Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Stephanie Emmanuelle Mbida, Washington University (Olin)

Stephanie Emmanuelle Mbida

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

“A changemaker striving to positively impact more lives than I did during my unusual childhood.”

Hometown: New York City, NY/Yaoundé, Cameroon

Fun Fact About Yourself: By the age of 14, I had exchanged letters with more than 275 of the world’s most powerful leaders in politics, business and education, including the Pope, the Queen of England, US Presidents George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, President Sarkozy of France, President Tarja Halonen of Finland and more on issues including mass poverty, education, and the world financial crisis of 2008. I wrote to them, giving my perspective on what I believed to be the true root cause of those issues or bringing up an important detail that I thought ought to be taken into consideration. From there, I offered my suggestions on what to do best. These world leaders answered my letters either personally or via one of their high-level collaborators.

Undergraduate School and Major: Northwestern University, Economics and French

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:  As ambassador of the Cameroonian Red Cross, I was a member of an advisory board to the country’s minister of arts and culture.  I was simultaneously a freelance consultant to the UNFPA Cameroon office.

What has been your favorite part of St. Louis so far? What has made it such a great place to earn an MBA? St. Louis sits at the intersection of a long history of innovation and the emergence of more modern conceptions of what industries and business should look like. Every neighborhood of the city has a unique character to it and I have learned so much from getting to explore so many different cultures and mindsets within such a small area. In that regard, I have really enjoyed pursuing an MBA in this wonderful city. Over the past few months, I have discovered the innumerable opportunities that exist here to do good while acquiring my degree, such as joining the Net Impact Club that highlights local changemakers who strive to make education more accessible to all youths. Additionally, I have been able to engage in social entrepreneurship workshops with local creators who put a new twist onto older ideas to make them more applicable to the St. Louis context.

You’ll be completing your global immersion next spring (update: the class of ’23 is scheduled now to travel in fall ’22). What excites you most about this excursion overseas? As someone who is myself a hybrid product of three different countries and continents, I am constantly reflecting on the innumerable ways in which people strive to achieve the exact same goal (such as economic prosperity for instance) by using vastly different approaches and tools based on their cultural heritage and socioeconomic context. I am particularly intrigued by how these decisions can further alter their surrounding environments into ones that either bring them closer to these goals or instead hinder their progress towards the latter. Consequently, it would be illuminating to have the opportunity to observe in person what factors academic and business leaders take into consideration before choosing to implement a certain business idea and how their actions translate into the real world. I am particularly excited to visit Chile (as is the current plan) because it would provide an important glimpse into how informal and more institutionalized business markets overlap in a nation that bears certain key resemblances with a country much more familiar to me, namely Cameroon.

Aside from your classmates, global immersion and location, what was the key part of the Olin MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? One aspect that has particularly marked me about our program is the way that Olin really strives to drive home the dual concepts that our learning must be grounded in principles and the skills we accumulate here are not meant for us to keep for ourselves. And indeed, in every class we have had thus far, our professors actively endeavor to give us the opportunity to translate the concepts we are exploring into the real world, be it through discussion, experiential practice (with outside entities), or constant internal review. And we are constantly reminded that knowledge without principle can become an immensely destructive force. While there are innumerable decisions and situations that can not easily be characterized as just “good” or “bad,” our curriculum has done a great job of offering us the tools to consciously weigh our moral obligations – not only to our future shareholders and employers, but also to the members of the communities our businesses impact as well.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Olin? The Strategic and Crisis Communications course (led by Professor Dohrman) has been one of the highlights of my academic journey at Olin thus far. The course comprised numerous simulations and workshops where we learned different strategies about how to strategically handle various aspects of a corporate crisis. I was particularly marked by how our professor and her invited speakers consistently reminded us that, in a crisis situation, while we must preserve the company interests, our primary focus should always be on ensuring that our communities’ well-being drives all of our actions moving forward. When harm has been done, whether purposefully or not, we must return to our values and be guided by the latter to make better choices in the future.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: After initially starting university classes at the age of 14, I temporarily put my studies on hold. I spent four years volunteering in Cameroon to help address some of the biggest issues the youth there faced, working with population groups and stakeholders from all sectors of society, from homeless children to the first lady of Cameroon. In my last year there, after extensively touring the country, I wrote a letter to the president of Cameroon, in which I presented him with a summary of my overall observations and proposed a project to help address some of the youth’s biggest concerns. He read my letter and sent it to five government ministers instructing them to figure out ways to put my suggestion into practice and report to him afterwards.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far: In early October, our business school offered me the opportunity to share my life story in a short video documentary that was to be shown during a Scholars in Business event. It was an immense honor to be selected to represent the MBA cohort in an event that was intended to thank our wonderful donors, and to serve as one example of the abundant talent present among my peers.

What has been your best memory as an MBA student so far: A few weeks ago, I attended an information session where graduate students were asked to share their journey to grad school with current undergraduates who were thinking of pursuing a postgraduate education. I told the attendees about my very unusual path of gathering the life and work experiences that led me to be admitted to Olin. Many came up to me afterwards and told me that my words had inspired them to feel more confident about pursuing their ideas and goals with greater courage and not shy away from taking the road less travelled, knowing that they would be rewarded in the long run, like I have been.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Olin MBA program? Own every aspect of your story, from beginning to end. While I have been very fortunate to have parents who allowed me to pursue my passions from a young age, doing so has nevertheless often come with numerous challenges. When you choose to pursue a goal that seems out of reach compared to your starting point, you are bound to incur quite a bit of criticism, even from well-intent people who solely want to see you happy and safe. And this criticism may tempt you to give up on your ambitions or push you to conceal the real you in order to achieve your goals. And yet, it is the very peculiarities of your story and your unique abilities that make you a desirable candidate to begin with.

In our cohort, we are fortunate to have people who come from all walks of life, from teachers and nonprofit volunteers to former Wall Street brokers and Broadway actors. What makes our strength is our versatility, as we all get to learn from one another’s vastly different experiences and perspectives. Thus, in applying to Olin, it is most important to understand and embrace who you are so that your strengths come through as clearly as is possible.


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