Earning an MBA can be a full-time endeavor. So can being a parent. But many do both every year. For Mother’s Day this past spring, we honored five women that are earning an MBA with kids at home. Many of which are — by some superhuman force — raising kids, earning an MBA, and working on side-projects. Take Mercede Barnes, for example, who earned her MBA from the Rice Jones Graduate School of Business last spring. Barnes is the mother of a middle schooler, and entrepreneur with her own business, and she has been running a GoFundMe page aimed at raising funds for Kids Meals Houston, which delivers meals to preschool kids in Houston, where Rice University is based.
“Bethany Cuenod is raising her 3 1/2-year-old son alone while wrapping up the Rice Jones MBA for Professionals Weekend Residency program,” P&Q Managing Editor Marc Ethier wrote last May. “Patty Cobleigh, a mother of three, is about to graduate with an MBA from Carnegie Mellon Tepper School of Business; Cobleigh’s classmate Annie Henderson is raising a 2-year-old and a 5-month-old while she and her husband finish their full-time MBA studies together. Liliia Voitenko is soon to graduate from the full-time program at Northwestern Kellogg School of Management while raising a 4-year-old daughter.”
The guiding thought? It’s totally worth it.
“The hardest thing has been finding the right balance of school and kids,” Henderson told us. “It’s the constant battle of ‘Am I giving my daughter enough attention?’ or ‘Am I going to get a good grade on this assignment?’ We also have very limited personal time since we have our kids and a full day of classes. When we get both girls down for a nap at the same time, it’s glorious — although it rarely happens.
“I would say there are a lot of silver linings, mostly just being together as a family. I will always cherish these memories with my kids and running around with my husband trying to make it all work. It is a beautiful chaotic mess every day, but I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Diversity in business education within the U.S. doesn’t have a tradition of being prioritized. “At some of the M7 schools, minority populations are dropping. At others, the numbers are static. But at Wharton, the picture for under-represented minorities is decidedly rosier,” is how P&Q Managing Editor Marc Ethier put it last February.
This past May, nearly 300 Wharton MBA graduates were students of color. One of those was Kiersa Sanders, who spoke to P&Q last spring about what it’s like being a student of color at a school like Wharton.
“Wharton as a school has done a really good job of turning it around,” Sanders told Poets&Quants. “Five years ago, they had a really small class. I think the alumni tapped in and were kind of like, ‘What’s going on? How do we change this?’”
While progress still needs to be made, overall, Sanders says the experience at Wharton was good.
“My risk tolerance, before coming to Wharton, was very low,” Sanders says. “But having a community and feeling supported has been super helpful. Having all these incredible women around me through AAMBAA has been amazing. I would have never felt as confident if I hadn’t come to Wharton. I don’t think I would have thought of entrepreneurship at all if I hadn’t come to Wharton.”
It’s no secret many MBAs look at the degree as two years to have a bit of fun. Many take a tough path from a rigorous undergraduate experience to early careers with long working hours to an application process that is anything but easy to get into a top-tier MBA program. Daniil Pushkin and Eugenia Zanina were no different when they both applied to and were accepted to UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business.
But the difference between Pushkiin and Zanina and their classmates was they had both been married in their home country of Russia the summer before moving to Berkeley’s northern California campus.
“For our young family, being here in California together is like being on a honeymoon. But also a very useful one,” Eugenia Zanina points out.
“I like the way Eugenia says that, because we do treat this experience kind of like a honeymoon,” echoes Zanina’s spouse, Daniil Pushkin.
The duo had a unique and long-distance courtship but now have been able to live in very close quarters, living near the Haas campus in Berkeley.
Pushkin and Zanina were not the only MBA couple to be featured this year by Poets&Quants. Just this past week, we featured Raj Kamaria and Manali Shah, who are currently planning their own wedding. Kamaria, currently a Class of 2022 MBA student at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, and Shah, a Class of 2020 MBA from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, quickly realized how labor-intensive it was to plan a South Asian wedding.
“Typically three to five days in length, most cultural weddings are big affairs,” Kamaria told P&Q contributor Riley Webster. “The average South Asian wedding costs $285,000. It’s a big industry, and it’s completely unorganized. There’s a lot of pieces of the pie; hotel venue, priest, henna artist, DJs and bands, food caterers, and more.”
And like typical MBAs, they also realized there was an opportunity to do it easier. So they founded Pyaari Weddings, an online wedding directory specializing in providing Indian, Pakistani, Nepalese, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, and Afghan couples with vendors and resources for an efficient and fun wedding planning process.
“Based on our own wedding planning experience, it’s a nightmare to plan everything,” Kamaria says. “We want brides and grooms to enjoy their wedding, including the planning process, which is why we wanted to make it barrier-free.”
The Best of 2020 at Poets&Quants