2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Alyssa Patel, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Alyssa Patel

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“Former teacher-turned-consultant who loves traveling, reading, and trying new restaurants.”

Hometown: Nashville, TN

Fun fact about yourself: I love to cook and bake!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; Economics and Public Policy

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? The Ensworth School; Director of Service Learning and Math Teacher

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? McKinsey & Co; Dallas, TX

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Co; Dallas, TX

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:  VP of Learning and Development, Owen Strategy and Consulting Club; Vice President of Internal Affairs, Owen Student Government Association; Peer Coach; Admissions and Recruiting Fellow; Teaching Assistant for Leading Teams and Organizations; Forte Fellow

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my work as part of the learning and development team for our Strategy and Consulting Club. This year, I worked to overhaul the preparation process to be more participant-focused by increasing the active learning and participation in our Sunday night teaching sessions. I was excited to use my teaching skills and create a space where participants could practice and receive feedback real time after learning a theoretical skill. My team and I increased the time for each session and built in 30 minutes each Sunday for small group drills, which allowed for live practice time. We also incorporated opportunities for real-time feedback during the sessions so we could assess understanding and adjust as needed.

In talking with first years in this program, they loved the level of active participation they had. Many said they had a stronger understanding of various components of a case interview and the ability to practice real-time created better reps that translated to their full cases. It felt meaningful to give back to the community in a way that was both practical for students while also creating a collaborative setting for first years recruiting for consulting. I am proud that many of these changes will be the foundation for the club to build upon moving forward and am excited to see how they iterate in the future.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the 8th-grade trips I led to Washington, DC and Chicago for my students while teaching. Before pursuing my MBA, I taught 6th and 8th-grade math at an urban, Title I public school in Nashville. When I started teaching 8th grade, I immediately remembered my 8th-grade experience, specifically the end-of-the-year trip to Washington, DC. I knew that I wanted my students to experience the same sort of trip to punctuate their middle school experience, and I spoke to my principal about making the trip a reality. I organized and led 3 years’ worth of trips to Washington, DC and Chicago for approximately 50 students who earned the trip via their grades and classroom behavior. For many of my students, this was their first trip outside the Greater Nashville area and their first school overnight trip. We got to tour colleges in each city, spend a day at Six Flags, and see tourist sites, something that most students had limited exposure to doing. Several years later, many of those students still recall our memories of those trips, and I am so grateful and proud that we got to bring those trips to life.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Owen for its people and tight-knit community. Owen’s small class size allows me to get to know my peers beyond the surface. I have made meaningful and lasting relationships with people that will extend far beyond our two years in school. In my first interactions with Owen students, I was struck by everyone’s authenticity and generosity. I have found those qualities to hold with the alumni I have spoken with and the members of my class. Ultimately, I felt most like myself in every conversation I have had at Owen, a testament to its culture and community.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor has been Brian McCann. Professor McCann primarily teaches strategy classes, and each class has been planned with extreme precision. From simulations to classroom discussions, he has various active learning tools designed to help his students think through strategy frameworks and their applications. Furthermore, his feedback on assignments is incredibly thorough and timely, highlighting his commitment to each student. His expertise, coupled with his sense of humor and dry wit, creates a classroom experience where you are constantly kept on your toes while critically thinking and problem-solving the entire course.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course has been Professor Ranga Ramanujan’s Health Care Delivery Organizations (HCDO) course. This course is a high-level overview of how healthcare organizations are structured to deliver care, how they measure effectiveness and create value, and how interwoven stakeholders are within healthcare systems. This was my first healthcare course and one of the first times I had the opportunity to think about the structural design of healthcare systems. Ranga wove in multiple speakers from various parts of the healthcare system, including nurses, doctors, and insurers. As someone who has grown up around healthcare, this class challenged me to think about what it means to deliver effective care, and the structural components that either help or hinder that goal.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I wish I had spent more time reflecting on my journey and what this program taught me. My MBA experience has been a time of immense growth and development in my tactical business skills, leadership development, and personal growth as a colleague, friend, and human. I haven’t always taken the time to reflect fully on how I’ve grown (or still hope to grow) in many of these areas. Time moves at warp speed during your two years, and without carving time for intentional reflection, it is easy for this practice to be left behind.

