Meet The MBA Class Of 2023: Janet Genser, University Of Michigan (Ross)

Janet Genser

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“An extroverted, active, and outdoorsy Californian who loves pushing the boundaries of my comfort zone.”

Hometown: Richmond, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was in an R&B, Motown, hip hop, and soul a cappella group in college. I miss singing and am considering auditioning for Ross’s band, Risky Business!

Undergraduate School and Major: Stanford University, BA in Comparative Studies in Race & Ethnicity

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Nonprofit Finance Fund, Senior Associate of Knowledge & Impact

What word best describes the Michigan Ross students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Synergistic. Everyone at Ross is so eager to get to know everyone else and all their unique talents and backgrounds. They’re also eager to step in and support each other wherever they can. I thrive in highly collaborative environments, so I knew Ross was right for me when I understood that Ross students operate like a team, not like individuals. That goes for alumni, too! I have never met a group of people so ready to pay it forward like Ross alums. It truly feels like a giant family where everyone is rooting for one another.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Michigan Ross’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? When I applied to schools, I was focused exclusively on programs where I could pursue a dual degree in environmental studies alongside the business curriculum. I was looking for business schools that would see a lot of value in having students bring perspectives from other schools within the university and would help me navigate the difficulty of juggling two degrees.

Luckily for me, I learned about Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise, a partnership between Ross and the School for Environment and Sustainability whose mission is to create a socially and environmentally sustainable world through the power of business. Those that aren’t able to commit to a dual-degree program also have the opportunity to pursue a Sustainability concentration within the Ross curriculum (there are also several other concentrations and dual-degree programs supported by Ross). To me, all these opportunities signal Ross’s strong commitment to sustainability and to diverse points of view. The Erb Institute has been a great fit for me both academically and culturally!

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Michigan Ross? I am on the founding team of a new student-led initiative called Michigan Climate Venture (MCV), which is focused on accelerating the development of solutions to the world’s climate crisis. Our mission is to catalyze decarbonization efforts in the Great Lakes region by the following: 1) investing in startups in the region through a student climate-tech focused fund and 2) establishing an ecosystem of organizations capable of unlocking technological progress and entrepreneurial talent. As a dual-degree student, MCV is the perfect blend of the financial and business acumen I’m getting from Ross and the environmental science I’m learning at the School for Environment and Sustainability. One of the many appeals of studying at Ross is the emphasis on action-based learning and applying your new-found business skills to tackle the issues you’re most eager to solve. That’s exactly what I’m getting to do through MCV, and by the time I leave I’ll have made a real difference to a few promising startups and will have learned a lot about investing, entrepreneurship, and climate tech.

When you think of Michigan Ross, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? The first word that comes to mind is purpose. One of the things I love best about Ross is that most everyone is purpose-driven and wants to make a positive difference in the world, even if they don’t know what exactly that looks like. Ross’s various centers and institutes, such as the Sanger Leadership Center and the Business+Impact initiative, are specifically designed to support students in achieving that broader vision. The plethora of opportunities means that there’s something for everyone, and that you can end up going down a path you would never have considered previously. I think Ross does a really great job of creating an environment where students can explore and blossom into their full potential.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: At Nonprofit Finance Fund, I managed a multi-year, national campaign called Invest in Results to promote the shift to outcomes-based funding in the social sector. This included editing and publishing a book written by social sector leaders. It detailed innovative outcomes financing mechanisms, and a series of events across the country that featured pioneers in the outcomes movement in dialogue with practitioners of social services. We used survey data from the event attendees to steadily improve the campaign and to assess whether we’d accomplished our goal of helping them become more outcomes-oriented in their own organizations. I was incredibly proud to use my project management skillset to amplify the ideas, partnerships, and projects making up the outcomes movement and help organizations function more effectively and achieve better results for the communities they serve.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I accepted my offer to attend Michigan prior to the start of quarantine, so I had been thinking about what skills I wanted to gain and what impact I wanted to have on the world for a while at that point. I knew I wanted to do something to combat the climate crisis, and I also knew that I wanted to better understand how to use business as the force for that work. The onset of COVID-19 not only made me double down on that commitment, but also highlighted just how much “business as usual” is failing us. I’m not sure yet where my career will take me, but I know I’ll be seeking out peers, companies, and leaders who share my belief that building a just, equitable, and sustainable world is essential to our survival, and that we must take drastic action now.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? I have been passionate about food and nutrition for many years since I first learned about the impact of proper food on our everyday performance. I woke up to the impacts of climate change and its consequences for our food system in my first few years out of college. However, without an environmental science background, I felt like I was lacking the knowledge I needed to make a career pivot to focusing more on climate change. At the same time, my professional learning curve had plateaued, and I wanted to gain skills beyond what my role could offer. I had always believed in business as a force for good, so business school felt like the right next step. Those two strong desires led me to apply only to dual-degree programs like Michigan’s Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise. Following graduation, I hope to help build a thriving and sustainable food system in some way, whether that is increasing regenerative agriculture, reducing food waste, or something else entirely.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Stanford GSB and Berkeley Haas, both of which offered dual programs through which I could explore building a better food future through business. However, I’m really happy that I ended up at Michigan. The Erb Institute is absolutely a hidden gem (seriously, I’m surprised more people don’t know about it!), the students and staff have accomplished incredible things, and the alumni network is unparalleled. There is something here for everyone. Plus, Ann Arbor is great!

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Michigan Ross’s MBA program? Be true to yourself! One of the many great things about Ross is that they want to get to know who you really are and what you’re passionate about, not for you to fit into a mold. Take the time to reflect on where you’ve been and where you want to go and tell that story in your application. It will also help you decide how you want to spend your time here when you get accepted!


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