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Real Humans of Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA Class of 2022

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Ashley Barard, Tuck’s MBA Class of 2022

Age: 29
Hometown: Houston, Texas
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Houston, Civil Engineering
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 6 years; Energy & Operations Management

Why business school? Why now?
Last year, I was in a space in my career where I was no longer doing engineering-specific work. I was in a managerial role, interfacing with clients and leading teams. I realized that I enjoyed the problem-solving aspect that engineering provided, but I also enjoyed providing and implementing a solution. Simultaneously, I realized that as I was suggesting solutions to business-impacting issues, there were some knowledge gaps in understanding the entire business cycle and how different components affected the others. I knew that to progress in my career and be successful, I needed to close this gap. And now was the time.

Why Dartmouth/Tuck School of Business? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I attended a Forte MBA event in 2019 and met a member of the admissions team and enjoyed our conversation. However, what stood out to me was how she lit up when speaking about Tuck (I seriously had not seen this before). I decided to attend DivCo the same year and instantly fell in love with the program, the faculty, and the Upper Valley. The program had a core that I knew would compliment my engineering background and provide me with a foundation of business principles. The faculty were genuinely interested in learning about me and my passions. My most memorable moment at DivCo, though, was having a conversation with Dean Slaughter. I learned about his motivations and goals for the program. This was the first program I visited, where I could have a direct conversation with the Dean. What brought it home were the current students who went out of their way to ensure each participant gained everything they could from the conference, with one-on-one chats, dinners at their homes in Sachem, and a black-light party to wrap up the event. I knew I wanted to be a part of this warm, nice, and close-knit community for the next two years.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2022?
My most valuable contribution to the class of 2022 is that I live and breathe empathy. With managing over 100 employees at one time, I learned not only effective management of people but also the importance of utilizing compassion to facilitate learning from those around me. I believe this adds to the Tuck fabric and showcases what it means to be “Tuck Nice”.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? 
I’ve actually only seen snow once in my life and I’m now living in the Upper Valley where it snows for days in a row in the winter (I think). Not sure I even own a real winter coat.

Post-MBA career interests? 
I am interested in strategy consulting roles either internally or with consulting firms.

Advice to current prospective applicants:
–One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
I am so happy I took the time to visit the programs that interested me. This truly impacted my decision. It was vital for me to get a feel of the community that I would be investing in for two years. I know we are currently in unprecedented times, making it challenging to connect with the different schools. But I would encourage prospective applicants to take the time to have conversations (Zoom, phone, Skype)—as many as you need to solidify if the school is the right fit.

–One thing you would change or do differently?   
I wish I would have started the application process earlier. I ended up submitting a few applications a few minutes before their deadlines, which made the process unnecessarily stressful. I would encourage applicants to give themselves ample time to finish their applications.

–Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I wish I could have skipped the GRE! But, I had a tremendous amount of support from friends who had already taken the exam. They encouraged me to remain positive and provided me with feedback on how to improve in my prep when I found myself stagnant.

What is your initial impression of Tuck’s students/culture/community?
My first encounter with Tucks students, culture, and community was during DivCo, Tuck’s annual Diversity Conference, last year. At DivCo, the first-year and second-year students shared their experiences in a very casual setting. I enjoyed their stories, but most importantly, I appreciated their honesty. I gathered from these conversations that the Tuck community is unique and wants students who are genuinely aligned with the culture. A small, tight-knit environment is not for everyone. The city of Hanover isn’t a bustling big city. But, after attending a large public university for undergrad and living in a big city, I knew I wanted an intimate learning environment. Because of Tuck’s location, I also knew I would have no choice but to get to know my classmates and build long-lasting relationships, which is an important goal in my MBA journey.

One thing you have learned about Tuck that has surprised you? 
During Tuck Launch, we had real conversations around challenges impacting our communities today, most specifically regarding racial and gender inequality. It was refreshing to have these conversations with our very own Dean Slaughter, leading the discussion on how we can be great leaders and effectively bring about change.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? 
I am most anxious about the winter weather, although I’m excited to ski and snowboard.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I am most excited about the First-Year Project. I’m particularly interested in the FYPGO, where I will have the opportunity to work with a team to solve pivotal problems with a client based in another country. I wanted my business school experience to have an international aspect and help me to understand business challenges on a global level.

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.