2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Andrew Fischer, Duke University (Fuqua)

Andrew Fischer

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Mindful mover. Lifelong learner. Forever teacher. DEI Champion. Conscious Coach. Introverted People Person. Dog Dad.”

Hometown: Danville, VA

Fun fact about yourself: For my thirtieth birthday, I went on a trip to Ireland and Germany, and on the way back I was cat-sitting for Gloria Steinem, whom my sister has worked with for many years. There was a snowstorm, so Gloria and I ended up having quite a lot of quality time together where we discussed a few of my favorite topics: her rescue cat named Efendim, Disney movies, and queer theory. This was also where I learned an unexpected lesson from her in a discussion about some ants in the house. I wanted to try and get rid of them, but she just said, “They were here before I was. Sometimes, it is more important to let things be.” I keep that message, and those ants, close to my heart and my mind every day in my work, personal life, and more.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Virginia, Bachelor’s in American Studies & History

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Teach For America, Vice President of Recruitment

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? McKinsey & Company, Seattle, Washington

Where will you be working after graduation? McKinsey & Company, Associate

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • MBA Association Vice President of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
  • ROMBA Fellow
  • Vice President of Admissions with FuquaPride and FY Admissions Cabinet
  • BLMBAO Allyship Co-Chair, FY
  • COLE Leadership Fellow
  • Admissions Fellow
  • Teaching Assistant for six courses

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My role as the VP of DEI for the MBA Association, our student government, was a defining component of my Fuqua experience. Progress in DEI is gradual and there is always room to grow in all spaces. So, with the support of Fuqua’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion led by Stephanie Robertson, my cabinet and I led the charge to restore, rebuild, and expand initiatives to support Fuqua after COVID had really slowed their momentum. One impact that I believe is particularly exciting is the first Fuqua DEI Interclub Working Group. Throughout the year, I worked to support more than 18 affinity clubs, all doing incredible things for the student body. I wanted to build a space for student leaders across those groups to share their experiences and collaborate on key initiatives and the working group has emerged. From the interclub group, there have been new conversations and programs that have never occurred before, really embodying Team Fuqua and our value of Collective Diversity.

Now as my time at Fuqua is concluding, I am proud and honored to have been selected by my peers to help our community to create sustained DEI structures, promote awareness, and provoke difficult conversations across programs, guest speakers, and externally facilitated training. I aimed to create spaces where students could again find ways to push the boundaries of personal growth, foster meaningful relationships, and genuinely connect with each other. It is also so exciting to see how the group and these structures will live on long into the future as some of the most incredible first-year students are stepping in to lead these efforts next year!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? After graduating from UVA, I taught special education in Meraux, Louisiana at N.P. Trist Middle School. I had the opportunity to work and learn with my students, their families, my colleagues, and so many leaders from around the community. Very quickly, I realized that my students, who lived with a variety of learning differences, had rich stories to share based on their unique and incredibly diverse experiences. Each of my students had so many strengths they were just waiting to give the world, but many had internalized the myth that their disabilities would keep them from achieving their dreams. Also, middle school is just a hard time for a lot of students!

So, as their math teacher, I made sure that we would work as hard as we could to hit our targets. We drilled algebra. We examined geometry. We dug into reading our story problems with intentional curiosity. As a result, each of my students hit more than 95% of their individual education program goals. That was a sign of their hard work and commitment to one another. This was worth celebrating alone, but the achievement I am most proud of is when my students led full community meetings, exploring the power of diversity that created a more inclusive culture for everyone that experienced them. They showed true courage and vulnerability as they shared their own stories to empower their classmates. To see a group of student leaders digging into their identities and then to see them lead adults in that conversation as well changed my understanding of what I know is possible.

Why did you choose this business school? In my business school research, I focused on schools that elevated community, collaboration, and leadership development. I went into experiences with admissions offices and students with a list of questions around the student experience, DEI, and programming.

In every interaction I had with people from Fuqua, I walked away wanting to learn more and feeling like all my questions were respected, heard, and answered honestly. I saw that leaders at Fuqua embraced curiosity. With that, I felt that Fuqua’s learning environment promoted true collaboration in academics and in culture. The core curriculum elevates the power of a team through the C-LEAD structure. I also saw the work of COLE, the Coach K Center for Leadership and Ethics, as deeply aligned with my values. Knowing that I thrive in team learning environments, I felt deeply drawn to Team Fuqua. School leadership elevated IQ+EQ+DQ (Decency Quotient is a key principle in Dean Boulding’s approach to leadership development) not only in words but in actions; leadership by example made the decision to come to Fuqua an obvious one for me.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Jamie Jones is an incredible leader, teacher, and mentor. In my first year, I was lucky enough to do an independent study with a team exploring the potential of a new start-up targeting accessibility, navigation, and physical disabilities. Then, in my second year, I joined Professor Jones’ New Ventures Development, a course where I could continue that ideation and planning with a team made up of interdisciplinary students at Duke. My team combined the best of the best from the Pratt School of Engineering and Fuqua.

