2022 MBA To Watch: Beeta Shahnazari, UC Irvine (Merage)

Beeta Shahnazari

UC Irvine Paul Merage School of Business

“I am hard-working, ambitious, and goal-driven, with a passion for inclusivity.”

Hometown: Huntington Beach, California

Fun fact about yourself: I am a second degree blackbelt in taekwondo.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Irvine – Major in Business Economics, Minor in Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Polycoat Products – Digital Marketing Associate and Trade Show Coordinator.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? PepsiCo (Frito-Lay) – Plano, Texas

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be returning to PepsiCo (Frito-Lay) as an Associate Finance Manager.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: During my time at Merage, I have had the opportunity to hold multiple leadership roles. The first role I took on was as a Student Ambassador for our Full-Time MBA program. I also held a role as the VP of Fundraising and Corporate Relations for our Challenge 4 Charity Club. Towards the end of my first year in the program, I became President of our graduate student government, the Merage Student Association.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of becoming MSA President. Throughout my first year as an MBA student, I found myself navigating the balance between recruiting, academics, and extracurriculars, which made me initially hesitant to take on the role. Ultimately, I knew I wanted to step outside of my comfort zone and take on as many leadership roles as possible, so I challenged myself to take on this position. My time as president has been a humbling opportunity – I have learned so much and the experience has helped me grow in a variety of ways, both professionally and personally.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Landing a role as an intern at PepsiCo and receiving an offer to return full-time after graduation! I am thrilled to be working for one of the biggest food and beverage corporations in the world.

Why did you choose this business school? The most important aspect of Merage that made me choose this program was the people. Throughout my recruitment process, every individual with whom I spoke – ambassadors, students, admissions staff, and faculty – made me feel welcomed right away. I could immediately tell that the culture at Merage was one of inclusion and unconditional support, and the last two years have absolutely confirmed this initial impression.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Devin Shanthikumar, I am current enrolled in his elective, Driving Profitability Through Managerial Accounting. Although a difficult and intimidating subject, I consistently heard rave reviews about the course and her teaching style as a professor from former students, which encouraged me to enroll in the class. Professor Shanthikumar has a unique way of teaching us the materials through a combination of case studies, lectures, and class discussions, and the course has quickly changed from my most feared class to one of my most admired. I know the frameworks and skills I learn through Professor Shanthikumar’s lectures will be invaluable as I continue to grow in my career.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? During the first year of our program, a few classmates and I started an unofficial beach day every Friday. This became a weekly tradition and a great opportunity to take a break from the chaos of business school, get to know our classmates better, and take advantage of our school’s stellar coastal location. We have since been able to carry the tradition forward with our new first year students.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I would probably choose to spend more time networking with MBA students from surrounding schools. While it was great getting to know my own full-time cohort, as well as MBAs in our part-time program, I would have loved the opportunity to gain the additional perspective and network of local MBAs.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Our small cohort size seems strange to some, especially in comparison to some of the larger MBA programs. I think that a common myth is that the small size somehow impacts the value of education and opportunities available from Merage. I believe, however, that quite the opposite is true – our small class size allows for more intimate class discussions, greater opportunities for involvement, and more personalized attention.

What surprised you the most about business school? It was the amount of time I would spend working in groups with my classmates for academic and extracurricular tasks. I knew when I began the program that group projects would be a large part of our curriculum, but I don’t think I realized the extent to which I would be collaborating with my peers. Even outside of the classroom, our clubs and extracurricular activities are very collaborative in terms of both our daily operations and various event planning. This helps not only bring a fresh perspective to every meeting, discussion, and project, but also to develop skills for working in a professional group setting beyond our two-year program.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Probably networking with current students, ambassadors, and admissions staff! It was a best-case scenario for all involved. I gained a deeper perspective of what life as a Merage MBA was like, and the existing students had the opportunity to get to know me and my potential as an MBA candidate as well.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My most admired classmate is Kelsey Van Hook. Since day one, Kelsey has consistently been willing to go out of her way to assist her fellow peers without expecting anything in return. She is extremely involved with the Merage community and always goes above and beyond to add value to our MBA program. As a friend, Kelsey has supported me through more professional, personal, and academic challenges than I can count. Kelsey quickly became my first friend in business school, and I know our friendship will continue long after we graduate. I can’t wait to see where her ambition takes her!

