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What made you decide to pursue an Executive MBA?

I spent most of my career in consulting at a large firm, but for the past several years I have been a founding partner at a small firm that has grown rapidly. This has forced me to quickly adapt to the new roles of leading, managing, executing strategy, articulating vision, and dealing with the emotional roller coaster of being an entrepreneur. I felt strongly that I could benefit from a program that would help me fill in my knowledge gaps with the right tools. My husband—who is also one of my business partners—is a 2017 graduate of the Booth Evening & Weekend MBA Program and when I expressed my desire to get more formal business training and cultivate my leadership skills, he recommended that I consider the Executive MBA Program.

What factors played into your decision to attend Booth?

My priority was finding a program that would truly challenge me with a rigorous curriculum and help me engage in intense personal and professional growth. I found that even the application process to Booth was a learning experience. I hadn’t taken an exam in many years—more years than I will admit—and while it was challenging to study for the Executive Assessment exam on the train while commuting to work and in the evenings once my children were in bed, the experience gave me confidence that I could return to being a student. That’s when I knew that I wasn’t just looking for a prestigious degree, I was looking for an opportunity to really stretch my brain and emotional intelligence.

Meeting with the Booth admissions team, visiting classes, attending the Women’s Winter Weekend—including a terrific mini-course with Hal Weitzman—and meeting current students reinforced my confidence that Booth was committed to making this a life-changing experience for all of its Executive students. The professors are as dedicated to intellectual rigor in their teaching as they are in their research, and it was clear that they wanted their students to understand the foundational material. I was equally impressed by the students, both in Chicago and our global campuses. It was too compelling to say no to this opportunity.

Lastly, as a woman in a male-dominated profession, I am used to being the only woman in the room. I’ve had clients mistake me for my male colleagues’ assistant, I’ve been bullied, and I’ve had my ideas and opinions marginalized. It is important to me to have the confidence and know-how to successfully advocate for myself and my opinions in those situations. Shoring up my formal education and credentials is one way I can build a stronger sense of belonging in those environments. I have three sons, and I want to instill in them the idea that there is no limit to what their mom—or any woman—can achieve.

What has been a significant or memorable experience that you have had during your first quarter at Booth?

Notwithstanding the limitations of remote learning, I developed genuine kinship and camaraderie with my study group in the fall quarter. We had such a delightful mix of characters, backgrounds, and skills in our group, and we truly supported each other. I not only learned a lot from them but formed a warmth toward each of them that felt special particularly in light of a pandemic. The joy of returning to the “virtual” classroom with world-class professors was really amplified by my study group: we challenged each other with humor and respect, and it enhanced the learning experience for me tremendously.

About Laurel

Laurel Van Allen is the head of the finance practice and a founding partner at Coherent Economics, a boutique economics consulting firm based in Chicago. She has nearly 20 years of experience consulting for clients engaged in high-profile disputes involving securities fraud, disputed mergers & acquisitions, bankruptcy matters, and valuation disputes. In addition, she has consulted for clients on several major antitrust matters. Her past clients include major financial institutions such as Citibank, institutional investors such as Vanguard, and law enforcement agencies including the attorneys general of Illinois, Oregon, and Washington. She has worked on hundreds of matters in a consulting capacity, and she has been retained as an expert witness. She lives in Highland Park, Illinois, with her husband (Booth ’17) and three sons, Asher, Isaac, and Gabriel.

Makini Allwood

Assistant Director, Marketing and Communications

Makini works with the Global Admissions teams to craft content and communications targeted to prospective students. 

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