2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Chelsea Martell Evans, University of Texas (McCombs)

Chelsea Martell Evans

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Recovering party planner; brunch enthusiast; passionate storyteller; Efficient hustler determined to lead large-scale social change.”

Hometown: Antioch, California

Fun fact about yourself: A true fish out of water. In undergrad, I played club water polo, was a fishing guide at Lake Arrowhead, and taught water aerobics at soap opera celebrities’ homes.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) with a B.A. Political Science

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Enterprise Events Group (EEG), Senior Event Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Product Manager, Customer Experience and Portfolio Strategy at HP. HP has an office in Spring, TX but I was remote in Austin due to COVID-19.

Where will you be working after graduation? Product Manager, Customer Experience and Portfolio Strategy at HP.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Graduate Business Council (GBC), Vice President of Internal Affairs
  • Technology Product Management Committee, Founder
  • Marketing Fellows, President
  • Marketing Conference and Case Challenge, Case Challenge Committee
  • Career Fellow (Selected by the MBA Career Management team to mentor 1st-year students through the internship recruiting process)
  • McCombs Ambassador Committee, Member
  • Forté Fellow
  • Leading for Impact Practicum Project, SAFE (Austin non-profit serving survivors of child abuse, sexual assault and exploitation, and domestic violence)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am extremely proud of the Microsoft Teams virtual McCombs community we built – it took a village, but together we designed a product other MBA programs are asking our Assistant Dean for information about how to implement something similar at their own schools.

As Vice President of Internal Affairs on GBC, my goal was to streamline and formalize the process for scheduling events across program office, admissions, career, and student organizations. Events were listed in multiple places on multiple platforms, making it confusing for students to find information and difficult for leaders trying to schedule events on open dates. The best option was to build a calendaring tool in Microsoft Teams. Now, the entire McCombs community has access to a holistic picture of events happening across the program, leading to less overlap, better attendance at events, and greater utilization of financial resources. However, little did I know investing in Teams would have such a big impact in our community outside of just event scheduling.

Due to COVID-19, McCombs decided to transition to fully remote learning over spring break (March 2020). Since we already started investing in the Teams platform, we were able to quickly pivot to a broader use strategy and Teams became our “stop-gap,” virtual Rowling Hall. We held a Teams Hack-a-thon, conducted trainings for students, and created an ongoing Teams Tips! channel to publish shortcuts and products we were launching. Most recently, I launched Microsoft’s icebreaker bot, randomly pairing different students each week to help facilitate more chance encounters we miss from strolling the campus hallways. Teams is now a one-stop platform for organizing events, collaborating on group projects, and meeting new people with shared interests – not only deepening relationships between each other but also strengthening our community.

Lastly, I created a Technology Product Management Committee, now made up of seven first-year MBAs, who each have a specific Microsoft product they are responsible for managing within our McCombs ecosystem. Not only are they continuing to make improvements on the ease of use and inclusivity of the space, but also gaining real-world skills on what it takes to be a product manager. I am extremely proud of our McCombs community for embracing Teams during these crazy unprecedented times and appreciate my classmates’ patience, energy beta testing and offering thoughtful suggestions for improvements. We set out to consolidate platforms. Although there are still improvements to be made, we succeeded in building a custom space for students to collaborate and communicate. I am proud to leave a small but lasting legacy on the McCombs community for years to come.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Early in my career I was the Event Manager at an arts education non-profit called P.S. ARTS. After growing into my role for the first few years, I identified an opportunity for significant impact – a complete overhaul of one of our tentpole fundraisers, the Modernism Opening Night Party (MOD). Revenue for MOD was flatlining, and support from volunteers was waning. However, the risk-averse Board of Directors was wary to make any major changes.

I built a comprehensive proposal for the Executive Board illustrating that MOD had become a less worthwhile investment of our strained resources. Second, I demonstrated how to execute the new event with no incremental budget by leveraging strategic partners for donations and gathering pledges of support from existing sponsors. Finally, I called upon them to imagine a new event experience, directly inspired by our mission.

The pARTy exceeded expectations on two fronts. Primarily, it was a financial success. I maintained a shoestring budget and raised $90,250 net profit – surpassing our goal by 80%. Secondarily, the pARTy attracted 35% new, first-time donors to the organization and attracted younger supporters with longer-term giving potential.

