2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Connie Li, Wisconsin School of Business

Connie Li (They/Them)

University of Wisconsin – Madison (Wisconsin School of Business)

“An ambitious and hardworking mother who thrives on being an analytical and compassionate leader.”

Hometown: Harbin, China

Fun fact about yourself: I am an adrenaline seeker who loves skydiving, bungee jumping, hiking in the Himalayan region, island hopping in the Philippines, and practicing Brazilian Ju-Jitsu. 

Undergraduate School and Degree: Pennsylvania University B.S. Organizational Leadership, Minor in Psychology

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Organizational Development Manager at Specialty Cheese Company Inc.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Summer Strategy Consultant at Accenture

Where will you be working after graduation? Strategy Consultant at Accenture

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: 

– Co-President of the Out for Business Club and Joint Venture Club

– Vice President of the Graduate Business Consulting Association

– Best Presenter in the Ignite Case Competition

– Team received 2nd place in the Graduate Marketing Network Case Competition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The WSB MBA program offers advanced data analytics courses that teach cutting-edge ways to utilize data to make strategic decisions. These are the same skills that I was seeking. In addition to getting through an FT-MBA program, running three student clubs, and raising two kids under six, I have been dedicating my free time to taking Quantum Computing classes with MIT XPro. Knowing the possibilities of the next phase of computing power is exciting.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2017, I was hired to rebrand a legacy cheese snack product. While I was the sole brand manager and sales and marketing person for an entire year, I needed more resources and marketing data due to the uniqueness of the product. These limitations did not stop me from crafting a unique go-to-market strategy. With the operation team’s help, we successfully launched our products on e-commerce in six months. As a result, this brand made multi-million dollars in revenue in the first year.

Why did you choose this business school? After living and working all over the world, I have fallen in love with Wisconsin and its people. Under the influence of “Midwest Nice,” I became a happier, humbler, and more patient leader. After attempting to restructure a 250-employee business, I realized that transforming organizations and making informed decisions require data analytics and leadership skills. Wisconsin School of Business offers advanced courses in business analytics and engaging case-method leadership lectures. There is no better place to acquire the most valuable lessons of my life.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? “Chia-Jung Tsay is a highly accomplished Associate Professor in the Management and Human Resources Department and the Bruce and Janice Ellig Professor in Management. Her research examines the psychological processes that influence decision-making about performance. She investigates the role of perception, expertise, and nonconscious biases in professional selection and advancement. In 2021, she was named one of the “World’s Best 40 Under 40 Business School Professors” by Poets & Quants.

I am taking Professor Tsay’s Diversity and Inclusive Leadership in Organizations class. This course is a symposium of the most critical and current DEI topics. As a student who has taken DEI and gender study courses before, I was used to reading textbooks on biases and being lectured on some of the most depressing issues. To my surprise, Dr. Tsay’s case method class is creative and engaging. Most importantly, she has provided a safe space for students to share their unique perspectives. Guest speakers are DEI leaders in different industries who would share their views and techniques on handling pressing issues. The combination of peer and professional learning provided me with a better understanding of DEI issues in the workplace, as well as the confidence to apply major theories in diversity research to diagnose problems and make informed decisions in my future positions.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? People Analytics is my favorite class because it uses data to improve diversity, inclusion, equity, and employee performance in different workplace settings. We are developing hands-on skills to utilize data to develop and evaluate human capital policies, practices, and strategies. Most importantly, Professor Jirs Meuris demonstrates how to tell a story after data integration and analysis from a consulting perspective. I am excited to apply the new knowledge and skills in my next role.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition at our school is celebrating diversity. The Multicultural Club hosts a show-and-tell event where students from different backgrounds present something unique to their culture. The Out for Business Club organizes a Holiday Jingle Jam party to raise awareness and build allyship for the queer community.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? As a mother with two young kids, I can’t wish for a better result for my MBA journey – graduating from my FT-MBA program with a return offer from one of the top consulting firms. I’ve been surrounded by caring classmates, understanding faculty, and attentive student administration and service staff. If I had done it differently, I would have gained more confidence in myself in the first two semesters. Self-doubts can turn into perfectionism or even burnout, which is counterintuitive. Every candidate should remember that everyone brings a unique perspective to the table. We all have everything we need to succeed if we keep learning and moving forward.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Having lived in more than 6 cities across three countries, I fell in love with Madison, WI. I am a foodie who enjoys trying new cuisines. Initially, I did not expect this city to be diverse. There are many food options within walking distance of the School of Business. My favorite thing is trying new restaurants with classmates during lunch breaks.

