2021 MBAs To Watch: Gráinne Dunne, Boston College (Carroll)

Gráinne Dunne

Boston College, Carroll School of Management

Loyal and pragmatic with an adventurous spirit.

Hometown: Athy, Ireland

Fun fact about yourself: I am on a mission to visit all 63 US National Parks. I have visited 10 since I have moved to the US.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Trinity College Dublin, Bachelors of Science (Pharmacy)

Royal College of Surgeons, Masters of Science (Pharmacy)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked in Operations at AbbVie where I managed a team of 13 Pharmaceutical Technicians in a drug-manufacturing site.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? PwC, Chicago/Remote.

Where will you be working after graduation? I accepted an offer with PwC and I will return to their Pharma Life Sciences Advisory Group after graduation.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: As part of my community work at Boston College, I volunteer as a tutor in the Invest ’N Kids (INK) program. INK is run by graduate students as a tutoring program that aims to help underprivileged middle-schoolers with their homework.

I also volunteer at the West End House. This is the largest youth development agency in Boston’s Allston-Brighton community providing high-impact programs that ensure that local young people are succeeding academically, developing career readiness skills, and adopting healthy lifestyles.

As a member of the Graduate Consulting Club, I have participated in workshops and I mentor a group of first-year MBA students. Additionally, I have competed in several case competitions.  I have worked with the admissions team in helping to recruit prospective students, acting as an ambassador for the program at informational events.

I am a member of IntEnt, the Graduate Intrapreneurship & Entrepreneurship Association at Boston College. I participated in the IntEnt Apprenticeship Program, which is a voluntary opportunity that pairs Boston College graduate students with local Boston organizations.

I am a recipient of the Denis O’Brien Fellowship. The Irish businessman Denis O’Brien created this merit-based fellowship that, on an annual basis, offers two Irish students a fully funded MBA at BC, where Mr. O’Brien himself earned his MBA in 1982.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of how my relationship with community has changed, inspired by Boston College’s Jesuit tradition of service. A strong sense of community service has been instilled in me. Before business school, I do not think I truly understood that individuals rarely shift the needle on large-scale issues, but there is great power in individuals supporting their community consistently. That is a shift in my perspective that I am very grateful for.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Working with an innovative biotech company such as AbbVie allowed for excellent opportunities for exciting and meaningful work. As a Technical Operations Pharmacist, I was responsible for the technical transfer of a new oncology drug from pilot to commercial scale. It is incredible to work on projects where you have such a tangible impact on the lives of patients all over the world. I was also the supply chain representative on the launch team for a new Hepatitis C (HCV) treatment at the launch manufacturing site. Prior to the launch of this therapy, there was no cure for HCV. The treatment at the time required long-term maintenance and was incredibly debilitating. AbbVie’s HCV treatment cleared the virus from your body within 12 weeks and allowed patients to live a full and healthy life.

Why did you choose this business school? Boston College has a very strong data analytics track—this was very important to me when choosing a program. I have really enjoyed becoming proficient in data tools such as SQL, Tableau, SPSS, Alteryx, and Python and learning how to leverage these tools for strategic insights. It is a skillset that will differentiate me in the workplace.

Boston College has a deep Irish connection and a great sense of community which makes it a special experience for me and somewhere I feel very much at home.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Tuck Winter Carnival, an annual inter-collegiate event that BC is invited to, was my favorite MBA event—especially as it occurred immediately before we went into lockdown last year. I was lucky enough to attend as a first-year MBA student. It was great to get to know not only MBA students from other schools but also to develop stronger connections with my classmates and upperclassmen.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? There is not much I would change. I had hoped to do a volunteering trip. However, with the lockdown, this was not possible. Otherwise, in hindsight, I might have changed one or two courses. That said, the exploration of different subject areas allowed me to understand my personal interests, strengths, and weaknesses.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Boston College is known as a strong finance school. While this is true, the BC MBA also has a broad curriculum, and we are lucky to have very talented professors across the board. For example, we have an incredibly strong data analytics track. Professors like Pieter Vanderwerf, George Wyner, Sam Ramsbottom, and Jonathan Reuter make their respective subject areas accessible, practical, and entertaining.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised to find that I enjoy the more technical and quantitative subjects even though I am probably stronger qualitatively. There is a great sense of satisfaction that comes from tackling a difficult problem and overcoming the challenge.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Visiting a school in person and meeting face-to-face with faculty and students is invaluable not only in giving you an edge during the application process, but also to determine whether the school is culturally a good fit for you.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Kimberly Hay Strauss is remarkable. She is always on top of her game in class while at the same time interning during the school term and taking care of her son. Despite her humble, understated style, it is apparent that she is incredibly intelligent and hard-working. She is also very generous with her classmates.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? The pandemic certainly came as a shock and the MBA experience was one of many things that was affected by these unprecedented times. Regardless, BC and the professors did a great job adapting quickly to an online setting and providing personal support to students. I also took the opportunity to get the most of the online MBA experience by setting up morning Zoom workouts, taking advantage of virtual office hours, and holding daily check-in calls with my friends. I was incredibly grateful that I had the opportunity to develop relationships with my classmates during the first semester. That was a great support network.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Several people inspired and influenced my decision to pursue business in college. My dad is my role model. He is a servant leader within local community. He set high standards for my siblings and I and taught us to put our best effort into everything we did. He instilled a confidence in us that big opportunities were accessible to us.

My younger sister is a pharmacist by training who also returned to business school. She is a healthcare consultant, and she opened my eyes to the impactful work available to those who can marry a healthcare and business perspective.

James Hughes, a Director at AbbVie, taught me a lot about thinking strategically and how to effectively support and engage a team. He is a great mentor who actively supported my personal development and career progression.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? In the short term, I am excited to join PwC to work with life sciences clients to solve their biggest challenges. I am interested in building upon the foundation of data analytics skills I have gained at BC. This aligns with the goal of PwC to upskill their people with new data tools. I would like to ideally help organizations design data systems and utilize them to gain operational efficiencies and to improve the patient’s overall experience.

In the long-term, I would love to create my own company. Ideally, I would like to create a small or medium-sized business that could provide employment opportunities or stimulate growth within my local community.

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

“Gráinne possesses the ideal qualities we look for in a BC MBA student. She is intelligent, hard-working, and committed to giving back to the community. Her exemplary performance and contributions at BC—in the classroom and her work with Invest N’ Kids, in her summer internship and BC MBA admissions events—showcases a consistent drive to excel.

Born and raised in Ireland, Gráinne attended Trinity College where she earned both a BS and MS in Pharmacy. Following her studies, she was hired by AbbVie, the Illinois-based pharmaceutical company, to work in the company’s Operations Development Program in Dublin, Ireland. Based on the high quality of her work, she was given the opportunity to work in AbbVie’s Chicago location.

Looking to transition from operations to business, Gráinne applied to the Carroll School, where she received the highly-selective Denis O’Brien Fellowship—awarded to students that express an interest in the economy of, or business development in, Ireland. After a successful first year in the program, Gráinne interned as part of the consulting internship program at PwC in Chicago during summer 2020 and will be returning there for a full-time role post-graduation. We have been fortunate to have Gráinne as a member of the class of 2021, and it is truly a pleasure to work with her. In addition to all her successes in the program, Gráinne’s humility and commitment to the BC MBA program makes us proud to have her as a member of our community.”

Marilyn Eckelman
Associate Dean, Graduate Programs
Carroll School of Management



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