2021 MBAs To Watch: Kathryn Donville, Ivey Business School

Kathryn Donville

Ivey Business School at Western University

“Passionate, outgoing, and thoughtful, I aim to be the “Leslie Knope” of every team I’m on.”  

Hometown: Oakville, ON, Canada

Fun fact about yourself: I was a competitive synchronized skater and my teams reached the Canadian National Podium four times!

Undergraduate School and Degree: McGill University, BA in International Development Studies and Spanish

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Research Associate at Donville Kent Asset Management Inc.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? NA

Where will you be working after graduation? Undecided

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Forté Fellow, Togle Tutor, Member of WIM and Finance Clubs

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I volunteered as a tutor for Togle, a start-up founded by my MBA classmates to help assist elementary and middle school students in London. We were quite limited by COVID-19 in terms of the ways we could interact with and improve our broader community, but Togle gave me a chance to work one-on-one with a deserving student via Zoom tutor sessions. I am very proud that throughout our time together, my student was able to improve both her confidence and actual academic performance in both Math and French.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I previously worked at a plant nursery, selling large nursery items such as trees, bushes, and other perennials. I was honoured to be recognized as the top salesperson for the entire season for our tracked commissioned products. I always aimed to approach sales and customer service with positivity, authenticity, and realism, and I was pleased that this strategy paid off with high performance, and subsequent recognition and compensation. Most importantly though, I was just proud to have helped so many of our customers find and select the right products they needed to make their gardens beautiful!

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Ivey for the case method of learning. I knew from the beginning of my search process that this was the type of business school I wanted, which helped me narrow my search to a very small number of schools. The case method helps you think and express yourself and consider different perspectives, but most importantly it also forces you to raise your hand, state your opinion, and be prepared to defend or amend your position. I think this is the best way to understand any topic, but especially the nuanced and complicated situations that are presented in the business world. Ivey has helped me think critically and learn quickly, and I feel confident to head into my next career move equipped with the skills Ivey has given me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Fernando Olivera was my Negotiations professor and I adored his class. He was an enthusiastic and passionate educator, but was especially adept at translating the theoretical aspects of his subject into usable and tangible takeaways. Every class we were able to role play a different type of negotiation, and he always provided thoughtful and helpful feedback. I know I will remember specific lessons from his class for years to come, and that I will arm myself with his teachings as I enter every negotiation for the remainder of my professional career and personal life. Thank you Fernando!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Unfortunately there were many events that we were unable to enjoy due to restrictions of COVID-19, but we were able to enjoy one important event before the lockdowns hit. On one of our first days of school, we spent the day with an organization called Pathfinder Leadership Associates. We were split up into our first learning teams and spent the day completing a series of physical and mental team challenges to help us bond, get to know one another, and prepare ourselves as a team for the long nights and lengthy cases that we had ahead of us. This event was really important in helping us get to know our new teammates and colleagues by pushing us outside of our comfort zone from one of the very first days. Little did we know about what other challenges lay ahead of us, but our time with Pathfinder was a great way to force us to jump into the MBA with both feet!

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Truthfully, if I’d had a crystal ball and could have predicted the impacts of the pandemic, I might have done my MBA at a different time so I could have avoided some of the specific challenges related to dealing with COVID-19. However, in terms of things that were actually within my control, I would have perhaps taken more diverse electives. I was worried about missing out on any technical instruction in finance, so I took almost all of the finance electives I could. However, I think it could have also been valuable to learn more about other fields in which I have less technical experience, such as operations. I’ve still been thrilled with the classes I’ve chosen, but getting a chance to learn even more about more foreign classes would have been useful.

