2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Taylor Rasmussen, Vanderbilt University (Owen)

Taylor Rasmussen

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

“A curious, creative type with a New York City heart and a Midwestern soul.”

Hometown: Hinsdale, IL

Fun fact about yourself: I love playing tabletop games with my friends. Exploring the world through collaboration and imagination is one of my very favorite things to do.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Undergraduate: Georgetown University, BA in Philosophy, Theatre & Performance Studies

Graduate: Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, MFA in Professional Acting

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Professional Actor, employed by various theatres, production companies, and studios

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? The Mechanical Licensing Collective (The MLC), Nashville, TN

Where will you be working after graduation? JPMorgan Chase & Co., Associate (Chase Associate Program)

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Co-Vice President (VP) of Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion, Owen Student Government Association (OSGA); Treasurer, Owen Out & Allied; VP of Beer, Owen Cork & Barrel Association; Teaching Assistant (TA) for Leading Teams & Organizations and Innovation Strategy; Class of 2023 Communications Fellow; Class of 2023 Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Fellow; Deloitte National Case Competition 2021 Local Finalist; TEDxVanderbiltUniversity Speaker 2022

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My involvement in the Owen Student Government Association (OSGA) has been inexpressibly meaningful. OSGA, first and foremost, serves the students of Owen. We act as a liaison between Owen as an educational institution and Owen as a community. This past year, I served as a co-Vice President on the Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I) committee, which strives to support, uplift, and celebrate the diverse members of our student body.

I find meaning in OSGA because I feel that my committee and I continually make demonstrable and visible impact. I’m incredibly proud of the work that the DE&I committee have put into Humans of Owen, a series of monthly community-building events centered around storytelling. At each event, three or four members of the Owen community will reflect on a theme and share their anecdotes, memories, musings, and aspirations with their peers. It’s a chance for us to connect with each other not just as peers and classmates, but as beautiful, wonderful, complicated, multi-faceted people.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Given my arts background, I felt considerable doubt and uncertainty about pursuing my MBA and pivoting into a career in business. I worried that I wouldn’t fit in, and I worried that I would have too many differences to overcome.

I’m glad that I didn’t try to change who I was when I began recruiting. I feel proud that being myself has led me to where I am. Prior to entering business school, I would have said that the professional accomplishment that made me feel proudest was a New York City-based staged reading of a contemporary, Shakespeare-derived play that I wrote, because that reading felt like an exciting culmination of both my own artistic journey and my relationship with other smart, impactful artists – but today, I can’t help but track an unexpected throughline from the day of that reading to my first conversations with smart, impactful people from JPMorgan Chase. In the arts, I felt a strong sense of impact and accomplishment. During my conversations with folks from JPMorgan Chase, I also sensed a strong theme of impact and accomplishment. I’m glad that I didn’t compromise. I’m glad that I put my full self on the line when I interviewed. I’m glad that I felt confident enough to take a chance, and I’m glad that it paid off. I can’t wait to see what my future at JPMorgan Chase holds.

Why did you choose this business school? The opportunity to concentrate in Human and Organizational Performance (HOP) alongside Strategy struck me as distinctive, and appealed to me immediately. I knew that, no matter where I attended business school, I would graduate with a Strategy concentration; in other words, I knew that I would enter the workforce with a strong understanding of foundational frameworks for analysis, and with tools and techniques to inform sound decision-making. By pairing HOP with Strategy, however, I feel that I’ve gained a profound education in both theory and practice. My HOP courses have taught me about motivation theory, change management, business ethics, and leadership, at both the individual and organizational level. All of those things are crucial to the implementation of any strategy that a team might generate. I intend to drive positive change in the future, and I feel that my dual Strategy and HOP concentrations have uniquely equipped me to do so.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Ranga Ramanujam teaches a course called Managerial and Organizational Effectiveness (MOE). Of all the course I’ve taken throughout my MBA experience, MOE has been the most directly and actionably applicable. The course begins with a reasonably straightforward question: What does effectiveness mean? If we want to make a difference within the business world, whether on a personal or team or organization-wide level, this question will always be helpful and applicable. I learned a lot about networking, business and personal relationships, organizational design (both physical and ideological)– and how to catalyze culture shifts.

Also, for what it’s worth, I feel very lucky to have taken such a cool, incisive, interpersonally-focused class. I think I learn something new and exciting every time I’m in the same room with Ranga, and this course exemplifies that for me.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My step-dad pursued his MBA several years before I did, and he always spoke so fondly about his cohort. Owen doesn’t have cohorts, structurally, because our class is so small – but I think that enables a sense of closeness among the entire student body.

Owen hosts an event every Thursday called Closing Bell. It’s a social event involving community programming and class-wide activities. One of our administrators approached me earlier this year during a Closing Bell featuring on-campus, class-wide karaoke, and she expressed how rare and special Closing Bell was. I’ve only ever experienced business school at Owen, and for that reason, I suppose I assumed that something like Closing Bell was probably par for the course – but, the more I talk to other business school students, the more I come to understand how unique Closing Bell is. I love that we all get to know each other a little, no matter which program we’re a part of. I love that Owen students all get to spend time together at the end of every week.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I moved very quickly when I began my MBA. I tackled club leadership, academic success, and recruiting all in the early months of my journey. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned to prioritize. I know myself well enough to understand that I’ll always want to have a high level of involvement with any organization I’m a part of, but I now have a better grasp of my skill sets. I know where I’m best at adding value, and where I most like to spend my time. For example – I’m an awesome content curation and big-idea person, and I can suggest interpersonal connections that might facilitate great programming. Other people might have killer strengths when it comes to operations, analytics, or consistent follow-up.

