Sarah Gulezian, Weekend MBA student, Civic Scholar, and Associate Director of Smart Grid Programs at Elevate Energy

Why did you pursue an MBA?

I have a non-traditional MBA background as I’ve spent my career in the nonprofit sector. As a consultant who designs and implements programs that are at the intersection of collective good and personal prosperity, I was interested in Chicago Booth because I needed to be able to speak the language of business. I wanted the frameworks to be able to assess a problem and envision a novel outcome, as well as the quantitative skills to be able to figure out if it was working or not.

Why Chicago Booth?

I chose Chicago Booth specifically because of the focus on social impact and the renowned behavioral science program. It’s not every day that you have a Nobel Prize winner on faculty that will join a lunchtime conversation over zoom, but that’s exactly what happened last Saturday in-between classes. I think it’s really important because on top of learning economic theories and quantitative approaches, you must integrate a human perspective when designing solutions to complex problems. 

You are based in Chicago but chose the Weekend MBA Program. Why?

The Weekend MBA Program was my choice because I wanted to fully focus on schoolwork when it was school time. I love the fact that I can go to school on Saturday and apply what I learned on Monday. Coming to school on Saturdays almost feels like a vacation from my normal life. I would get to see friends who would fly in for the weekend. It was a very special time to be able to connect with the Chicago Booth community and not have the distractions of work during the week.

What impact did Chicago Booth have on your career?

Chicago Booth has given me the confidence to approach big messy problems and have a framework to break them down. I have the ability to draw on a lot of different areas, whether it’s new venture strategy, product design, or statistics, and that’s been really useful in my work. Complex problems need multiple perspectives. To be able to say, I’ve got a professor who might know something about that, and be able to bounce ideas off them, has been really enriching and made my work that much more effective and valuable. One of the reasons I enjoy the program so much is because my job becomes a laboratory in which I get to test the ideas that I’m learning on the weekend. It’s a lot of work, but the ability to apply the learnings to real world problems in real time gives me immense satisfaction.

Sarah Gulezian, Weekend MBA student and Civic Scholar

"Chicago Booth has given me the confidence to approach big messy problems and have a framework to break them down."

— Sarah Gulezian

Give us a concrete example of how you applied a Chicago Booth learning at work

One of the classes that I found to be really helpful was the Choice Architecture in Practice lab class. You are assigned a client, and the class runs over three quarters. You learn to design and test a behavioral science intervention for a particular outcome. We went through the process of how a randomized control trial would work and set it up. Simultaneously, at my job, I proposed a randomized control pilot that was looking to increase access to energy saving programs that would encourage people to save money. I could apply the frameworks and processes I was learning in the Choice Architecture class to my work at the same time. 

Name a highlight of your time at Chicago Booth

The people make the experience. The ideas are great, but the ability to talk about them with friends and professors has been so enriching and just lights me up. I can’t read a newspaper anymore without thinking about things that have come up in different classes, from game theory to the business of media itself. To be able to have a community of people that I can forward that article to and get diverse perspectives, and being welcomed into that community has been my favorite part. I honestly had some hesitations about whether I would fit in because I don’t have a typical business background, but it’s been the opposite of that. Studying and collaborating with friends has made the experience so much better. Having classmates who collectively want to succeed together is very motivating and has truly aided in my success.

What advice do you have for prospective and current students?

For current students: Dig in and share out. There are a wealth of resources available, and many ways to give back. It will enrich your experience to challenge yourself by going after new opportunities, like getting involved with pro bono consulting projects to test out these different frameworks and new ways of thinking. It’s really important that you share out that knowledge so your education goes beyond just you.

For prospective students: You belong here. Especially if your background isn’t that of a “typical” MBA student. We are all stronger when diverse experiences are shared.

Once you have extra time back on your hands, you will...

Start training for some long distance endurance races again. I used to do triathlons and marathons and I’m looking forward to spending Saturday mornings back out on the lakefront trail. 

Anything we missed that you would like to include before we wrap up?

I want to add that I feel so grateful  to have been able to study at Chicago Booth. It has been challenging and tested me in so many ways I didn’t anticipate, but it has been so worth it. Especially during a pandemic, while the switch to remote learning wasn’t ideal, the ability to keep learning during this time when we had to come up with new solutions not only kept me sane, but allowed me to progress in a way that was really important when a lot of things felt like they were on pause. I’m so thankful for the opportunity to keep learning during the pandemic and am looking forward to hopefully finishing up back in person.