Ashley Clausnitzer University of Tennessee, Spanish and Political Science, 2006 Georgetown University’s McDonough School of Business, Class of 2015 Hometown: Stafford, VA Pre-MBA Work Experience: Marketing and Communications in the non-profit and political sectors Why did you decide to pursue an MBA? Prior to attending school I was working at a non-profit organization in the process of an organizational transformation; we were beginning to focus heavily on consulting work with the private sector, in addition to typical advocacy work. Witnessing the business acumen and strategy of my boss, who came from the private sector, and the impact we could help corporations make on a large scale sparked my interest in transitioning to the private sector. Additionally, I was in a largely self-directed role and had the opportunity to launch marketing, a CRM system, and create strategic short and long term plans for the organization. I really enjoyed the problem solving processes, entrepreneurial drive, and defending the plans I recommended with facts and analytics. Looking at these specific items, I realized a career in strategy and consulting would be a great fit, but I first needed to spend some time learning core business concepts through an MBA program. I also recognized a Georgetown McDonough MBA would allow me to give back to the non-profit community through serving on boards and as a pro-bono consultant, both in school and following graduation. What advice do you have for women who are considering business school? Be vocal and be yourself. It is OK to be a woman and have a strong voice. Going into a male-dominated environment, it is extremely important to work with other women and build a strong support network. Try to connect with the women’s groups at the schools you are considering to gauge how active they are, the culture on campus, and what programs are in place for leadership development. You should also consider looking into the leaders on all student led organizations to get a more realistic understanding of the roles women are taking on campus. What's the most surprising thing you learned about business school during the application process? It is not only OK to be from a non-traditional background, but it is often appreciated. Coming from a non-business background and major, I was worried I would not fit in or would be lost in the first month. I was pleasantly surprised to realize just how diverse Georgetown McDonough’s MBA programs is and how all experiences are truly appreciated. This diversity has also allowed me to learn so much from my classmates and creates robust and deep conversations in class discussions. Do you feel prepared for business school? Thanks to the Forté Leadership Conference as well as some other pre-MBA programs I attended over the summer, I felt very prepared going into school. The conference laid a great foundation of knowledge so I knew what to expect the first day I began school. Connecting with women at all experience levels really provided a comprehensive perspective on what to expect in school, what opportunities to focus on, school tips, and potential career trajectories following graduation. Georgetown McDonough also works with first-year students over the summer to ensure we are ready to handle the pre-term workload. Before arriving, I was required to complete MBA Math online courses, career modules, and submit résumés and cover letters. This is also the second year Georgetown McDonough has held a mandatory three-week long pre-term in August called Structure of Global Industries. It was an intense three weeks that really forced us to immerse ourselves completely in the program. Although it was a tough three weeks, it was invaluable in preparing the class for the MBA program. Once second years and recruiters began arriving on campus, our class had established a solid framework for understanding core business competencies and had developed strong teamwork skills. What do you do in your free time? I have been a dancer since I was three years old and continue to do so and teach in my free time (although that time is a little limited now!). Dancing is a huge aspect of who I am, it has taught me lifelong skills like leadership, teamwork, discipline, and time management, additionally, dance has given me the opportunity to travel around the world. I have performed outside of the Pyramids in Egypt, for our troops in Afghanistan and many other countries, and taught hundreds of children in Japan. Additionally, I work with a local non-profit dance company, Capitol Movement, Inc., that provides dance scholarships and programs for youth in D.C. What would you tell your younger self about the MBA application process and being an MBA student? Take the GMAT while your mind is still fresh from undergrad! It is a brilliant test, but re-mastering material many have not covered since High School can be tough. Just be yourself. Don’t change your experiences for the application. What you do should truly reflect who you are. Business is so much more than accounting and finance (which I am learning are awesome, by the way!); there is no limit to what you can do within the private sector. Please share something about your experience with Forté. Meeting professional women through Forté takes away the anxiety around connecting with potential employers. Forté creates such a safe environment where it feels very supportive. The environment also allows you to discuss women’s issues in an open manner. The conference invigorated me, boosted my confidence going into school, and allowed me to connect with many amazing women to broaden my network. For those switching careers, don’t discount what you can do with an MBA! This is one of the only times in your life where you can really make a change in your career. The key is understanding your value, what you truly want out of the MBA, and how your experiences translate into your new career path. Coming from a non-business background, the MBA program has allowed me to be a sponge; I am learning so much every single day. I absolutely cannot wait to enter into a career where I can continue to learn and grow every day.