2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Breanna Spurley, Emory University (Goizueta)

Breanna Spurley

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

“Telenovela-loving, travel enthusiast exploring social impact and equitable education.”

Hometown: Atlanta, Georgia

Fun fact about yourself: My middle school friends and I spent a week building mud houses, gardening, and sleeping on a gutted school bus on a goat/yoga farm in Florida.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Georgia – BBA in Accounting and International Business; Minor in Spanish

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Harlem Children’s Zone – Senior Financial Associate

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? EY-Parthenon – Summer Consultant, New York

Where will you be working after graduation? EY-Parthenon – Senior Consultant, New York

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

National Black MBA Scholarship
Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellowship
Peer-selected for the “Rigor” Core Value Award

GBS Liaison, Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
Treasurer, Goizueta Black MBA Association
Social Enterprise @ Goizueta Fellow
VP Academic Affairs, Goizueta Business Association

Finance Manager, Challenge the Stats, a nonprofit empowering artists of color to use music as a tool for social justice both inside and outside of the concert hall.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school?  I will always express gratitude to Grounds for Empowerment (GFE), a program that focuses on educating and empowering female coffee producers in Central America. I’d taught English to two kindergarten classes in Colombia during undergrad. Because of COVID, I hadn’t been able to visit Colombia or practice Spanish as much as I had done before. The program begins with learning about the historical and cultural importance of coffee farmers and ends in a 5-week workshop, where students are paired with female coffee producers in Central America to aid in storytelling, financial tracking, and goal setting. I was completely out of my comfort zone. I was in a Zoom room and I was supposed to be able to help a producer in an industry she’d participated in her whole life – in Spanish! The program not only allowed me to explore an industry I knew very little about, but I was also able to engage in cross-cultural exchange with my assigned producer, Dina from Guatemala, and 10 of my Central America-based classmates.

After acting as a participant, I was asked to act as Teaching Assistant for the 2021-22 school year. As the program doubled in size, reaching producers and students in three additional countries and students across the US, I was given the opportunity to not only continue learning about the specialty coffee industry but also guide over 35 students through some of the most challenging parts of the workshop. I never imagined that I’d be giving portions of a class in Spanish to native Spanish speakers.

Business school prepares you for a lot of things, but my experience with GFE has been the most hands-on, impactful introduction to consulting. Research and building relationships with a heavy emphasis on listening and empathy are tools I will take into my future career.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? If anyone were to look at my resume, they’d see that I have worked with a variety of people. From calculating trading desk earnings at Morgan Stanley (MS) to building expense models at the Harlem Children’s Zone (HCZ), I have been heavily involved in finance. That being said, my greatest accomplishment relates to process improvement and development. I didn’t know much about contracts, but I had worked on contingent worker, or consultant, budgeting at MS. As a result, I was asked to identify potential cost savings when I got to HCZ, so I immediately started looking into the professional services costs. This helped me to better understand the various programs and meet new people as I asked questions. After pinpointing areas for improvement, I established and implemented several contract review processes across HCZ. While the processes have reduced financial and contractual risk, I am most proud that I was able to act as a reliable resource and equip my coworkers with new skills. Whether it was explaining legal and insurance requirements or budgeting components, I was proud to help them learn new skills that allowed them to fulfill their roles more efficiently.

