2022 MBA To Watch: Jackie Powell, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Jackie Powell 

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

“Passionate about leaving the world better. Takes initiative and follows through, dependable, trustworthy, and empathetic.”

Hometown: Madison, Virginia

Fun fact about yourself: After college, I spent two years in Guatemala building water and sanitation systems in rural communities.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Gettysburg College, three majors: Environmental Studies, Globalization Studies, Latin American Studies/Spanish

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Prior to business school, I spent five years working at the University of California, Santa Cruz where I managed the Research Center for the Americas. My responsibilities included supporting faculty and student research with funding and holding public events. During my time in California, I was also a part time yoga teacher. One of my proudest accomplishments was helping to develop yoga programs for multiple senior care facilities.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2021? Invesco Real Estate, New York City

Where will you be working after graduation? TBD – hopefully a mission-driven real estate firm in the D.C. area!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Poland Family Real Estate Fellow – $10,000 scholarship for top-performing McDonough Real Estate students
  • Pension Real Estate Association Scholarship – for promising students studying real estate
  • McDonough Merit Scholarship
  • Career Center Real Estate Peer Advisor – Peer-to-peer job and internship career counseling
  • Vice President of D&I for Georgetown Real Estate Society
  • Advisor for the Steers Center for Global Real Estate Student Advisory Services – three consulting projects for clients including Invesco Real Estate, Jubliee Housing, and Steers Center
  • Member of The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management – a non-profit alliance dedicated to increasing the number of underrepresented minorities in business education and management
  • Meditation Host for John Main Center
  • Urban Land Institute Young Leaders Service Committee – Organize monthly volunteer events in the D.C. community

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud of my recruiting efforts that helped triple the number of full-time women in the Steers Center for Global Real Estate program. During my first year, I took the initiative to reach out to prospective female students interested in real estate. As I spoke with and mentored these ladies, I realized how similar our stories were. Like me, they were also hoping to switch to a career in real estate. I was able to share my success as a first-year student breaking into a new industry and encourage them they could do the same. These ladies and their professional goals got me excited to improve the student body representation at the Steers Center. As a result, the current Georgetown Real Estate Society leadership board is majority women, and I look forward to all they achieve and continue to do to increase student diversity.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud that I have diversified my professional experience over the last 12 years. I have worked in several industries such as international development, political advocacy, hospitality, higher education, and fitness. Each professional experience gives me a new perspective and teaches me new skills. Professionally, it is important to me to stay grounded to other people’s realities, flexible, and excited for new challenges.

Why did you choose this business school? I choose the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown because I wanted to start a career in real estate in the D.C. area. McDonough was the best fit because of the location and the top-notch Steers Center for Global Real Estate. I was also impressed by Steers Center’s commitment to the intersection of ESG and real estate.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor and the Director of Steers Center for Global Real Estate, Matt Cypher, opened many doors for me and other students at McDonough. In terms of academics, he has created courses that teach practical skills using real-life deals to learn underwriting which makes our students stand out as interns and job candidates. Professor Cypher is also 100% committed to his students’ careers. He has a constant pulse on the industry and freely shares his network and connections with students to help them achieve their goals.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? The Ethics Project in our ethics leadership core class embodies the Georgetown ethos of cura personalis, care for the whole person. For our class final, each student group received $1,000 to “do something good.” While the parameters were wide, it was a fun and practical way to think about how our individual and group decisions impact others. With the funds from the project, my group was able to pay for the translation, printing, and shipping of four braille menus to four private restaurants. We were able to raise awareness about the availability and importance of braille menus to dozens of restaurants that we contacted throughout D.C. Empathy is hard to teach – The Ethics Project allowed us a space to practice.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I had control of it, my first year would have been in person! We missed so much due to COVID. A lot of our online habits like group meetings on Zoom have transferred to our second-year interactions. I wish I had made more effort in my second year to meet with groups in-person rather than online.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Entering McDonough, I was nervous about the lack of institutional efforts that supported diversity, equity, and inclusion amongst the student body. When I started school, there were no full-time staff with DEI in their title. As a response, my Consortium classmates and other students petitioned the administration to hire more staff to support students of diverse backgrounds. In less than two years, McDonough has hired two DEI staff members (in admissions and programs) in addition to a Social Impact Career Center Advisor. I have been impressed with the administration’s response to these student concerns. They listen to students, put our priorities first, and find ways to meet our needs.

