Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Kiera Givens, Duke University (Fuqua)

Kiera Givens

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

I am…


Hometown: Takoma Park, MD

Fun Fact About Yourself: I dream of having a date with Marie Kondo, so we can share our love of tidying.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Virginia, Environmental Science and Anthropology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Ocean Conservancy, Program Operations Manager

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? Impactful Stewardship resonates most with me. As an environmentalist and someone passionate about social justice, I am always asking myself how I can achieve impactful stewardship for our planet and our communities. For Fuqua students, this principle demands that we learn how businesses affect the world around us and how business can be a positive force for change.

What word best describes the Fuqua MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Grounded. When I was speaking with current students and alumni, I was consistently impressed by how smart, talented, and driven they were. But what really stood out to me was that they were also grounded by their families and communities. With Fuqua students and alumni, I got to bring my whole self to the conversation.

Aside from your classmates and school culture, what was the key part of Duke Fuqua’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Fuqua stood out to me due to its academic strengths and its focus on leadership. When applying to MBA programs, I was looking for a school that has a strong sustainability program and a strong social impact program. Fuqua blew that requirement out of the water with both the Center for Energy, Development, and the Global Environment (EDGE) and the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE).  In addition, there was faculty specializing specifically on sustainability in ocean industries, a particular interest of mine. However, what turned the tide for me was my sense that Fuqua was teaching its students how to be compassionate, impactful leaders who could not only deliver on the bottom line but could also deliver for the people within their companies.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Duke Fuqua? I know I should give an academic example, but I am honestly super excited about Fuqua Idol.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The Friday before a Tuesday meeting, my boss explained to me that COVID-19 had restricted our organization’s ability to travel. Consequently, it fell to me to facilitate the annual planning meeting for Ocean Conservancy’s largest and most well-funded program. Through blending in-person and remote facilitation techniques, I engaged 35 in-room participants and 15 remote participants in a novel meeting environment.

Over the next month, I transitioned another eight in-person meetings into remote meetings. I redesigned agendas, leveraged new software, and recruited additional team members to help execute online meetings. In the process, I established remote meeting protocols and remote facilitation strategies that are still in use today, all while ensuring our programs had the support they needed to develop annual budgets despite the COVID-induced uncertainty of the year ahead.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Working from home during COVID-19 made me realize how much I personally and professionally value in-office relationships. But I’ve kept busy. I started a small business called BlackOak Collective, which is a community of Black professionals and students across environmental fields in the DC area. I applied to MBA programs. I even took singing lessons, which reminded me how much I enjoy challenging myself and learning new things!

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? After working in ocean conservation science, policy, advocacy, and consulting, I realized that the projects and workstreams I most enjoyed were those that related to typical “business” functions: business model evaluations, supply chain research, and operations problem-solving. I also knew that businesses would increasingly need to respond to climate change impacts and emissions regulations. I saw an opportunity to combine my substantive experience in the environmental field with my passion for business by transitioning into a more traditional business function, focusing on sustainability. I also knew that pursing an MBA would be critical to that transition. Post-MBA, I hope to work for a social impact company, on the sustainability team of a Fortune 500 corporation, or in an offshore wind company.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Berkeley Haas, MIT Sloan, Stanford GSB, and Michigan Ross

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Duke Fuqua’s MBA program? Be yourself and be creative. My sense is that the admissions office is trying to get to know you as a person, not just as a professional. Don’t be afraid to show off your quirks!


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