In other words – it’s okay not to be excellent at everything! Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is part of being a great leader. I wish I’d been confident enough to acknowledge my weaknesses earlier, but I’m glad that I’ll be able to enter my next job with a greater comfort in that acknowledgment.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Owen has a reputation for being deeply personal, and deeply interpersonal. Broadly, I’d say that’s true. That said – Owen is still a business school. “Competitive, not cutthroat” is an adage that pervades my classmates’ ideologies, but competition still exists! At the end of the day, it’s okay to look out for yourself and for your own communities alongside others.

What surprised you the most about business school? In many ways, I didn’t expect to learn as much as I did. I knew that I would gain the benefits of understanding new language and an exciting and intelligent network, but I didn’t realize just how applicable various academic frameworks would be to the way I now grapple with real-world problems. I’ve always loved philosophy, but I now find myself fascinated by the economics that compliment things like “is” and “ought.” Sometimes, my friends and I debate ideologies for hours, and that, above all else, is truly everything I’ve ever wanted out of graduate school.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Owen is a small, close-knit community of kind, caring people. I’ve never felt anything but encouragement and acceptance from my classmates and the faculty at Owen, and I’ve never had to compromise when it comes to expressing who I am, what I stand for, or what I care about.  If you bring as much authenticity as you can to your application – whatever that means to you – you’ll find more success as you move through the process, and you’ll be happier when you arrive on campus and meet your peers.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? “Most” is such a big word – but the person who comes to mind when I reflect on this question is Ba’Carri Johnson. Ba’Carri is one of the first people who made me feel comfortable expressing my full self at Owen. She listens closely, asks insightful and grounded questions, and has a deep and undeniable interest in the world around her. She’s proven herself to be an incredible leader, but also knows when and how to draw boundaries, and this enables her to bring her best self to both the classroom and her extracurricular roles. I’m so excited to see where she goes and what she does in the future.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First off, I want to make a case for comprehensive transgender healthcare coverage withi the United States throughout my organization. I’ll be moving to Ohio next summer, and Ohio has different coverage regulations than other states do. In the future, I hope that other transgender employees within my organization never feel hesitant or uncertain about the coverage they’ll receive, and I hope I can help my organization set an exciting and progressive precedent!

I also hope to make a case for deliberate anti-racist work within corporate spaces. I chose to sign with JPMorgan Chase in no small part due to Jamie Dimon’s extensive

Commitment to this work. I want to see a future where people of all races and backgrounds feel important and included in American business, and I hope to use my Owen MBA to advance that goal.

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

“Al Rasmussen has had a profound impact at Owen. He has been an inspiration in the classroom – analytical, courageous, intelligent, passionate, thoughtful, and at the same time open and inviting. In nearly every class session, Al was a model for all his peers in what a learning orientation and a growth mindset really entails. Al would always seek to distill the material to its conceptual essence and link it to a personal experience that made it practical and relatable. But even more powerfully, the infectious enthusiasm that Al displayed for the class material and the process of learning infused energy and excitement about the possibilities of the material and its potential to transform the world of work brought out the best in every member of the class. Al made it cool for everyone to want to dive deeper into the material and make it actionable in their lives. Al’s commitment to transformational learning has been long-lasting and, at Owen, spanned the curriculum.

Al’s academic excellence coupled with a unique ability to set classroom culture alone merit this recognition, but Al’s contributions were much more expansive and have served to make the classroom environment the best it can be. Al put his considerable professional acting talents to work on behalf of all students in the prestigious role of Communications Fellow. Al’s teaching skills honed tutoring and guest teaching were on full display with 20 first-year MBAs. The incredible attention to detail and sharp insights warmly and thoughtfully delivered turned nervous presenters into confident, effective ones and transformed more accomplished speakers into elite presenters. It was all done with great care, compassion, and enthusiasm. Al always motivates everyone to be their best. I also worked closely with Al as a TA for my Leading Teams and Organizations course. And his work there was spectacular – always providing expert, detailed feedback that made slides and written materials clearer, the take aways more impactful, and the examples used more resonant and inclusive.

In addition to the formal and informal work in the Owen classroom, Al has also been a transformational force for making Owen a more inclusive environment and source of belonging for all. That deep commitment manifested as VP of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Owen Student Government and serving on the executive committee of Owen Out and Allied. In both roles through formal programming, social events, and setting norms of inclusiveness and recognition in every meeting at Owen. Al does this all in a way that makes people feel deeply that they matter and are included. On top of Al’s brilliance and range of skills, it is the way he makes everyone feel cared for, excited, heard, and valued that always leaves a lasting mark.

For being a model scholar-leader that has through dedicated efforts to foster connection and inclusion as well as consistently embodying and modeling the best of what the Owen can be, Al Rasmussen is one of the Top 50 Graduates of the MBA Class of 2023.”

Tim Vogus
Brownlee O. Currey, Jr. Professor of Management


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