2021 MBAs To Watch: Lea Mavar, Michigan State (Broad)

Lea Mavar

Eli Broad College of Business, Michigan State University

“My enthusiasm coupled with my deep commitment to business ethics makes me an empathetic leader.”

Hometown: Grand Rapids, MI

Fun fact about yourself: I am a 1st generation American, and I have dual citizenship between the U.S. and Croatia. Since most of my family still lives in Croatia or Bosnia  Herzegovina, I often travel to visit them across seas.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Michigan State University – James Madison College, Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Relations

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? SOLCOMM, LLC – Human Resources Data Coordinator

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? Dell Technologies, Remote location due to the COVID-19 pandemic, meant to be in Round Rock, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? Dell Technologies, HR Rotation Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  1. Winning Team for Extreme Greens 3, Disruptive Business Models and Extreme Greens 4, Corporate Innovation
  2. Market Readiness MBA Peer Coach
  3. Designing and Executing Business Presentation Coach
  4. MBA-HR Association: President
  5. Society for Human Resources Management, MSU Chapter: MBA Liaison
  6. MBA Association: Secretary of Student Affairs
  7. Graduate Assistantship at Michigan State University: Assistant Community Director in Residential Education & Housing Services

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In our MBA program, we have integrative action projects that we refer to as Extreme Greens. We participate and compete in extreme green twice during our 1st year, and twice during our 2nd year. Every session has different goals and deliverables, but the concept remains the same: it is a way to test and build skills for MBAs to use and polish in their careers. For Extreme Greens 3, Disruptive Business Models and Extreme Greens 4, Corporate Innovation, I was on a team with my best friends in the program and we were honored to place 1st for both competitions.

I am most proud of this achievement for many reasons, but especially as an all-female team within a business school competition. I am most honored to be in the presence of smart and strong women who are continuously setting examples of breaking barriers every day. Extreme green is always a competitive and stressful time in our program, but my team and I were able to have a lot of fun along the way and I have a lifelong network. This achievement means so much to me because it touches on a crucial part of business school, growing diversity and creating opportunities to encourage, empower, and inspire each other.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  After my internship with Dell Technologies, I was honored to be extended a role as a Campus Ambassador. To be trusted to represent a corporation like Dell and help be a link between a company I love and a school that has given me so much was quite an honor I did not take lightly. As a campus ambassador, I was tasked with hosting events on campus and participating in recruitment sessions to allow MSU students to know what opportunities await at Dell. As someone who is concentrating in Human Resources & Strategic Management in the MBA program, a passion of mine is recruitment and D&I. I partnered with our Broad Women MBA Association to host a Women in Tech event, where I invited speakers from Dell as panelists to address what it is like to work in a male-dominated industry, and how to continue breaking the glass ceiling. This event ended up being one of the most attended zoom events and had a lot of positive feedback. I am most proud of this achievement because I was able to combine my passions while serving my academic community and feeling honored to work for my company.

Why did you choose this business school? As someone who is a double Spartan, there are many reasons why I chose to go to Broad College of Business to obtain my MBA. The most important reason was because of the culture and diversity of the program. A major stereotype of business programs is that they are predominantly male and white. Something that attracted to me to Broad was their emphasis on D&I and how many of the students in the program were not a part of that stereotypical persona.

