2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Azell Francis, Georgia Tech (Scheller)

Azell Francis

Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology

“An audacious island girl solving wicked climate and energy problems with a mega-watt smile.”

Hometown: Marabella, Trinidad and Tobago

Fun fact about yourself: As the first international student body president at Georgia Southern University, I spearheaded the creation of Eagles for Eagles—an impactful initiative aimed at addressing the pressing financial challenges faced by fellow students. Recognizing that the attainment of a degree often hinges on overcoming financial hurdles, I rallied students to support their peers in need. It’s truly remarkable to see how our collective efforts have continued to make a lasting difference, empowering countless individuals to pursue their educational dreams. The enduring legacy of Eagles for Eagles fills me with pride, knowing the profound impact it continues to have on the lives of students within our community.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Georgia Southern University- Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering and a Master of Science in Applied Engineering

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? I served as a research assistant to the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs within the University System of Georgia Board of Regents, a role that blended academia with service. My path to this role was paved by my recognition as Georgia’s Student Body President of the Year (Willis Potts’ Student Advisory Council Award) during my tenure at Georgia Southern University. This accolade forged a connection with the Vice Chancellor, which I later leveraged when looking for an assistantship to pursue my Ph.D. at Georgia Tech. In my capacity as her research assistant, I delved deeply into the intricate workings of higher education, gaining invaluable insights along the way. However, what truly ignited my passion was the opportunity to also serve as an advisor for the Student Advisory Council. Comprising of all the student body presidents from across Georgia’s public universities and colleges, this council held a special place in my heart, as it had played a pivotal role in shaping my own leadership journey. Being able to give back to the council that had once nurtured my growth was an honor beyond words. As their advisor, I endeavored to be a mentor and advocate for these student leaders, representing the voices of over 300,000 students within our University System. Witnessing the dedication, empathy, and drive of these student leaders reaffirmed my belief in the transformative power of higher education. Together, we strove to elevate the quality of education in Georgia to world-class standards, fueled by our collective passion for excellence.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? In the Summer of 2023, I was a summer associate in Enterprise, Strategy, and Value at Strategy& in Atlanta, GA. Immersed in an energy project, I had begun the final stage of my pivot into consulting and seized the opportunity to work on a complex issue of standing up a new business line. Moreover, the opportunity to collaborate on a side project with a sustainability partner resonated deeply with my personal values and aspirations. By the end of the summer, I departed with a profound sense of clarity and conviction, knowing unequivocally that I had successfully pivoted into consulting—a career where my skills, passions, and aspirations converge harmoniously.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am thrilled to return to Strategy& as a Senior Associate Consultant!

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: I was selected by my peers as the First Year Full-time MBA Student of the Year in 2023.

Graduate Research Assistant, Ray C Anderson Center for Sustainable Business: I worked for Dr. Beril Toktay, professor of Operations Management, Brady Family Chairholder, at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business and faculty director of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business. Her primary research areas are sustainable operations and supply chain management. I had the opportunity to help with putting together a NSF grant, building off my experience with grant writing at the Strategic Energy Institute at Georgia Tech. I also helped with data collection for Georgia Tech’s Sustainability Next initiative, which is Georgia Tech’s sustainability plan and our blueprint for campus-wide collaboration to achieve a just, equitable and sustainable future. As an integral member of the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, I actively participated in a myriad of impactful events, notably contributing to Sustainable-X, a platform dedicated to nurturing environmental and social impact startups. Moreover, my involvement in outreach activities like World Environment Day and Ray Day underscored my commitment to fostering sustainability awareness and action. This semester, building on this rich experience with Dr. Toktay, I’m working for Dr. Tiffany Johnson, supporting her current research on racial equity in the coffee industry. Her research has received grants from Sustainability Next and the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business and allows me to learn and explore a new area of sustainability- coffee!

Peer Leadership Committee: As part of our Peer Leadership Committee, I conceptualize and execute engaging events that serve as the heartbeat of our Scheller community. It has been an absolute joy to be part of this committee, as I firmly believe it encapsulates the essence of what makes our Scheller community truly exceptional. Our initiatives are as diverse as they are impactful. I spearheaded our peer mentorship program, pairing seasoned second-year students with eager first-years, and orchestrated monthly themed snack drops that infuse our gatherings with camaraderie and comfort. These events were meticulously designed to foster meaningful connections and mentorship. We also host hobby nights which are yet another testament to the richness of our community, where students eagerly share their passions and expertise with classmates, creating a vibrant tapestry of shared experiences and learning. And then there’s SchellX—a captivating public speaking extravaganza that showcases the immense talent and charisma within our Scheller family. It’s not just an event; it’s a celebration of our collective stories.