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My mom has always been my biggest influence in life, and it was no different when it came to pursuing business. When I was growing up, my mom worked full-time and developed a successful career for herself while simultaneously providing for and spending time with her family. Most of my friends had stay-at-home moms, which made me jealous as I didn’t get to see my own mom as often as others saw theirs. Witnessing her ambition and dedication to establishing her career, however, motivated me to follow in her footsteps – especially as an adult. For these reasons, I decided I wanted to model my career after my mom’s and pursue business, first as an undergraduate and again as an MBA candidate.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? Achieve a VP-level role and have the opportunity to work with cross-functional teams on an exciting new product launch!

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has helped me realize that there are truly no limits to an individual’s potential in their careers. With the rising popularity of remote and hybrid work settings, corporations are becoming more flexible and understanding of individuals’ needs and preferences. As a woman in business, this is especially important to me when considering my future balancing both my professional and personal life.                               

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

“As a double Anteater who leads by example, Beeta brings so much value to the Merage School of Business across academic programs as a strong community builder. She’s energetic and driven to lead and motivated to influence not just at an individual level but within the whole Merage community. I have had the great pleasure of working closely with Beeta as her career advisor since the pre-MBA summer all the way through her second year and observed the great amount of effort she put in beyond her job search process to transition from marketing and operations to corporate finance. Beeta was the first one in her class to land an internship and after accepting the internship offer to join PepsiCo in the summer, she started to give back to the community by becoming one of the Merage School Ambassadors, supporting the Admissions Department to engage prospective students and promote the value of the MBA program. She took the lead to strategize and organize the Career Day of the MBA Admit Weekend. In the planning meetings with the Career Center, Beeta was always prepared to present and influence the administration’s decisions by sharing solid feedback from her classmates, suggesting a change of content to enhance student engagement and reach by scale, promoting the culture of sharing success to feature students’ career footprints and paths, and providing concrete follow up action items to help admits think of their career goals and proactively plan their pre-MBA summer.

The Merage Student Association (MSA) election was in the middle of the pandemic and during such a challenging time, many students in her class hesitated to step up. Beeta was the first one to rise to the challenge, quickly formed a strong leadership cabinet, leveraged her connections to build great partnerships with all the administrative offices from Admissions to Career, and became a dedicated community builder from the day she was elected as the MSA president. After a whole year of virtual learning, Beeta recognized the need for strengthening in-person connections and bringing the sense of community back. She shared the thought with the MBA Program Office and collaborated with her board to bring the idea of the Second-Year Welcome Orientation program to life. Her classmates genuinely enjoyed the team-building activities, class mixer and key messages from Merage leadership, and appreciated her leadership to make a difference in their MBA experience. As the MSA president covering a variety of academic programs from BA, Specialty Masters to MBA and FEMBA, Beeta also had the vision to enhance cross-program connections. This trailblazer planned and organized One Merage, a fall harvest carnival-style event for the entire Merage School community featuring food, games, activities for kids, giveaways, and raffles with fun prizes. Hundreds of students had an exciting opportunity to spend time not only with their own classmates but also meet and network with students from other programs. The commitment Beeta has made in cultivating the Merage School culture in the mid of all the disruptions has added tremendous value to the entire community.

Beeta has impressed me with her drive to lead and bias for action to create a more engaging experience for the entire Merage community, especially as the school went through the transition from virtual to hybrid learning. Her ability to unite and engage community members while being an advocate for diversity and inclusion has truly set her apart, and I know she will inspire future student leaders.”

Qilin He, Associate Director of Career Services
The Paul Merage School of Business, UC Irvine


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