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Real Humans of Duke Fuqua MBA Class of 2022

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Courtney Bell, Duke Fuqua MBA Class of 2022

Age: 25
Hometown: Rockville, MD
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Duke University ’17, Environmental Science B.S.
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): I was the CEO of an ugly produce delivery startup called Ungraded Produce for 3 years. After selling the company in 2019, I worked this past year in sales at a tech startup while applying to MBA programs.

Why business school? Why now?
I started Ungraded when I was 20 and had absolutely no business background, and while I learned so much throughout my time with the company, most of my knowledge was gained through trial and error. Given that there’s still a lot of room to grow, I decided that business school made sense as my “next step” in the process. I want to continue developing the tools needed to become a leader in the sustainability field, and believe that, at business school, I will gain the skill set needed to best prepare and qualify me for these exciting opportunities.

Why Fuqua? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I was definitely drawn to Fuqua because of the opportunities to pursue sustainability and corporate responsibility. However, what ultimately sold me on Fuqua was just how embraced I felt by the community. After getting accepted, so many Fuqua students and staff members reached out to me; this was not my experience at other schools. I couldn’t help but feel that people genuinely wanted me to be part of this community and that people here would have my back. The fact that Fuqua welcomed me with open arms made me confident in my decision to enroll, and now that I am here, I know I made the right choice.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
Running an “ugly” produce company is definitely pretty unusual in the MBA world, so I’d say that definitely sets me apart! Industry aside, I’ve had experience building a company from the ground up, overcoming early-stage scaling challenges, and ultimately selling it to a larger competitor. I definitely think I’m able to bring a unique entrepreneurial perspective to the Fuqua community.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application?
I’m the only person in my family that didn’t make it into the 6 Foot Club (I’m 5’9”)…I’m not complaining, though!

Post-MBA career interests?
I want to stay in the sustainability space. After graduation, I’d love to get experience working at a larger company and do work related to corporate social responsibility or sustainable supply chains.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
  –One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Use Magoosh for GRE studying (they also offer GMAT prep courses). It was very reasonably priced, and since I’m a visual learner, I was able to take so much more away from the videos than I would have from trying to study from a book.

  –One thing you would change or do differently?
I honestly wouldn’t have changed anything about my application process. However, after enrolling in Fuqua, I wish I had spent a little more time over the summer getting involved with some of the programming and connecting with other admits. I waited until a few weeks prior to orientation to tune in and felt like I had to play a lot of catch up on the to-do list and “networking” fronts.

  –Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Although this was purely a consequence of COVID, I had my last interview (not with Fuqua) virtually due to travel restrictions and would have skipped it if I could go back in time. I’m lucky to have had the luxury to conduct my interviews in-person pre-COVID, and I definitely didn’t realize it would be harder for me to “connect” with the interviewer virtually. Also, I felt that my personality and sense of humor didn’t translate well over zoom, especially since my interviewer was an admissions officer rather than a student.

In general, interviews are nerve-racking regardless of whether they are in-person or online. What enabled me to overcome my nerves, though, was knowing my answers inside and out, and having at least one backup response prepared for most questions in case I already used my go-to answer earlier in the interview. I tend to ramble a bit, so had I not pre-scripted my answers (and practiced them to the point where they sounded natural), I might have gotten nervous and gone off on tangents. Clearly, that would have made me a less compelling candidate.

What is your initial impression of Fuqua’s students/culture/community?
I always knew the Fuqua community was strong, but since starting school I’ve been blown away with how inclusive the student body is, and how welcoming and enthusiastic the administration is.

One thing you have learned about Fuqua that has surprised you?
I am pleasantly surprised by how diverse the student body is, in terms of life experiences, demographics, and interests. In particular, it’s been really nice to see that so many of my classmates share my interest in sustainability—I’m thrilled not to be one of the only sustainability-oriented people in a sea of folks with more traditional finance and consulting backgrounds.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
I was most anxious about balancing school work with club, recruiting, social, and personal obligations. I’m definitely still adjusting, but I’m finding that everyone at Fuqua has realistic expectations about how much time we can dedicate to each part of our school life. So, while I am working very hard, I am able to balance the various demands on my time.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
After essentially working by myself for the last three years, I’m excited to finally be part of a larger community and have peers that are my age—my past employees and coworkers were much older than me, so we were in very different stages of our lives. I’m particularly looking forward to getting to know the students in my section better (go unos!).

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.