Alumni Committee: My journey with the Alumni Committee began as a first-year representative, and the experience resonated with me so deeply that I eagerly extended my involvement into my second year. To me, the power of our alumni network at Scheller lies in the bonds forged during our time here, which seamlessly transition into lifelong connections. In my role on the committee, I play a pivotal part in orchestrating our two hallmark events: Homecoming in the Fall and the Spring Crawfish Boil. These occasions serve as more than just gatherings; they’re catalysts for fostering enduring relationships between current students and esteemed alumni. Witnessing these connections unfold in an informal setting underscores the strength and vitality of our Scheller community. Beyond event planning, my involvement also allowed me to explore new avenues, from experimenting with balloon decorating to understanding the strategic value of professional assistance. Each aspect of my journey with the Alumni Committee has enriched my understanding of the value of our Scheller community and the enduring legacy it leaves for generations to come.

Peer Mentor: Serving as a peer mentor to three first-year students was a privilege that profoundly shaped my business school experience. It proved to be both incredibly rewarding and challenging, pushing me to grow in ways I hadn’t anticipated. Mentorship holds a special place in my heart, as I attribute much of my own success to the guidance and support of my mentors. Recognizing the transformative impact it had on my journey, I approached my role as a peer mentor with a deep sense of responsibility and commitment. For me, it wasn’t just about fulfilling a role; it was about creating a nurturing environment where my mentees could thrive authentically. I strived to offer more than just advice – I wanted to be a steadfast presence in their lives, whether as a sounding board, a coffee companion, a coach, a cheerleader, or simply a friend. Knowing that my mentees possess the potential to change the world, I felt honored to play a small part in their journey. If I could offer them a solid foundation upon which to build their dreams, then I consider it a privilege beyond measure.

Ray C. Anderson Center Sustainability Fellow: I served as a Sustainability Fellow at the Ray C. Anderson Center for Sustainable Business. This program connects sustainability-minded undergraduate and graduate students to impactful sustainability projects. As a Sustainability Fellow, I collaborated with a team to develop a carbon offset decision tool for a prominent sustainability firm. This experience not only deepened my understanding of carbon offsets from a business perspective but also strengthened my ties within Atlanta’s sustainable community.

Student Interviewer and MBA Ambassador: During my interview for Scheller, I was pleasantly surprised to meet with a student interviewer, an experience that left a lasting impression on me. From that moment, I knew that if given the chance, I wanted to contribute in the same capacity. When I was selected to serve as a student interviewer, I was thrilled to be part of a process that truly prioritizes the student perspective, setting Georgia Tech apart from other programs. In addition to conducting admissions interviews, I had the opportunity to engage with prospective MBA students through various avenues. This included speaking on informational panels, representing Scheller at a Forte event in DC, attending networking gatherings, and engaging in one-on-one coffee chats. These interactions allowed me to offer guidance and support to individuals embarking on their MBA journeys, further cementing my commitment to the Scheller community.

Unofficial Case Coach: With my dissertation deadline approaching for May graduation, I recognized that my time would be somewhat limited. As a result, I chose not to commit to being an official case coach through the consulting club. However, I still made myself available to assist with case and interview preparation for first-year students as needed, particularly during the fall semester and especially over winter break when the other official case coaches were on break.

Women in Business, Consulting Club, Tech Club, Net Impact, Operations Club, Strategy, and Innovation Club Member: One thing that I promised myself as I entered business school was that I wanted to learn to lead from behind. I have always been the person who eagerly volunteers to serve in titled leadership roles, but I’ve come to realize the importance of learning to be a good follower as well. While leadership positions often bring recognition and responsibility, true growth also comes from understanding how to support and contribute effectively as a team member without always needing to be in the spotlight. Embracing the role of a follower allows for deeper collaboration, fosters humility, and ultimately strengthens the team as a whole.

Blacks in Business: As a first-year representative for Blacks in Business (BiB), I relished the opportunity to glean insights from the executive board members who were second years. Additionally, I took the lead in organizing and overseeing a Cultural Dinner in partnership with two other campus clubs—the Black Graduate Student Association and the African Student Association. Together, we celebrated a rich tapestry of cuisines, including dishes from Trinidad and Tobago, Liberia, and traditional southern fare from the USA. This event not only showcased the vibrant diversity of cultures within our campus community but also fostered a sense of unity and camaraderie among attendees. As a second year, I continue to be actively involved in BiB and have loved learning and growing as a club member.

