Top 17 Moments of my MBA Experience: A Photo Diary
# 1: Graduation
The graduation ceremony — held on Mother’s Day 2017 — was such a special day for me and represented the pinnacle of my MBA journey.
As a single mother who lost my own mother to suicide shortly before I began my MBA, I am thankful to have successfully completed my degree as a 1st generation graduate setting an example for my five year old daughter, Nyah. In addition to Nyah, I was surrounded by my dad, my godbrother, two of my closest friends — Amaka and Lara — and several strong women who have stepped into the role of my mom: my step-mother, Jimmette and my godmothers, twin sisters Martinique and Monique who were friends with my mother for over 25 years. After we walked across the stage and returned to our seats, Nyah looked into my eyes and with a serious, measured tone said: “I’m so proud of you mommy.” Tears of joy started flowing. While I am still managing my grief over the loss of my mom, graduation was definitely a joyful Mother’s Day that I will never forget.
# 2: Advocating for Lactation Room Facilities
In a September 2016 Facebook post, I memorialized my excitement about the launch of a suite of lactation rooms at Wharton’s Huntsman Hall — a project I’d worked on in my role as President of Mothers @ Wharton, an initiative of Wharton Women In Business. Learn more about the lactation room project here, here and here.
# 3: Building MBA Mama
In 2015, I was blessed to join forces with a phenomenal MBA woman, Nicole Ponton (Duke ’17) to build MBAMama.com, an online platform that provides ambitious women with tools and resources to leverage an MBA and strategically navigate family/career planning. We grew this dynamic online community during our MBA journey and despite a recent hiatus as we crossed the finish line to graduation, we will continue to share stories from amazing MBA Mamas like Valerie from Stanford, Allegra from UT-Austin, Folaseto of London Business School and Kelly of UC-Berkeley Haas.
# 4: MBA Mama Things
Balancing a full-time rigorous b-school program as a single mom was challenging (AF!). Nevertheless, I could not imagine my life without Nyah in it. Whether she was watching me pitch my start-up to a crowd of business savvy professionals, enjoying her first snow, devouring a book during our nightly story time sessions, or chilling on the beach, Nyah gave me motivation and inspiration every step of the way. I blogged with advice for other moms, co-parenting tips, time management recommendations, and I shared openly about my childcare struggles.
In the spirit of overcoming adversity, here are some of my favorite moments with Nyah from the past two years.
# 5: Carnival in Trinidad
Tiffany, I. Was. Not. Ready. #jamminstill
# 6: Visiting Cuba with Wharton friends
This trip ended just a few days before Fidel Castro’s death was announced. It was an eye-opening trip where I learned more about Cuba’s unique and phenomenal history and cultural mores. I knew my father would have loved all the classic cars.
# 7: Solo Travel to Costa Rica for Spring Break 2016
I was midway through my 2nd semester and still nursing my academic war wounds from the rigorous quant-heavy Wharton core curriculum which included corporate finance, microeconomics and statistics. While I had enjoyed building relationships with my Wharton peers, I decided I needed to break away from the herd and take some time to reflect. So, I booked a solo trip to Costa Rica. Nyah stayed with my family and I enjoyed 6 days exploring the Northern Coast. The solitude was comforting and I challenged myself to navigate this country in a rental car and with broken Spanish. I ziplined for the first time in my life, and did a lot of other cool adventurous stuff! I am planning to celebrate the end of my MBA experience by booking another solo trip sometime this summer. Destination TBD.
# 8: Presenting to the Investment Committee of Wharton Impact Investing Partners
I gained in-depth practical experience in the early stage venture capital space when I was selected to be an Investment Associate with Wharton Impact Investing Partners (WIIP, formerly known as Wharton Social Venture Fund). In my work with WIIP — first as an Associate in 2015–2016 and then as Co-President in 2016–2017, I learned best practices for pitching, conducting due diligence, financial modeling, portfolio management, and valuation. My first time presenting to the Investment Committee was exhilarating and whet my appetite for the intersection of tech, startups and private equity / venture capital. I wrote about my WIIP experience here.
