Meet The MBA Class Of 2023: Rebecca Leder, University Of Michigan (Ross)

Rebecca Leder

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Proud Washingtonian and aspiring green thumb with a penchant for women’s sports and solving problems.”

Hometown: Washington, D.C.

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’ve competed in ultimate frisbee tournaments across the United States, from Santa Monica, California to the beaches of Wildwood, New Jersey.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Chicago, Psychology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Obama Foundation, Engagement Analyst

What word best describes the Michigan Ross students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Engaged, thoughtful, genuine, and accessible. I got candid advice about Ross, career choices, and life in general from students and alumni who were a strong, supportive, and encouraging presence throughout the application and decision process. It was these conversations that most compellingly drew me to Ross and showed that it would be a great cultural fit.

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 left college, I didn’t plan to pursue a business degree—I wanted a job that aligned with my service values and was drawn to the world of nonprofits. I worked first at a policy research center, Chapin Hall at the University of Chicago, where I learned technical skills involved in running a grant-funded institution. While there, I became the very first volunteer at the newly-established Obama Foundation and went on to become one of its earliest employees. I loved working alongside and learning from the tremendously dedicated, talented people who were attracted by its mission-driven work.

With this in mind, Ross’s focus on social impact and sustainability stood out as I explored business schools. I was impressed by Ross’s Business+Impact initiative and the number of students that participate in B+I programming on campus. I am excited to be surrounded by students and faculty who want to work for the greater good, but who are also interested in examining the complexity of business’ role in social change.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Michigan Ross? The Sanger Leadership Center holds an annual 24-hour “Crisis Challenge” simulation. I think well on my feet and love creating order from chaos, so I am excited to put that to the test in a high-stakes situation!

When you think of Michigan Ross, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Community. The Ross students, faculty, and staff are accomplished and inspiring and at the same time down to earth and welcoming — the kind of people I want to be around and learn from.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My most meaningful professional experiences were as part of the team working to bring the Obama Presidential Center to the south side of Chicago. I joined the Obama Foundation in 2017 and loved building something from the ground up. As a member of the public engagement team, I was responsible for ensuring that the voices of a diverse set of community members and stakeholders—from ordinary citizens to community activists and business leaders—were incorporated into the building and design process. A couple years ago, this meant I held a key role in designing the Obama Foundation Summit, which gathered leaders from Chicago and around the world to exchange ideas and build relationships.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? COVID-19 made me think critically about priorities, both personal and professional. The pandemic exposed and aggravated horrifying healthcare and economic disparities within the U.S. and internationally. Also commanding our attention these last 18 months have been an attack on voting rights, the devastating consequences of climate change, and the country’s urgent need to address systemic racism. The intense focus on these and other problems has strengthened my commitment to work for social justice.

On a lighter note, the shift to remote work showed me how much I value and enjoy collaborating in-person, and look forward to doing so again when it is safe.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Since college, I’ve had the opportunity to work at two exceptional organizations and better understand my strengths and areas for growth. Studying for an MBA will allow me to develop both a theoretical framework and the discrete skills—as a leader and decision maker—to add value to organizations that inspire me and bring benefit to others.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to and was accepted at Kellogg and Yale, but Michigan won my heart!

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Michigan Ross’s MBA program? Take advantage of every opportunity to interact with students and alumni. Then use the application process to find your own voice and get comfortable with what makes you unique and worthy—don’t doubt your work experience, apologize for a lack of quantitative training, or ruminate on other shortcomings. You belong here. You’ve got this!


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