One of the greatest personal and professional challenges I’ve faced to-date was working with our Board. It was difficult to learn the power and importance of “managing up”. However, I gained an intangible level of self-confidence from the trust they placed in me. Creating the pARTy was an intimidating, nerve-wracking, yet thrilling experience. I am beyond proud of the event I created and am proud to say it continues today!

Why did you choose this business school? I pursued an MBA to pivot out of the events industry, gain strategic marketing experience, and grow as a leader. I knew being a “double-switcher” (industry and function) would not be easy, so I targeted strong marketing programs with a supportive culture. McCombs unparalleled focus on hands-on experiential learning, specifically the Marketing Fellows program, is what ultimately sold me.

The Marketing Fellows program gives selected McCombs MBA students committed to pursuing leadership in marketing the opportunity to develop their marketing acumen and management skills through a combination of focused curriculum and consulting projects.

Marketing Fellows is a unique and amazing opportunity to learn from the best; not just the best in the industry but the best at McCombs. I love that the Marketing Fellows program fosters a creative and safe space for learning while bonding with your peers.  As a career switcher with no direct experience, it gave me the confidence to know I deserved a seat at the table. Overall, it kickstarted my sprouting career, introduced me to new opportunities and surrounded me with a bright, like-minded network, ultimately teeing me up for meaningful and rewarding employment.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? This was an extremely hard question because I am grateful for everything I was able to do and wouldn’t necessarily change any of my core decisions. The one thing that stood out was taking for granted all the amazing events put on by the school, our program, and our student organization leaders. It’s so easy to get lost in your to-do’s. When I prioritized attending something, I always left with renewed energy – inspired and refocused. We are incredibly lucky to have access to so many amazing Austin business leaders and inspiring classmate. Hearing their struggles, failures, and successes was always extremely grounding.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I often get questions from prospective students about only being able to recruit for roles in Texas, which I can completely relate to because I asked similar questions when I was doing my research. I can say whole-heartedly this is a myth. In fact, our career team is incredible and cares deeply about our student body. They want to make sure you do appropriate introspection, rank your values, and help you target roles no matter the geography. Although I am originally from California, I fell in love with Austin and changed my recruiting strategy to stay local while my husband finishes the MBA program (he’s a first year!).

What surprised you the most about business school? While I had heard about the McCombs culture prior to starting the program, I was surprised at how much “McHomies” walk the talk. My high school had over 4,000 students and UCLA was not by any means a small campus, so being one of 250 students was a huge change for me. You quickly recognized everyone in the class, our career services team was following up with me 1:1 and there was no way to hide in the shadows. This facilitates an insanely close, supportive group of people who want you to succeed. A recent example of our culture was during the ‘snowpocalypse’ in February of 2021. A majority of students lost power and then water, but those who didn’t opened their homes to classmates for the week to take a hot shower, eat a warm meal or crash on a couch. My husband and I were one of the households that lost power and water and are so grateful to our friends Carlos, Ana and Hannah for taking us in! My business school experience would not be the same without our close-knit, small, family-oriented community.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I treated applying to business school a little like dating. I had coffee chats with students and recent alumni, did some serious online student org stalking, and went to a few school sponsored events. When it came time to write my essays, I was able to be extremely detailed about why McCombs and what path I wanted to pursue. I think the time I put into researching the program allowed me to be more excited, natural and authentic in my interview and reassured McCombs I would come in guns blazing to make the most of my time in the program.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am extremely lucky to be surrounded by amazing, inspiring, passionate and bad-ass classmates, but one that stands out is my dear friend, Presney Blackman. Presney was elected President of the Graduate Business Council and stepped into the role with lofty goals and ambitions. Little did she know when she ran she’d have to deal with a global pandemic, transitioning our program to virtual and then adjusting for hybrid, and leading our classmates in meaningful action to shed light on racial inequality. It would have been tough for any GBC president but especially tough for Presney, who not only had to deal with leading the class but was put on display as a black leader, dealing with her own emotions and having to stay strong for others. I watched Presney grow an insane amount over the last two years and I admire her for asking the hard questions, putting the program first, and challenging those around her to be better.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? I don’t know that anyone would say shifting to online wasn’t disruptive. I want to thank our IT team who worked around the clock launching technology to ensure we had access to courses virtual; our professors for adapting to talking to a screen instead of physical people and feeding off our energy; and our students who did not sign up for this when we began the program. It has been tough and it’s ok to admit that.