As the Director of Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship, Professor Jones leads a community that fosters an impactful environment that has reminded me of the importance of failing fast and often. Professor Jones holds high expectations, asks questions that could light creative fires, and makes you feel like anything is possible (within reason!). I never saw myself as an entrepreneur, but Professor Jones helped me see new possibilities in my own potential. She also has helped me see that, truly, we all have the capacity to be innovators.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course was Strategy Implementation in the first term of my second year with Professor John M. de Figueiredo. On the first day of class, I was nervous because it was so clear that the rigor would be high, and the coursework would be demanding as our professor set such clear expectations around preparation and participation. Throughout the course, those high expectations led to my favorite academic experience in business school! I looked forward to our classroom conversations as we jumped into real-life analyses of companies, decisions, and leadership. We applied frameworks to circumstances that I will definitely face in my future career. It was all so relevant and the analytical cycles we leveraged made it my favorite course at Fuqua.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Once a year, Fuqua comes together to pack meals for Rise Against Hunger. Picture more than 250 of your classmates coming together with faculty to pack more than 50,000 meals in less than 2 hours. Sounds almost impossible but we do it! The level of energy in the Fox Center at Fuqua on Friday after class is so high and it is such a great example of our value of Impactful Stewardship and what Fuqua is really all about.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? In the transition to Fuqua and moving back to the United States from Colombia after living there for 2 years, I dove into my courses and learning how to be a student again. With that, I wish I had spent quality time with more of my classmates earlier in my first year. I realized quickly that the richness of perspectives in business school is truly priceless. Once I found my stride, I began to connect with my classmates and elevated quality time with them. This looked like so many different things ranging from a New Year’s Eve dinner in Singapore with Shivani or a walk to grab coffee with Helena but those moments are where I have learned so much. I feel so grateful and so humbled to call these leaders my classmates, and most importantly, my friends.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Durham has a way of bringing people together and creating such joyful spaces. I particularly loved living and learning about downtown Durham. Saturday mornings in Durham are my favorite! I try to wake up early to walk my dog to Foster’s for coffee before exploring the farmers’ and artisan markets. We usually grab produce and flowers before we stop by Ninth Street Bakery for some treats. Having a day supporting local businesses, seeing families playing at the old Durham Bulls stadium, and then having excellent food after doing some local shopping, it never gets old!

What surprised you the most about business school? I was most surprised at how often I was surprised! I came into business school wanting to learn hard skills and expected to be challenged in the quantitative courses I had not really explored in my undergraduate studies like finance. But I was surprised at how much I was learning at every turn! I was challenged in all my classes, even areas in which I thought I had a lot of experience, like leadership and management courses. I was surprised at the depth of conversation at our MBAA events like our Daring Dialogues where I learned from students I may not have had that level of vulnerability before. It has been such an honor to have this time to learn and to grow and each surprise along the way helped me do just that.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I made the commitment to lead with my values from start-to-finish. That’s easier said than done though, and to do it I knew I needed to learn about Fuqua through experiences and from as many different perspectives as possible. Then, I made a plan to do it! I also wanted those perspectives to be personal and diverse. Even though travel was not a safe option when I was applying because of COVID in 2020, I was able to attend multiple admissions events from Colombia. Then, I connected with former colleagues and friends who attended Fuqua that I knew through my professional network, which gave me perspective to bring into my application. By the time I submitted my application, I knew that admissions and the alumni I spoke with had a true, authentic view of me, my work, and what I hoped to gain from my time at Fuqua. Through early conversations and a plan, I shared myself openly with my values on my sleeve, which I believe is always a smart move in applications!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of the most powerful things about business school is the number of classmates I have met and learned from throughout the past several years. One leader who inspires me every day is Ashlynn Polanco. Ashlynn immediately made an impact on my student experience, always leading with curiosity and pushing for a better Fuqua. Not only is Ashlynn one of the most intelligent people I have known, but she is one of the best leaders I have ever met, doing so through a powerful combination of empathy, high expectations, and vulnerability. I remember one of our first brunch dates at Press (one of our favorite downtown spots near both of our apartments), where I distinctly remember laughing the entire time while also sharing our life stories. That is the kind of leader Ashlynn is.

