Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Nicolette Horning, Washington University (Olin)

Nicolette Horning

Washington University in St. Louis, Olin Business School

“I drive improvements in social and environmental issues through data-grounded holistic communication and narrative.”

Hometown: Paradise, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am a certified storm-spotter and can estimate wind speeds with precision. I discovered this talent after completing a National Weather Service storm-spotting class. I have a special phone number I can call if I notice ominous cloud formations.

Undergraduate School and Major: Walla Walla University, Bachelor of Arts in English

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Telluride Ski Resort, Project Manager

What has been your favorite part of St. Louis so far? What makes St. Louis such a great place to earn an MBA? St. Louis has a small-town vibe while supporting elite healthcare institutions, higher learning, technology, entrepreneurship, and sports. Because of this small-town feel, getting acquainted with locals and becoming involved in more localized projects is easy. Yet, these opportunities can also grow immeasurably due to St. Louis’s national reach.

Forest Park, which is right up against WashU, is one of the most beautiful parks I have ever seen. There are great running paths and cycling paths, and the park also sports a performing arts center, a zoo, an art museum and a history museum alongside its other courts, fields, gardens and fountains.

You completed your global immersion earlier this year. What was the best part of the immersion experience for you? What was the biggest takeaway you gained? One of my biggest takeaways from the global immersion was the intricacy of international supply chains and the political actions often required to leverage businesses toward fighting climate change. One such experience was working with a company in Chile that produces electric passenger buses designed to withstand highly corrosive environments. I learned a lot about how important it is to balance vision with iterative problem-solving and be aware of local concerns while addressing national and international regulations and relationships. This takes a special alacrity matched with perseverance and an ability to shape a narrative that scales from the local story to the international epic.

Aside from your immersion and classmates, what was the key part of WashU Olin’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you?
A few things that attracted me to WashU include the small class sizes, the collaboration woven into courses, platform concentrations, extracurriculars and the school’s strength in entrepreneurship. I was looking for a program that emphasized a spirit of entrepreneurship through and through and one that was collaborative and discussion-based—and I found it!

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at WashU Olin? I have loved attending the platform concentration events put on by the entrepreneurship program, wherein we get to hear from entrepreneurs across the country via weekly seminars with drinks and chats afterwards. These seminars offer a unique opportunity to learn from some of the country’s most innovative and inspiring minds and connect with them after the talk.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2020, while working at the ski resort, I approached the general manager with a plan to renovate and rebrand the cafe located within one of the hotels as a gourmet coffee shop–showcasing a new concept meant to bring more skiers into the hotel and provide a fun space for families to connect while visiting the ski town. Though it was outside my job description, he gave me the green light and a couple of months to complete the project. I worked with the GM to create contracts and hired an interior architect, graphic artist, plumbers, builders, electricians and painters. I oversaw the reconstruction of the space while I researched and sourced raw ingredients, created a new menu, hired and onboarded a team of supervisors and baristas, and helped to implement a new point-of-sale system. I consider this to be my biggest career accomplishment since it showcases my innovative spirit and my ability to identify and resolve brand dis-synchrony.

Describe your biggest achievement in the MBA program so far: As someone with a nontraditional background, keeping up with the program’s pace has been challenging and rewarding. My tendency was to take a central role in the few group projects my undergraduate coursework required. However, the number of group projects in our first semester necessitated distributed teamwork and helped me learn to trust my peers in team projects. We had to figure out how to best communicate with one another, how to rely on each other, how to divide work appropriately, learn from one another, and how to best utilize our skill sets to produce our best work. When I think about my biggest achievement in the program thus far, it is growing from a habit of individual effort leading to success to being a thoroughgoing team member and facilitator, able to not only lead teams but follow in them.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? Thanks for the Feedback: The Science and Art of Receiving Feedback Well by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen has been a transformative book for me. It has helped me in reshaping my understanding of feedback, how to calmly and thoughtfully hear and integrate what would usually be considered “bad” feedback into something actionable – and even how to be better at giving feedback of my own.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into WashU Olin’s MBA program? Speak with current students! One of the best decisions I made during the application process was reaching out to current students and asking them about their experiences at Olin. In addition, having more personal data points to reference in interviews is really helpful. For example, “I talked to Nicki Horning, who mentioned appreciating the Sling Health program to help launch healthcare startups. I am interested in learning more about that.” In addition to being helpful for your own decision-making process, it will make you stand out.

In addition, find your stories. Those little stories about things that keep you motivated, or a story about that stranger you met on a plane who inspired you. Don’t write generic personal statements—light them up with stories that showcase your motivators and passions. Instead of “I am a driven person,” write about a time you showcased that trait and let the reader conclude, “Wow, this student is driven.” Stories stick.


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