2021 MBAs To Watch: Matt Griffin, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Matt Griffin

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

Empathetic emerging leader who is passionate about the transformative potential of ethical business leadership.”

Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA

Fun fact about yourself: One summer I helped my aunt build a garden for monarch butterflies.

Undergraduate School and Degree: BSBA in Economics from Duquesne University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Matter Planning Analyst at K&L Gates, LLP

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Finance Manager Intern at Converse, Nike, Inc. in Boston, MA (remotely due to COVID)

Where will you be working after graduation? Senior Finance Manager (FLDP) at Target in Minneapolis, MN

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • McGowan Fellow
  • Thomas M. Kerr Ethics in Business Award
  • EVP of Tepper Net Impact
  • VP of Community Engagement for Tepper Pro Bono Consulting

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My proudest achievement was helping lead Tepper’s participation in the first ever Small Business School Challenge last spring. The Small Business School Challenge is a national case competition that formed last year to help connect MBA students with local small businesses to help them adjust to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’m so proud to have played a part in connecting over 30 Tepper students and more than a dozen alumni with 11 Pittsburgh small businesses to make an impact during such a difficult time.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? At K&L Gates, I was one of the first members of a new group called the Matter Planning Team that was spearheading innovation in pricing and technology at the firm. I am grateful to have played a part in building the foundation of that team and I’m really proud to see how they have continued to grow and succeed.

Why did you choose this business school? The Accelerate Leadership Center (ALC) was a major reason why I chose to come to Tepper. The ALC has its office right inside the MBA Commons where students can access one-on-one leadership coaching and attend workshops and programs to achieve our leadership goals. It is such a unique part of the Tepper program that I did not see replicated anywhere else. My one-on-one sessions with the leadership coaches at ALC have been invaluable in my growth over the past two years. Also, ALC’s SHIFT program has been an incredible way to include art and empathy in my business school education that has deepened my connection with my classmates.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Dr. Clara Burke when I took Management Presentations. Dr. Burke created a safe environment to explore and helped each person find their own authentic and unique style of communication. My experience in her class has been foundational to how I view myself as a leader and communicator while opening my eyes to biases I held previously.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I think my favorite event was the Tepper Women in Business (TWIB) Conference that gets held every year. I had a chance to volunteer at last year’s conference and it was an amazing opportunity to learn from women leaders in the Tepper community and the broader Pittsburgh community. The TWIB Conference is a really great example of the emphasis Tepper places on empower our students and building a strong community.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I think it is a common sentiment, but I would have spent more time during my first year attending social and cultural events to deepen the relationships I have with my classmates. I fell into the trap of overcommitting myself to all the opportunities an MBA program presents at the cost of my social life. There are a lot of people at Tepper whom I wish I had spent more time with and gotten to know better when in-person activities were possible. The pandemic was a powerful reminder of how important it is to find a balance so that work doesn’t prevent you from building those meaningful relationships.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think Tepper’s reputation as a “quant” school doesn’t capture the full experience at Tepper. The quant focus is woven throughout the program but much of the program is focused on how people work, live, and find fulfillment. The Accelerate Leadership Center, our organizational behavior courses, and club activities are places where we get to learn about leadership, how successful organizations are built, and the passions of our classmates. I think the quantitative focus Tepper is well-balanced with the intimate, personal moments that are easier to access in a close-knit community like ours.

What surprised you the most about business school? Before coming to Tepper, I still had the image in my head of business school as a place that produces people who pursue profit regardless of social costs. I have been really encouraged by how many conversations in business school have revolved around environmental impact, social justice, and equity. I think business schools still have a long way to go, but it is inspiring to see how many of my classmates and incoming students are committed to changing the relationship between business and society.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think something that helped me stand out, and a piece of advice I give to applicants, is that I was able to tell the story of my journey and why I wanted Tepper to be my next chapter. People connect with stories more than GMAT scores or GPAs, and I think applicants can help themselves stand out by being intentional about how they tell their own story, how they see themselves growing alongside their future classmates, and by painting a vision for their future.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This answer could be two pages long because there are so many classmates that I admire! One classmate I’d single out is Mathew Polowitz, who I worked with closely on the board of Net Impact. I admire the way that I’ve seen Mathew empower other people and help them grow. As the President of Net Impact, he formed and empowered a cross-campus team of students who developed programming for this year’s CMU@Intersect Conference that included events on art and activism, impact investing, and food access as well as a campus wide Futurethon. I have seen him help so many people at Tepper from leading meditation sessions for classmates, organizing and performing with other Tepper musicians at a small (socially distant) outdoor concert in the fall, or just being a friendly face over a coffee. I think he has a really strong sense of self that makes him an effective leader and a great friend.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? It was disruptive because I missed being physically present with my classmates and the broader Tepper community. It definitely made the MBA experience feel less dynamic when comparing the buzz in the Tepper building to doing everything from home. However, I think our student leaders on the Graduate Business Association did an amazing job creating virtual spaces to stay connected. The adjustment to the virtual class experience was surprisingly smooth. Most of my professors had experience teaching online due to Tepper’s Part-Time Online Hybrid program so it felt like Tepper was well-prepared to make that transition.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My Dad was the person who influenced me to pursue business in college. For much of my childhood, he was a single parent and his hard work and dedication to our family has always inspired me. I’ve always looked to him as an example of selflessness and dedication to others. When he encouraged me to pursue a career in business, I did so in the hope that I could emulate those qualities to impact the lives of others the same way he impacted mine.

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

  1. Learn a new language and work in another country.
  2. Help create a new product and see it go from an idea to being used out in the world.

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

“Matt truly is an exemplar of Tepper’s best and brightest, which says a lot given the rich talents of his classmates. Empathetic, multifaceted, and driven, Matt is the kind of student you always hope will show up to your programs. His strong abilities to synthesize and think critically elevate any discussion that he is part of and open up those around him to new ways of thinking. His deep sense of caring about people and community means that he works consistently to connect his learnings to the larger world and to consider ways that he can share his knowledge and gifts.

Matt’s position as co-president of the Tepper chapter of Net Impact and his work with the Pro Bono Consulting Initiative stand out as demonstrable examples of his dedication to making a positive contribution to the greater good. And I have had the privilege of witnessing the understated ways in which he does this, too – how he naturally draws others in to conversation to be sure all are included, the thoughtful manner of the questions he asks, and the wide array of initiatives that he participates in to compliment his varied interests in everything from economics and sustainability to poetry and visual art.

It is specifically during some of the arts-related programs that we offer at Tepper when I’ve seen Matt’s uniquely broad thinking shine. His interdisciplinary interests give him a deeper understanding of the complexities of circumstance and of people, including himself. This strong sense of self-awareness and his innate empathy make him the kind of humane, well-rounded leader that businesses need, and the Tepper School is lucky to have him representing us in the world.”

Michelle Stoner
Program Manager of SHIFT
Academic Program Manager, Tepper School Accelerate Leadership Center


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