Besides our academics, due to COVID-19, the recruiting environment drastically changed, leaving many of my peers with rescinded internship offers. Wanting to help, a classmate and I sent out a survey to gauge who in the marketing community needed support. Working with the career services team, we implemented peer support groups, facilitated a reciprocity ring, and crowd-sourced available job opportunities via a LinkedIn post for all the student body to share. Our original goal was to help our peers find job opportunities but by doing so, we brought the entire McCombs community together to support each other.

While COVID-19 brought a host of disruption to our business school experience, I am optimistic that we will come out the other side stronger, more creative, empathetic, appreciative, and focused on investing in the world around us to ensure we protect our health and our planet.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? While I am lucky to be surrounded by supportive friends and family who all pushed me to take the plunge, my grandfather was instrumental in planting the seed early in my career. After I graduated from UCLA, he asked when I thought I’d go back and get my Master’s. As we are nearing graduation, he reminded me there’s always a PhD! As one of the smartest people I know, I have always respected him and highly valued his opinions. To him, education is not only important to stimulate your mind, but to help ensure you have a meaningful career. Lastly, he has never been afraid of the big, daunting but important questions. We recently had a breakfast date and as he slid my brownie and coffee across the table, nonchalantly asked what HP and I were going to do to make up the knowledge deficit caused by COVID-19 forcing elementary school students to learn from home. While I do not have an answer for that yet, that is my grandfather in a pecan nutshell – proud but challenging.   

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

* Work abroad

* Be respected as an expert in my field and write a book

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

“At the heart of it, Chelsea Evans is a creative problem solver and a consummate collaborator. No problem is too complex for her imaginative energies and boundless optimism, a currency as good as gold in a pandemic year. She approaches problems as an opportunity to exercise her ingenuity, to galvanize a team and to share her vision for a greater future.

Lamar Johnson, Executive Director of McCombs Center for Customer Insight & Marketing Solutions who works closely with students in our Marketing Fellows program shared this: “Chelsea Evans is one of my favorite people, period. She demonstrated her outstanding leadership skills during her tenure as President of the McCombs Marketing Fellows, a select MBA student organization focused on experiential learning opportunities. She was an extremely effective President as she epitomized a caring, involved, servant style of leadership. In her role, she was one of the key drivers of our very successful McCombs Marketing Conference which had her in frequent contact with C level executives from a variety of companies. During our many Conference committee meetings, Chelsea was a clear thought leader on content and delivery ideas, while keeping the energy high with her enthusiasm and sense of humor.”

Throughout the two years, there are so many places that Chelsea made an impact. As President of our Marketing Fellows program, she not only led the annual conference but Chelsea partnered with another student leader to source internship opportunities as the pandemic impacted summer opportunities.  As a Career Fellow, she mentored countless first years. As VP Internal for the Graduate Business Council, Chelsea was an essential team player and often did the behind the scenes work that made things better for her peers but wasn’t always recognized.

Chelsea’s pandemic legacy will be the partnership and work she did to help us pivot to Microsoft Teams as an MBA community. She stepped forward to help us migrate to a functioning Teams environment to ensure a connected experience in our virtual community.  To gain buy-in and adoption from her peers, Chelsea set up a Teams Hack-a-thon to build out a robust and active student community.  Her vision, influence, contagious optimism and engaging humor helped build something that changed the course of our pandemic response. In addition to this jumpstart, Chelsea hosted endless trainings, set up Teams Tips, launched an icebreaker bot to forge new relationships and started our first ever student Technology Product Management Committee, to ensure continued innovation after she leaves.

We are so fortunate to have Chelsea on Team Texas McCombs, most especially during our unimaginable pandemic pivot. She was definitely our community MVP.”

Tina Mabley
Assistant Dean and Program Director, Full-time MBA Program
The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business




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