2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Annie Forrest, Duke University (Fuqua)

Annie Forrest

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

“8th-generation Appalachian passionate about social impact, rural communities, hiking mountains, and thrift shopping.”

Hometown: Richlands, VA

Fun fact about yourself: I visited all 50 states in America before age 30, driving over 60,000 miles in the process and checking off the last one (Alaska) the week before I moved to Durham to start business school.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Virginia, B.A. in Psychology and Women, Gender, & Sexuality

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? One Love Foundation, Director of Program Growth

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? Farber Fellow at REDF, a venture philanthropy and impact investing nonprofit

Where will you be working after graduation? TBD – currently working with the REDF Impact Investing Fund to build a place-based fund focused on the Appalachian region

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) Fellow and CASE Impact Scholar
  • Co-Chair & Fellow for CASE i3 (Impact Investing Initiative) Consulting Practicum
  • MBA Association (MBAA), Vice President of Health & Wellness
  • Earned Fuqua Paired Principle Award for “Authentic Engagement”
  • Ery Kehaya Leadership Scholarship & Lyons Family Scholarship Recipient
  • Global Equity Working Group – Sexual Misconduct Prevention Committee & Advisor
  • Net Impact Club – Admissions Liaison
  • Served on the Search Committee for Duke’s Associate Dean/Director of Violence Prevention & Education
  • Teaching Assistant for Six Courses, Including Managerial Economics, Probability & Statistics, and Business for a Common Purpose

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of the MBAA Health & Wellness initiatives implemented this year, such as creating a robust guide to navigating local resources, hosting a Fuqua alumnus who faced substance use challenges pre-MBA to discuss his journey, and building out Fuqua’s first Mental Health Awareness Week. By the end of the year, we will have individually checked in on all 800+ MBA students twice to see how they’re doing and connect them to resources if needed. Mental health is critical to every student’s success, and I hope more people are able to prioritize theirs as a result of these initiatives.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One Love educates young people about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships to prevent abuse, mostly using film as a catalyst for conversation. Because relationship abuse occurs across all identities – race, class, sexual orientation, gender identity, level of ability, etc. – it is critical for educational content to reflect that.

To center underrepresented voices, I pitched the idea for a film fellowship program featuring young LGBTQ+ and filmmakers of color to a potentially major funder who had previously denied our proposals. The funder loved the idea and agreed to invest $375,000 to provide grants for these filmmakers to produce films from their lived experiences. Leading the project from conceptualization to completion, with four unbelievable new short films showcasing relationship dynamics in different communities, is something I will never forget.

Why did you choose this business school? Fuqua has a long-standing and genuine commitment to social impact. The Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) hosts year-round programming to support and engage with students who are passionate about social impact. I felt like Fuqua not only “talked the talk”, but also “walked the walk” when it came to social impact inclusion and advancement, which absolutely set it apart in my decision-making process.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Cathy Clark, hands down! Not only is she an excellent classroom facilitator, interviewer of incredible guest speakers, and leader in the impact investing field, but she also makes all our assignments experiential learning opportunities. For instance, our impact investing final required us to build a portfolio of investments based on a real client’s desires and then present it to the actual impact investors for those clients for feedback.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Although there are SO many courses I loved as an MBA, Managerial Economics sticks out to me. It was a required course during our first fall term and helped me build confidence that I could succeed in quantitative classes as a more nontraditional business school student. It propelled me to take harder quant classes later, serve as an Econ TA to build confidence in others, and even complete the Corporate Finance concentration.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The Team Fuqua culture (which may seem too good to be true from the outside looking in) could be considered a myth. I heard a lot about it before coming here and didn’t fully know what to expect. My expectations were greatly exceeded, however, by the ways, both big and small, people stepped up for one another. For example, I started and completed a full “sober year” during business school and classmates went out of their way to bring non-alcoholic drinks to parties or events to make me feel included.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? I love that most MBA students live in just a few buildings close together around 9th Street. Durham itself offers ample amenities and great food, but living in such close proximity creates a special type of business school community where people can easily spend time together outside school.

What surprised you the most about business school? There is an unending supply of support for students at Fuqua. Administrators are easily accessible and care about each individual student; professors want everyone to succeed and create systems to enable it; and centers like CASE have exceptional staff to learn from and lean on, and students depend on each other (even in small ways like tutoring before an exam or driving others to school). I’ve been blown away by all the wraparound support systems at play to make people feel like they belong.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? My dear friend, Kandasi Griffiths. When her wife and I met during Blue Devil Weekend, she said, “You do social impact work, too? You have to meet Kandasi!” – and that was that. Not only is Kandasi wicked smart, but she is also willing to have deep conversations, especially as we transition into the impact investing space together. What does it really mean to have an inclusive financial system for everyone? I admire how much she lives her values, makes space for others when they have challenges, and uses business as a force for good. She is a powerhouse, and I can’t wait to work for her when she raises an impact investing fund!

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

1. Work explicitly on community development and impact investing in the Central Appalachian region where I’m from originally. I hope to eventually start a social enterprise there to increase educational and workforce development opportunities.

2. Run for public office in some capacity. Policy shapes how systems do or do not support people effectively, and I hope to be a policymaker at some point in the future.

 What made Annie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“From her first moments at Fuqua, Annie has radiated warmth, passion and true care for her fellow students. She has made this compassion and care the center of her programming and initiatives as the MBAA VP of Health and Wellness, focusing her efforts on making sure her fellow students feel supported as they navigate the MBA journey.

I’ve been continually impressed by her leadership efforts in the well-being space, showing up for the community not just through formal programming, but continuously in the classroom, the halls, and at social events. Annie’s ability to make folks feel heard, seen and cared for is a truly unique skill that has made her a go-to leader and trusted peer advisor in the Fuqua community.”

Madeline Hoy Perez
Associate Director of Student Life


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