Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Maureen Ojukwu, Duke University (Fuqua)

Maureen Ojukwu

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“I am spontaneous, progressive, compassionate, creative, charismatic, nocturnal, talkative, inquisitive, and quick to laugh.”

Hometown:  Vancouver, WA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I played mas, (short for masquerade) at Caribana in 2017 (Toronto’s Carnival celebration of Caribbean culture). I would love to do the same in Trinidad and Tobago, where it all began. Hopefully one day in the very near future!

Undergraduate School and Major:

Seattle University: Bachelor of Science in Nursing

Loyola University Chicago: Master of Science in Nursing and Health Systems Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

Coding Investigator Auditor at Health Care Service Corporation

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? The paired principle that resonates most with me is Supportive Ambition because I wanted to be in a space where excellence and empathy coexisted. Upholding this value as a current student requires ongoing introspection, reflection, and honesty. I try to move through life with an attitude of abundance rather than scarcity. Someone else’s success does not negate or diminish my own because our core values, passions, motivations, and backgrounds are not exactly alike.

I remind myself often that everyone is on their own individual journey. I aim to be a genuine source of support, encouragement, and kindness to my classmates as I help cultivate this reciprocal sense of belonging. I anticipate that by giving my time and energy to my peers in this way, I will be strengthening the Fuqua community. I think the concept of Supportive Ambition in this context is uncommon. I have more often observed the opposite—toxic competition and underhanded tactics in the pursuit of success. Personally, I am inspired by positive reinforcement and it can be affirming when those around me are excelling.

What word best describes the Fuqua MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? I would describe Fuqua MBA students and alumni as “inviting.” The genuine sense of camaraderie displayed naturally among Fuqua students and alumni is infectious and unmatched. As an applicant, whenever I reached out to anyone associated with Fuqua — whether it was a student, alumni member, or admissions officer — I always received a friendly response. I spoke with some extremely accomplished, talented, and intelligent individuals, but was never met with haughtiness or felt an air of superiority. Members of the Fuqua community are warm and enthusiastic. To be clear, my experience with Fuqua, thus far, cannot be categorized as false positivity or forced cheerfulness. Setbacks and failures are expected. Having the space to reframe these disappointments as growth opportunities builds resilience and improves self-awareness.

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? The structure and variety of Fuqua’s curriculum was a major draw for me as I was compiling my application. There are a lot of opportunities for electives within the program and there are multiple concentrations and certificates available. At the time of my application, the concentrations of most interest to me were Decision Sciences, Operations Management, and Strategy. As a career switcher, I viewed these concentrations as opportunities to better focus my learning, tailor my curriculum towards my desired career track, and situate myself in a better position for recruiting. I also considered the certificate in Health Sector Management (HSM), particularly combined with Duke’s Research Triangle location and University Health System. While I’ve adjusted my priorities a bit since that time, all of these options were potentially advantageous directions in which to take my schooling.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Duke Fuqua? I am looking forward to engaging with the Duke MBA Consulting Club (DMCC) while at Fuqua. I welcome the opportunity to fully immerse myself in all things consulting to place myself in the best possible position for recruiting in the coming months. Fuqua is a strong consulting school and I expect that my participation in this club will reveal valuable resources, tools, and an unparalleled professional network. In addition, I also plan to supplement my recruiting preparation with the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum (FCCP) learning opportunity so that I can apply theory to practice and gain further insight into the industry. I will be operating entirely outside of my comfort zone, exploring a new world and way of doing things. Ultimately, I expect my participation in the consulting club to become a unique and rewarding opportunity for monumental growth.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I have worked in a variety of settings throughout my nursing career. I have moved around within the industry, working from both the provider and payer sides of health care, in settings ranging from community hospitals to outpatient clinics to large university hospital systems. As a clinician, I’ve worn many hats—cheerleader, patient advocate/champion, health educator, accountability partner, medical auditor, and case manager.

One instance I am particularly proud of occurred while I was working as an agency nurse. I was sent to a specialty facility where I cared for six patients for 16 hours. When I came on shift, all of my patients were on ventilators. By the end of shift, I had successfully removed three out of six of those patients off of their ventilators. They were now able to breathe on their own, without a machine doing it for them. It took a great deal of ingenuity, persistence, and strategizing on my part to do this. This is significant because this hospital was located in a resource-poor environment. We were short-staffed across the board, from nursing assistants up to physicians. (The inadequate staffing was why I was there to begin with). I should not have been caring for six patients (my maximum load should have been four), nor should I have worked for 16 hours (a typical hospital nursing shift is 12 hours). That was also the first time I had ever been at the facility, so in addition to my patients, I also needed to quickly acclimate myself to the unit. That was an insanely busy shift, to say the least, but thankfully I was able to move those three individuals so much closer to leaving the hospital and returning home to their loved ones.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? The COVID-19 pandemic reinforced all of the reasons why I needed to change careers. The pandemic exacerbated all of the existing stressors of the health care industry unique to nurses. It forced me to identify and reflect upon my core values, and helped me examine why nursing did not align with these values and, therefore, was not a viable path to reaching my long-term professional aspirations. In general, COVID-19 has taught me that it is important to pause, celebrate, and move through life with purpose. While nursing has proven to be very valuable and impactful work, for me and my individual goals, moving with purpose requires a career leap.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? A combination of personal factors and industry trends led me to pursue an MBA. Ultimately, I had grown frustrated with the costly, fragmented and inefficient nature of the health care system. I had become disillusioned with the expectations placed on nurses to work around these structural problems with inadequate support, autonomy, or institutional/systemic power. Post-graduation, I am hoping to enter the management consulting industry as a generalist. While health care is a business, it cannot be treated like any other industry because of its unique intricacies, including the rationing of scarce resources, life, and death. After being immersed in this space as a specialist, I’d like to take a step back and gain exposure to the business problems of varied industries. I’d welcome the chance to tackle a different kind of challenge in the work that I do, where one mistake doesn’t have the potential to cause someone’s death. Perhaps, in the long run, I may reenter the health care world armed with this knowledge and better positioned to bring about lasting change.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I also considered Michigan Ross and UNC Kenan-Flagler.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Duke Fuqua’s MBA program? My advice to potential applicants is two-fold. First, do not go through this application process by yourself. Ask for help. If you are like I was, and did not have anyone in your circle, you may be tempted to just go at it alone. Don’t do it. I cannot emphasize this enough. Reach out to the students and alumni of the schools you are looking into, and do so early. Seek out support so you can put your best foot forward and avoid entirely preventable missteps.

Second, spend time reflecting on yourself, your motivations, and your aspirations. (This is an ongoing endeavor, and when you’re doing it right, it never quite “ends”). When you turn your thoughts inward, ask yourself “what else” and “why?” Everybody at Fuqua is exceptional and incredibly accomplished. Accolades and achievements aside, ask “what else” excites you?  and “What else” makes you, you? This program tends to attract a certain type of individual, and you must try to determine if this is an environment you see yourself thriving in. Exploring the “why” behind your past actions and future goals can aid you in embodying the spirit of authenticity that is so very vital to Fuqua.


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