2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Brian Wright, University of Washington (Foster)

Brian Wright

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

Pragmatic and approachable leader passionate about building and empowering teams to deliver impact.”

Hometown: Vancouver, WA

Fun fact about yourself: I am huge Jeopardy junky and I complete the NYT crossword every day. My significant other and I also own over 50 board games and play routinely with friends (She usually wins).

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA in Political Science, University of Washington

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Donor Operations Manager at SightLife, a nonprofit organization focused on eliminating corneal blindness on a global scale.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? I interned as a Senior Program Manager at Amazon focusing on sustainability initiatives to reduce the carbon footprint of Amazon’s fulfillment network.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be returning to Amazon as a Senior Program Manager on the Worldwide Building Design team.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Challenge for Charity (2020 – 2021)
  • MBA Student Ambassador
  • 2nd Year MBA Tutor
  • Dean’s Scholar 2019 – 2020
  • Dean’s List Winter, Spring, and Fall Quarters 2020
  • Albert O. Foster Fellowship
  • Stiefel Fellowship for Entrepreneurial and Philanthropic Leaders
  • Charles F. Frankland Memorial Endowment Recipient
  • Challenge for Charity First Year Board Member (2019 – 2020)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of leading Challenge for Charity and working with my board to creatively drive social engagement and community service in spite of the pandemic. Challenge for Charity is a nonprofit organization focused on developing business leaders with a dedication to social responsibility and community service. This year to date we have facilitated over 1200 student volunteer hours from our program as well as donations exceeding $50,000 to local charities. I have always had a passion for using my skillset to help others and positively impact the community. At Foster I have found many kindred spirits who share this passion and working together we’ve made social responsibility and service a focal point of the program. The pandemic has created a baseline inertia that pulls people away from active engagement in activities that lie outside of academics and recruiting. I am proud of the volunteering and fundraising initiatives we have driven that fight back against this inertia and engage our classmates in helping others and regaining a sense of community through that. Moreover, I am proud of the dedication to social responsibility my colleagues have made during this time and I believe they will carry this dedication with them into their professional futures.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Professionally, I am most proud of guiding over 500 families through the difficult process of organ donation in order to help recipients in need regain their livelihood. My first role out of undergrad at SightLife was focused on educating grieving families on the organ donation process and providing guidance and support as they made the decision to help others on behalf of the loves ones they just lost. While this role may sound heavy, and at times it certainly was, it also allowed me to see a level of selflessness I couldn’t have previously imagined. I worked with people who had every right to be mad at the world choose altruism over spite. This experience changed my baseline perception of people and it has given me a sense of empathy that I think is often missing in the business world. It also put into focus the importance of family, health, and wellness which has helped me establish a better work-life balance.

Why did you choose this business school? I choose Foster because this is a place where people check their ego at the door and focus on getting to work and growing. I wanted to be in a collaborative environment filled with incredibly intelligent people who have diverse perspectives, a hunger to achieve, and an openness to being wrong. At this stage of my life, I don’t have time for one-upmanship or people who aim to look good at the expense of others. At Foster, I found exactly what I was looking for. I have learned just as much from my colleagues as I have in the classroom and collectively we’ve challenged each other in a healthy way. Foster students focus on working together to drive results.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would get out of my comfort zone earlier on in the program, especially when it comes to participating in case competitions. I started the MBA program with zero business background and that made me think I didn’t have anything to contribute in case competitions. As a result, I avoided joining teams with my colleagues and competing. What I realized too late is that the competitions are valuable in expanding your understanding by applying course concepts to practical problems in a comparatively low stakes atmosphere. Not only had I been missing out on this learning opportunity, I also lost the chance to work with and learn from my talented classmates. By the time I did start participating, I also realized how important diverse perspectives are to the team, including those from folks who don’t have a traditional business background.

What surprised you the most about business school? It was the diversity in the backgrounds of my colleagues. I had this notion coming into business school that the majority of my classmates would be CPAs who already had a strong grasp of core business. Instead, I found myself surrounded by people who had backgrounds in music, food, athletics, politics, military service, nonprofits, and more (and yes some CPAs too). That made me feel more comfortable and at home within the program. It also expanded my perspectives and added value to my learning experience.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Investing the time to truly understand the culture of the program. I don’t think that can be overstated enough. I spent a lot of time talking to current students, sitting in on classes, and attending events. Through that I came away with a clear understanding of what Foster was about and I knew it was the right fit for me. When it came time to write essays or complete admissions interviews, it was easy to hit on the reasons I wanted to come here in an authentic way.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I really admire my colleague Kelly Yu. I first got know Kelly when I worked with her on the student investment fund. Right away, I was struck by her work ethic, commitment to team success, and genuine kindness. She is always willing to lend a hand and offer support, putting others before herself. Over the past year, Kelly has delivered tremendous value to the program in her role as VP of Diversity. She has worked tirelessly to better incorporate diversity and inclusion into our culture, leading initiatives that give students the opportunity to speak about their experiences and learn from one another. The events she facilitates deliver some of the most eye-opening learning moments and add a critical focus on the challenges we must rise to meet in order to create a better future for everyone. I admire her passion for inclusion and her dedication to creating a better space for all.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? It was very disruptive shifting to an online environment in terms of community and connectivity. Foster’s community is tight knit and highly connected inside and outside of the classroom. When the move to an online environment was first made, it left us feeling isolated and because of that people retreated even further. As time has gone on, we’ve found better ways to leverage technology, maintain and build connections, and collaborate – but nothing can replace the in-person experience. Academically, the first online quarter was a bit rough as our professors had no advanced time to shift their teaching style and course design to a Zoom delivery. They deserve huge kudos for how well they retooled their classes over the summer and adapted to the new environment in order to ensure no drop off in the quality of course material and learning experience.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? The former CEO of SightLife, Monty Montoya. Monty obtained his MBA at Duke Fuqua and used the skills he gained to transform SightLife from a small regional operation of fifteen people to a global organization with offices across the US and Asia. I had previously only associated MBAs with corporate profit maximization. From Monty’s example I saw the value of an MBA education, whether it is being applied in a Fortune 500 company, a startup, or a nonprofit.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • Spend a few years working abroad
  • Start a nonprofit focused on providing education opportunities to the underserved

What made Brian such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Can you imagine meeting the very high bar of being President of UW Foster’s MBA Challenge for Charity (C4C) whose team has won the PAC-12 competition 3 out of the last 4 years, earning >$100,00 in an annual auction, and leading in volunteer hours?  On any good day and normal time this is an incredible responsibility. Now, add to that COVID, no in-person auction, social distancing volunteer activities, and quite frankly ZOOM fatigue.

Well….enter Brian Wright, an amazing, calm, collaborative and kind human. Brian has led his fellow Full-time and Evening MBA’s, coordinated with the C4C Alumni Board, worked with the other competing MBA programs, and most importantly, managed to keep his team focused, productive, successful, happy and enthusiastic!

Brian doesn’t get ruffled.  I have watched him in meetings get the best out of his team, manage realities of not being together, and work assiduously to get the very most for Special Olympics, Boys and Girls Clubs, and our local food bank.   He is the personification of eye-on-the-prize regardless of the hurdles.

Brian is wonderful.  He deserves this honor.”

Elizabeth Stearns
Associate Teaching Professor Marketing & International Business
MBA Net Impact Faculty Advisor
MBA C4C Faculty Advisor



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