Georgia Institute of Technology Strategic Energy Fellow: This position at the Strategic Energy Institute (SEI) coincided with my assistantship at the Ray C Anderson Center for Sustainable Business, allowing me to facilitate connections between these two vital areas of campus for potential partnerships. While at SEI, I contributed to a team that successfully secured a $3.5 million grant from the Department of Energy. This grant supported our efforts to revolutionize the planning framework for electric power infrastructure through the Energy Shed initiative. By prioritizing community involvement and focusing on meeting local energy needs, Energy Shed aims to create a more inclusive and sustainable approach to energy planning. Throughout business school, I continued my involvement with SEI, including serving as a speaker at the 2023 Southeast Decarbonization Workshop.

Rotary and Rotaract Club of Peachtree City: During my time in business school, I made a deliberate choice to sustain my engagement with clubs I had previously been involved with. Recognizing the significance of maintaining community ties both within and beyond Scheller, I remained an active volunteer with these organizations. Each month, I dedicated my time to various initiatives and frequently extended invitations to friends to join me, fostering a sense of camaraderie and collective impact.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Being named the First-Year Full-time MBA Student of the Year by my peers is a cherished honor that holds a special place in my heart. To me, this recognition symbolizes my unwavering dedication to contributing meaningfully to the Scheller community. I’ve always believed in giving my all and showing up for others without hesitation, and receiving this award affirmed the significance of that commitment to me.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? During my tenure as an Energy Policy Associate at CARICOM Energy, I had the extraordinary opportunity to spearhead the creation of the framework for the 2025-2040 CARICOM Regional Energy Policy. As a young adult when I decided to continue my studies in a foreign country, I made a solemn pledge to contribute positively to the progress of my homeland, Trinidad and Tobago and the broader Caribbean region. With a steadfast commitment to becoming proficient in energy and sustainable development, my ultimate aspiration has always been to leverage my expertise for the betterment of the Caribbean region. The regional energy policy will shape the strategic trajectory of energy development for decades to come. It was both an honor and a privilege to be intricately involved in crafting a blueprint that holds the potential to catalyze transformative change across the region.

Why did you choose this business school? Since 2018, I’ve harbored a strong desire to pursue an MBA from Scheller, recognizing it as the crucial missing element to complement my background in engineering and liberal arts – namely, top-tier business acumen. Scheller stood out to me due to its stellar reputation for cultivating leaders who possess a deep understanding of the nexus between business and technology, all while championing the cause of creating a fair and sustainable future. I was drawn to the Scheller community because I wanted to actively contribute to this ethos and be part of a dynamic collective striving towards meaningful change.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? This is another tough question to answer as I genuinely loved my coursework as an MBA student. If I had to pick just one, I would pick our Strategic Management class because I got to work on a super cool Nike project as my practicum. I’m a die-hard Nike fan, so diving into this project was like a dream come true. This class wasn’t just about theory; it was hands-on and practical. We had the chance to apply the principles we learned in the classroom to tackle real-world challenges faced by global giants like Nike. For me, that’s the true test of a great education – being able to seamlessly translate classroom knowledge into tangible, impactful outcomes in the real world. Thankfully, this is true of many of our courses at Scheller!

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Schell-X is where the unexpected meets the extraordinary. From macaws to diving, puns, and even space– these seemingly disparate topics find a common stage at Scheller’s premier public speaking event. Here, the essence of our community comes to life in full force – a melting pot of creativity, passion, vulnerability, and diversity. Each speaker steps up to the challenge, courageously presenting their chosen topic for six to seven minutes, often without notes. It’s a showcase of brilliance, where I find myself captivated and enlightened with every presentation. Schell-X isn’t just a tradition; it’s an unforgettable journey of discovery and inspiration.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? While I don’t subscribe to living with regrets, I do recognize the value in hindsight. Looking back, I realize I should have seized more opportunities to attend social events. Building relationships is crucial, and social gatherings offer invaluable chances to connect with wonderful people and create lasting memories. It’s a lesson learned, reminding me to embrace every opportunity for social interaction in the future. Here’s to more great times with great people!

What is the biggest myth about your school? Contrary to popular belief, we’re not the “nerdy” image often associated with Georgia Tech. While the mention of our school may conjure thoughts of engineering and technology-centric pursuits, we also have a world-class business school that brings together the best of what Georgia Tech offers. Yes, we excel academically, but we also thrive socially. In fact, at Georgia Tech, we can do anything! This includes hosting some truly unforgettable social events that are not to be missed. So, if you’re thinking it’s all business all the time, think again – there’s a vibrant social scene waiting to be explored here at Georgia Tech.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? Atlanta is more than just a city to me; it’s home. I’m drawn to its diverse neighborhoods, each offering a unique cultural tapestry that enriches my daily experiences. As a self-proclaimed food enthusiast, one of my favorite aspects of living here is the ability to indulge in world-class international cuisines right in my own backyard. From authentic flavors to innovative fusion dishes, Atlanta’s culinary scene never fails to excite and delight my taste buds.