In addition to D&I, Broad truly cares about the success of all their students. During the application process, students and the members of the program office were extremely helpful in answering all my questions and made sure that I and others felt comfortable settling into our new potential home. MSU has the rep of being such a massive school that it is hard to stand out, but the business school personalizes each encounter where all students feel valued and supported; one does not simply feel like a small fish in a big pond at Broad. Broad cares about our return on investment in this program and does what they can to make sure every student is able to succeed. Even in a business school setting where it tends to be competitive, Broad is like a family where we all succeed together. We have this saying at MSU that “Spartans stick together.” While I thought that was true during my undergrad, it truly shined in the MBA program.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? While I am fortunate to have had many strong professors, my favorite MBA professor is Jennifer Dunn. Professor Dunn is a faculty member in the Management Department and has been awarded by the previous MBA class(es) as their Outstanding Faculty Award during Community Honors. At the time of the latest award, I was still a 1st year in the program who had not yet had the opportunity to be taught by Professor Dunn; however, every 2nd year assured me not to miss the ever so popular negotiations courses taught by this professor that would have a running waiting list. I am in debt to these 2nd years who gave me this advice because I am so honored to have taken a few courses with Professor Dunn. I was able to take both of her negotiation’s courses, and as well her ethics course with my entire class. Like the graduating class above me, I too am advising current 1st years to take Professor Dunn’s courses because I truly believe that I learned critical and valuable information that not only impacted my business school learning, but my own personal development as well. What I liked most about Professor Dunn is how she cared about our learning inside and outside the classroom, and how to lead by an ethical example while remembering to advocate for ourselves in future negotiations that we may face.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? What I loved most about my program was their willingness to be agile and stick to tradition during unprecedented times of navigating a global pandemic. My favorite event and tradition at Broad are Community Honors. In a normal year, community honors would have attendance from all the students and faculty of the program in their most elegant attire, where we would wine and dine while valuing our entire community through various awards and honors. Even though we could not physically be together, the MBA Association worked hard to put together a virtual community honors at the time where we all needed a pick-me-up most. This is my favorite event because it was one of the few times where we all can come together. During this event, memories and throwbacks are brought up while we are announcing awards and honoring each other, and it is truly a time of reflection. This event is also one of the most bittersweet, as it is always at the end of the academic year. While we are all ready for summer, we remind ourselves of the memories we created this past year.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Looking back, one thing I would do differently would be to get more involved inside and outside the classroom as a 1st year. All of us students are there to make connections and graduate from the program with full-time positions, but we often forget about the life-long networks that we have as classmates. If I could redo my 1st year of the program, I would try my hardest to participate in more of the social events with my program that would have helped me develop relationships early on. Hindsight is 20-20. If I knew that there was a global pandemic coming that would change the way we socialize, I would have made more of an effort to participate early on since I was not able to as a graduating MBA.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about MSU is that we are just a party school who emphasizes sports. Spartans love to have fun and as our fight song says, “Spartans play good ball.” Still, there is much more to MSU than is led on. MSU students truly know how to hit the books and get down to business. I love MSU because of the atmosphere it spreads that everybody can fit in no matter what they are interested in. This atmosphere was apparent during my undergrad, but especially during business school.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me most about business school was how friendly everyone was. All my classmates and the faculty were ready to help and assist whenever necessary, and it never felt like a cut-throat culture.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I’m not completely sure, but I believe one thing that may have helped me in the application process at Broad was my developed knowledge of the institution. I am a double Spartan and have a love for the community and culture that surrounds Broad. Because of this knowledge, I believe I was able to focus more on the specific questions and guidelines of the business school rather than focusing on getting accustomed to the institution as a whole.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? On my first day of business school, I met the one and only: Abigail Swanson. Not only is Abby one of my best friends in the program, but she is truly one of the most compassionate people that I have ever met. I admire Abby so much because of her leadership and overall kindness to everyone in our program. Abby holds multiple leadership roles within our program and does her best to make sure that all students are represented. Additionally, Abby is one of our dual degree candidates. As a JD/MBA, she is a star at balancing her responsibilities and assisting the dual degree candidate environment with an addition of a JD/MBA leadership organization at Broad. I deeply admire her as she takes her many commitments so seriously and is an excellent example of the future of women in business. From law school musicals to business case competitions, Abby can really do it all. I am honored to know her, and I am very thankful to have her as a friend and HR sister.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit?: One would think that shifting to a fully virtual learning environment would be disruptive for a business school that places a strong emphasis on teamwork and collaboration, but Broad truly made it work. There was a bit of a learning curve. In the end, all the students and faculty were able to be agile and continue moving forward.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It was my mama who influenced my decision to pursue business school. My mama has always been my #1 supporter and best friend, and always is looking out for me and my future. After I graduated with my BA, mama and I were thinking what is next for me. As someone who migrated to a new country because of a war, my mama has been challenged and experienced a lot of hardship. That is something about her: she has made sacrifices and made sure that her daughter would turn out strong like she did. After some time, mama suggested for me to apply to the MBA program to challenge myself, and ultimately put myself outside my comfort zone. I am so glad that I chose to move forward with my decision, and I truly am thankful for her constant support.

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

  1. International assignment
  2. To be a leader in an employee resources group and be a sponsor/mentor to those around me

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

“Lea is a perfect example of a student that has maximized their experiences, both for their own growth and that of their colleagues. In Lea’s time in the MBA program, she has served in every single student leadership role an MBA student can have:  peer coach, communications coach, graduate assistant, and student organization president. It was amazing to observe her success these past 21-months, particularly given the additional challenges presented by the pandemic.  Lea also has the special distinction of being on the winning team for our two highest-profile ideation/design thinking competitions (a feat that has not been accomplished before in the 9+ years we have hosted these courses).

Lea has also worked hard to improve and evolve the MBA program for her colleagues and future students. The Human Resources’ student organization she leads provided comprehensive feedback to the program staff in efforts to enhance the curriculum, which will lead to better postgraduate outcomes in talent management, HR analytics, and other roles.  The experiences of Lea and her colleagues have inspired the program office to make stronger connections to departments outside the Broad College to seek additional curricular opportunities for Human Resources students. All in all, Lea is a wise, empathic, dynamic leader, poised for tremendous success at Dell. We celebrate her successes and cannot thank her enough for all she has done to strengthen the Broad MBA program for the future.”

Wayne R. Hutchison, Ph.D.
Managing Director, Full-Time MBA


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