2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Andrea Madu, Wharton School

Andrea Madu

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

An inclusive leader, a social justice and DEI advocate, and a musical theatre nerd.”

Hometown: Dumfries, VA

Fun fact about yourself: Oprah once gave me a high five!

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. Harvard University, Major in Psychology, Minor in Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Senior Program Associate for Nonprofit Effectiveness, The Boston Foundation

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? The Bridgespan Group

Where will you be working after graduation? Consultant, The Bridgespan Group

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: William P. Lauder 2022 Leadership Fellow; Cluster 2 VP of Diversity; Wharton Graduate School VP of Diversity; Dean Appointed member of Inaugural Chief Diversity Officer Search Committee (only MBA student selected); Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Team Board Member; Return on Equality VP of Analytics; Co-Lead and founding team member of Inaugural of Multi-School Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference; AAMBAA (African American MBA Association) Prospective Student Buddy

Awards: John Patience Endowed Fellowship, Directors List (top 10% of class) 

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the cross-MBA DEI conference I launched last year in partnership with a team of brilliant MBA students from Tuck, Wharton, Harvard, Kellogg, Darden, and Ross. After the death of George Floyd and the resulting protests of 2020, we wanted to create a space where MBA students could learn and reflect on how they could advance diversity, equity, and inclusion and become stronger allies. There is such a need for these spaces at the MBA level. It was such an energizing experience to build a conference from the ground up that will live on long after I have graduated. Over 600 MBA students and prospective students across our six schools attended the conference, far exceeding our expectations. I was also an MC for the event, along with the incredible Lia Parker-Belfer (Tuck, Harvard Kennedy School). MC-ing was a stretch experience for me and was such a wonderful opportunity.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of launching the Women of Color Leadership Circle, a professional development program for 15 executive directors in Boston. I designed this program at the Boston Foundation in partnership with Interactions Institute for Social Change and a team of amazing leaders in the Boston community (Kelly Bates, Aba Taylor, Talissa Lahaliyed, Fernanda Oliveira Costa, Evelyn Barahona, Trina Jackson, Suzanne Lee, Sheena Collier, Renata Teodoro, and Karla Nicholson). Women of color leaders in the nonprofit sector face staggering barriers to success including underinvestment, smaller budgets, and lack of support. I was proud to celebrate the power of women of color and to design a program that centered joy, authenticity, fulfillment, and connection for our participants. After 35 hours of interviews, I was so proud to select the inaugural class, which represented diversity across race, sexual orientation, class, and budget size.

Why did you choose this business school? It sounds cliché, but I came to Wharton because of the incredible people. Community means the world to me, so I wanted to attend a business school where I felt a strong sense of connection to the people. When I attended Explore Wharton, every interaction I had with the administrative staff, students, and professors emphasized how supportive and collaborative Wharton is as a community. I felt that Wharton was an environment where I could be challenged, truly grow as a leader, and step out of my comfort zone.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor at Wharton is Dr. Stephanie Creary. She is doing incredible research in the diversity, equity, and inclusion space, and her class Leading Diversity in Organizations was my favorite class I have taken at Wharton. In her class, I learned not only helpful frameworks and research but also how to become a more inclusive leader who is not afraid to challenge the status quo.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Pre-term! I was selected as a William P. Lauder Leadership Fellow, so I was able to experience pre-term twice. Leadership Fellows are 2nd year students who guide the first-year class through the pre-term experience, where they form bonds within their clusters (~75 people) and learning teams. Leadership opportunities like this are another key reason that I came to Wharton, and going through pre-term during a hybrid year really put my leadership to the test. Being able to lead my learning teams through this experience, help them solve problems, and coach them to create their goals and intentions for their time at Wharton was a fulfilling and rewarding experience. I am so proud of my learning teams and how they have stepped up as leaders on campus, and I was happy to have been a part of their journey!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I was part of both the Management Leadership for Tomorrow (MLT) MBA Prep program and MLT Professional Development. Being a part of a group of 300+ historically excluded students was critical to building my network and forging strong relationships with students across MBA programs. My coach, Jon Fuller, really supported me in building a strong application and solidifying my personal story and my motivation for applying to business school. Through MLT PD, I was also able to successfully secure a full-time offer from Bridgespan. I am incredibly grateful to have been a part of this program and community.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate I most admire is Vanessa Decembre. Vanessa, if you are reading this, you are such a star and a gift! There are so many things I can say about Vanessa, but I admire her ability to speak up and to use her voice to advocate for those who may not be in the room. Vanessa is one of our fearless co-presidents of AAMBAA, and she leads with grace and authenticity. Additionally, Vanessa is the very definition of an inclusive leader, and I admire her ability to move people along, to connect with people from all backgrounds, and to always be attuned to what is not being said and who is not being heard. I admire her as a classmate and a leader, and I know she has a bright future ahead of her!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My previous boss and friend Aswita Tan-McGrory inspired me to pursue my MBA. I admire Aswita for many reasons – her authenticity, directness, and compassion being just a few. I learned so much from working with her, and she is an incredible mentor who pushed me to come out of my shell and out of my comfort zone. I came to business school hoping to develop a similar ability to identify and solve problems and to motivate and develop talent. Coming from social impact, I did not often run into people who had an MBA, and I would not have even considered applying if we had not crossed paths. On our small team of five, she inspired three of us to get our MBAs! Aswita, if you are reading this, thank you for everything you did for me and for the incredible work you do at Massachusetts General Hospital. They are so lucky to have you!

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

  1. Write a fiction book
  2. Become the CEO of a foundation

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? I worked in the nonprofit sector before Wharton and will be returning to it after I graduate. Even before the pandemic, I struggled with burnout and fatigue. When I really care about something, I go above and beyond and give 150%. The pandemic has showed me the importance of rest and reflection and that you cannot pour from an empty cup. Professionally, this means that I want flexibility and as much balance as possible. I want a career that balances a great salary with a rich life outside of work – one that allows me to continue pursuing the things I love (singing, writing, cooking) and make some room for joy.

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

“Andrea’s time at Wharton has been marked by consistent and continued commitment to the community, very notably in the DEI space. She serves as VP of Diversity for the Wharton Graduate Association; the only MBA student on the Dean’s Chief Diversity Officer Search Committee; Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Team Board Member (includes students and administration); VP of Return on Equality; and a sitting member of the Wharton Diversity & Inclusion Task Force (a collaboration between students and administration). Beyond that, Andrea has put time and effort into the future composition of the Wharton student body, with her work as an African American MBA Association Prospective Students Buddy. Andrea also created new in-roads in the DEI space in the larger b-school environment, by founding and co-leading the first cross-MBA Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Conference, which included six schools (Harvard, Tuck, Wharton, Darden, Ross & Kellogg), and 600+ attendees.

Andrea’s accomplishments include the launch of the “Real Talk” Series in Spring 2022; a semester-long dinner series curriculum where students connect across difference and build bonds with people different than themselves; design of the 2021-2022 School Wide DEI Survey (results to be presented to senior leadership and the student body); and the launch of the first-ever Inclusivity Fund ($30,000) to support Wharton students from low-income backgrounds/those with social impact ambitions to attend Wharton events and pay for club dues. On top of all of this, Andrea’s academics never took a back seat, as she continued to maintain a strong academic record. And she found time to add additional extracurriculars to her plate, participating in the Wharton African Students Association, Dance Studio, Conversations That Matter, and the Wharton DEI Consulting Club.”

Christine Sweeney
Associate Director of Academic Affairs
Wharton MBA Program



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