What surprised you the most about business school? The alumni network. Since I attended a small liberal arts college, I had never experienced a large, robust, and wide-spreading alumni network. Georgetown’s alumni network, especially in real estate, has constantly impressed me. The alumni are active and so excited to help.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I made sure to visit the campus and speak to as many students as possible. I wanted to understand how the program worked and get real insight from students that I could include in my essay and interview. I knew if I could show my initiative and connections, I would have a good chance of being accepted.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my classmates who don’t feel like they fit in. I admire my classmates who are first-generation college students. I admire my classmates who are first-generation U.S. citizens. I admire my classmates who are living in the U.S. for the first time. I admire my classmates who are completing their MBA in a second language. I admire my classmates who got off the waitlist or who had to apply multiple years before being accepted. I admire my classmates who will start their own companies immediately after school. Don’t let anyone say you can’t do it. Keep going.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Before working at UC Santa Cruz, I never thought grad school was the right choice for me. Working alongside faculty and students gave me direct exposure to the graduate student experience which motivated me to reconsider my academic journey. It was the hard-working first-generation college students and undocumented students at UC Santa Cruz who reminded me that education is a right, not a privilege (even though the high price tag in the U.S. can trick us into thinking otherwise). These students reminded me that education is a powerful and necessary tool for my individual growth and the impact I want to have on society.

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

  1. Develop innovative affordable housing strategies that can be replicated widely.
  2. Help lead and grow my family’s business.

How has the pandemic changed your view of a career? The pandemic has shifted the real estate market in a variety of ways. One trend has been the uptick in demand for single family rental homes in suburban and rural areas. As a result, it has put small family real estate businesses like my family’s business on the map. There are still management challenges to figure out with single family rental portfolios and I’m looking forward to implementing new strategies to help streamline my family’s business.

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

“Jackie has continuously impressed us as one of the most engaged and invested members of our community since before she even started the program. She helped lead her fellow incoming students to create connections in the virtual world by surveying students about how they wanted to make the most out of their MBA experience. She demonstrated her commitment to bringing positive change to the community around race, inequality, and justice, and helped elevate the voices of those who represent diverse communities.

As to her impact during the program, Matthew L. Cypher, Atara Kaufman Professor of Real Estate and Director of the Steers Center for Global Real Estate, said it best. Jackie has had such a massive influence on the Steers Center that they actually refer to it as the “Jackie Powell Effect.” She took it upon herself to actively market and recruit women interested in a career in real estate to the MBA program. This commitment to bringing more women to McDonough to pursue real estate has had a dramatic effect on the current MBA class with many more women and women of color joining McDonough. Rarely has one individual had such a dramatic impact. Moreover, she led a diversity and inclusion working group that resulted in a series of recommendations that the Steers Center will be implementing. Finally, through her roles as an Admissions Ambassador and Career Center Peer Advisor, Jackie has also been an invaluable resource for students seeking to transition into real estate. In short, Jackie has been a game-changer!

Jackie’s dedication extends far beyond the real estate realm. In many ways, she exemplifies the Jesuit value of cura personalis or “care of the whole person.” She has been a welcoming and positive presence in her MBA student cohort, and is often the first to make suggestions that would strengthen the learning experience. Jackie is pursuing the MBA Certificate in Sustainable Business. Her commitment to cura personalis is best exemplified by being a frequent host of the weekly Georgetown McDonough Meditation sessions through the John Main Center for Meditation.”

Prashant Malaviya
Professor of Marketing
Senior Associate Dean of MBA Programs
Lisa Kahn, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs, MBA Program Office


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.