2023 MBA To Watch: Jennifer Cain, Southern Methodist University (Cox)

Jennifer Cain

Southern Methodist University, Cox School of Business

“Curiosity- and purpose-driven, novice chef and entrepreneur with a penchant for details and digging deeper.”

Hometown: Coppell, Texas

Fun fact about yourself: I’ve driven across the U.S. three times.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Attended: University of St Andrews, Scotland, UK

Degree: B.A. Honors in International Relations and Arabic

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), Program Officer, Private Partnership and Strategy Development Team

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? This summer, I worked with Kearney in their Dallas office.

Where will you be working after graduation? After graduating, I will be working as an Associate at Kearney.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Cox Business School Distinguished Scholar
  • Forte Fellow
  • Cox School Ambassador
  • Peer Coach, Career Management Center
  • VP of Finance and Membership, Graduate Women in Leadership
  • Board Member, Cox Corporate Strategy and Consulting Club
  • Lead Consultant, Stewpot as part of SMU’s Non-Profit Consulting Project

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of my work with Stewpot, a non-profit, safe haven for homeless and at-risk individuals of Dallas. It provides resources for basic survival needs, as well as opportunities for them to start a new life. My team and I worked together to create and pitch a vocational training and catering program that will provide those who are job insecure with the training, resources, experience, and certifications they will need to achieve job security in the culinary and catering industry. Through this project, we are able to design a program that would give people needed life skills and a pathway to change their lives and the lives of those around them. This project also holds a special place in my mind because, with a lot of projects we work on during business school, we are often removed from the end users. This project provided a chance for us to not only meet, but interact and learn from the people who this program will benefit the most.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of helping start the strategic partnerships team at my prior organization for two reasons: the team culture and the work we did. Coming together as a team, we were able to create an innovative culture among ourselves and the organization and build aligned, deep partnerships with other foundations and non-profits to collectively achieve our goals. Additionally, my colleagues formed an incredible team to work alongside and learn from.

Why did you choose this business school? After a decade of living and working abroad and in Washington, D.C., I knew I wanted to move back to Texas. Not only is Dallas a place where parts of my family still live, it is also a city of entrepreneurs and entrepreneurship. Everywhere you look in Dallas, things are changing, driven in equals parts by innovation and the communities that make up the Dallas population. SMU is connected to the center of that change.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Finance Professor Darius Miller is one of my favorite MBA professors at SMU. From my perspective as someone who had zero background in Finance and hadn’t taken a math class since senior year of college, Professor Miller demonstrated an ability to draw in his students for the full 3 hours and 15 minutes of class. He deftly guides students through the financial theory behind the simplest and the most complex financial concepts in business school. His dynamic teaching approach and obvious passion for the subjects he teaches shines through in class, making him one of my favorite professors.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Strategic Management of Human Capital was one of my favorite courses. The class centers around human resources and traditional and non-traditional views of HR’s function. The reason I really enjoyed the class was that it provided a formal, yet open space for us to challenge what leadership looks like; identified where our role is in supporting talent development; and discussed how we position the workforce and ourselves to be able to achieve growth in the future against all odds.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? One of my favorite traditions at SMU Cox is the Global Leadership Program (GLP). GLP is the culmination of a seven-week consulting project with companies in other countries. It also, informally, serves as an opportunity for us to celebrate the end of our first year with our class. As I mentioned above, SMU Cox is connected with entrepreneurs and businesses all over Dallas. However, this trip really showcased the school’s and the students’ global connection and involvement in international entrepreneurship networks.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I’d learn to enjoy my time more. Even before Day 1, you are learning about career paths, networking with companies, meeting your classmates, and working on school. If I could do it again, I would prioritize building deep relationships with all of my classmates first, followed by getting more involved in the numerous institutes and projects at SMU Cox to enhance my experiential learning.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth I found was that if you attended a smaller MBA program you would not get the full MBA experience. After being part of a 65-person class for the last year-and-a-half, I can say with certainty this isn’t true. Your MBA experience is what you make of it. In fact, with a smaller class, I felt like I have had more opportunities to get involved with various clubs, institutes, and companies than I would have had with a larger class.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Each neighborhood in Dallas has its own distinctive style and culture. From Bishop Arts to Highland Park to the suburbs, Dallas has a bit of everything for everyone.

What surprised you the most about business school? Day 1 of business school isn’t orientation; it’s from the moment you are accepted into the program. From that point on, you are part of the Cox School’s network, which allows you to utilize SMU Cox resources and connect with other students as part of the same network.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? For me, it was connecting with the Career Management Center early on to actualize my post-MBA goals. This allowed me to network with companies early on and made my first semester much more manageable.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Trisha Guin the most. Trisha moved to the U.S. without having any family or friends in the country, and she has continuously distinguished herself, applying her unique perspective and unstoppable attitude toward every problem she has faced.

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

1. Start a foundation that connects young adults (20-35) who have rare cancers with clinical trials and provides them the financial resources to flourish as they undergo treatment and beyond.

2. Walk the West Highland Way in Scotland

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

“I have had the pleasure of working with Jennifer as her Career Coach and her supervisor in her position as an MBA Peer Coach in our office. Coming into business school, Jennifer brought a passion for digging deeper to get find the most impactful solutions and levers for change, as demonstrated through her work with IREX where she helped create and tailor humanitarian programs valued over $480M and to positively empower and aid over 800,000 people. Since the beginning, I have had the opportunity to witness her outstanding dedication to mentoring and empowering others as a peer coach, ambassador, and leader of Graduate Women in Business, the largest diversity group within the Cox School of Business. She works closely with students to organize and lead workshops that give them the skills they need to achieve their goals. In addition to making a significant impact as a student leader and Forte Fellow, Jennifer is leaving her mark on the Cox Community by helping to organize the inaugural Empowering Women to be Bold & Audacious Conference hosted by the Graduate Women in Business.

Jennifer has excelled academically, demonstrating impressive ability to think critically and creatively and is a two-year Cox Distinguished Scholar, a merit scholarship awarded to 6 students every year. Her classmates enjoy working with her, sharing comments including, “She has great insights, always takes an inclusive approach, and consistently steps up to do more than her part to ensure the success of whatever project we are working on,” and “she is one of my go-to people to brainstorm solutions for my business, as she is able to leverage her and other experience to translate it into actionable ways forward.” As a Summer Associate at Kearney in 2022, she utilized her keen analytical skills to identify a $6B growth opportunity with her team for healthcare patients that would drive higher quality of care and level of service. Jennifer’s outstanding leadership skills and strategic vision positions her as a natural leader.

I truly feel Jennifer is an excellent addition to Poets & Quant’s Best and Brightest MBA Class of 2023, not only because of her own skills, but also her ability to encourage and bring out the best and in her community.”

Shilpa Hegde
Associate Director, SMU Cox Career Management Center


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