveler, empathetic listener, and lover of sports and ice cream.”

Hometown: West Bloomfield, MI

Fun Fact About Yourself: I discovered a love of biking when I lived in Minneapolis from 2016 to 2018. During that time, I completed four 100-mile and two 63-mile charity rides in Minneapolis, Raleigh, San Antonio, and Sonoma County.

Undergraduate School and Major: Dartmouth College, modified major in Anthropology and Public Policy with a minor in Spanish

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Optum, Advisory Services Consultant

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? In addition to its family-like community, Michigan’s emphasis on interdisciplinary learning and social impact were the driving factors of my decision. The +Impact Studio course Translating Research into Practice stood out as a unique opportunity to collaborate with MBA and non-MBA (e.g., MSWs, MPHs, MEng) students to create potential solutions to complex societal problems. I believe the course will prepare me for a career in collaborative, impact-driven work. In the short-term, I aim to become a management consultant in the Washington D.C. metro area. There, I will work across industries to help bolster clients’ strategies. In the long-term, I aim to collaborate across sectors to tailor policies, products, and services to meet the specific needs of single parent families.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? It would be Detroit Revitalization and Business (DRB) because its main purpose is to connect University of Michigan students and the city of Detroit. As a metro Detroit native, I am excited to help inform business strategies of local non-profits and to mentor a local high schooler as she prepares for college. I left Southeastern Michigan for college and plan to leave after business school; DRB provides opportunities to connect more deeply with Detroit, give back, and share the city’s growth with other Rossers.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Ross? What makes you most nervous about starting business school? The opportunity to take this next step in my “backyard”! The University of Michigan represents more than an incredible academic opportunity; it is a source of family pride. My mom attended medical school here in the late 80s and is a beacon of hard-work, perseverance, and selflessness. She raised me as a single mom, while serving others as an anesthesiologist. I am excited to continue her legacy representing the Maize and Blue, while creating my own waves in consulting and social impact at Ross! As for nerves, I am most worried about not having enough time to pursue all my interests.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In my first year as a healthcare consultant, I participated in a company-wide innovation challenge with three peers. We leveraged our diverse strengths and were one of four winning teams out of over 900 submissions. Our proposal was an integrated care management model that recommended using care coordinators, nurses, and health plan navigators to streamline support services for individuals with inflammatory conditions. Though this was early in my career and we were unable to implement due to priority conflicts, I learned that I absolutely loved the iterative innovation process and collaborating with teammates of differing abilities. The experience marked the start of key friendships that I now lean on to navigate personal and professional challenges.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? It was a desire to problem-solving outside of healthcare and to embed social impact into my work more directly. Optum strengthened my change management, policy analysis, and client presentation skill sets as I learned the nuances of healthcare for Medicaid, Medicare, and veteran populations. After four years, I realized I wanted to become a student again to recalibrate my long-term career goals and to gain exposure to strategic analysis in multiple industries

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Berkeley Haas, NYU Stern, and UCLA Anderson

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Berkeley’s application question, “What makes you feel alive when you are doing it, and why?” While all MBA essays require substantial reflection, this transformed my approach…days before applications were due. I wrote an initial draft for the question that I scrapped because the response did not fully capture my true motivations. Ultimately, I pivoted from discussing activities that I enjoyed to sharing how the duality of my upbringing—a multi-ethnic daughter of a black single-mother, with the privilege of fair complexion and private schooling—shaped my passion for combating socioeconomic inequity and connecting people from diverse backgrounds. The question challenged me to share my full, authentic self in a way that I had not before.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? As a member of the Consortium, I participated in the annual OP conference in June and have been attending pre-MBA programs to learn more about consulting. Personally, I have enjoyed biking and running in Ann Arbor, tutoring my 14-year-old cousin and a high-school senior in SAT prep, and exploring metro DC with my significant other who starts his PhD program at another Big 10 school this fall!

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? In June of 2019, I was traveling to a client site bi-weekly, studying for the GRE, and training for my first 5K after a few summers of distance cycling. One morning, I got a sharp cramp in my right hand that was followed by intense pain that inhibited my typing and writing abilities for months to follow. Frustrated by the injury and anxious about the upcoming GRE exam, I started PT exercises, attempted to write with my left hand, and created a new system for logging GRE errors on my laptop to cut down on excess writing.

Though I needed multiple attempts to feel satisfied with my GRE score, I learned how to acknowledge and alter my response to challenges outside of my control. I could not change the fact that I had nerve pain that made running, studying, and working more difficult, but I could control my emotional response by being patient with myself and splitting up study time to maintain focus and minimize pain. I think this experience will translate to business school as I juggle competing priorities and navigate the unpredictable effects of COVID-19.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Bain & Company. As incoming business students and future leaders, I think we can all benefit from their motto, “a Bainie never lets another Bainie fail.” While we are all capable, curious, and driven, we are stronger together and it is our responsibility to help one another learn, grow, and contribute to society. Put another way, success should not be defined by individual abilities and standards, but by how our actions impact and support others.