“Consistently voted Most Likely to Be Heard through Walls. Proudly creating space for “loud” women.”
Hometown: Raleigh, North Carolina
Fun fact about yourself: I was a theatre kid from elementary school to high school. I performed in myriad musicals. Some of my favorite roles included Genie (Aladdin), Ms. Hannigan (Annie), and Pumbaa (Lion King).
Undergraduate School and Degree: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as a double major in Journalism & Mass Communication and English.
Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Bank of America, Assistant Vice President in Corporate Communications, Global Banking & Markets businesses.
Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? M&T Bank, Executive Associate
Where will you be working after graduation? M&T Bank, Executive Associate in Business Banking Strategy.
Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:
- Dean’s Fellow (2019-2021)
- Forté Fellow (2019-2021)
- Graduate Assistant – Marketing and Communications (2019-2020)
Community Work & Leadership Roles:
- MBA Association President (2020 – 2021)
- Marketing and Communications Association First-Year Board member (2019 – 2020)
- Smith Association of Women MBAs First-Year Board member (2019 – 2020)
- Forté Fellow MBALaunch Program (2019)
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? During undergrad, I artfully avoided any math after my first semester. I thrived in classes that aligned with my natural strengths and interests. Despite knowing business school would mean facing my fear of quant, I did not realize how far beyond my comfort zone the Smith curriculum would immediately push me. My schedule was composed entirely of subject matter that did not come naturally to me. I struggled through economics, accounting, statistics, and financial management during our first term. I wrestled with exam grades that put me slightly south of the class average and questioned why I had been admitted to the program. I felt unsure I could possibly add to the Smith community. I finished my first term convinced I would be left behind completely by the end of my second year. Then, as quickly as it began, the first term passed, and seven weeks later the first semester ended. As if by magic, I had not disappeared into the ether (probably the result of math I’ve avoided).
For my peers who excel at quant, the first semester focused on striving for the highest exam score or mastering the nuances of a complex problem set. For me, the first semester was a hard-fought competition with myself. My first 14 weeks were about building resilience, growing comfortable with ambiguity, and understanding the value of pushing through challenges instead of avoiding them. I will never be a statistician. I will never have a job in economics or a passion for accounting. I will, however, leave Smith with an understanding that asking for help is never synonymous with failure. My first semester taught me the intangible qualities – such as perseverance and self-assurance – matter more than an exam grade ever could.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I initially joined Bank of America as an intern in its Global Marketing & Corporate Affairs program. After receiving a full-time offer with the bank, I volunteered with the internship communications team as a way to give back to the hiring managers who helped launch my career. Two years later, I was given the opportunity to serve as the Assistant Program Manager. I am most proud of the structure I provided the program and the mentorship I offered to each intern cohort.
As assistant manager, I streamlined the onboarding resources we provided, cultivated a sense of community through an intern intranet group, and helped each intern navigate their full-time search. My greatest pride has been witnessing several former interns receive their first promotion at Bank of America. I remain grateful for the launch the internship provided me and my ability to help future cohorts successfully navigate the bank.
Why did you choose this business school? I knew Smith was different from the first time I communicated with the admissions office. I lived in New York at the time, so my school visits in the D.C. area had to take place in the course of a single week. Smith was the only school that designed a visit based entirely on my scheduling needs. The admissions team connected me with a student ambassador and coordinated a class visit. During the visit, the rapport students had with each other and the professor was obvious. I observed a diverse classroom where “loud” women – like me – actively contributed to the discussion.
Admitted Students Weekend provided another unique demonstration of why Smith presented the best fit for me. The students spoke honestly about their experiences, sharing the aspects of the program Smith works to improve just as openly as they did Smith’s greatest strengths. One second-year student in particular made it a distinct point to connect with me one-on-one about the work he had done over the past year to build relationships between students and to ensure that Smith was one community rather than a first-year and a second-year cohort. His enthusiasm about creating a unified student body and his enthusiasm about the incoming first-year students meant I left Admitted Students Weekend confident I would begin the program with a second-year already in my corner cheering me on.
Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? When I entered business school, I assumed an MBA candidate with a marketing background had to become brand manager at a major CPG firm to be successful. As a result, I spent the better part of my first semester trying to force myself into positions at companies that were not the right fit. I believed finishing my MBA without a major career pivot meant I had not fully maximized my time at Smith.
Through a series of fortuitous stumbling, I learned about the M&T Summer Executive Associate Program. One conversation with a Smith alum led to another, and several phone calls later I had connected with people several degrees removed from Smith entirely. The M&T culture was an immediate fit, and the projects I would have the opportunity to lead presented an exciting new challenge for me. Had I not rewritten my metrics for success, I would have spent my entire first year chasing a goal that did not align with my interests. I would have missed the M&T opportunity entirely.