# 9: Celebrating Women in Business at the #LikeABoss Conference
The annual WWIB conference which took place in Fall 2016 gave me a platform to share my vision for Watotolly, an app that helps parents schedule and coordinate free, on-demand playdates with members of existing trusted networks. During the WWIB Startup competition, I pitched Watotolly for the first time publicly to a crowd of 400 people and was honored to place in the final four and receive invaluable feedback from the panel of judges.
# 10: Attending Forte Foundation’s 2016 MBA Women’s Leadership Conference
# 11: Choreographing a Beyonce-themed routine for Wharton Dance Studio 2017
I worked with one of my classmates, Nico Mora, to choreograph a dance routine that included twerking and dabbing to a medley of Queen Bey’s hits. Organizing the weekly rehearsals and constantly tweaking the routine based on skill level of our troupe was a big challenge. Hands down, this was one of the most fun leadership experiences I had at Wharton.
# 12: Going going back back to Cali Cali (USC Homecoming)
While I developed valuable relationships at Wharton, I forged some of my strongest friendships during my time as an undergraduate at the University of Southern California. I took a huge risk when I left the comfort of my Los Angeles home to move to Philadelphia to attend Wharton. I had a broad support network of friends and family who helped me with Nyah, and my ex-husband was in SoCal. Returning to LA for USC’s Homecoming festivities reminded me that I needed to make a concerted effort to nurture my oldest friendships even while I was away for grad school. Cue Drizzy Drake: #NoNewFriends
The Cali sunshine was just what the doctor ordered. Fight On!
# 13: Being part of the Black Lives Matter demonstration at Wharton
On September 21, 2016, Wharton’s African-American MBA Association organized a Black Lives Matter demonstration that created a ripple effect across the nation as students at other top business schools took a stance on an important social issue. The results were amazing and have been chronicled in articles like this, this and this.
Our message was as follows:
I am wearing black this week. I will be doing so along with #AAMBAA and allies in the #Wharton and #Penn community. I will be wearing black because I am mourning the unjust loss of another black human being — #TerenceCrutcher — at the hands of law enforcement. I am also wearing black to encourage you to engage in a conversation with me about issues of race and police violence in the U.S. When you see me, please ask me about this. I would also love if you would join me in solidarity by wearing black as well.
# 14: Wharton White Party
I did not party much during my MBA program but the Wharton White Party is legendary. Without a doubt, White Party was one of the most epic parties I have ever been to in my life. This event is organized every year by Out4Biz, Wharton’s LGBTQ organization, and epitomizes the “work hard, play hard” slogan. Epic!
# 15: Meeting US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew
I was privileged to have the opportunity to sit in a private 45 minute meeting with US Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew as part of the Wharton Women in Business leadership team in Fall 2016 (before the election). We spoke about the plans for putting Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill, macroeconomic trends, the Obama administration reducing the national deficit from 10% of GDP to 3% of GDP and free market capitalism x liberal democracy. He encouraged us to keep advocating for gender equality and equal pay. He told us to spend the first part of our careers as innovators and business leaders, and to consider public service at some point later in our careers.
I remember buying bread and milk with food stamps as a child and during business school, I was sitting in a board room with the man who controls US currency. Incredible!
# 16: Meeting Gloria Steinem
When the Toigo Foundation gave me an opportunity to run social media for their Groundbreaking Women Conference for Wall Street women, I had the honor of meeting feminist icon and activist Gloria Steinem. I could not stop crying, Gloria was cooler than a cucumber and Sue Toigo of the Toigo Foundation was all smiles.
# 17: Hanging out with Jidenna after Wharton Africa Business Forum
This was an epic night that was a highlight of my 1st year at Wharton. After my work with the Wharton Africa conference in Fall 2015, I went on to become the CTO of the organization during my 2nd year. The leaders of WASA are some of the most diverse, dynamic folks I’ve collaborated with at Wharton. I’m very grateful for my involvement with this affinity group.