2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Jasmine Snead, University of Maryland (Smith)

Jasmine Snead

University of Maryland, Robert H. Smith Business School

A dual-degree MBA/MPP student and serial e-commerce entrepreneur with a passion for social change through business.”

Hometown: Brandywine, Maryland

Fun fact about yourself:  I traveled to all 50 states with my mom, which checked off a shared bucket list item.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Maryland – Government and Politics, African American Studies Certificate

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was a Chief of Staff for a Maryland Representative in the Maryland House of Delegates in the Maryland legislature.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? During the summer of 2020, I worked on my startup Aurora Tights in Washington, D.C. Aurora Tights, an inclusive performance wear company based on lived experiences of not having gear in my skin color as a competitive ice skater. For most of my 20-year skating career, I would dye my tights in a bathtub before every competition. It was a Frankenstein-like process that was time-consuming, messy, expensive, and added a barrier that disenfranchised performers of color. Together with my two co-founders, both lifetime performers, we created Aurora Tights to offer gender-neutral tights in five shades, three styles, seven sizes, and body-inclusive athletic wear.

Over the summer, my team and I launched the inaugural Aurora Tights Internship Program. We had over 100-plus applicants and ultimately chose 10 interns for various disciplines, including product development, growth strategy, content management, partnerships, and public relations.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be participating in an accelerator and working full-time on Aurora Tights.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: In 2019, I was elected by my cohort to be a first-year track representative. As one of the youngest in the program with an unconventional background, I was honored to be trusted by my cohort. In 2020, I was the first person elected to VP of Inclusion and Professional Development for the MBA Association and one of 11 selected members of the Dean’s Diversity Empowerment Council. Additionally, I was the 2019 Rudy Award Student Entrepreneur of the Year and the 2019 Pitch Dingman Competition Grand Prize winner.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the new VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion role within the Smith MBA Association. Previously, the position was split between professional development and inclusion. However, in the wake of the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and so many others, I felt there was a need for a dedicated role for diversity, equity, and inclusion within our campus community. After being elected in the spring, my first major initiative in the role was a school-wide virtual moment of reflection commemorating George Floyd’s life. Students and faculty members attended the eight-minute and forty-six-second memorial. They communed together while a YouTube video that donated the ad proceeds to BLM played in the background.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The professional milestone I am most proud of is raising my first round. In the summer of 2020, amidst the global pandemic, my team and I started raising money to scale Aurora Tights.  Raising money for a start-up is a massive challenge, particularly for women of color who combined received just 0.64% of total venture capital investment between 2018 and 2019. While fundraising is strenuous, it’s also rewarding to take your business to the next level.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Smith and the broader University of Maryland because of its innovative and vast startup ecosystem.  With programs including the Academy for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship, Dingman Center Angels, Startup Shell, the University of Maryland is consecutively ranked one of the top programs for entrepreneurship. Additionally, Smith’s small, yet tight-knit cohort signaled to me that this was the right program. While there is friendly competition that pushes us to perform our best, Smith is truly a supportive family.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Judy Frels has made a significant impact. Judy taught first-year Marketing Management and second-year Integrative Capstone. From a diversity and inclusion lens, Judy continually makes the effort to listen, learn, and show up authentically. She has an uncanny ability to connect with students and offers amazing insights. I have often met with her after class to discuss my startup and other topics unrelated to school. During one of those moments, the best piece of advice she gave me was, “if you see something that’s aspirational, or even something you’re jealous of, just go for it.”

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition is one of the first school-wide traditions I experienced. Every year during orientation, Smith holds an in-house case competition. It is an intense 48 hours of prepping, strategizing with your team, meeting with stakeholders, and getting to know the larger cohort. Initially, I was hesitant because it was my first case competition and entirely out of my comfort zone. However, my team finished the competition in second place, and even more importantly, I had far more confidence to take on the year ahead.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back, I would be more present in the moment and enjoy the highs and lows of the MBA journey. Since I no longer had the pressure of a full-time job, I became very involved during my first year. I put pressure on myself to perform well academically, be engaged in extracurricular activities, take on leadership roles, participate in case competitions, and most of all, get to know my cohort. The MBA experience teaches you to juggle competing responsibilities. It is easy to prioritize the biggest deadline or turn on autopilot and move quickly from one project to the next. However, it’s also important to pause and take a moment to take it all in. Otherwise, the two years will be over before you know it.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Since the beginning of the admissions process, I have been told that the Smith program is like “drinking from a fire hose.” Which is partly true. The myth is though, is that the water pressure eventually slows. But in actuality, over time, you learn to drink more.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me most is how quickly it all goes by. The amount of growth you do in such a short amount of time is remarkable. You start the program curious about business, and there will be many new things thrown at you. I learned a lot about myself, continually learn from my diverse yet like-minded cohort, and I tested my limits. Ultimately, business school made me a better communicator and more thoughtful and strategic leader.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was involved in Smith’s entrepreneurship wing prior to being admitted to the MBA program. I applied for the full-time MBA program during the Pitch Dingman Competition, the Dingman Center’s signature annual competition for seed funding and access to venture development resources. The pitch competition took place over several months, and I started my application during the Pitch Dingman Semi-Finals. I received my acceptance package days after I won the grand prize at the Pitch Dingman Competition.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? While there’s a lot to choose from, the classmate I admire most is Justin Ferguson. He shares a dual role as my classmate and fiance. Justin is a constant inspiration to do more. Not only does he go to school, but he also works multiple jobs, has internships, consults start-ups, and is now starting his own. He is a constant reminder to be open to new opportunities and strive for more.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? The shift to online was an adjustment. But the Smith program, from administration to student leaders, did an amazing job of preparing us for the transition. There was continuous communication from couch chats, town halls, one-on-one meetings that felt similar to that in the in-person experience. The support of the Smith MBA community really helped navigate these unprecedented times.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Sara Herald is a mentor and champion of the Dingman Center Ladies First initiative, which strives to increase the number of women involved in entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland. This program was a safe space that equipped female founders to tackle the barriers that prevent women from pursuing entrepreneurship, such as the absence of a peer community, less familiarity with startup terms and concepts, and lack of access to mentors and funding.  Not only was Sara an engaging professor, but also a graduate of the full-time MBA program. She inspired me to have the confidence to take my educational, professional, and personal goals to the next level through the full-time MBA program.

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

Create a business from the ground and successfully exit.

Be in the C-suite of a Fortune 500 company.

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

“Jasmine is, by far, one of the most impressive MBA students we’ve seen in recent years. She is a successful entrepreneur, excellent student, and engaged community member. Jasmine joined Smith after completing one year of her Master’s in Public Policy and will graduate with the dual MPP and MBA. She was elected Track Rep by her classmates in the fall of her first year, and in that role, she designed and implemented the first ever “Winternship Challenge” in partnership with the Office of Career Services. This challenge helped motivate her fellow classmates over the winter break in their job search and was so successful that it was held again the following winter.

Jasmine now holds the position of VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion and has led the MBA Association to host events that educated her classmates as to the effects of systemic racism and what they could do as individuals to change it. She turned her grief over the murder of George Floyd (among others) last summer into action by planning a virtual vigil. She has inspired many in the Smith community to do more for our program and the college to make sure that our commitment to diversity goes beyond the surface and starts to influence how we think about curriculum and the culture of the full-time MBA program. And, she has done all of this while running her start-up, Aurora Tights, which has grown over 1000% in revenue since she started at Smith. We know she will continue to exceed all expectations in the years to come.”

Wendy W. Moe
Associate Dean of Master’s Programs



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