2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Brittany Bolden, Indiana University (Kelley)

Brittany Bolden

Kelley School of Business at Indiana University

“Tenacious and scrappy introvert, passionate about gender/race/class equity and learning about different cultures.”

Hometown: Chula Vista, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I performed at Disneyland every year from 7th-12th grade. Oh! And I ran a 10K on a Los Angeles freeway as part of a Nike Run challenge.

Undergraduate School and Degree: UCLA, B.A. in Sociology and African American Studies (Double Major)

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? UCLA, Academic Payroll/Personnel Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I was a Summer Associate at Deloitte in the Los Angeles office.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am returning to Deloitte as a Senior Consultant in the Los Angeles office.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Kelley Coin recipient for collaboration (stemming from work on Kelley Preview Weekend)
  • 1st Place, Human Capital Case Competition hosted at Vanderbilt University
  • Lead Student Organizer, Kelley Preview Weekend
  • VP Internal Affairs, Black MBA Association
  • Faculty-selected member of Leadership Academy (Peer Coach to 1st Year MBAs)
  • Faculty-selected member of Global Business & Social Enterprise (GLOBASE) Student Leadership Team for international consulting projects in Greece
  • Faculty Selected member of Consulting Academy
  • Faculty-selected member of consulting project for Fortune 50 health insurance company
  • Consortium Fellow
  • Forte Fellow
  • RISE MBA Fellow, Marsh McLennan

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? It was bringing back an in-person Kelley Preview Weekend after 2 years of hiatus due to COVID. Preview Weekend allows prospective students to visit Bloomington and Kelley in the Fall before Round 2 applications. I attended in 2019, which was a big part of why I chose Kelley. Coming from Los Angeles and spending my entire life in Southern California, I knew I was ready for a change. However, I was leary about Kelley because I’d never even heard of Bloomington before (and my only knowledge of Indiana was its airport). In addition to familiarizing myself with the town, I was blown away by the kindness and community I witnessed among the students. I’ll never forget when consortium students invited me to hang out after the day’s activities were done; it felt like they genuinely wanted to get to know me. And during the scheduled programming, I will always remember when Gale Nichols sat down next to me, wanting to know my goals and how she could help, Coming from a large university like UCLA, it was one of the few times I got that kind of individual attention. I left the weekend feeling that I could do business school for the first time.

Kelley Preview Weekend was such a pivotal experience not only in my decision to choose Kelley, but also in my decision to apply to business schools in general. After COVID restrictions begin lifting, I knew we had an opportunity to bring back the Preview Weekend that made me fall in love – and because I was the only one in my class who had experienced this event in person, I felt a responsibility to lead the charge. I wanted more people of color to attend Kelley. For many of us, it can be a hard sell given the history of Indiana and the small town of Bloomington – people just have to see it. We brought 50 participants to Bloomington in November, and I worked with the MBA office to get their flights and transportation covered (in addition to the already-covered hotel accommodations). Of special note, I got my boyfriend and several of my friends and former coworkers to experience Kelley this weekend. I witnessed the experience light a fire under them as it did for me in 2019.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? This may not be a typical answer, but I am most proud of taking the necessary risks to get into business school. I didn’t know what business school was (or a consulting career) until I decided to apply in 2019 – and there was no one in my network with an MBA. I grew up low-income on a 4-block radius that was five miles from the Mexican border – raised by my grandma and abused by my mom. I don’t say these things for sympathy but rather for people to understand that the lens through which I saw the world was clouded by these things (and more) for many years. I was always angry at the world, and I didn’t believe in my abilities. The business school journey was, at times, an isolating experience – so many in the MBA world told me I wouldn’t get in. At every admissions event and MBA fair, it felt like I was trying to crack the code to some secret language everyone knew…but me. But I realized that one of the reasons low-income people don’t advance in their careers is that they aren’t in a position to take risks – the one thing you don’t do is quit your job. I had held myself back by staying in this mindset, and it wasn’t working. So, I wanted to do something else – try anyway. I cried almost daily writing my application essays, trying to make ten years of my life that was nowhere near the business school trajectory fit the mold. I forced myself to be uncomfortable, attending every MBA event, asking all the questions, and testing out my “Why MBA, Why now” on anyone who would listen.

