2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Melissa Bizzari, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)      

Melissa Bizzari          

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

“Curious problem-solver, empathetic, and relationship builder.”

Hometown: Stowe, Vermont

Fun fact about yourself: Prior to business school I played professional women’s hockey while working full time.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Boston College, Communication Major & Environmental Studies Minor

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? ClearEdge Partners, Marketing Operations Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Illuminate Ventures Portfolio Company, Pyze, Product Marketing & Strategy Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Tata Consulting Services Accelerated Leadership Program, Strategic Business Manager

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Forte Fellow
  • James R. Swartz Entrepreneurial Fellow
  • 2015 Endowed Scholar
  • President, Graduate Business Association
  • Accelerate Leadership Center Communication Coach
  • Admissions Ambassador

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my time spent serving as president of the Graduate Business Association (GBA). The GBA is the student government of Tepper and is responsible for representing the student body to the administration and university. Advocating for student needs is core to our mission. It was an incredible honor to represent my class and their needs during one of the most difficult times we have ever experienced. I am incredibly grateful for the team of 10 students who served on our board. This year was a crash course in crisis management and it was an incredible leadership learning opportunity.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Working at a fast-growing company is exciting and creates lots of opportunities to contribute. While working at ClearEdge Partners I developed a passion for solving business problems with technology. As the in-house expert in our customer relationship management software I was able to work cross functionally to connect teams through data. The systems I built helped the company scale and leverage data to strategically target customers. Upon promotion to the Marketing team, I pitched the executive leadership team a proposal to purchase marketing automation and customer portal software. As a result, I was granted a $500K technology budget and responsible for the procurement, implementation, and management of the software. The client-facing portal now drives a majority of customer engagements. This was the last project I completed before going to business school and I felt proud to leave the company on a high note with technology that would help them continue to grow.

Why did you choose this business school? I applied to Tepper because of the quantitative rigor of the program. Coming from a liberal arts background, I really wanted to become a well-rounded business leader. I knew Tepper had a great reputation for developing quantitative skills, but I really liked how the curriculum is complemented by a community that is collaborative and supportive. I have learned so much from my classmates and appreciate the culture that encourages knowledge sharing.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back on my MBA experience, I wish I was involved in more pro bono consulting work. I really admired how my classmates in the pro bono consulting club band together to take initiative to support small business during the pandemic. Groups like the Small Business Strike Team and MBAs fight COVID are great examples of how to apply your MBA education to support the community. I certainly hope to be able to support future initiatives as an alumnus.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth at Tepper is that you need to be an engineer to go here. Yes, there are a lot of engineers and quant backgrounds in the Tepper program, but there are many people like myself who come to Tepper to become more analytical and well-rounded as a leader. Tepper has a huge focus on leadership development with one-on-one executive coaching and the leadership certificate programs offered by the Accelerate Leadership Center.

What surprised you the most about business school? I have been most surprised by the vast amount of opportunity there is to learn outside the classroom. I came to Tepper to focus on entrepreneurship and emerging technology. As a Swartz fellow I had the opportunity to meet several alumni entrepreneurs and venture capitalists. Meeting these alumni showed me the power you have as a student to ask to get involved and offer what you are learning to growing businesses. This entrepreneurial perspective is what allowed me to learn by conducting due diligence research for Illuminate Ventures, create a new angel investing capstone with some of my classmates, and do side projects for startups. The knowledge I learned in the classroom allowed me to be versatile and flexible to jump into these outside the classroom working learning opportunities. This has forever changed how I view approaching projects or initiatives I have never done before.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Visiting campus for diversity weekend was the best decision I made when applying. I was able to do my interview while on campus that weekend. I felt like I lived the Tepper experience for a whole weekend before I was even accepted. Current students treated me like peers which allowed me to be myself. Meeting fellow applicants gave me a sense of who my classmates would be while in school. All these interactions gave me real life examples of how I thought I would be able to fit in and contribute to the Tepper community. I will never forget having dinner with a small group of other applicants who were staying an extra night because of their interviews. I left dinner hopeful that these would be my future classmates. Many of them ended up coming to Tepper and are close friends now.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate I admire the most is Nitzan Sherman. I remember when I first met Nitzan I loved how curious he was. He is one of those people who is generally interested in getting to know people and is thoughtful about reaching out and staying connected with our classmates. I have learned a lot from him as a leader. I always enjoy engaging in philosophical leadership discussions with him. His growth mindset and work ethic are contagious. He is someone who is constantly trying to improve and grow. I can’t wait to see where his leadership journey takes him after school.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? There is no doubt moving to a hybrid environment changed the MBA experience. Unfortunately, this shift was something that affected every program. Something that made Tepper uniquely prepared for this academic shift was having a top-ranked online Hybrid MBA program. Many of the professors had taught virtually before and the school had a model for how synchronous and asynchronous content would be taught to students. During this time, we developed close relationships with students in the Part-Time Online Hybrid program. They were kind enough to host sessions to provide tips and advice on how to learn effectively virtually.

The social aspect of the MBA program changed drastically as students tried to balance safety and connection to the community. Carnegie Mellon’s push to have Hybrid in person and online class helped give students the opportunity to see each other safely in person. As challenging as this year has been, I feel that going through these hard times has fortified some really meaning relationships.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My manager and mentor Kathleen DeMayo was the person who encouraged me to go to business school. While I was at ClearEdge Partners, Kathleen was my direct manager and the manager of a team of 15 analysts. Kathleen is one of those mentors who has an “alumni” of people that worked for her. She is dedicated to their success as well as personal and professional growth.

Having an MBA herself, she encouraged me to explore and push myself out of my comfort zone. Having a strong female leader as an influence in my professional career has instilled a responsibility to grow as a leader and support the growth of others. It is one thing to be a great individual contributor, but it is another to bring out the best in others. I hope to one day like her have an “alumni” of people I helped support.

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

  • Have the opportunity to work abroad or launch an international team.
  • Invest in women’s professional sports.

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

“For the past year, I have worked closely with Melissa in her role as President of the Graduate Business Association (GBA). Her class could not have elected a better leader. Melissa has tirelessly served her community through one of the most challenging periods for students and universities. This period has asked more of leaders in almost every way, and Melissa has risen to the challenge every time. It is not uncommon that student leaders seek their positions to pursue an individual interest or outcome for themselves. Not so with Melissa. From the outset of her leadership role, Melissa has always put the needs of her community at the forefront, seeking to broadly represent the interests of her classmates and provide valuable input and perspective to other leaders at the Tepper School. She is a naturally inclusive leader who brings people together to solve problems and navigate a way forward. I have appreciated Melissa’s willingness to ask questions, propose ideas and gently but effectively challenge the status quo. Melissa’s leadership and advocacy has been invaluable to the Class of 2021, and it has been an honor to work closely with her this past year. I would be delighted to see her service to her community recognized as one of the Class of 2021’s Best and Brightest. She is highly deserving of this accolade and I expect she will continue to make an impact through leadership roles in the future.”

Kate Barraclough
Head of the MBA Program and Distinguished Service Professor of Finance



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