2023 MBA To Watch: Amara Barakat, UCLA (Anderson)

Amara Barakat (she/her)

UCLA, Anderson School of Management

“A passionate, outspoken changemaker who values humor and fearlessly pursues new challenges and adventures.”

Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio

Fun fact about yourself: I climbed and summitted Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest freestanding mountain in the world!

Undergraduate School and Degree: The Ohio State University, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Specialization: Economics, Integrated Business and Engineering Honors Program

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Analyst, Rios Partners in Washington, DC

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Summer Associate, Deloitte in Los Angeles

Where will you be working after graduation? Senior Consultant, Deloitte in Los Angeles

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Leadership Roles:

Second Year: VP of Equity, Diversity & Inclusion, Anderson Student Association (ASA); VP of Marketing & Admissions, Food & Agriculture Business Association (FABA); Embracing Diversity Week (EDW) Committee; Leadership@Anderson

First Year: Executive Director, Net Impact; Director of Education & Ally Resources, Out@Anderson; Director of Middle East Cultural Events, Middle East Africa Club; Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion, AnderTech; Leadership@Anderson; Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Conference Session Director

Community Work:  Net Impact Board Fellow; Student EDI Advisory Council; Social Impact Consulting Corps; Anti-Racism Committee

Honors: Student Investment Fund Fellowship; Dean’s Scholar; Dean’s List

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being elected and serving as the Anderson Student Association (ASA) VP of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI). In this role, I had the opportunity to advocate on behalf of the student body to create a more inclusive environment at Anderson. I believe that EDI should be at the center of every conversation and decision, and I was able to bring this lens to the ASA Cabinet as one of 14 elected Cabinet members in the student government. I also created and pushed forward a new bylaw that requires every Anderson student club to have representation on the Student EDI Advisory Council, which ultimately establishes EDI as a core component of the Anderson student experience.

Another huge part of this role is having conversations with students around their EDI ideas, questions, and concerns. I am honored that my classmates trusted me as a safe space to share their stories and experiences, and that I was able to support them when they needed to address a concern. In connecting with so many of my classmates one-on-one, I was also able to develop lasting relationships with people that I would not have gotten to know otherwise.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my previous role at Rios Partners, I was involved in the COVID-19 response efforts for the largest integrated healthcare network in the country. I was responsible for supporting the procurement and delivery of medical devices, supplies, and PPE for the medical teams and patients in hospitals and healthcare facilities. In a time of so much uncertainty, isolation and loss, I am proud to have contributed to the solutions that directly impacted health outcomes and people’s lives.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Anderson because of the collaborative, student-run culture, and deep focus on social impact. Coming from a non-profit and government background prior to business school, this was extremely important to me in making the transition into a private sector career, especially as I want to be able to bring a social impact lens to everything that I do in the future. I believe collaboration is essential to achieving social change, and I knew that coming to Anderson would allow me to develop and thrive as a leader who is not only passionate about change, but also has the tools and skills to translate this passion into action.

Because of the trust that Anderson places in students, I was able to make decisions and work together with my classmates in building all aspects of the student experience, especially in the social impact and EDI spaces. In addition to serving as the ASA VP of EDI, I spent a lot of my time in identity-based community spaces where I was able to help build professional and educational programming for clubs and larger events like LGBTQ+ Awareness Week and the ROMBA Conference. Additionally, my class was the first class to be fully back in-person since the pandemic, so it was crucial that we all worked together to reestablish the Anderson culture and create the experience that we wanted to see for ourselves and future classes.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Gayle Northrop is hands down my favorite professor at Anderson. I was so lucky to be able to take two of her courses, Social Impact Consulting and Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation in South Africa, and I wish that I could have her as a professor again. Gayle is the most knowledgeable, passionate, and inspiring professor that I have ever had, and she truly exemplifies what it means to be a professional dedicated to social impact and social change. She has a wealth of experience and knowledge to share. I truly do not understand how she can do everything that she does and do it so well. I can only hope to be half as cool as she is when I grow up!

What was your favorite course as an MBA? I recently returned from South Africa for the Global Immersion course on Social Entrepreneurship and Innovation, which was my favorite course at Anderson. The class not only combined all of my professional interests, but also truly challenged me to think differently about solving complex problems and allowed me to learn more about the history and culture of the country. During our time in South Africa, we had the opportunity to visit and hear from entrepreneurs and social enterprises focused on solving some of the country’s greatest challenges. It was extremely inspiring to connect with and learn from these leaders firsthand, and I am confident that I will bring the insights that I gained in this course into my future career.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite event at Anderson is Embracing Diversity Week (EDW), Anderson’s flagship event celebrating the diversity of our community and encouraging discussion about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) between current students, prospective students, alumni, and the greater public. The week features seven signature events, the annual Identity Food Festival, and the Embracing Diversity Conference, a two-day event for diverse applicants to gain insight into the admissions process and engage with the Anderson community.