I’ll never forget when I got my offers (4 with full-tuition scholarships), and my grandma held the letters in her hand like they were the keys to the kingdom. “You got into business school,” she barely said above a whisper. It was like she knew my life was about to change forever. She unexpectedly passed away two months later, and as I was preparing for us both to take on this adventure. I instead had to push forward without her, not only leaving behind California but giving up my childhood home. There was officially no turning back (and no home to go back to). As I wrap up my MBA journey, I am proud to say that my boyfriend and three of my friends and former coworkers were all just accepted into Kelley with a Consortium full tuition fellowship. I had a big part in their embarking on their own business school journey. I hope to continue inspiring others from low-income communities to get out of their own way to get the life they want.

Why did you choose this business school? I have a list of reasons, but if I have it choose one, it would be the community. I went to a large university with over 30,000 students for undergrad – it was hard not to feel like just a number. I knew when researching programs that I wanted something different in many ways. Kelley, on the other hand, is a class size of under 200; here. I felt I had a name, a story, and the ability to have more individualized support. From visiting Kelley to coffee chats to phone calls, everyone I connected with was warm and supportive and felt genuinely interested in wanting me to succeed. Even the admitted students I met felt like the kind of classmates I wanted to have. As a career switcher, I felt Kelley had the right components to help me successfully transition.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? John Hill teaches both our quant class in the Core and Spreadsheet Modeling (though now he’s given some teaching up to be the faculty chair of the MBA program). There’s something about a professor who can manage to get you to understand a challenging topic while also throwing in corny dad jokes. I always appreciate how open and available he is both in and outside the classroom. Anytime we run into each other, he always stops to chat and ask how I’m doing. In the classroom. He taught the way I like to learn and had the ability to make me feel comfortable in the classroom.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? B2B Marketing with Josh Gildea. Conversations on marketing are consumer marketing dominated. As such, I really had no clue about the B2B space and thought it was boring. By the end, I was thinking about jobs in the B2B space! This course did a great job of explaining the role B2B plays in every industry through recent examples with which we could connect. I recall the opening topic on what it took to build the new SoFi stadium in Los Angeles. Being from LA and watching it be built over the years, I truly didn’t know what went into it. Now, anytime I enter an arena, I will consider the different B2B partnerships required. My favorite topic was learning how planes are painted (a tedious process that had never occurred to me before). Something thought of as simple actually unearthed more lessons about the airplane industry I was unaware of. Ultimately, the course gave me insight into B2B partnerships that I think will be important when I work at Deloitte, which itself operates many B2B partnerships, and I never thought of it that way.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? D-bar or Designated Bar. At Kelley, we have a GroupMe for the class and occasionally someone will post a location for everyone to meet in the evenings. It is a great opportunity to socialize with the class and make memories. I love it when the whole class can get together outside of Kelley; I often find myself catching up with classmates I may not have seen in a while due to different schedules or talking with classmates I may not know as well.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Be more confident and worry less. I remember telling people that my experiences were just so different I wouldn’t be able to pivot to consulting. I often kept to myself because I was so stressed with trying to keep up with classes and recruiting (not to mention acclimating to this new life) that it often felt like everyone had it figured out and I was just failing. I remember my first team project in consulting academy; I started yelling at people because I just didn’t get it. Although obviously, at some point, I improved, it never felt like it and I was often in disbelief of any success. I didn’t consider that being accepted into Kelley meant there was a vote of confidence in my story and my ability to be able to achieve my career goals. I continued my cycle of self-doubt. It wasn’t until my internship that I saw the detriment of what I was doing – I was letting my imposter syndrome run my life. I returned from my internship with a new lease on life and focus for my 2nd year. I took opportunities to improve my leadership skills, executive presence, and where I could lead teams. If I could go back, I’d be less fearful, make more time to receive help and focus on building connections with my classmates.

