Finding Balance at Foster: Q&A with Kelsi Ramirez, MBA 2022

MBA student Kelsi Ramirez, professional Foster headshotWhy did you choose the Evening MBA program at the UW Foster School of Business?

I’ve experienced a lot of career growth at my organization and I am someone who learns by doing. Because of this, it was important to me that I earn my MBA in an in-person and interactive environment while working full-time. I knew a Foster MBA would allow me to continue my career growth and to put my education into immediate practice.

Student Experience

How do you balance work, family/friends and school?

Whenever we have a big change in our lives, my wife and I renegotiate expectations of each other by making a contract and placing it somewhere visible. The “MBA contract” includes allowing time for our marriage, schoolwork, social time, and alone time. I’m a person of routine and have found it helpful to have designated days or hours to not do school work, or for date night, or to simply be spontaneous (yes, I schedule time to be spontaneous!). Planning for those little pockets of true free time has allowed me to get some “life” in such a packed schedule!

How have your fellow students influenced your experience in the program?

My undergrad was in Women Studies, Creative Writing and Anthropology, and I did not take a single class in business when earning my bachelor’s degree. I have learned so much from my peers – not only from their academic background (which has been largely helpful as Foster students are so dedicated to strengthening those around them!), but also from their professional experiences. The things I’ve learned in conversation with fellow students about their work in supply chain, marketing, and finance have enhanced my classroom-based learning by giving me a deeper insight to academic concepts in current business practices. The Foster experience is not simply academic, and my peers have become a strong support system and great friends as well.

Have you participated in any extracurricular activities or clubs?

I have! My first year has included Challenge for Charity activities such as a volleyball tournament and polar plunge, guest speaker events and workshops, executive mentor program, and of, course, social events!

Curriculum

What is the classroom environment like?

Coming from a liberal arts background at UW, I find the classroom environment very familiar and comfortable. The class sizes are small enough to generate productive classroom conversation, professors engage students in active problem solving, and current events are discussed often. Students are encouraged to bring their personal experiences to discussion and to learn from each other. The environment is productive, respectful, a safe space to work out ideas (and fail!), and relatively relaxed.

What has surprised you about the MBA experience?

I’m getting my MBA primarily because I want to grow into the best leader I can possibly be. I knew that given my academic background, I was going to need some more direct business education in order to reach that goal. While Foster is certainly delivering on the “hard skills” front, I have been pleasantly surprised by the considerable amount of focus on building soft skills. Students start the Evening MBA with a leadership and teams course, then the core curriculum eventually includes a class on ethical leadership. Workshops offered recently have covered topics of mental health and self-awareness. I can see that Foster is intentionally invested in building well-rounded leaders.

Faculty

Is there a faculty member who stands out in your mind as being exceptional?

I’m in my first year and the list is already so long! Christina Fong, Greg Bigley, Sarah McVay, and Ran Duchin all come to mind. Sarah McVay (Financial Accounting) and Ran Duchin (Business Finance) made topics that were daunting to me approachable, digestible and interesting. These were classes I was at first intimidated by and then thoroughly enjoyed. Christina Fong and Greg Bigley taught the leadership and teams course (eLEAD) at the beginning of the first year, which I knew was going to be right up my alley, but still managed to blow me away with their commitment and enthusiasm toward the topics.

Career Impact

Did you participate in the mentor program?

The mentor program is fantastic! I have watched some of my daily practices change in my job as a direct result of the work I did with my mentor. Having an opportunity to talk both in a group and one on one with an executive leader from a local company is a unique and rich experience. I expect to have a long-term mentoring relationship with the mentor I worked with this year and am looking forward to participating next year as well.

Work / Life / School Balance

What’s the most challenging part of the MBA?

The Foster MBA program is set up for students to engage in their own learning in order to get the most of it. At orientation, the analogy of Foster being a gym was shared in that you have to go to the gym and put in work in order to get results. This type of engaged learning is something that makes the Foster experience so enticing and rich! It does become a challenge when balancing with full-time employment and sometimes finding that I don’t have the energy I want to put into the full work in order to get the most out of it. However, while this is certainly a challenge, I do find that the time management skills required and the amount concentration and energy budgeting throughout the days and weeks are only going to benefit me as my career and live get bigger, so in whole I’m grateful for this challenge.