Gratitude and Grit: Q&A with Courtney Wenneborg, MBA 2018

MBA students summet Mt. Baker

Student Experience

Tell us about your peers in the MBA program.

When I think about the culture of Foster, two words come to mind: gratitude and grit. Foster takes pride in its collaborative environment, and I think an underlying contributor to this collaborative spirit that students here are grateful – grateful to be part of this program, grateful for the diverse value their peers bring to the table, and grateful for the community that we share. Paired with this gratitude is a willingness to roll up sleeves, dive in, and get stuff done. Seeing these two characteristics so well married in a professional environment has been inspiring and will have a profound impact on how I think about building and working with teams throughout my career.

Curriculum

What class has been the most useful or interesting to you?

I can’t pick just one, because Thomas Gilbert and Lance Young tie for first! Their finance classes are hands-down the best courses I’ve taken during my MBA. They make finance real for their students, going beyond the spreadsheets to understand the meaning of the metrics and how they impact business strategy. They’re funny, real, and passionate – it’s clear that they truly care about creating learning experiences that will impact students far beyond the classroom environment.

Work / Life balance

What’s your #1 tip for someone considering an MBA?

Know what you want out of the program. This doesn’t have to mean knowing what job you want or what company you want to work for – it could be that identifying your top organizations and functional areas are your goals for program! However, make sure you know what your priorities are coming into the MBA and how you’re going to act on them to get where you want to go. These goals might change while you’re here, but having something concrete will help keep you on track. It’s easy to get distracted in an MBA because there’s so much fun, exciting, and engaging stuff happening, However, in order to make the most of your experience, keep track of what’s most important to you so you don’t blink your eyes, wake up on graduation day, and realize that you didn’t get what you were looking for.

What’s the most challenging part of the MBA?

The hardest part of the MBA is reminding yourself why you’re there and what you want to get out of the program. One of the greatest strengths of this program is that there’s something here for everyone. If you want to practice crushing case interviews to land a consulting job, you can find a place to do it. If you’re interested in networking with alumni at companies A, B and C, you can do it. If you want to lead clubs, do independent study programs, study abroad tours, work with mentors, mentor others, work as a teaching assistant, take classes outside of the Foster school, do a joint degree… if you want it, you can find it at Foster. As someone who is perpetually interested in almost everything, it has been a huge struggle to limit my involvement to the things I know will contribute to my long-term career and personal goals. If I took advantage of everything I wanted to do here, I’d dilute the more impactful experiences. There have been several times in the MBA where I’ve had to stop and reassess my commitments and priorities to make sure they fit what I’m trying to accomplish. However, having to choose between too many good options is the best problem to have!

Social life

Are you involved with recreational clubs or could you talk about less structured recreation with your classmates?

I’m on the board of the Outdoor and Sports Industry Club (OSIC), and one of the events that this club sponsors is the annual Foster Mt. Rainier summit. As a group, we spend 4 months training and preparing to summit Mt. Rainier in June. Last year, we did a group pack test on Mt. Si and climbed Mt. St. Helens and Mt. Baker in anticipation of Rainier. These experiences created some of my fondest memories at Foster because I got that chance to get to know my classmates in a place that was vastly different from the classroom environment. It also opened the door for me to pursue mountaineering, something I’m not sure I would have been confident enough to pursue on my own.

What are your favorite things to do outside the MBA?

My biggest passion in life is walking long distances with heavy stuff on my back – so I go backpacking as much as possible! As a Pacific Northwest native, I love how easily accessible these opportunities are in Seattle. Between the North Cascades, the Olypmics, Mt. Rainier, Mt. St. Helens, etc., there are so many places nearby to find peace and solitude in nature. I also take full advantage of breaks from school to plan longer trips in the American West. During my MBA experience, I’ve spent over 10 weeks backpacking in northern California, all over Oregon, southern Utah, Colorado, western Wyoming and Idaho.

I’m also a big fan of what some call “old people games” such as shuffleboard and cribbage, and I love meeting up with friends at neighborhood pubs throughout Seattle to go a few rounds, drink a few pints, and catch up on life during rainy winter evenings – particularly if there’s a fireplace involved!