2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Amelia Parlier, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Amelia Parlier

University of Pittsburgh, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

“I am an independent, adventurous visual artist with passions for human rights and entrepreneurship.”

Hometown: This is a difficult one. I spent my formative years in multiple places:

  • San Francisco, California;
  • Boulder, Colorado; and
  • Carrboro, North Carolina.

Fun fact about yourself:  I once jumped off a boat and onto a whale shark.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill

Bachelor of Fine Arts in Studio Art

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Entrepreneurial Endeavors in Hospitality and Art + Design, Owner/Operator

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? SRB Podcast, remote position

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be pursuing start-up funding for a sustainable potting soil business tentatively named “The Dirt Bag” and incorporating and expanding my art business.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

* Dean’s List

* Foreign Language Area Studies Scholarship to pursue Russian 2021-2022

* WHU Otto Beisheim School of Management Summer Exchange Program, with a Timothy Bratton Study * Abroad Scholarship

* Hormel Business Scholarship 2020-2021

* Student Advisor for Katz Inclusive Leadership Series 2021

President, 2020 – 2022 – Katz Alliance Club: I revived this club that previously had no members or leadership. I wrote a charter and brought on a full panel of club officers. I got us national affiliation with Reaching Out MBA, allowing us to send students to the ROMBA recruiting and hiring conference every year. I spearheaded Allies Networks trainings for students and staff and faculty across Katz and created the framework for yearly required Allies Trainings for all incoming students. I set up a weekly lounge hour for members of the LGBTQIA+ community at Katz to gather and enjoy fellowship over a cup of coffee. I created a succession plan to keep Katz Alliance alive and growing for future cohorts. I empowered our new president to spearhead a mental health campaign to help connect students to mental health services.

Vice President, 2021 – 2022 – Katz Corporate Sustainability Club: I worked with my team of fellow officers to put on multiple networking events and panels for Katz students. We learned about sustainability in the tech sector, in vehicle manufacturing, consulting, and energy, and we made valuable connections with local and international firms. Individually, I organized an upcoming site visit to Phipps Conservatory in Pittsburgh for students to learn about the process of creating the world’s greenest building and implementing a culture of sustainability at a 125-year-old institution.

Vice President, 2020-2021 – Student Executive Board (SEB): I was on the SEB board during the height of the pandemic, when everything was happening completely virtually and students had few opportunities to meet each other. I led and worked on multiple virtual networking events including a virtual pumpkin carving contest for Halloween and a “Speed Friending” event inspired by the speed dating format for Valentine’s Day. I worked with a local artist to host a virtual “Paint n Sip” night for students and their families and was able to use our club funds to send art supplies to all participants.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am absolutely the proudest of the work that I have done with Katz Alliance. The club would not exist without the work that I put in, and the payoff has been huge. We have created a close-knit community of queer students and alumni at Katz and set our school up to be a beacon of empowerment and inclusion. We have advocated for students and been a force to be reckoned with when unpleasant situations arise. We have educated our peers and our professors, and we have started to create institutional change. I am absolutely proud of myself. Even more, I am proud of my team. Each of the officers I have worked with has poured their heart and soul into “Making Katz Gayer” and the result has been beautiful.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? A few years ago, I worked for a small 20-year-old family-owned restaurant as a line cook and a bartender/cashier (which is almost ancient in the life of restaurants). I noticed that drink sales were not keeping pace with the rest of the business and that there was area for improvement. I pitched my ideas to the owner and got the green light to take over the beverage program. I repriced drinks, developed new drink recipes, and retrained staff on new protocol. I standardized drink making procedures, reducing waste, and increasing consistency and customer satisfaction. I ultimately increased the profitability of the restaurant with no additional financial investment.

Why did you choose this business school? Katz promotes a culture of collaboration among its students. This was so important to me. I find competitive environments to be draining and often difficult to work in; they can breed interpersonal conflict, which is very against my nature. I wanted to find a school where students are encouraged to build on each other’s successes and work collaboratively to produce something better than they could have done alone. Katz was 100% that school and I have been so happy with this aspect of the environment. I know that the friends that I have made here go far beyond career network connections. I have been able to bond with other students in a way that I think would be impossible for me in a program with a culture of competition.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? (What did it reflect about your business school?

