2023 MBA To Watch: Carolyn Duke, University of Texas at Dallas (Jindal)

Carolyn Duke

University of Texas at Dallas, Naveen Jindal School of Management

“A future leader grateful for the opportunity to serve others in the business world.”

Hometown: Plano, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: In 2017, I had the chance to complete my teaching internship abroad, and I was placed in Port Elizabeth, South Africa for about 3 months. During this time, I was able to explore the diverse cultures of South Africa through getting to know my students and the complex history of the region. It’s cliche to note that my time studying / teaching abroad was transformative, but it’s true.

Undergraduate School and Degree: The University of Alabama – Secondary Education: English and Language Arts

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I was the high school English teacher at Trivium Academy in Carrollton, Texas.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? I will be interning at Texas Instruments in May 2023.

Where will you be working after graduation? Unknown – I will be graduating May 2024 🙂

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: MBAs for Christ: President, University of Texas at Dallas full-time MBA Cohort Community Service Representative, National Association of Women MBAs: Social Media Coordinator

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the successes my team and I achieved, especially our marketing project and all our organizational behavior assignments. Last semester, my fellow peers and I were put into random teams to work on class projects together. We didn’t know each other at all, but quickly learned how to achieve great academic accomplishments. I had never worked with such a talented and devoted group before, so using our various skill sets to tackle goals felt like a superpower. In our minds, we could do anything when we worked as a team.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My first year teaching, I won the New Teacher of the Year award, and I’m most proud because my first-year teaching, like all teachers, was incredibly difficult. Learning to adjust to the amount of work I had to put in order to be successful, overcoming the learning curve I faced, and teaching students with phenomenally heartbreaking backgrounds were some of the hardest challenges I’ve ever faced in such a short span of time. And to have been bestowed that award in spite of the uphill battle was so rewarding to me. One main reason I was given the honor was due to my students’ accomplishments. I had a handful of students who had just moved to the United States not knowing any English, and I worked with them tirelessly to achieve success in an English classroom. Their desire to learn and grow despite the language barrier pushed me on hard days to give them my best effort. While I was doing my best to teach and encourage them, they were unknowingly teaching and encouraging me in return.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Naveen Jindal School of Management because of all the support I would receive while getting my degree. I needed to grow in a place that would help me in all areas when it comes to learning and preparing myself to apply for jobs. At UT Dallas, the MBA program is well-known and highly-ranked, which guaranteed that I would have top professors and career center assistance. Having this support was important to me since I needed a school that would build confidence in me as I moved into the realm of business.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is a tough question to answer. There are several amazing professors I want to list here, but I will have to select Dr. Suresh Radhakrishnan. Not only is he a wonderful person in general, but he also was a great professor. He never stopped believing in us, even if we faltered. Coming from an academic background of literature and education, I was fearful of taking an accounting course. But, as a surprise to me, I never dreaded going to Suresh’s classes. He was always honest with us, taught with humor and humility, and he fostered curiosity in students who had no background or original interest in accounting. Suresh cultivated a growth mindset for each of us. After taking his course, I feel confident in accomplishing tasks related and not related to accounting because of his encouragement and confidence in me.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Our LEAD Camp! It was an incredible two weeks before school began of getting to know my classmates, receiving important training to prepare us for the business world, and engaging guest speakers who inspired us. Without the camp, we wouldn’t have the groundwork to be successful in our first semester in classes. We learned important skills for interviews, resume building, presentation delivery, job applications, LinkedIn, networking, and more. The preparation for the camp must be complicated and taxing, so it goes to show how much the MBA program cares about preparing us to achieve our goals and makes us competitive candidates for future employment.

What is the biggest myth about your school? People believe UT Dallas is full of nerds. This myth about our school is just that: a myth. This is a false since it’s an incomplete perception of our student body. Our student body is a vast array of passionate, brilliant, and quite fun people who are more than just “nerds”. I have to admit that I originally believed I was admitted into a quiet and nerdy campus filled with students who would just commute to class, learn, study, and go home. Thank goodness I was wrong. The consistency of student led events, clubs, and even protests has made my time here much more impactful. I am honored to be a part of this brilliant, outspoken, inventive, and driven student body. WHOOSH!

What did you love most about your business school’s town? The greater Dallas area is uncommonly international. This means living here brings friends and colleagues of all different nationalities and backgrounds. I love and am grateful that the diversity has made it easier for me to view the world from a more inclusive perspective. The diversity has also brought amazing FOOD! I am really into food – and eating it. So I personally love the amazing cuisine options we get in the area. The diverse population has brought exceptional diverse food here: khao soi, Italian, taquerias, queso, bagel shops, pho, panaderias, bibimbap, NY style delis, tostadas, Chinese, bagel shops, ramen, sushi, ice cream, etc. There are so many options!

What surprised you the most about business school? I have been pleasantly surprised that, because of our outstanding professors, the material has been surprisingly accessible and relatable to students without corporate backgrounds. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with class content since I knew little to nothing about 95% of my courses. And MBA truly is an option for people of any background. I’ve learned that I just have to be willing to work hard and stay tenacious in learning things outside my normal wheelhouse.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? Staying persistent in staying true to myself was an edge for my application process. Applying to “business school” gave me shivers since it felt like I was trying to be accepted into a foreign world. I was tempted to give answers I thought the admissions team wanted to hear in interviews and essays. Staying true to myself also included playing to my strengths and experiences when I applied. For me, that was highlighting the powerful skill sets of teachers: end-to-end planning, phenomenally hard working, masterful organization, creative problem-solving, and growth mindset.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This question was easy to answer: Haley Randell. She leads our class in her own representative role with patience and devotion. We can always depend on Haley to anticipate and take care of our needs. Her respectful, fun-loving, positive, and down-to-earth demeanor makes her approachable and easy to befriend. Without her, our MBA experience wouldn’t be as smooth or bright. Haley does her best to keep our spirits up during stressful weeks and encourages us to keep striving to produce our best work. On top of all this, she volunteers at an animal shelter in her free time. The minimal free time she has isn’t spent on herself, but is used caring for animals. What a gem!

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

1) I hope to lead a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiative to help make my future workplace a space of belonging for my fellow colleagues. I am aware that DEI is already a part of the corporate world, but I hope to bring a new perspective to table in order to improve the environment for others. Making others feel comfortable, valued, and able to grow is important to me.

2) This bucket list item is a little out there, but I would love to achieve a level of expertise in an area that allows me the chance to give “a talk”. Whether that be a TED talk or being a guest speaker for companies or organizations. There is power in sharing, and I would feel especially accomplished if others asked me to share my perspective and wisdom with them.

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

“Carolyn is a part of our Full‐Time MBA program, which is an exclusive and very competitive program to be part of.  During the program, students are expected to handle a heavy course load of 15‐18 credit hours in addition to spending 10‐15 hours per week on their career goals/career activities.

Carolyn has been very involved in student organizations, including a leadership role in National Association of Women MBAs and MBAs for Christ. Carolyn is also our first MBA Community Service Representative. She organizes projects where her and her class can give back to the community. While the students are so busy, she makes sure they make the time to work together for the community that they all love.

I personally met Carolyn during her application process to the program, and while she started the program unsure and with imposter’s syndrome, she has pushed out of her comfort zone, and has never backed away from a challenge. She will continue to be a trailblazer and I cannot wait to see all she accomplishes.”

Andrea Burdman
Program Manager, MBA Program


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