What surprised you the most about business school? Transitioning from a career as a design engineer to a Ph.D. student, I found myself accustomed to working relatively independently on my projects. Though I have always been supported as a Ph.D student and love my cohort, professors, and advisors, I soon realized that I was missing a stronger sense of community that comes with shared experiences and collaboration. Seeking to remedy this, I actively sought out a lab and found myself a home in the Data Science and Policy Lab under Dr. Omar Asensio. Transitioning to business school, I was pleasantly surprised to find an instant sense of community waiting for me. Scheller offered a supportive and inclusive atmosphere where everyone is genuinely invested in each other’s success. It’s comforting to know that I’ve forged connections and friendships here that extend far beyond the classroom. At Scheller, I’ve found more than just an education – I’ve found a lifelong community and network of individuals who share similar experiences and aspirations.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s a tough call to single out just one classmate from our cohort of exceptional individuals, but if I had to, Ashley McCrea stands out for her fearless approach to charting her own path. Business school is often likened to choosing your own adventure, and Ashley epitomizes this spirit with one of the most intriguing backgrounds I’ve encountered – transitioning from nursing to consulting before embarking on this MBA journey. Ashley’s quick wit, empathetic nature, and knack for offering alternative perspectives enrich our conversations and make her a valued presence in our community. Witnessing her passion for investment banking and finance blossom throughout our program has been truly inspiring. What’s more, she’s incredibly generous with her knowledge, always eager to share finance tips and insights with anyone keen to learn. Ashley embodies the ethos of “lifting as she climbs,” and her dedication to supporting others in their pursuits is nothing short of admirable.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?  At the top of my professional bucket list, I have a burning desire to broaden my horizons even further and gain invaluable international experience as a professional. Working internationally isn’t just a mere item on my bucket list; it’s a transformative opportunity to immerse myself in diverse cultures, tackle global challenges, and expand my professional skill set on a global stage. Whether it’s collaborating with international colleagues, navigating cross-cultural business dynamics, or spearheading impactful projects in different corners of the world, the prospect of working abroad excites me beyond measure.

Next, I’m truly driven to solve wickedly challenging energy and sustainability problems. I think that there is space for me to lend my voice, expertise, and enthusiasm as a sustainability podcast host! While this is on my professional bucket list, it’s something I have started working on, and hopefully I can launch it by this summer! Through thought-provoking interviews, insightful discussions, and expert insights, I envision creating a space where listeners can gain valuable knowledge, exchange ideas, and become empowered agents of positive change in their communities and beyond. Launching a sustainability podcast isn’t just about fulfilling a personal ambition; it’s about leveraging the power of storytelling to drive real-world impact and contribute to a more sustainable future for generations to come.

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

“Azell Francis’ impact on the Class of 2024 transcends mere academic excellence; it includes holistic commitment to enriching both the academic environment and the broader Scheller community. In my Service Operations class, Azell’s contributions were exemplary, extending far beyond excellent class participation. What set her apart was not only her insightful contributions but also her remarkable ability to listen attentively to her peers, synthesizing their perspectives with her own to create a truly enriching learning environment for all involved. This unique characteristic not only fostered meaningful dialogue but also elevated the collective learning experience for all of us in class.

But wait, there is more! Azell ‘s influence extends far beyond the confines of the classroom. She has left a mark on numerous initiatives within the Scheller community, showcasing her versatility and dedication to driving positive change. Whether it’s her creative integration of sustainability principles into various business realms, her role as a mentor and advisor to fellow students, her active involvement in MBA clubs, or her leadership in initiatives such as Blacks in Business and Women in Business, Azell consistently demonstrates a sincere commitment to advancing both the academic and social fabric at Scheller. Moreover, her role as an MBA ambassador further underscores her dedication to promoting Scheller’s values.

For me, it has been a delight to witness her transformative impact on both a personal and professional level, and I have no doubt that her contributions will resonate long after her time at Scheller.”

Manpreet Hora
Dean’s Distinguished Term Professorship

“Azell’s energy and enthusiasm are both contagious and joyful. Whether it is in a classroom discussion, a formal client presentation or a case competition, I’ve had the pleasure of watching Azell master the subject and rock the audience. She brings an authentic and diverse background to the MBA classroom and her colleagues with a very positive can-do approach to a variety of situations.”

Anne Fuller
Senior Lecturer

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