In addition, Madison is a very vibrant city with lots of activities. The UW-Madison campus is in between two scenery lakes. Summers are always filled with water sports. In the winter, every inch is covered in snow. I enjoy taking my kids to sledding hills and ice-skating rings. There are many bike paths. One surprise is that experienced cyclists ride their bikes all year.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised to receive endless support and encouragement as a mother. My son was 6-month-old when I started my MBA journey. I was afraid I would have to sacrifice any family time. On the contrary, Mark Matosian, the Director of Student Services, and Steve Boeder, the Director of the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management, have been very helpful and attentive to ensure I can be a good mother and MBA candidate. In addition, my cohort has been extremely understanding and respectful of my family time. It takes a village to raise kids. I am proud that the Wisconsin School of Business is a part of our family’s village. My MBA journey couldn’t have gone so smoothly without my WSB family.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? One thing that gave me an edge in the WSB application process was demonstrating my readiness and eagerness to learn in my MBA interview. As someone who was changing careers, I wanted to ensure that my MBA program had the right courses and network for my next step. First, I took an honest look at my experience, skills, and network to see where I could have done better in terms of reaching my future goals. Next, I designed a curriculum that would strengthen my skillset. During my interview with the program director, I explained how I envision the Wisconsin School of Business’s Technology Strategy and Product Management program helping me achieve my career goals. Steve was sure this program was right for me because I had prepared well.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Kwesi Kwapong, MBA ’22, was a Consortium Fellow who has been my mentor since I accepted my MBA offer. As an architect and young entrepreneur, he used our MBA program to pivot to marketing at Hach Company in the Environmental & Applied Solutions industry. Kwesi did well in all the classes, and many professors wanted him to be a teaching assistant and a possible Ph.D. candidate. During his free time, Kwesi reviewed resumes and offered mock interviews to candidates like me. Finally, his wisdom and kindness inspired me to pay it forward by offering recruitment assistance to peers.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My passion and expertise are in the consumer products and goods industry. Ultimately, I would love to be a CEO of a CPG company while running a non-profit organization that provides recruitment support for parents in rural areas of the Midwest region.

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

“Connie Li has been an outstanding member of the Wisconsin FT MBA, Class of 2023.  From the time they arrived to campus, as part of our New Admit student weekend, Connie demonstrated an innate curiosity and enthusiasm to embrace their MBA studies and contributions to the MBA program. Connie has been a student in the Erdman Center for Operations and Technology Management where they have maintained a 3.585 cumulative GPA.

* They are determined to be inclusive while also maintaining complete focus on their values of how our community should be built. In the classroom, they have a unique ability to ask questions that address the core issues of whatever topic we are discussing. Connie’s thoughts always push the class forward in a positive direction.

* Connie has been a crucial part of our MBA experience, sometimes in an obvious and visible way, but more often in the role of facilitator that many of us do not recognize day-to-day.  Connie is supportive of every person and has asked for nothing in return.

* They show extreme leadership and is able to collect and steer groups of people in impressive ways while also being able to intelligently listen to and balance their individual concerns. Connie is a natural leader. Connie does everything with full effort and with a team mentality.

Connie was nominated by many of their classmates for Poets and Quants. Some of the comments from classmates included:

Student 1: “Connie is one of those rare candidates who can do it all: Connie excels academically, leads extra-curricular events (Jingle Jangle is but one example), and mentors peers both personally and professionally, all while raising two children with a husband. Connie asks some of the most thought-provoking questions in class and will ask questions they perceive their classmates may need or want the answer to (I have benefited from this a number of times). They are one of the best leaders I’ve had the good fortune of working with, placing their teammates’ needs above their own, and taking initiative when no one else would; their ability to accomplish all that they do at such a high level is something to be admired.”

Student 2: “Connie is not only one of the smartest students in the MBA program but is also a key leader within the Grad community. They have gone out of their way to assist others in finding internships and full-time opportunities while also being an involved student organization leader planning meaningful events. Connie is a prime example of what it means to be an immeasurable MBA student making impact.”

Student 3: “Connie has been a great support since the starting even before I entered the United States. They are my TSPM Mentor and has been immensely supportive in my career. They are also a huge DE&I advocate and has organized events which has been a wonderful experience.”

Student 4: “Connie is honest in giving feedback and support to the people on their career and courses. Connie pro-actively empathizes with student’s situation and gives necessary time to carve out a plan to help them advance in their journey.”

Student 5: “My fellow classmate Connie is the most selfless students in our batch who is highly invested in the success of their classmates. As the president of the Consulting Club, Connie has tried their best to help anyone in the class interested in consulting. That includes students not just in the MBA but also MSBA programs. They have gone out of their way to share their time for consulting case preps and sharing resources. Moreover, Connie is very humble, cheerful, warm, and friendly and takes the first step in building relationships or initiating conversations. A trait that I believe few students possess.”

Student 6: “Since the first day of our MBA program, Connie has consistently been showing up and sharing their voice and resources with all other students in classes and on other communication channels. As a member of the Consulting Club leadership, Connie made tremendous efforts to grow the number of members and provide them with essential training for career recruiting, either by themselves or via the club’s events.”

Connie’s willingness to go above and beyond outside of the classroom is what defines Connie and why Connie’s classmates respect and appreciate their contributions.”

Steven Boeder
Director, Erdman Center
Wisconsin School of Business



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