Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Kate Tully, University of Texas (McCombs)

Kate Tully

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

“Pickleball Entrepreneur; Spectacular Question-Asker; Coffee/Adventure Junkie; Seeking to leverage my resourceful creativity better…”

Hometown: Born in Irving, TX, raised in White Hall, AR.

Fun Fact About Yourself: When I moved to NYC, I lived with circus performers in Brooklyn – instead of a chandelier, our “living room” had lyra, silks and trapeze. (I absolutely tried them all – the corde lisse is my favorite.)

Undergraduate School and Major:

University of Arkansas (Fayetteville): B.A. Psychology and Photography
University of Edinburgh: MSc in Global Crime

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Myself! The last four years I’ve been building a business called Kefi Pickleball. My job title is Director of Play, which means…everything/whatever it needs to mean. We learned a lot on the fly – including all the things we don’t know, especially with a couple of brands that have real potential to scale. So that’s what led to the command decision to apply for business school. I had that idea mid-December 2022, and got my applications in by January. (Was definitely taking the GMAT hours before that second-round deadline…).

What makes Austin such a great place to earn an MBA? For me, even though I’m also taking advantage of the opportunity to explore other industries, Austin is an epicenter of the burgeoning pickleball industry – and sort of the Silicon Valley of the South with its vibrant start-up/tech culture. Both of those things were really appealing to me, both from an entrepreneur perspective as well as quality of life outside of class. And I love my music, food and outdoor adventures. Austin was the only place that had all those things AND a top tier school.

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Texas McCombs’ MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I have one foot in two different worlds right now: Not only building on one or two of the pickleball brands we’ve been developing, but also this MBA season is a rare opportunity to reset and explore other industries. Entrepreneurship has been a really good fit for me in a lot of ways: How can I build on that and do it better or transfer those skills? The flexibility of McCombs and the strength of their entrepreneurial ecosystem (on and off campus) is perfect for where I’m at. More importantly, it’s a curated flexibility – there is an army of incredible people and resources at McCombs focused on helping us succeed in life–however we each define that.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Texas McCombs? Can I share two? McCombs’ Venture Fellows program thrills my entrepreneurial soul – having a team helping me scale one or two of our pickleball brands, are you kidding? YES please. Meanwhile, having just discovered impact investing is a thing, I’m really intrigued by MIINT (MBA Impact Investing Network and Training). One of my questions is how my background in global crime and related philanthropic passions could maybe mash up with my MBA training somehow; impact investing is one possibility…

What has been your first impression of the McCombs MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best McCombs story so far. The McCombs program is a unique paradox, where they (we) cultivate a collaborative community that also inspires and challenges each other to excel in all sorts of different ways. We compete with each other in a way that’s fun and makes each other better. And yet there’s the sense that we’re all in this together, like sharing discoveries or ways into problems. My class is a fascinating mix of backgrounds/culture and, demonstrably, there are a lot of different ways to be awesome. The McCombs team seems to delight in that, and really sets us up to learn from each other.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It would be easy to say building a business but beyond that– I spent a year working with International Justice Mission in Gulu, Uganda. (Their work is still very much a passion of mine, big part of my ‘why.’). I got to manage a special project, coordinating the investigation of what turned out to be a serial sexual assailant. In post-conflict Northern Uganda, a common response to “have you been raped” was, “not yet.” So, you can imagine how often that kind of case gets successfully prosecuted. But our team partnered with the local police and courts, and we got the guy.

Looking ahead two years, what would make your MBA experience at McCombs successful?  My life has been (and will be) an adventure. My class is full of brilliant people looking to improve or reinvent themselves. Through my relationships with them and everyone else I meet through UT, I’m excited to do exactly that: Learn how to leverage my strengths to play the business game better and leave my corner of the world a little better than I left it. One tangible aspect of that is finding what role and industry feels like the right fit for this next season of life.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Texas McCombs’ MBA program? Have a chat with yourself in the bathroom mirror: Do you genuinely love being part of a team, playing off all sorts of incredible people? Do you have enough confidence and empathy to make the people around you better, to learn from them? Share your story with McCombs – your particular brand of “awesome” – through that lens.


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