2022 Best & Brightest MBA: Kneisha McClinton, Carnegie Mellon (Tepper)

Kneisha McClinton

Carnegie Mellon University, Tepper School of Business

“A heart of gold, math brain, free-spirit; passionate about creating change and inspiring others.”

Hometown: Baltimore, MD

Fun fact about yourself: Played semi-pro women’s tackle football

Undergraduate School and Degree: Johns Hopkins University, Bachelor of Arts in Mathematics and Bachelor of Arts in Economics, General Entrepreneurship and Management minor

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Wells Fargo, Senior Security Analyst IV

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Credit Suisse, Technology Investment Banking, New York

Where will you be working after graduation? Credit Suisse Investment Banking Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Fellow
  • 2015 Endowed Scholar
  • Executive Vice President, Black Business Association
  • Vice President of Engagement, Graduate Finance Association
  • Executive Vice President & Finance Officer, African Business Collective
  • Vice President of Professional Development, Out & Allied
  • Vice President of Professional Development, Organizational Leadership Club
  • Vice President of Social Programming, Media & Entertainment Club
  • The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management Admissions Liaison
  • Carnegie Mellon University DEI Roundtable Member
  • Graduate Student Teaching Assistant

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was selected to represent Tepper and the CMU student body as a part of CMU’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Roundtable. This roundtable was a monthly conversation among students, faculty, and university administration. During these conversations, we advised university leadership on specific initiatives that will continue to advance CMU commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion at the college and university level. It’s one thing to acknowledge that work needs to be done, but to be in the room and sharing my thoughts on how to make these changes a reality and doing the work was truly an honor.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am a firm believer that knowledge is power, but it is more powerful when shared. As a Senior Security Analyst IV, one of my main responsibilities in this role included overseeing our monthly production cycle which consisted of over 6000 complex transactions and reconciliations related to residential mortgage backed securities (RMBS). During this time, I was able to recognize opportunities to create more efficient workflow pipelines. With this knowledge, I facilitated continuous training for both domestic and international teams as well as hosted individual monthly sessions with junior analysts to decrease knowledge gaps. Witnessing and celebrating the successes of those I have trained and mentored are the moments that bring me a sense of joy and pride.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Tepper because of the community and network. Being surrounded by like-minded people from diverse backgrounds and being able to learn from them both inside and outside the classroom was something that stood out to me. We have a saying “Tepper Together” and we truly embody that spirit.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? (My favorite MBA professor was Chris Telmer. Professor Telmer taught our core finance course in our first semester of the MBA program. Finance can be an intimidating topic for some, but every decision a business leader makes has the overarching goal of adding value to the bottom line of the business and finance is the intersection of all those decisions. Professor Telmer explained it in a way that made it understandable and approachable. During his classes, you could truly tell that he was invested in ensuring every student succeeded. Additionally, as a second year MBA student, I had the pleasure to get to know him further while serving as one of his teaching assistants.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Every year to celebrate LGBTQ+ month and National Coming Out day, Out & Allied(O&A), Tepper’s club for LGBTQ+ MBA students and allies, hosts Coming Out Stories.  During this event, three MBA students share their own personal stories of coming out. This past year, I had the opportunity of helping to plan the event as a board member of O&A, as well as telling my own personal coming out story to the Tepper community. Listening to the stories of my classmates during my first year and then sharing my story this year was truly a welcoming and empowering experience. To me, this event is a true representation of what you receive here at Tepper, which is an understanding and supportive community. My classmates and the faculty that attended Coming Out Stories could have been doing anything else, but they took the time to come learn, support and understand our experiences as members of the LGBTQ+ community.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could change anything about my MBA experience, I would have taken advantage of everything that Carnegie Mellon University and the city of Pittsburgh has to offer and stepped outside of my MBA bubble more. There are so many resources and experiences available in the larger CMU community that could have furthered maximized my MBA experience.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Tepper is that you must have a quantitative or engineering background. While it is true that Tepper’s curriculum consists of courses that are analytically rigorous, they structure the classes and provide resources necessary for success regardless of background. Additionally, Tepper provides a plethora of academic concentrations to meet everyone’s needs.

