2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Claire Howard, University of Pittsburgh (Katz)

Claire Howard

University of Pittsburgh, Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business

“Resilient, Disciplined, Collaborative, Self-Aware, Adaptable, Ethical, Observant, Accountable, Dependable, Confident, Supportive, Attentive, Curious, Passionate, Ambitious.”

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Fun fact about yourself:  I am a 1st degree black belt working on my 2nd in Tae Kwon Do and classically trained in Flute and Opera singing.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I attended the University of North Florida Coggin College of Business where I got my Bachelor of Business Administration

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I worked as a Partner – Client Success at Pacesetter Technology

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I interned at Bristol Myers Squibb in Princeton, New Jersey

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working at Bristol Myers Squibb as an IT Rotational/Leadership Development Program Associate.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

I served as a Board Member on our Student Executive Board, acted as Marketing and Social Media Manager and Fall Ball Coordinator. After my term, I acted as a consultant to the incoming new board members when needed.

Volunteer/Mentor for Communities in Schools of Pittsburgh and Alleghany County

I graciously was awarded as a University of Pittsburgh Black Alumni Scholar

I was honored to be a National Black MBA Association Scholar

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I had many proud moments thanks to the support and opportunities within my time at business school. However, a few truly stick out.

I proudly was elected and served on our Student Executive Board for Katz. There, I took on the responsibility of planning our Fall Ball/Gala. In this role, I introduced a wonderful partnership with the Alleghany County Community chapter of Communities in Schools. They are a non-profit organization that dedicates their time and resources to providing under privileged schools and kids with the support, empowerment, resources and mentorship. 100% of the ticket sales were donated to the local chapter amounting in over $2,500. We hosted them at our Fall Ball, where they spoke on where the funds were going and were able to add new Katz student volunteers, and mentors. This was an organization I had been volunteering with since my undergraduate time at another chapter in Florida; it was such an amazing opportunity to be able to create a new partnership to better the community. I also championed our diverse cohort of Muslim students by providing Halal snacks in their private room dedicated for prayer during Ramadan to break their fast. Since we as students spent dusk until dawn studying at Mervis Hall, our main building and home away from home, I wanted to make sure all students felt accommodated.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  In my professional career, one of my proudest moments was during the height of the pandemic. I and our product development team were able to create and implement digital solutions that allowed our clients to stay open, functioning, and profitable during the pandemic. In turn, they were able to stay safely connected and maintain relationships with their clients and the community during a time where we as a society were so isolated and disconnected. Knowing I helped enhance health safety precautions to preserve that connection is rewarding during such scary and uncertain times, using my skills and doing my part in the world.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Katz because of the experiential learning classes. As a student who works best hands-on, seeing so many experience-based learning courses Katz had to offer was the biggest driver. Rather than just being lectured or asked to read an article, they had an integrated and horizontal learning approach. They took some of the necessary lectures and readings, but then actually applied them to not just a silo but broad and real scenarios with real companies. In addition to the integrated and experienced-based learning opportunities, diversity being at the core of what Katz is was so important to me when it came to the learning environment. It was a wonderful full-circle experience when I was nominated and hand-selected to participate in the pilot of the new experiential and integrated learning course in my last semester. It taught me more than I ever could have imagined in a course in a unique and live environment. My classmates and I, as pilot students, were so proud to continue growing the core of what Katz is and will provide for future students to come.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Choosing a favorite MBA professor to me is like a parent picking a favorite child. If I had to choose, based on the most significant impact a professor had, I would say my favorite MBA professor was Professor Elise Boyes, who taught my Financial Accounting class. I took her class my very first semester of business school, which was a very quantitative heavy and challenging semester. The first week of classes, I was nervous, intimidated, and excited all at once. It was at that time that she made an inspirational impression on me that would never forget. We had a conversation in the hallway before class that shaped my time at Katz – and my future career as a businesswoman. It was honest and real, yet it ignited a fire within me and changed the way I approached business school. Her patience, along with the time and encouragement she gave me throughout the semester, was integral for me, in and out of her class. She inspired me to push through even when I felt discouraged or thought less of myself. She gave great words of wisdom, that I will hold dear, as one woman in business to another who was aspiring to shape the business world. Although I didn’t want to go into accounting, she made learning about it so fun and exciting! I can genuinely say there were moments in her class that she made every student seriously consider being an accountant. Her patience, encouragement and support I took from that very first semester followed me through my entire time at business school.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event would probably have to be our Friday Forums. They were events that ranged from DE&I Inclusive Learning sessions to alumni and executive panels to Excel workshops. Friday Forums were great opportunities for clubs to get involved as well for event partnerships. They were consistent and always had so many different options. It was also at a great time when we wouldn’t have classes and was typically after TA sessions. Having these additional free learning opportunities, which were also in some ways networking events and conversation starters with fellow classmates, shows how much Katz was trying to invest in us outside of the classroom. It was a space and content not found in a textbook or article that allowed for honest dialogue, questions, and advancing our horizons.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Although I did not hear about any myths from other people, I had my own assumption about my school. My myth was that because University of Pittsburgh is a large university –and that I knew quite a few Katz Graduate School of Business alumni –the class sizes were going to be huge. It was a large university therefore my experience in Business School was going to be in large lecture halls with at least 100 students. To be frank, it worried me as that was a bit intimidating. It made me wonder how I was going to be able to learn from my classmates or have good discussions in class. However, that was completely different compared to what I actually experienced. Our cohort-based class strategy has us organized into the perfect class size. With about 30-50 students per class, it was perfect for us to be able to have genuine and thought-provoking learning experiences with each other and the professor. I was able to build relationships with all of my classmates in some capacity and learn more than I ever expected, and I couldn’t be more grateful.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most about business school was that it exceeded my expectations. I had thoughts and assumptions about how I thought it was going to go. It was going to be busy, and sometimes very difficult; to say it met those expectations was an understatement in the best way possible. It challenged me in ways that looking back helped me develop who I am as a person and who I want to be as a professional. I learned more than I expected from my classmates. We all came from so many different and unique industries that we acquired key skills from each other that will allow us to truly be well-rounded and strong leaders.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Melchizedek (Mel) Amago. Mel is one of those people you come by who truly just embodies what being inspirational is. He is positive and encouraging to everyone he comes in contact with. As the President of Katz Alliance, he really engaged the Katz community in so many ways encouraging education and awareness and how we can integrate that into our personal and professional lives as we grow to be future leaders. I cannot wait to see where his determination and resilience will take him in his career. Seeing how many lives – mine included – that he’s already touched, I have no doubt of the lives he has yet to make a positive and significant impact on in the professional business world and world in general.