What is the biggest myth about your school? In my opinion, one of the biggest myths about the case method is that you can’t learn the technical parts of certain subjects simply by doing cases. I believe that technical learning is absolutely possible, but that you need to acknowledge that you will be acquiring knowledge in a different way. Though it’s true that your professor might not have equations and formulas up on a slideshow for you to copy down and practice, you can still learn the technical pieces you need. With cases you need to take initiative and be proactive in seeking out the areas you need to learn. You need to be willing to ask specific questions and turn to your teammates and classmates for their expertise when possible. You may not learn specific formulas or facts from the case method, but I believe that you certainly learn more/ More importantly, you learn how best to acquire new knowledge for yourself. The case method makes you a better learner and a more thoughtful person, which I believe better prepares you for whatever is next in your career, no matter the field.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was pleasantly surprised to see the diversity of backgrounds of my classmates. I’d read class profiles online and heard promotional speeches about diversity, but I was so pleased to show up on my first day of school and learn that my classmates really were from around the world and from a variety of professions. I was slightly worried that my class would be filled with simply accountants and CFAs, with only a few people from other professions. However, I was delighted to find classmates who had past experience in tech, politics, non-profits, fashion, film production, entrepreneurship, and even an Olympic athlete!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was very frank and honest throughout my application process. I wrote my essays from the heart and was authentic and real during my interview, which I am sure helped me to clinch my spot at Ivey. I am an enthusiastic and passionate person in my life and in my work, so I wanted to make that clear in my application as well. I also tried to overcome my own worries and anxiety about any specific items by reminding myself that schools look at applications holistically, and are not overly concerned by a single grade or GMAT score. Considering my whole application — letters of recommendation, resume, and video essays — helped give me the confidence to put my best foot forward and not concern myself with my own weaknesses.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am always in awe of my classmate Graham Calvin. I was fortunate enough to have Graham in my section and to have worked with him briefly on a few projects. I am always blown away by his intellect, work ethic, and thoughtfulness. Graham is probably one of the smartest people in our entire program, but he is also incredibly kind and patient, and always willing to lend a hand and teach others when they need help. I am so glad I got to do this program with Graham, and I feel lucky that I got to listen to his contribution. I am thrilled that Ivey brought us together and I know that I will keep Graham in my professional and personal circle for years to come.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? We were in a unique position because our first lockdown, which put us online for months, hit on our fourth day of classes in March 2020. Most other business schools either had time before COVID to get into the swing of things, or months to prepare if they started afterward. We had to learn on the fly and adapt and iterate to figure out the best ways to keep learning during this difficult time.

There were some bumps in the road in the early days as students, professors, and the administration all adapted to our new normal. However over time I believe we reached a routine that was the best possible for all parties. Though it wasn’t a perfect situation by any means, I believe our school did everything they could to help us and teach us under challenging and limiting circumstances. Notably, Ivey retrofitted an entire building to be used exclusively by our MBA class during times of lighter restrictions, so that students could take advantage of the hybrid model where some took classes online from home and others were able to come to classes in person while maintaining social distancing.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I am in a unique position in that both of my parents have graduated from Ivey. My father, Jason, graduated with his MBA in 1992 and my mother, Jane, graduated with her EMBA in 2002. I grew up in a household where they Ivey name was revered. I had great sources to really help me understand the details and realities of cased based learning and the Ivey program. I was actually lucky enough to work with my Dad prior to the MBA, which made my leaving to complete this graduate degree a difficult decision for me, both personally and professionally.

Most importantly, though, my parents have always supported my dreams and encouraged me to pursue all of my personal and professional goals. Both of my parents have been well served by their Ivey degrees. More significantly, I knew that I wanted to learn from an institution that I know helped shape both of my parents into the outstanding people they are today. I feel lucky that I’m now a part of the same club as two of the smartest people I know. Thanks for everything Mum and Dad!

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I’m not entirely certain of what my future holds professionally or where I might end up, but there are still certain things that I think and dream about. In the shorter term, I would love to develop trust and expertise in a subject area or department such that I am considered the “go-to person” on something specific. I am passionate about everything I do, and want to be able to add value to whatever team I am on or company where I am a part. I would love it if this could result in my becoming a trusted advisor for a specific subject.

Secondly, I would love to be an entrepreneur and one day start my own business. I haven’t yet stumbled across my “great idea”, but I am constantly thinking and wondering about what I could do. I will be absolutely thrilled the day I get to buy my first business class seat with the corporate card from my own company!

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

“Kathryn Donville describes herself as a passionate, outgoing, and thoughtful individual. Most of her colleagues in Ivey’s MBA Class of 2021 would also characterize her as an individual who is consistently courageous, accountable, just, and acts with integrity. Kathryn’s professionalism in all her Ivey endeavors and interactions, as well as her transformation within this past year’s externally disruptive and uncertain MBA program, served as a gritty and adaptive model for others similarly striving to expand their leadership smarts and skills. Kathryn’s academic and interpersonal thriving in the MBA program, no doubt influenced by the sage guidance she received from her Ivey alumni parents, wonderfully reflects the type of learning-based transformative experience that the School hopes all members of Ivey’s MBA Class of 2021 were able to achieve.”

Larry Menor
MBA Program Faculty Director




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