Ashlynn has not only made a profound impact on me, but she has impacted Fuqua in lasting, structural ways. LIFE (Low-Income, First-Generation Experience Club) has grown immensely with her leadership as co-president, creating new spaces for prospective, current, and past students through resources, community, and professional development. She created school-wide spaces to reflect on the experiences of low-income, first-generation students and empowered our community to listen and learn through Daring Dialogues. Ashlynn was an active MBAA D&I Cabinet member, working with me and other student leaders to manage student engagement through first-year section governing bodies and innovative second-year marketing campaigns. She fostered deep partnerships with the admissions team as both an admissions fellow and as VP of admissions for the Black and Latinx MBA Organization’s admissions team. In addition to all of this, Ashlynn helped lead efforts to create new opportunities and structures at Fuqua to support students that identify as US-based Latinx through a new organization called ALMA which will make sure her leadership leaves a lasting impact for years to come. Ashlynn has led humbly, creating spaces, big and small, for others to learn and grow.

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

1. I want to look back on my work and feel that I have elevated the people I work with to grow into whom they aim to be, and I hope to return to doing this in education in the future. I am passionate about providing spaces for leaders to identify their strengths and where they can grow as a part of seeing that we all are born with incredible potential. I became a yoga and meditation teacher because of my drive to help others explore mindfulness and as a way to help others see their gifts. As a special education teacher, I worked to create a space where my students could explore their identities and take control of their own narratives. Professionally, I want to have a positive impact at the intersection of education and technology, helping education leaders to explore their assets and to feel empowered to grow rapidly.

2. One day in the future I want to start a café and bookstore that would also serve as a wellness center. In my dream world, I would run this with my partner, César, in his hometown of Medellín where we met and lived for several years. He could lead community workshops for local organization leaders and I could bring in holistic wellness instructors to share their gifts with the community. I also love coffee (and probably still drink too much) and being a barista was my first job! It was a space where I learned the power of listening and if I can create something that provides wellness, great coffee, and learning in one space, then I am in.

What made Andrew such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023

“Andrew was nominated for Fuqua’s VP of Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) for the MBA Association during the spring of 2022. In my role as Assistant Dean for the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, we work closely together as he leads diversity and inclusion efforts for his fellow Daytime students. In addition to this very demanding, incredibly public role, he’s acted as a leader in other, less visible, but incredibly impactful spaces as well. He is a COLE Fellow, an admissions fellow, and a TA (I am sure I’m missing a few!). He is brilliant, cares deeply about others, and truly wants to effect change at Fuqua.

In my role, I provide support to our student leaders as they work on creating inclusive communities within Fuqua. I hope that I have been that to Andrew. I can say, without a doubt, he has supported me during very difficult times. He has such empathy and compassion for others, and through his ability to see the points of view of almost everyone, he has been able to be the person that connects numerous different groups of people at Fuqua. He works tirelessly to create an inclusive community, sometimes at the expense of his own well-being. As he has grown in his leadership roles, though, he has begun to understand his own boundaries and how to say “no” while still showing that he cares. Boundaries are incredibly important in D&I work, and Andrew is understanding this for both himself and his cabinet who work alongside him to further D&I efforts at Fuqua.

So, what really makes Andrew special? He is dedicated, brilliant, and compassionate. He embodies the three characteristics that we, at Fuqua, believe make a leader successful, that of IQ + EQ + DQ (decency quotient). He is a trusted friend, a respected classmate, an experienced leader, an amazing partner and a freaking great dog dad. He understands his strengths, but is incredibly humble. He will never boast about himself, and in fact, has had issues filling out the application for this nomination. He wants the focus to always be on others and their strengths. However, out of a few hundred students I’ve worked with, there is no doubt in my mind that he is one of the most deserving people to be celebrated. He may have solutions to problems, but works through things with you so that you have ownership over solving that problem as well. He leads by example, but he also leads with his hand constantly on your shoulder, guiding you and always supporting you along the way.

Additionally, Andrew is hilarious. His humor is subtle and always a welcome distraction during very tough conversations, of which there are many in D&I. He is also very candid about experiences he has had throughout his life making it even easier for others to share when they are around him. His goal is to ensure everyone feels safe to be themselves, and he has done a phenomenal job of doing this. I told him he couldn’t leave and he thought I was joking, which I’m not. I do understand that he has other work to do and that he can effect even more change outside the boundaries of higher education. Fuqua will deeply miss him. I will deeply miss him.”

Stephanie Robertson
Assistant Dean for the Office of Diversity & Inclusion


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