2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Eric Saldanha, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Eric Saldanha

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

“Driven to create positive, enduring change in K-12 education.”

Hometown: Sugar Land, TX

Fun fact about yourself: I can sing opera.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Texas at Austin, BBA in Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked at YES Prep Public Schools as an AP World History teacher, while also serving as a Campus Grade-Level Chair, District Course Lead, and District Curriculum Writer.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Alvarez & Marsal in Seattle, WA

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

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I served as the VP of Academic Experience in the MBA Student Government, as well as the Chief of Staff of the Georgetown-wide Graduate Student Government. Every semester, I’ve achieved the Dean’s List distinction, recognizing students ranking in the top 10% of the class academically. Finally, I was selected by Georgetown McDonough to be the 2023 McGowan Fellow. The McGowan Fellowship is a national ethical leadership program in which 10 top business schools select one student from their class of second-year MBAs to become a fellow and receive a one-year tuition scholarship.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of creating and facilitating an inclusive pedagogy workshop for business school faculty. This past fall, I collaborated with our dean for faculty affairs to design and host the session, which covered strategies for creating a more equitable and inclusive classroom. The workshop highlighted best practices from the literature, showcased examples of current teaching at McDonough that exemplify inclusion, and provided time for the participants to collaborate and apply the principles to their actual class materials.

It was meaningful to see about 20% of tenure-line faculty attend and engage in a substantive conversation about how to improve the inclusiveness of our classrooms for all students. This semester, we will be re-running the inclusive pedagogy workshop, as well as introducing a new workshop on inclusive curriculum.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement I am most proud of in my professional career is the work I did as a high school teacher during the pandemic to help students overcome significant challenges and succeed academically. I had to pivot my teaching strategies quickly, eventually creating interactive virtual lessons that were distributed weekly to all 1,200+ world history students across the district. Seeing my students succeed in a difficult learning environment was rewarding and inspiring. It reinforced my belief that with dedication and creative problem-solving, anything is possible, even during challenging times.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Georgetown University for its global focus and presence in D.C. I was drawn to the opportunity to develop a business education tailored to the unique needs and challenges of the K-12 education sector. Georgetown’s commitment to understanding issues from a global perspective – and its significant faculty expertise across the university in policy and education – was a big factor in my decision. I was also excited about the potential to engage with organizations and policymakers in Washington, D.C., working at the intersection of business, policy, and education. Overall, the combination of the school’s global perspective, faculty expertise, and D.C. location made Georgetown the ideal choice for my business education.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Evelyn Williams. Professor Williams’ passion for teaching and her students was evident in every class. She created learning experiences that pushed us out of our comfort zones, helping us develop new skills and insights about ourselves. Her focus on creating a psychologically safe classroom environment made it easy for students to ask questions and share their ideas without fear of judgment. Professor Williams’ ability to engage and challenge her students, coupled with her warm and welcoming teaching style, made her an exceptional professor.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course as an MBA was Coaching High Performing Teams and Individuals. This week-long experiential course helped me develop critical coaching skills and gain practical experience through simulations. The course emphasized the importance of intensive reflection and intentional progress toward individual learning goals that we set at the beginning of the class. I particularly appreciated the double feedback loops, where we would coach a partner on their performance during a simulation and then receive feedback from our partner on the coaching. Overall, the course was an excellent opportunity to build valuable leadership skills and our coaching faculties.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The one thing I would do differently over the course of my MBA is to pursue studying abroad. Given my passion for instructional design, I think that spending a handful of months in another education system would have been valuable in helping me learn about different pedagogical and curricular approaches. However, I found ways at Georgetown to satisfy my intellectual curiosity, including taking four courses at the university outside the business school related to education and completing an internship with a D.C.-based education nonprofit.