What is the biggest myth about your school? I believe the biggest myth is that Kelley is just a marketing school, and job placement only occurs in the Midwest. Kelley is very good at marketing; the program has sparked my interest in marketing and I’m a marketing minor. You can be successful in almost any industry, and Kelley moves all over the U.S. (the only caveat is that most marketing jobs happen to be in the Midwest). Students move into Bloomington, but we don’t stay here.

I also want to give a special shout to Kelley’s consulting programs. The consulting academy and engagements like GLOBASE give Kelleys the tools needed to succeed in the consulting industry. Many of us receive offers from Big 4 and MBB firms alike. I landed an internship at Deloitte in their Los Angeles office and will return to Deloitte in Los Angeles full-time.

This year, we’ve started to take our skills externally to case competitions and have made 1st place for every competition we’ve entered (total of 6), beating even higher-ranked MBA programs. I’m excited to watch this part of Kelley grow. I am in awe at the success of my classmates in landing their dream jobs, whether it be in consulting, investment banking, or marketing. Whether in New York, Chicago, or the West coast, Kelley’s are everywhere and in everything!

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most is how human business school students are. When I was starting out on the application process, I held the notion that business school was just accountants and finance people in stuffy suits (and thus, not for me). My classmates come from diverse career backgrounds – they are former teachers, student affairs professionals, consultants, and military professionals. They have varied interests and lives outside of the program. We want to have a good time just as much as we want to succeed in our careers. It’s a true work hard play hard mentality that has confirmed for me business school can be for anyone.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I went to any and everything I could where Kelley was present during the admissions process. And I told my story the only way I know how – honestly and unapologetically.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate who came to mind is Paulos Tewolde. We both entered as Consortium fellows. Here’s a fun fact: we grew up a few miles from each other but never met until we came to Kelley! Since the beginning, I have seen Paulos be the person who just shows up for people. When he took on the role of class president, I watched that expand tenfold. Watching from afar I’ve admired how he always makes time for both the first- and second-year students, whether it was to hear concerns or help them with casing, he made sure people knew him. In addition to his duties, I know that his calendar was full. And yet he still made time for his mental health, meditating, and going to the gym in the mornings. When we’re in a role supporting others, I find it easy to forget about taking care of ourselves. I hope to develop such consistency because it will only make me a better servant leader.

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

1. Work on a project in another country for six months to a year

2. Help companies improve their hiring practices to open the pipelines to more non-traditional applicants from low-income backgrounds.

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

“From her first semester at Kelley, Brittany Bolden has wanted to make our school better, and she has put in the work to do just that. She volunteered to act as the student chair and coordinator of the first Diversity/Preview Weekend program that we’d held in person since 2019, and she made this program a great success. She worked closely with our admissions team to develop an impactful program that would introduce a diverse group of prospective students to the Kelley program and culture, as well as help them learn how to be competitive applicants.

She recruited alumni and current students to help support and facilitate the sessions. She worked hard to make sure each component of the program added value. She helped market the weekend — a whole group of prospective students from the West Coast made the trip to Bloomington for this program because of her efforts to promote Kelley and the opportunities a Kelley MBA can provide. As the program came to an end, she shared with the prospective students a compelling and personal story about her Kelley MBA experience; her inspirational words provided the most impactful message of the day. Her efforts were instrumental in motivating a number of candidates to apply to Kelley this year.

Beyond Diversity/Preview Weekend, Brittany has been a source of valuable and honest feedback about the program and the student experience. She has come to talk to me on multiple occasions about what we’re doing well and what we can improve. Many students hesitate to speak up to faculty or program administrators, but Brittany has served as a constructive and forthright voice for the students—and particularly for those who have traditionally been underserved. Her vision, leadership, and willingness to act on her principles make Brittany one of the best and brightest students in our Class of 2023.”

Gale Gold Nichols, CPCC
Executive Director
Full-Time MBA Program


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