What surprised you the most about business school? Though I began my MBA journey with the knowledge that people often use the degree to pivot, I did not realize how vast the spectrum of backgrounds represented in our cohort would be. I never expected I would join teachers, classically trained musicians, and small business owners alike. Now in the last semester of my MBA, I place a premium on the diversity that having a wide array of backgrounds brings to our discussions. I look forward to the perspectives someone from a non-traditional background will bring and am always eager to see the unique way they approach a problem.
What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I approached recruitment in the same way I do any application: practice radical candor during every interaction. I take pride in my unapologetic sense of self and my willingness to speak plainly about my perspectives and experiences. When choosing a business school, I valued community fit as much as financial aid or school ranking.
Navigating a recruitment process in which every school somehow has the “best people, best faculty, and best job placements” required a willingness to be candid about my specific interests and goals after graduation. That vulnerability allowed me to connect meaningfully with each person I met during the application process and ultimately gave me an edge. Smith knew exactly what I would contribute to the community and exactly what I hoped to gain before offering me admission to the program.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Jasmine Snead is a “Triple Terp” who completed a Master’s in Public Policy and launched her own company, Aurora Tights, all before beginning her MBA in the Fall of 2019. To date, I do not understand how she does it.
Jasmine served alongside me on the MBA Association (MBAA) this year, and I could not have navigated my time as president without her. She is someone who can seamlessly connect with people from any background, while still being a discerning judge of character. Jasmine understands the importance of having a vision while also maintaining flexibility when the unexpected – like a global pandemic – causes all your plans to change.
Much of our time together on the MBAA has been spent navigating a year of unprecedented crises. Shortly after our term began in March 2020, the nation was confronted with the murder of George Floyd and the continued need for change to create racial justice. Jasmine helped to ensure everything we did would hold meaning for the Black community at Smith. She quickly organized a virtual vigil to honor George Floyd and remains dedicated to enacting meaningful change for the MBA program and the broader Smith community. As our time on the board – and at Smith – comes to an end, I am excited for the amazing things I know Jasmine will achieve. I look forward to the ways in which she will act as a catalyst for positive change on any team she joins.
How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? I chose Smith because of its people. I specifically sought a program with a culture that prioritized community. I began my MBA with every intention of spending two years cultivating relationships that would carry forward for years to come. Having to shift to an online learning environment disrupted those plans completely. The transition to online learning meant the face-to-face interaction I relied on was reduced to conversations through a computer screen. It meant finding new ways to cultivate meaningful connection and coming to terms with a reality that had devolved entirely from my expectations.
As an extrovert who relies heavily on people to refuel, I had to find new ways to decompress and reset. Most days, I still focus on celebrating the small wins and the simple indulgences (like my husband surprising me with an Uber Eats order for my favorite ice cream). For the last several months, the highlight of my week has been a walk with one of my closest friends from Smith. She meets me at 7:30 a.m. every Friday, and for the next hour and a half we walk around my neighborhood. For those 90 minutes, the pandemic fades to the background and the world feels remarkably normal.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Each quarter in school – from kindergarten until high school graduation – my mother reviewed every grade, on every assignment, in every course, with me. As a principal in my school district, she often knew when report cards were due before I did. By senior year, my teachers could not help but smile at the highlighted lines on my progress reports that accompanied my mom’s distinct signature. Growing up, I often dreaded her speeches about the importance of opening doorways for myself and never accepting less than my best effort. To this day, my mother acts as my toughest coach and my most ardent champion. My self-determination and drive to pursue my MBA is the direct result of my mom’s unwavering belief that I have a responsibility to achieve my fullest potential.
My mother was the first person in her family to attend college. She graduated as the valedictorian of her high school and the salutatorian of her college. As a mother of three, she completed two master’s degrees while working full-time. My mother demonstrated the value of persistence and striving toward long-term goals. Her example has shown me perseverance and work ethic will allow me to blaze any trail I determine to walk.
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?
- Lead a team in the launch of a new product or initiative
- Serve as a sponsor to a junior member of my team
What made Virginia such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?
Virginia’s leadership has been critical to the Maryland Smith Full-Time MBA program over the past year. She was elected as MBA Association (MBAA) President in February 2020 and little did she know that her first order of business would be COVID-19 and transitioning to a completely virtual environment. She was a key team member in communicating decisions to the students and providing the administration with feedback on how her classmates were handling the transition. Early feedback helped both faculty and staff adjust and provide the best experience possible for our students. In addition, she worked with her fellow MBAA board members and each of the individual clubs to transition their programming online. The majority of planned in-person events were still held in the virtual environment, which helped keep students engaged and part of the Smith community. Virginia has been the “Slack Champion” as the students have implemented this platform for communication amongst their cohort. Engagement and activity from students have increased and been another way to keep connected over the past year. In addition, Virginia has collaborated with Maryland Smith’s Office of Career Services to conduct focus groups examining the office’s communication channels and strengthen the office’s programming curriculum. Virginia brightens any room and is positive and upbeat in all her interactions. We know she will continue to have a positive impact after graduation when she joins M&T Bank as an Executive Associate in Business Banking Strategy.”
Wendy W. Moe
Associate Dean of Master’s Programs
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