Impact Stories

Forté MBALaunch Inspired Amanda Villarreal to Pursue a Part-Time MBA

While growing up between Austin, Texas and the Texas-Mexico border, Amanda Villarreal never considered a career in business. In high school, she studied visual arts and trained for art school, but she decided to pursue other paths. Coming from a Mexican immigrant family, Amanda felt pressure to secure a future for herself and her family, and, at the time, she was not encouraged to see a career in the arts as a stable and reliable path.

After changing course and graduating from Amherst College with a psychology degree, Amanda was drawn to the non-profit, policy, and electoral-organizing professional worlds, desiring to make a social impact. Through that experience, Amanda became aware of money’s role in driving social change, and a “eureka” moment occurred. “I started to see how money fueled non-profits, as well as political and policy organizations, and ultimately, I saw that it was financial capital that drove much of community change,” she says.

That revelation led her to consider an MBA, but the decision was difficult. Amanda did not know anyone with an MBA, she hadn’t studied business as an undergrad, and she wasn’t sure she was interested in a traditional post-MBA career.

Forté’s MBALaunch Program: Becoming More Competitive

She heard about Forté’s MBALaunch program, in which she would spend 10 months preparing for the GMAT and polishing her applications with a small cohort of other young women. The program was an opportunity to make herself more competitive, and Amanda decided to take the leap. “If you are a non-traditional applicant with limited to no business background, Forté helps you become more competitive.”

If you are not born into circles that provide access and a network, an MBA gives you a vocabulary, the ability to navigate, and it smooths the career path.


Being part of MBALaunch proved to be valuable to Amanda. First, she found a community of like-minded women. “Most of us were women of color who were to be first-generation MBA students,” she says. They studied for the GMAT or GRE together on the weekends, shared tutor recommendations, and had informal ‘group therapy’ sessions about the application process. She still stays in touch with many of them.

Beyond MBALaunch: Balancing real world and classroom

After MBALaunch, Amanda decided to pursue her MBA from New York University’s Stern School as a part-time student while working full-time in business development at frog, a global design and innovation consultancy. Her decision to attend school part-time allows her to complement her classroom studies with real world experience, a balance that expands her access and corporate experience.

She is on course to finish her degree in 2023 and admits her path has taken longer than some. “I have been on a journey to get this MBA for seven years,” she explains.

Most importantly, Amanda keeps her eye on the long-term outcomes of pursuing an MBA. “Forté’s mission to achieve gender equality will not happen until we have the same earning power as men, and not being ‘in the know’ puts you at a huge disadvantage,” she says. MBALaunch and her MBA program have given her the perspective she needs to make a more meaningful impact – both for her own life and for society.

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