Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Zelda Hart, Duke University (Fuqua)

Zelda Hart

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“Nice Jewish girl seeking equitable resources for all communities and a life of simple pleasures.”

Hometown: Austin, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself: Last year, I joined a lifting gym and started working on a lifelong dream of mine to become a powerlifter. This summer I reached a personal record of 175 lbs on hex bar squats! Although I took a brief intermission to get married and prepare for school, I am excited to explore the strength training gyms Durham has to offer.

Undergraduate School and Major: The University of Chicago, B.A. in Sociology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Director of Marketing Strategy at Daymaker, a startup social enterprise that facilitated nationwide employee giving campaigns and raised a total of $4.4M in children’s gifts for 163 nonprofit partners

The MBA program is renowned for its “Team Fuqua” culture, which is predicated on six paired principles: Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. Which of these resonates most with you – and what does that principle demand of you as a Fuqua MBA? Leading up to our first semester, I’ve repeatedly heard that an MBA experience doesn’t have to follow a predetermined path with one career outcome. Current students advised doing soul searching before starting school. In fact, an entire session during Blue Devil Weekend was dedicated to not “following the career of your roommate’s dreams.” To me, this speaks to the importance of “Authentic Engagement.” Our community’s strength is in being ourselves and pursuing our passions, and choosing a non-traditional path is welcome and encouraged. As a student, embracing “Authentic Engagement” means being intentional in how I focus my time and learning to strike a balance between saying yes to new, potentially transformative experiences and prioritizing my personal goals.

Aside from your classmates and school culture, what was the key part of Duke Fuqua’s MBA curriculum programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you?  I knew when I was applying to MBA programs that I wanted a school that prioritized social and environmental impact and integrated it into the curriculum. Many top programs have one dedicated impact-focused concentration, but I was blown away that Duke Fuqua has multiple ones to choose from: Social Entrepreneurship, Energy & Environment, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. These areas also have programming and staff dedicated to providing students with experiential learning and career support. I feel very privileged to be part of a school environment that devotes real resources to positively shaping our collective future.

What has been your first impression of the Fuqua MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Fuqua story so far. When I finished my Fuqua admissions interview, I walked into the living room and told my husband, “I really want to go to Duke.” My interviewer Tracey, a student at the time, had such an interesting story, previously working in artist management, and her unique journey reassured me about my own non-traditional path to an MBA. Her deep commitment to DE&I and involvement with the Fuqua/Coach K Center on Leadership Ethics (COLE) also inspired me. I left the conversation feeling confident that I could find “my people” in this program.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Duke Fuqua? I’m really looking forward to getting involved with Fuqua on Board, which gives students the opportunity to give back to the greater Durham community by serving as a non-voting board member in a Durham-area nonprofit. Having spent most of my career in the nonprofit space, I’m excited by the prospect of participating from the board perspective, understanding a new level of nonprofit leadership, and learning from real Durham leaders.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: During my five-year tenure as Director of Development at I Grow Chicago – a community organization on the South Side of Chicago – I grew the budget from less than $200,000 to more than $2 million. My proudest moment of this journey was the groundbreaking for our children’s playground. After a multi-year capital campaign to renovate five vacant lots and three homes, the impact of my efforts finally struck me when residents and stakeholders held hands and vocalized their dreams for this new space. Neighbors shared the pain of going so long without a safe place on their block for their children to play To them, this groundbreaking represented hope. On that day I felt the greater significance of all tasks that made it possible and my role in the broader community effort.

Looking ahead two years, what would make your MBA experience successful? During Blue Devil Weekend, I got to attend an Impact Scholar happy hour with current and prospective students focused on social or environmental impact or leadership ethics. I heard from students who had started their own companies and nonprofits and chatted with some who were interning at impact investment funds. Standing in that incredibly impressive room of people, I wondered how I could be here alongside such amazing leaders. In two years, the imposter syndrome may or may not fade, but I know my MBA experience was successful if I continue to be inspired and encouraged to grow by Team Fuqua.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Duke Fuqua’s MBA program? Reach out to as many people as you can! I have found the Fuqua community is incredibly generous with their time. During the application process, many students and alumni had lengthy conversations with me to talk through my goals and fears and share about their own paths to Fuqua and beyond. These interactions helped me not only in crafting my application, but more importantly, in knowing I was making the right choice for my life.

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