Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Saskia van Rheenen, New York University (Stern)

Saskia van Rheenen

New York University, Stern School of Business

“A social nerd from the Netherlands who is crazy about anything sports.”

Hometown: Hilversum, The Netherlands

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was interviewed by The New York Times after I attended the Australian Open final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal at the 2017 Australian Open.

Undergraduate School and Major: Utrecht University, Business Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Nike, Strategy Associate

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of NYU Stern’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Stern’s focus on EQ (Emotional Intelligence) in leaders, which comes to life in the specialization Leadership and Change Management. I specifically look forward to the courses Strategic Talent Management, Leadership Models, and Power & Professional Influence.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at NYU Stern? Since I want to become a human capital professional in the sports industry, I can’t wait to join the Entertainment, Media and Sports Association! Also, I want to give back to my fellow students by joining OutClass and the Office of Student Engagement.

What excites you the most about living in New York City and how do you see it enhancing your learning experience? I fell in love with New York City and its energy during my first visit in 2013. Ever since that trip, it has  been a bucket list item to be able to call it home. I look forward to getting to know the city as a local rather than a tourist, and to exploring the city’s various neighborhoods. Also, as a crazy passionate sports fan, I look forward to attending some of the world’s biggest sports events (NBA games at Madison Square Garden, the US Open, New York Yankees). Lastly, while I have traveled quite a bit, this will be my first time living abroad – that will be a learning experience in itself!

What does EQ (Emotional Intelligence) mean to you and when have you seen its value in your career? To me, emotional intelligence is the capacity to understand and manage emotions, yours as well as those of others. I have experienced the value of EQ when senior leaders showed that they not only are subject matter experts, but also can motivate and inspire the people in their teams. I truly believe that people are a company’s biggest asset, and they are at their best when they feel valued and engaged. A leader that shows empathy, social interaction, self-awareness, and self-regulation will play a big part in this.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In January 2019, I took on the extracurricular role of employee engagement captain, representing the voice of approximately 500 Finance & Strategy employees at Nike EMEA. In this role, I was responsible for creating a work environment in which everyone can be at their best. I collaborated with the HR and Finance Leadership team to design and implement a year-round employee engagement program that was based on feedback that I collected through employee surveys and focus groups. As a result of the program’s success in EMEA, our program ended up being adopted globally. The positive impact of my work on my peers’ experience at work was extremely rewarding, and my platform to speak up on behalf of my teammates in front of the Finance & Strategy leadership team made this one of my most responsible roles to date!

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Like most of us, COVID-19 made me work from home for the past year-and-a-half. Globally, this has changed our ways of working and accelerated certain trends: more flexibility in working location and hours, more independence, and a better understanding of each other’s personal situation. The pandemic has proven that people are more than capable of handling the responsibility of freedom and remote working, things that I am a big believer in. Therefore, the pandemic strengthened my wish to make a career switch into human capital management. I want to build on this momentum, and help cement some of the positive changes into the future of work!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Until now, I have only worked for one company (Nike) and mostly in Finance. My role of employee engagement captain at Nike made me realize that there’s more, and an MBA program gets me to explore my options. Through the MBA at Stern, I will not only be exposed to my fellow students’ diverse set of experiences in all possible countries, industries and working cultures––from start-ups to family businesses and from banking to the military–– but also broaden my awareness beyond NYU’s classroom. After graduation, I hope to help companies and leaders improve the quality of the workplace, thereby maximizing the potential of their human capital.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Wharton and MIT Sloan

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into NYU Stern’s MBA program? Don’t be afraid to tell your authentic stories and talk about your passions, even when you think they are not relevant! These personal touches make you shine and stand out from generic applications that try to fit a general MBA profile.

DON’T MISS: Meet NYU Stern’s MBA Class Of 2023

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