What surprised you the most about business school? As you are going through the MBA process, you often hear how transformative the MBA experience is but you still don’t know what to expect. Of course, we gain the business acumen needed to pursue our post MBA career. However, the level of personal and professional growth is surprising. Through programs such as the Accelerate Leadership Center’s (ALC) Leadership Development Certificate, I was challenged to not only be self-reflective and question my own perspectives but to also engage with others in more meaningful ways.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I believe being engaged in pre-MBA admissions recruiting events definitely gave me an edge during the application process. I was able to meet and have conversations with current students and staff through events such as Diversity Weekend, Discover the Difference, and Women’s Weekend. In addition to the events hosted by the school, I was also able to engage with Tepper through organizations such as The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, Forte, and Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA). All of these interactions allowed me to truly see why Tepper was the perfect fit for me and I was able to discuss those connections in my application and subsequent interview.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The one classmate that I most admire is Jordan Ollee. She consistently challenges the status quo and continues to be a voice for others. As the Graduate Business Association, Admissions Officer, she ensured that even in a virtual environment prospective students were able to truly get a feel for the Tepper community through Welcome Weekend and Diversity Weekend. I also had the pleasure of serving on the Black Business Association (BBA) board with her and she always went above and beyond to ensure we held amazing events and executed them well. For example, last year she leveraged not only her Tepper connections but also her personal connections to facilitate a Black in Tech panel, one of BBA’s most successful events of the year. She is not only a classmate, but more importantly a friend. I can honestly say I leave every conversation with her mentally stimulated. I am excited to see what Jordan accomplishes next.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mother was the most influential person in my decision to pursue my MBA. As a parent, she always instilled in me the importance of education and the doors that it could open for you. Becoming a teenage parent, she made many sacrifices, including putting her professional aspirations on the back burner to ensure she could provide for us. After my two younger siblings and I completed our education, she decided to go follow her dream and go back to school. I knew that I wanted to get my MBA, but let imposter syndrome and fear of failure stop me from pursuing my dreams. Seeing her persevere through all that life has thrown her way has continuously motivated me to do the same.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The top two items on my professional bucket list are the following:

  • Start a non-profit organization in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland focused on financial literacy for inner city youth
  • Become an investor in a professional women’s basketball team

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has forever changed my view of a career. It forced me to pause and think deeply about my priorities and what matters to me most in my career. It also forced me to continue to be curious and adaptive in my interests because the pandemic showed how everything can fluctuate and nothing is guaranteed even in the most stable careers.

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

“I have had the pleasure of working with and advising Kneisha McClinton (Tepper MBA, Class of 2022) for the last 2 years.  From the outset of our partnership, Kneisha has brought nothing short of her “A Game’ to the table.  When we first connected, it was the spring of 2020.  That’s right.  The beginning of the end.  BUT NOT FOR KNEISHA.  It was the beginning of her MBA career and she had goals that she was determined to pursue.

Our first meeting was a “get to know you” meeting over Zoom.  She was looking to pivot into a highly sought after, competitive MBA associate role in investment banking.  I knew when the video turned on for our first meeting and Kneisha’s smile lit up the computer screen that she was going to have a successful outcome.  She asked the right questions, she LISTENED to the answers, she practiced, she networked, she dotted her i’s and crossed her t’s, never once taking her foot off the gas pedal.  She set the example for other MBAs to follow.  Her professionalism, hard work, focus, commitment and nothing short of absolutely positive attitude PAID OFF.  She secured an internship (and subsequently full time offer) in investment banking.

Her success on the job front played out among the Tepper community on multiple fronts.  She was a standout choice and was elected to join the Graduate Finance Association (Tepper’s finance club) Board, among other boards.  Why?  Because she gets things done with professionalism and positivity.  She went above and beyond her primary responsibilities as a Board member. She mentored first year MBAs pursuing careers in finance and investment banking, she played an active role in planning and attending GFA events and she consistently made an effort to bring the Tepper community together to drive home a culture of teamwork and collaboration.

I have a special place in my heart for this class because they started the program during the pandemic and will graduate from the program under similar circumstances.  Not easy.  That reality impacted each person differently.  She blazed the trail for a class that was so uncertain about what the future would hold by maintaining a consistently positive, can do, collaborative attitude the entire time.  The Tepper School is a better place with Kneisha as part of its community.  She has left an indelible impression on peers, staff and faculty alike.”

Jacqueline Goslin
Director, Masters Career Center (MCC)


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