When the Student Executive Board finally got to host in-person events again, they kicked it off with a big networking event at a fancy restaurant in downtown Pittsburgh. It sounds so simple, but it was truly such a joy. Many of us had never met in person before, even though we had been working together for a full year of school. On top of that, we got to meet the incoming cohort and the energy and excitement coupled with seeing everyone all dressed up was just such a joy. I think it really showcased the friendships and bonding that happen within the Katz program.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Out the gate, I put a lot of pressure on myself academically. While I don’t think it is a bad thing to have high academic expectations, I learned that community service and interpersonal connection is equally important to prioritize. I am grateful that I learned this relatively early in my first semester, but I would have liked to have entered the program with a more balanced sense of priorities.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I think the biggest myth about Pitt is its reputation of being sports- and party-focused. Pitt students are passionate about their sports, but this does not deter from the academic rigor of the school. The business school ranks in the top 20 in the country, and the medical and engineering schools are world-class. The international studies programs are phenomenal, receiving loads of grants and funding.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was expecting not to fit in a business school. I am a queer artist. I don’t always dress conventionally, and I often have ideas that people might think of as radical or “out there.” One of my passions is workers’ rights and I am proudly pro-union, pro-corporate tax, and pro-regulation. I don’t necessarily support a lot of the practices of the companies that we study, and I can be quite loud about it. I was fully expecting to be rejected or shut down by students and professors, but my experience has been the exact opposite of what I was expecting. My viewpoint has been treated as an asset and a value in discussions. Professors have seemed interested to hear my thoughts and I have had productive and engaging discussions with other students — some of whom have similar ideas to mine and some of whom have very different ideas. My cohort is incredibly diverse, and I don’t even represent the most radical viewpoints.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I took my time applying to business school and one of the things that I did early on was set up an informational interview with the assistant director of admissions, Erin Vuono. I asked her about everything from my resume to the culture of the school to determine if it would be a good fit before I even decided if I would apply. I also made sure to openly and honestly talk about the ways that I thought I would be different than the other students. I think this worked in my favor because it gave me a relatively good idea of what I was getting into, what would be a struggle for me, and what would be easy. Additionally, it put me on the radar of the admissions committee well before they ever saw my application. They had a more well-rounded view of who I was than if they had only seen my paper application.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Marci Davis. I admire Marci because she is goal-oriented and focused, so smart, and just the kindest person. She has a degree in microbiology and a true and enduring passion for it. When she realized that her job opportunities were becoming more and more limited due to automation, she made a plan to go to business school, learn marketing, and then work for a company that develops science instruments so she could stay in the field (but open up room for growth in her career). Then, she executed her plan exactly. She was the first in our cohort to be offered an internship and the first to be offered a job. Her company brought her on full-time even before she completed the MBA degree. This is due in part to her laser focus on her goals. Every decision Marci makes is carefully calculated to further her towards her goal. I think it is so impressive and admirable. On top of all of that, she is so easy to work with, a true team player. She is a pro in every class and uses her knowledge to help. She is always willing to take time out to help someone that is struggling. She is an inclusive and progressive person and will stand up for any of her classmates. The world needs more Marci’s in it.

I will say it was very hard to decide. My cohort is full of inspiring and admirable people.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I actually did not decide to follow a business path until graduate school. My partner, Trevor, was a big supporter and advocate of this decision. When we got together, he was in graduate school and I was working in restaurants and bars. When I mentioned going back to school for a graduate degree, Trevor really encouraged me. He helped me study for the GMAT and actually paid for it, even though he was on an adjunct budget at the time. Then, when we moved to Pittsburgh, he looked into schools with me and ran dozens of pros and cons lists, and then eventually helped me edit my application essays. He has been an advocate when things get hard and has celebrated the wins with me. He has taken over more than his share of expenses and household chores during the semesters I have been in school. I can safely say that graduate school would have been completely out of reach for me if I hadn’t had his support and help in the other parts of my life.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

1 – I want to execute a successful exit strategy for a startup.

2 – I want to use my degree to create institutional and systemic change in the workplace in regard to minority and racial discrimination, sexism, unsustainable business practices, and the culture of exploitation. Right now, our system tends to operate on a win-lose system (for example: managers vs employees, profit vs environment, etc.), and I want to help move us towards a win-win system, where the wealth created by firms benefits everyone.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? Before the pandemic started, I idealized the thought of working remotely. I thought that if I could land a remote job, it would allow me to travel the world more easily. However, as I looked for remote work, I found it very difficult to find positions that I was qualified for and that paid enough for me to live on.

Now that so many companies have been forced to go completely remote for so long, this dream seems much more feasible. I think it is completely within grasp now for someone to have a full career while working from anywhere in the world, not just the lucky few.

What made Amelia such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Throughout their time in the Katz MBA program, Amelia has continually worked to provide a strong sense of community for their classmates while being a champion of equity, diversity, and inclusion.

I first met Amelia via Zoom, as we all had to do in the summer of 2020, and I was immediately struck by their unique trajectory to business school and passion to make this experience uniquely theirs. One of the first big tasks that I watched Amelia take on was the revitalization of the Katz Alliance. The group had gone dormant and they were passionate about bringing it back to life and creating a welcoming space for any and all queer students. Under their tenure as president, Katz Alliance came back in a big way and now has a strong succession plan so that all LGBT+ Katz students know they will have a home. Amelia could have stopped there, but they took it even a step further and had Katz formally affiliated with Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) for the first time in the school’s history. This partnership now allows all LGBT+ identifying Katz students to participate in ROMBA’s annual career conference and expo. The lasting effects of this will be felt for generations of Katz MBA students to come.

As I mentioned, Amelia wanted to make sure that their Katz MBA was truly theirs. One way in which they were able to do this was by pursuing entrepreneurial endeavors through the lens of business school. Amelia is not exactly new to this space with their pre-existing fine arts business, but now they would have the chance to truly cultivate these skills under the careful guidance of Katz faculty. In the Spring of 2021, they worked with a colleague on a sustainable potting soil business that they named “The Dirt Bag.”  This pursuit began as a submission to the Randall Family Big Idea Competition run out of the University of Pittsburgh’s Innovation Institute and is now entering the funding phase. I’m so excited to see where this idea takes them after graduation.

It is their dedication to “creating space” that I think I will remember about Amelia the most. They are continually in the pursuit of community and equity among the Katz student body. Amelia is not content with merely bringing themselves a chair to the table, but making sure that everyone else has one, too. It is for that reason, and many more, than I truly believe Amelia Parlier was an invaluable addition to their cohort and one of the 2022 Best and Brightest MBAs.”

Simone Jurinko
Associate Director – MBA Programs
Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

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