2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Brian Carlson, University of Chicago (Booth)

Brian Carlson

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

An energetic leader who strives to bring out the best in those around him.”

Hometown: Detroit, Michigan

Fun fact about yourself: I am an IKEA enthusiast – I love putting together flat packed furniture

Undergraduate School and Degree:
University of Michigan – Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry
University of Michigan – Master of Science in Chemistry

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prescient Medicine – Clinical Research Scientist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Bain & Company – Chicago Office

Where will you be working after graduation? Bain & Company – Chicago Office

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Co-chair of Management Consulting Group (MCG): Coordinated a professional student group of more than 450 members which provides programming, peer-to-peer interview prep, resume reviews, firm networking events, and educational resources for students pursuing management consulting career paths.
  • Consulting Career Advisor: Supported first-year students recruiting for consulting roles through 1:1 advising sessions, reviewing resumes, crafting elevator pitches, and providing mock interviews.
  • Admission Ambassador: Represented Booth as a student ambassador in one-on-one sessions and panels for prospective and admitted students to help them understand the program, answer questions, and welcome them to the community.
  • Siebel Scholar: An award recognizing academic excellence and leadership of first-year MBA Students.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my contributions as a co-chair of the Management Consulting Group. I received an immense amount of help from my peers in my first year. Being a part of MCG’s leadership team was an extremely rewarding opportunity to pay that support forward. As a club, we were able to facilitate thousands of hours of volunteering from our fellow second-year students and provide consistent programming and communication to our peers who were recruiting. It was a challenging year, with the uncertainties of the pandemic magnified by gaps of institutional knowledge on managing an in-person process we as co-chairs had never been through. Thanks to dedicated effort, a collaborative leadership team, and an extremely resilient incoming class, we saw outstanding recruiting outcomes. I am extremely thankful for the part I was able to play in that.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest professional achievement was my first peer-reviewed publication. My team and I were researching how algae blooms produce a potent neurotoxin that may one day be used in medical applications. I was tasked with studying an early step of this process. With the help of numerous supportive mentors, I learned the techniques and methods to inch closer to understanding, then proving, how this process occurred. This small step forward ended up taking more than a year to fully characterize. The paper was not submitted until after I had moved to another lab, but it was extremely rewarding to see my first small steps as a scientist recognized in a tangible way.

Why did you choose this business school? The students were the driving reason I choose Booth. After my acceptance, I made a concerted effort to connect with students and consistently found myself “clicking” with the Booth students I spoke with. Everyone from the University of Chicago was genuinely interested in helping me decide and learn about the program. Conversation came naturally, they were all pursuing interesting goals, talking about classes they were enthralled with, and the variety of MBA experiences from one student to another was amazing. I had found the community I fit in with, and it made the decision much easier.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Booth’s flexible curriculum reflects the attitude of the program toward its students and unexpectedly became one of my favorite aspects or our program. The ability to craft your own path, take a number of lab classes, and tailor the MBA to your individual needs aligns with Booth’s commitment to trusting its students to know what they need. Each quarter, course selection has become something of a ritual with friends, figuring out what we can take together, how to avoid a Friday class, and (most importantly) how to get the most out of our MBA.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If given a second chance, I would apply to be a LEAD facilitator. LEAD is an amazing program at the beginning of Booth that groups up incoming students to build out their leadership skill and investigate why they came to Booth. Lead facilitators are the students who make this programming possible. Facilitating is a great way to get to know the incoming students and your fellow LEAD facilitators. I would strongly encourage any future Booth student to apply for the role.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised in the best possible way by the amount of support I received from my fellow students when I arrived at Booth. The pay it forward culture is often talked about here at Booth but my peers – both first and second year students – were truly invested in my success and happy to take the time to help me achieve my goals. Whether those goals are professional, academic, or personal, there is always someone nearby who is excited to offer a helping hand.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I think my professional background helped me stand apart from the crowd. When I talk to prospective students, I often hear concerns that they are not traditional MBA candidates, concerns I shared as an applicant with no formal business experience. Being on campus, I realize how my non-traditional experiences can provide value in and out of the classroom. I’d encourage prospective students to focus on how the aspects of their career can set them apart and provide new perspectives.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I greatly admire my classmate Ryan Wilkinson. He’s a Graduate Business Council representative, Admissions Ambassador, and proud father of 4. Ryan’s ability to manage numerous extracurriculars and enjoy time with his family, all while being an outstanding teammate in classes inspires me to try and do more. I have appreciated getting to know Ryan, work alongside him, and learn from him here at Booth.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My wife Erica gave me the push I needed to pursue my MBA. Leaving the lab bench was a dramatic pivot. Although I was eager to explore the business side of healthcare, the decision came with a number of risks. Erica jumped into the process feet first with me, helping me every step of the way from studying for the GMAT through preparing for job interviews, never taking a day off of her full-time career in the process. She somehow found time to help lead Booth’s Partner’s Club along the way. I know with absolute certainty that I would not be here without the unwavering support she has given me throughout the process. 

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

  • Bring an FDA approved pharmaceutical to market
  • Return to the University of Chicago as a guest speaker

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has led me to realize how much I enjoy interacting with my peers in a professional setting and will influence the roles I pursue moving forward. It is one of the reasons I’m excited to be working in consulting post-grad – the opportunity to work alongside clients and coworkers in face to face environments.

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

“I teach Marketing Strategy, the core marketing course here at Booth. Brian took my class in the spring of 2021. Out of about 200 students across my three sections, Brian was clearly the best student in my class. He excelled across all three aspects: individual quantitative work, group work and uniquely meaningful contributions to class discussions. Individual quantitative assignments tend to indicate pure intelligence. In group work, being smart is not enough — one must also be able to think creatively and collaborate with a group of highly opinionated and strong-willed MBA students. In participation, what counts is not the number of comments someone makes, but instead the incremental insight that those comments add to the discussion. Brian consistently added new and useful dimensions to class discussions. It is quite rare for a student to receive the highest scores across these three distinct areas. As a result, I asked him to be my teaching assistant for this year’s class.

If you look at Brian’s resume, you will see that my observations about him from class are not an anomaly. He has a master’s degree in chemistry from one of the University of Michigan (obviously very intelligent guy); he has been a leader in numerous groups on campus, including being the co-chair of the management consulting group (ability to work with and lead groups); and he is a career advisor to younger students as well as an admissions ambassador. He has valuable things to add to discussions that will ultimately help people make better decisions. Having the rare combination of intelligence, thoughtfulness, and ability to work with and lead a group makes me confident that Brian will one day be an amazing manager. I have little doubt that Brian will make a meaningful and significant difference, no matter the type of work he ultimately decides to center his career on.”

Brad Shapiro
Associate Professor of Marketing
University of Chicago Booth School of Business


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