This year, I had the privilege of leading the planning of EDW in my role as ASA VP of EDI, and I am even more inspired by the broad range of ideas, perspectives, and conversations that the week facilitates. Many business school events are limited to one or two of these audiences, but EDW demonstrates Anderson’s broad commitment to EDI by creating dynamic spaces for connection and conversation among all of these groups. EDW not only provides a place for everyone during the week, but also encourages further conversations surrounding EDI all year round.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? Taking more time to have fun! One of the biggest parts of an MBA is learning how to find balance and, in many cases, say no. Over the past two years, I had commitments involving academics, leadership positions, summer internship, and part-time jobs, I often found myself saying no to social events and spending more time with the friends that I made along the way. If I had the chance to do it over again, I would definitely choose to find a better balance between my personal and professional life, because in the end my friendships and relationships are one of the most important aspects of my life!

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about Anderson is that everyone is a stereotypical West Coaster: super chill, laid back, and always outside. While there are many students who share these traits, Anderson students are not all the same. Anderson is full of diverse individuals from all over the world who come from extremely unique backgrounds and bring diverse views, perspectives, and life experiences. This allows for a richer learning experience with healthy dialogue and disagreement both inside and outside the classroom. While I had been exposed to diverse perspectives before business school, spending the past two years with my classmates has introduced me to entirely new ways of thinking and has led me to become a more well-rounded, empathetic leader.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? The food!!! LA is obviously huge, and therefore home to countless different communities with rich traditions and pride around food. There are SO many different cuisines and restaurants. Honestly, it can be overwhelming at times, but also very exciting because you will never run out of food to try, restaurants to explore, and cuisines to learn about. Food is one of my top hobbies, so trying new restaurants and sharing food with my classmates and friends has been an important way for me to build community and deeper relationships throughout my time at Anderson. Many of my favorite memories from the past two years involve food and sharing meals with the people that will have a lasting impact on my life.

What surprised you the most about business school? Coming from a competitive honors program in undergrad, I expected that business school would be even more competitive. I was pleasantly surprised to find that my classmates support and uplift each other, and celebrate each other’s successes both inside and outside of the classroom.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? The most important thing that I did in the MBA application process was remain authentic and true to myself. Going into the process, many people think that schools are looking for something specific, and that if you do not come from a “traditional” background or fit a certain mold, you will not be a competitive candidate. I knew that I never wanted to compromise who I was, and ultimately decided to bring my whole self to every aspect of the application process. It quickly became clear that Anderson celebrates diversity of background and thought in all ways, and values each individual for their unique contributions. As early as my admissions interview, my professional and personal backgrounds felt not only accepted, but celebrated. In the end, approaching the application process in this way gave me more confidence in myself and allowed me to remain truly authentic throughout my entire Anderson experience.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate that I admire most is Stephen Mendoza. Stephen was on my learning team, and therefore one of the first classmates that I met at Anderson. Right before we started our first year, Stephen and his partner had their first baby, but this did not stop him from going all in on the MBA experience. He was always one of the most active participants in class, took on a number of leadership positions from the start, and made time to truly get to know those around him. If anyone had a reason to take a back seat, it was Stephen; however, he always gave and still gives 110% to everything that he does, especially being a dad and a supportive partner. Other people in Stephen’s position may have put their goals on pause, but Stephen never gave up on his commitment to personal growth and creating a positive future for himself and his family. Stephen embodies what it means to be a resilient and compassionate leader. I am constantly in awe of his passion and determination, and am confident that he will go on to do big things to make the world a better place.

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

#1 – Live and Work Abroad: I am adventurous and like to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I love to travel, explore different cultures, and experience new things. I would love to have a career that would support me living abroad or a job that is headquartered in another country. There are so many places that I want to see and experience outside of the U.S., and with growing technology and innovative ways to connect globally, I am excited for the endless opportunities ahead.

#2 – Serve on the Board of an LGBTQ+ Organization: : As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, it is important for me to give back to the community that has supported me. My first job after undergrad was at the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ+ civil rights organization, so I also understand the importance of having strong supporters of the mission on the Board. The LGBTQ+ community is continuously evolving and growing, and our understanding of language and inclusivity is constantly changing; therefore, being on a Board will also keep me accountable to my community and allow me to educate myself and others on the important issues.


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