Why did you choose this business school? I really only had one school in mind as I approached the MBA application process. It was very important to me that I went to a school with values and programming that I aligned with. Goizueta’s growing commitment to moving beyond its location and integrating into the Atlanta community was something I admired as an Atlanta native. I was invited to join The Roberto C. Goizueta Business & Society Institute, as a Social Enterprise Fellow, which has been the most influential in my business school experience. Through the institute, I’ve had the opportunity to explore various facets of social enterprise, receive mentorship, professional development, and engage in a community of like-minded students and faculty. The institute has given me the opportunity to meet with education and nonprofit leaders in Atlanta, as well as the knowledge and network to continue pursuing ways to provide positive social impact in the communities I interact with or belong to.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Most schools have diversity weekends, but I have a soft spot for Goizueta’s diversity conference, Inside Goizueta. It was the first time I got to meet current students and faculty on campus. When in-person, Inside Goizueta took place over third days and participants got to participate in panels with current students, alumni, professors, admissions, and other program staff. Because this is a student-led event in partnership with the admissions team, I could tell that each event was planned intentionally. Whether it was eating dinner with other perspectives, walking around campus with current students, or exploring Atlanta nightlife, the student leadership I witnessed at these events showed me that Goizueta was a community that pushed its members to be their best and to reciprocate to others. The 2019 conference happened to occur during Goizueta’s KEGS (Keeping Emory Goizueta Social) featuring an international potluck. As a result, I got to meet other members of the Goizueta community, who further showed how close and committed to the school and its members they were. Since joining Goizueta, I’ve participated in various admissions events, including the last two Inside Goizueta events, because I hope to continue sharing how much of a positive impact the Goizueta community has played on my personal and professional development.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?
If I could do one thing differently, I would be more involved in club activities and get to know more of my classmates outside of my section during my first semester. Section B for Best if anyone asks! I’d just moved back home after five years, so I spent a lot of time focusing on family and academics. Now that I’m in my last semester with some of the greatest people I’ve ever met, I do regret not plugging into the community as fast as I feel I could and should have.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Get involved and show interest. My application process occurred pre-COVID, so I went to as many Emory events as possible. I was living in New York at the time, so I made sure to speak with the alumni and admissions team at each event. This allowed me to begin building relationships within the Goizueta network. I found value in putting as much (or slightly more) effort into creating relationships with current students. I connected with current students through Goizueta’s Admissions Ambassadors program and Inside Goizueta, Goizueta’s diversity conference, to ask pointed questions, better understand the small nuances of the Goizueta community, and connect my interests with the program offerings. This helped drive conversations and questions during the interview process.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m extremely proud to call Kegan Baird a friend. If there is anyone who embraced the MBA experience with an open heart and mind, it’s Kegan. From joining difficult conversations as racial tensions and COVID affected the country to being an excellent leader on campus, Kegan has shown me time and time again what it means to invest in yourself and your community. Not only is he a rockstar classmate who is always willing to help, Kegan also took on the major role of acting as Managing Director of the second annual John R. Lewis Racial Justice Case Competition. This year, the team worked with four partner universities, and I saw how much work Kegan put into ensuring that the competition, which culminated in 5 of the 76 applicant teams presenting industry-specific recommendations on improving social and racial equity initiatives to Fortune 500 companies.

Outside of this, Kegan serves as the VP of Community Outreach for the Goizueta Business Association, President of Goizueta Nonprofit Consultants, and a Teaching Assistant to more classes than I can name. Kegan’s character speaks volumes to one of the many reasons I came to Goizueta – to build strong, supportive communities on and off campus. Kegan’s dedication and commitment to his classmates and community goes beyond words and are true inspirations.

Kegan’s intentions go well beyond words and I’m lucky to have met him…we just have to work on saying “no” to sometimes.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? While I didn’t grow up with anyone who had pursued an MBA, I originally chose to study business in college because of my grandma, an accountant at Emory Hospital. Like many students of color, I looked and found inspiration from the people around me. I spent a lot of time with the current CEO of HCZ, Kwame Owusu- Kesse, when I began working at HCZ. He was COO when I met him, and I admired his empathetic approach to leadership – looking for results but focusing on the people first. As I watched him navigate his transition into his new role, I began to understand how he tailored his approach to every situation he was in. I knew that some people were natural-born leaders and that others learned with their experiences. I recall asking Kwame about his education and he mentioned that he’d started to figure out his leadership style while pursuing his MBA. We quickly developed a mentor-mentee relationship and he often helped me brainstorm what I wanted my career to look like. It was through Kwame that I finally saw that I could combine my interests in finance and education. I can only hope to help those around me, whether family, friends, or strangers, identify what they want in their careers and encourage them to pursue it as Kwame did for me.

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

Start or work at an organization dedicated to educating people on and influencing local education policy

Live and conduct business in a Spanish-speaking country

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has shown me how quickly things can change and to appreciate and learn as much as I can every day. I’ve recently established that a career should be fulfilling in some aspects of life, but there are very few careers that will “check all the boxes.” It’s much more important for me to pursue a career where I am learning and have the opportunity to contribute positively to society in an environment where “doing the right thing” is not simply in fashion, but a lifestyle. It’s equally important for me to engage in things outside of work that make me happy.

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

“Breanna’s dedication to academic excellence for her and her classmates truly set her apart. She serves as a resource agent for the current student body with respect to academics and does an excellent job of filtering the concerns and desires of her classmates, working tirelessly with the program office to achieve results. Understanding that beginning a top MBA program is rife with rigor, Breanna held academic preparedness workshops with the incoming class to ease their transitions and thwart off imposter syndrome. Breanna is truly a gem within the Goizueta community.”

Irving Williams III
Associate Director of Student Life & Engagement, Full-Time MBA Program
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School


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