What is the biggest myth about your school? A myth about Georgetown is that the majority of students are focused on working in the public sector, social sector, or D.C. organizations. I have found that there is a great diversity of backgrounds and career interests among my classmates. One of the best parts of my business school experience has been the opportunity to work with people whose interests and passions are different from my own. This diversity has allowed us to learn from each other, broaden our perspectives, and prepare for a wide range of career paths.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Washington, D.C., provided me with a unique opportunity to engage with some of the most important issues facing K12 education today. I was able to work with education nonprofits and organizations in the nation’s capital, as well as take classes from professors who had been policymakers and practitioners. The city’s rich history and vibrant culture also made it a great place to live and study. Overall, D.C. provided me with the environment I needed to learn and grow in my MBA program.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was most surprised by how collaborative the learning environment was. Nearly every class had group projects and opportunities to work with our peers. The result was a real sense of community and collaboration in the classroom, as well as significant peer-to-peer learning. In my first group project, my team consisted of a chemical engineer, a Navy nuclear submarine officer, a real estate finance professional, a political campaign organizer, and me – a high school teacher. Working with such a diverse team was an invaluable experience and better prepared me to be an effective leader in a collaborative and team-oriented environment.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? In my MBA application essay, I was open and vulnerable about how I struggled in my first few months as a teacher. Sharing how I faced failure, overcame it, and emerged stronger than before highlighted my resilience and determination. It also demonstrated my self-awareness, a crucial quality for success in business school. I believe this made my application stand out to the admissions committee and showed them that I was committed to personal growth and learning.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Natalie Weeks. She is an exceptional relationship-builder and has created meaningful connections with alumni of our program. Natalie has gone above-and-beyond in her efforts to engage with our alumni community by organizing events and working closely with the MBA alumni board. Her efforts have not only benefited the school, but also our cohort, as we have been able to learn from and network with successful professionals in our fields of interest. Natalie is a true asset to our program, and her dedication and hard work inspire me to do my best.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? One of the top items on my professional bucket list is to return to working in a K12 education system, ideally in a role that integrates academics and operations. Additionally, I would like to work in a position that allows me to collaborate with a team of professionals from multiple disciplines, including education, technology, and policy. Working with a diverse group of experts would allow me to develop my skills and perspectives while also creating innovative solutions to complex problems in education.

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

“Writing a statement of support about Eric Saldanha is both an incredibly easy task and a very difficult one. There are so many amazing qualities, talents, and experiences about Eric that I can point to that I struggle to focus on which examples to provide.

Eric is in the top 5% of the class, but he represents so much more than an academically successful student. Eric is passionate about serving others. He started his career with Teach for America, in an underserved school in Texas. His gifts of connecting with others, earning trust, and inspiring change contributed to his success in the classroom. Eric’s demonstrated achievements and impact on his students, the school system, and the community are impressive and inspiring. This summer he interned at Alvarez and Marsal, a boutique consulting firm that serves public sector clients. Following graduation, he will join McKinsey & Company as an associate.

Eric’s commitment to service and meaningful change is equally evident during his time at McDonough and speaks to his character and values. As a student, Eric earned the trust and respect of the McDonough faculty for creating and facilitating an inclusive pedagogy workshop. Eric engaged the business school faculty in a substantive conversation about improving inclusiveness in the classroom, brought in examples of current teaching methods at McDonough that exemplify inclusive pedagogy, and provided best practices from the literature. The workshop was very successful and in addition to offering it again this spring, he is continuing to partner with the vice dean of faculty and current VP of Academic Experience to develop a second workshop on inclusive curriculum. Eric’s efforts in developing and facilitating these workshops will have a lasting impact on McDonough’s community and the holistic education of our MBA students.

Eric’s additional commitments as an MBA student are further evidence of his values. As a McGowan Fellow, he has invested countless hours looking at the intersection of employment and young people experiencing homelessness. He serves on the DEI Board and the Community Standards Board and is involved in both the Consulting Club and the Mentors/Consulting Club. Eric also served as the Student Government VP of Academic Experience and the Chief of Staff for the Georgetown Graduate Student Government which represents all students in the Graduate School, not just those at McDonough.

Eric is a talented orator, a gifted opera singer, and a successful case competitor. But what makes Eric truly special is his energy, compassion, selflessness, and drive to help others. He gives far more than he receives. When asked how he wanted to be remembered in life, his answer sums him up perfectly: “Eric put others ahead of himself.”

In short, in my 25 years working with graduate students at Georgetown University, Eric stands out as one of the most genuine, talented, humble, and committed students with whom I have ever had the pleasure to know. He embodies our Jesuit value of “People for Others”. It is an honor to write this nomination on his behalf.”

Kerry Pace
Associate Dean of MBA Programs, Georgetown McDonough


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