All my life, I have surrounded myself with strong, impassioned, empowered women. My mother was a staunch supporter and protester in the second wave feminist movement and our home was always filled with conversations about equality and justice and a keen awareness of the deeply embedded societal pressures which converged to make the world I lived in. When I decided to return to school to acquire an MBA, I found myself looking at the gender breakdown of many MBA programs. I had a college friend who, at the time of my application was already enrolled in the MBA program at Simmons. Similar to my undergraduate institution, Smith College, Simmons is an entirely female program and one of the few in the world that can claim that distinction. Because of my past, that of course appealed to me. However, having been in the workforce for the previous six years, I was beginning to realize that putting powerful women in roles of distinction could be achieved in many ways. I’m proud of my Smith education because it gave me confidence in my skills and abilities in a way I’m not sure I would have gained by going to a coed institution. But for my MBA, I believed that a lot of value could be realized by going to a program that was as diverse as possible.
Indeed, if the goal was to expand my network and build up my opportunities in a variety of locations, industries, roles, and interests, then it would best suit me to find a program that was as diverse as possible.
And I believe I found diversity at Penn State.
My peers consist of IT strategists and supply chain experts, biologists and military members, people who managed grocery stores and family businesses, teachers and social networking gurus. They come from Nigeria, China, India, Ecuador and many places in between. They represent a broad variety of experiences and personal insights as expressed through classroom debates and joyous ramblings in the MBA Commons. The organizations within the program allow for students to follow their passions and learn more about different academic and cultural subjects. I joined Net Impact to learn more about sustainability and I joined the WMBA to further build out my network of powerful women. And when elections were held in the spring of 2014, I was elected to post of VP of communications for the WMBA.
While I think that the PSU Smeal program could do even more to encourage and support women within their program, I do think this has been an excellent experience that has introduced me to a handful of exceptional role models and given me knowledgeable and supportive peers. I’m looking forward to having these men and women in my personal network long after I graduate and put the skills I’ve learned to good use.
-Lauren Rizzo, Penn State Smeal MBA ’15