What is the biggest myth about your school? One myth about Owen is that our class size limits the diversity of the class, and this could not be farther from the truth. Owen’s students come from all over the US and the world, boasting a variety of careers, experiences, and backgrounds. The typical Owen class has about 180 students, and no two students have the same stories. Our class size ensures that we can create deep relationships with one another, fully embracing the diversity that each person brings to our class.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I may be biased, but I think Nashville is one of the best all-around cities. It is a decently sized city but has a small-town feel, and there is always something going on around town. I love our restaurant and bar scene and am always taking advantage of new places to try as a foodie. It seems like every month a new restaurant opens, and you always run into someone you know while dining!

What surprised you the most about business school? I have been most surprised by how many opportunities there are to practice the skills you learn in the classroom. Owen has myriad student extracurricular organizations. As a student leader, I’ve been able to try many of the leadership tactics that I have learned in the classroom in a low-stakes environment before trying them out in a full-time role. I have practiced having critical conversations, setting visions and missions and delegating tasks. The safety of the Owen community has given me the confidence to take some leadership risks and receive feedback from my peers while refining my leadership style.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I spent significant time trying to understand Owen’s culture and mission before submitting my application. This research helped me understand more about the school, its priorities, and potential student life. Personal scale and the collaborative community are two things that Owen emphasizes, and my research allowed me to speak authentically to these aspects through my essays and during my interview.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Megan Andereck. Megan is one of the most intelligent, caring, and driven women I have met at Owen. She is very active in the Women’s Business Association and actively works to support increasing the number of women interested and matriculating. She aims to make the school and world a better place, pointing out and working to solve many of the inequities or barriers women face in the workplace and at school. She shows up for others and their needs, and is a staunch advocate for women across the program. She is a force in the classroom and continues to be an incredible asset to our class, all while being a new mom. She is the real deal.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My long-term professional goal is to re-design public school systems to support student learning and success better. I hope to take some of the ways that large corporations solve their problems and start to untangle many of the daily challenges that schools face. A shorter-term professional goal is to work internationally. I love traveling and with an increasingly globalized world, I believe so much can be learned from working in new cultures and environments.

What made Alyssa such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“As the faculty and staff advisors to the Owen Strategy and Consulting Club (OSCC), we welcome the opportunity to share our first-hand experience of Alyssa’s exceptional impact as a member of the class of 2023. In her role of Vice President-Learning & Development for the OSCC, Alyssa led the club’s most important function of training students for case interviewing. Case interviewing preparation at Owen is an activity directed almost exclusively by second-year students, and Alyssa’s leadership and dedication to helping her fellow students in this area has been outstanding. Her tireless efforts, including numerous Sunday night group training sessions and countless one-on-one practice cases and peer coaching sessions, have brought immeasurable value to her peers; her prior experience as a teacher has truly shone through! A particularly invaluable aspect of her work here has been the deliberate effort to make our case prep process a more inclusive environment. Thanks to Alyssa, addressing this need has been a point of emphasis, leading to substantial improvements and appeal to a much broader set of students.

In addition to her high-impact work with the OSCC, Alyssa also served as the VP of Internal Affairs of the Owen Student Government Association where she led the charge to pioneer a new, week-long career exploration event. This event promoted stronger connections within the Owen community and markedly improved the insights gained by first-year students into summer internship opportunities. Alyssa has also been a vital part of the peer coach program, having developed a rock-solid reputation as a trusted mentor to our first-year students. She provided hours upon hours of interview preparation to her peers through resume reviews, case preparations, and mock interview practice. Her peers know her as not only a wonderful resource, but also a supportive advocate who is always willing to lend a helping hand.

The above examples highlight just a few of the notable ways that Alyssa has created immense value for her classmates and made a lasting impact on the Owen community. We are incredibly proud of all that she has accomplished and look forward to seeing her continue to achieve great success in the future.”

Courtney Fain
Associate Director, MBA Coaching and Advising

Brian McCann
David K. Wilson Professor of Management
Faculty Director, Executive MBA Program

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