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

1. I want to be a CEO. I want the responsibility and accountability of running an entire company.

2. I want to establish a long-standing partnership/sponsorship between my company and the national Communities in Schools charity.

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

“Claire has been a highly engaged member of the Katz community, whose approach to her time at Katz can be summarized as “always going the extra mile.”

In her first semester at Katz, Claire ran for and was elected to a position on our Student Executive Board. She recognized that as students returned to in-person learning after being virtual due to COVID-19, that there was also a deep need for students to feel connected to the Katz community more broadly than just in the classroom. In response, she was intentional about leveraging her position on the board to create opportunities for that community engagement. She also regularly utilized her position on the board to advocate for her fellow students. She was particularly adept at being a bridge between the student body and the administration, always able to help each side understand the perspective, priorities, and motivations of the other, which helped to continually improve the student experience.

Claire has also been a key driver of equity, diversity, and inclusion initiatives at Katz. She participated in our Inclusive Leadership Series co-curricular programming to further hone her leadership skills through an ED&I lens. She also consulted with the Graduate Programs Office on the development of new ED&I programming, in response to feedback she was hearing from her fellow students. She has also been keen at noticing opportunities to improve inclusivity, such as suggesting updates to resources for students unfamiliar with processes at a U.S. university, and requesting that the school provide food for students needing to break their fast late in the evening during Ramadan when our in-building café is typically closed.

Academically, Claire has taken full advantage of the unique experience-based learning opportunities that are a hallmark of Katz. In her second year, she enrolled in a pilot of the new Integrated Learning Academy, in which students integrated the knowledge and skills from the MBA core curriculum and applied it to a live case of a biotech startup that would allow patients to monetize their health data utilizing blockchain, while providing medical researchers access to a broader, more inclusive set of patient data.

Professionally, she has continued to go above and beyond as she wraps up her time at Katz. Claire is enrolled in our Signature MBA program, which can be completed in 18 months. However, she accepted a job offer for the IT Rotational/Leadership Development Program at Bristol Myers Squibb, which doesn’t begin for several months after her coursework concluded. Rather than take some well-earned time to relax after a rigorous 18 months, Claire sought out an additional professional opportunity and is spending the remainder of the spring semester working for the David Berg Center for Ethics and Leadership, where she is working with the director on revitalizing the Center’s fellowship program for future generations of students.

In summary, Claire has truly seized every opportunity at Katz to go the extra mile in her academic and professional development, as well as in her co-curricular engagement and her significant contribution to the community development and inclusive culture of the school. She has ensured that her time spent at Katz will have a lasting impact not only on her own professional endeavors, but also on the Katz community now and for years to come.”

Laura Oknefski, M.Ed.
Director, Graduate Programs
Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business


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