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Real Humans of MBA Students: Vanderbilt Owen MBA Class of 2023

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vanderbilt mba class of 2023Katherine Durham, Vanderbilt Owen MBA Class of 2023

Age: 26
Hometown: Potomac, Maryland
Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Virginia – double major in Foreign Affairs and Media Studies
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): 3 years, Retail buying for a department store; 1 year, Digital Marketing for a start-up  

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
Business school had always been a goal of mine. The timing felt right when I knew I wanted to make a career pivot and felt confident in my new direction. This past year allowed me the time to reflect and think about my long-term plans, which entail having an MBA.

Why did you choose Vanderbilt Owen? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Owen stood out to me during my research as the school emphasizes a collaborative rather than competitive environment. I knew that was something important to me in selecting a school. Moreover, through my virtual recruiting experience, every interaction I had with Owen was positive. I noticed early on from the virtual information sessions that the student speakers seemed very happy in their decisions to attend Owen and spoke highly of the community.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
Having started my career in the fashion industry, I know how to work well under pressure. As an Assistant Buyer I worked to react quickly to fill replenishment orders based on inventory, balance deadlines on cross-functional teams, and write orders for new season products that would generate high sell-throughs, all of which have served me so far during my time at Owen.

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
My first job in high school was at Georgetown Cupcake, which was as sweet as it sounds.

Post-MBA career interests:
I am pursuing consulting and aspire to specialize in retail long-term.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Reaching out to current students or young alumni of the schools I was interested in was instrumental in my application process. I used LinkedIn to make connections with who I found in the network aligned to my career interests. Everyone I connected with was incredibly receptive to chatting and candid about their experiences, so I encourage you to put yourself out there!

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
I applied to programs at the same time I was taking the GMAT, which I would not recommend! I recommend staying cognizant of application deadlines and try to take the GMAT or GRE as early as possible to avoid having to split time between studying and completing applications.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Owen requires a video response, which can be nerve-wracking. This is a part of the application to allow you to express your personality. After completing it I realized it was nothing to be nervous about! 

What is your initial impression of the Vanderbilt Owen students/culture/community?
Everyone has been warm and receptive upon my arrival to Owen. I moved at the beginning of summer so enjoyed the chance to explore Nashville and connect with Second Years who were interning remotely. For me that time was incredibly valuable as I was able to gain advice on succeeding as a First Year and navigating the recruiting process for different career paths I was interested in.

What is one thing you have learned about Vanderbilt Owen that has surprised you?
I am grateful to be in peer groups for classes where everyone is so supportive of each other and wants to see each other succeed. I was surprised at first, but can attest to Owen’s “collaborative not cut-throat” mission through this anecdote. Coming from a very competitive undergraduate environment, finding a business school that was more collaborative was incredibly important to me in narrowing down the search.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
As tragic and devastating as COVID has been in our society, I believe it has given us a chance to think about our priorities and how we are spending time. During quarantine I had time to think about where I wanted my career to go long-term. Through the virtual recruiting programming, each school was accessible in giving prospective applicants a chance to learn more about the school’s values and cultures. I felt that Owen’s best aligned with mine and my career direction with the time the pandemic allowed me for reflection.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
The more quantitative-heavy courses are daunting to think about, but my classmates and the faculty have been so supportive and accessible. Finding help with academics is never an issue!

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
I am very excited to get involved with clubs! Owen has a plethora of clubs that are either culturally, socially, or professionally focused. Next week the Cork + Barrel club is having a hot chicken and beer pairing tasting, which I am looking forward to. Also, with Owen’s Affinity Club pass I am excited to attend a diverse range of cultural events so I can celebrate the backgrounds of my classmates.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.