Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Alexis Arnold, University of Texas (McCombs)

Alexis Arnold

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Colorful and creative, with a strong motivation to develop myself, the world, and its people.”

Hometown: Fair Oaks, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I played in a steel drum band for five years!

Undergraduate School and Major: Stanford University – Double Major, Psychology and Italian

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Gap – Global Social Media Manager

What makes Austin such a great place to earn an MBA? Austin’s electrifying thirst for innovation, celebration of diversity, and entrepreneurial spirit create the perfect training ground for dynamic, impactful leadership. Its vibrant spirit, independent thinking, and, yes, “weirdness” develop a healthy habit of challenging the status quo, with a signature sense of fun while you’re at it. As an explosive center of technology giants, the city is also an ideal arena for experimenting with the rapidly-evolving developments we will leverage and champion as pioneering leaders in a digitally-driven economy.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Texas McCombs’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Apart from experiential learning opportunities including Global Connections, McCombs+ projects, and various Fellows programs, I was particularly drawn to the flexible curriculum. The ability to more freely explore with a wide array of electives allows you to “choose your own adventure” for a highly personalized experience and energizing sense of possibility. For me, business school is a golden opportunity to satisfy my curiosity through broad exposure to many different people, skills, and dimensions of leadership. Given its academic freedom to do just that, McCombs is the perfect fit.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Texas McCombs? I look forward to Leading for Impact, a signature McCombs course that spans the full length of our program. The class will help me achieve my MBA goals of sharpening decision-making in ambiguous situations, developing comfort with the uncomfortable, and growing my capacity for ethical, impactful leadership with a constant commitment to leaving things better than I found them.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: During my career in social media marketing, I am fortunate to have managed digital platforms representing millions of followers worldwide for companies including H&M, Ralph Lauren, and Gap. Having the unique opportunity to hold such a large megaphone and speak to so many cross-cultural audiences have been both an immense privilege and responsibility. I am proud of shaping messaging to help move the needle on social progress, developing impactful creative to promote empowerment and inclusion, and highlighting diverse voices to inspire and unify communities on a global scale.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? When social distance kept us apart, we clung to digital proximity. When we saw sweatsuits and restless kids, we saw each other more closely. When our options seemed most limited, human imagination proved to be infinite. I was inspired by authenticity that created connection, and creativity in service of community.

In my work, my team and I transformed our platforms into escapist destinations with uplifting, entertaining content to offer distraction and comfort in an increasingly uncomfortable world. Unfettered by precedent, it was rewarding to fling the doors of possibility wide open and employ our channels in resourceful, innovative ways to support inclusivity, mental health, and cohesion. I came to fully appreciate how I could leverage brand platforms to catalyze meaningful impact, and resolved to harness them toward a force for good in society.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? In 2020, defining cultural moments including the social justice movement, national election, and physical isolation threw into even sharper relief the extent to which online platforms and digital communities can craft our culture. More than ever before, I recognized the important role I could play in representing diverse perspectives, underlining our commonalities, and creating a space for meaningful dialog. My hope is that my MBA experience will strengthen the leadership, influence, and moral imperatives necessary for driving responsible, far-reaching change from the higher levels of organizations.

I am currently exploring brand marketing or creative partnership roles in Technology and e-Commerce, but am leaving myself room to be inspired by my program experience as well. My overarching mission is to lead unifying marketing infused with powerful storytelling that propels society forward.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Vanderbilt Owen, UVA Darden, Georgetown McDonough, UCLA Anderson, USC Marshall, UC Berkeley Haas, Stanford GSB, London Business School, Harvard Business School

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Texas McCombs’ MBA program? McCombs isn’t interested in anything other than everything you are. Don’t dilute the full power of your authentic self by trying to fit into a mold of what you feel is expected of an MBA applicant. There is no such thing as the “typical” path here, and they wouldn’t have it any other way. McCombs truly celebrates diversity of background and perspective as an essential element of its transformational community that challenges, inspires, and changes you throughout your MBA journey. (Take it from me – my background is in the fashion industry and social media marketing!) Above all else, really lean into your uniqueness, commit to your own story, and share your passions with infectious enthusiasm.

Additionally, immerse yourself in program materials and invest time in learning as much as you can about the seemingly-endless opportunities inside and outside of the classroom. Not only will this help in your own assessment of culture fit, but it will also help you paint a vivid picture of your place at McCombs. Imagine your unique contributions, desired growth, and personal journey there, then bring the admissions committee along with you.