Published: May 4, 2020

The Leeds MBA Women’s Webinar showcases an incomparable experience for women.

A turning point for last year’s admitted MBAs, the 2019 inaugural Leeds MBA Women’s Weekend event convinced many women that the Leeds School of Business, with its dedication to their success, was the right place for them. This year, despite the necessity to go virtual due to COVID-19, the graduate programs team delivered an inspiring program once again.

On April 17, the 2020 Leeds MBA Women’s Webinar welcomed 36 admitted MBA women into the exceptional women’s community at Leeds.

“The webinar gives women the opportunity to connect with Leeds faculty, staff, current students and alumnae, as well as our corporate partners and board members. It also facilitates connections with their peers, kick-starting relationships and building their network before school even starts,” says Kristi Ryujin, associate dean for Graduate Programs.

We want women to have choices and voices.

~Dean Sharon Matusik

As she welcomed admitted women, Dean Sharon Matusik described Leeds’ commitment to increasing the number of women in business—from business school classrooms to the C-suite.

“Our commitment to women leaders is central to who we are at Leeds. One of our main initiatives is End the Gap; we’re trying to get our student population to 50/50 so we can fuel that talent pipeline.”  

Ellen Balaguer, chair of Leeds Advisory Board and retired global managing director at Accenture, attested to Leeds’ gender equity initiatives: “You’re going to get full-blown support from [the Leeds] community that’s unmatched for women in MBA programs around the country.”

An academic sampling

Two of the webinar sessions in this half-day program were designed to give women a taste of the stimulating course content they would experience at Leeds.  

They participated in interactive entrepreneurship and emotional intelligence classes—taught with an experiential approach by some of Leeds top faculty and executive partners, including Jane Miller, CEO of Lily’s Sweets and Jane Knows. To encourage skills- and network-building, classes also included small group breakouts and completion of a personality instrument.

A glimpse of some of the presenters.

Women Webinar Sharon

Dean Sharon Matusik

Women Webinar Ellen

Ellen Balaguer, Leeds Advisory Board Chair; Retired Global Managing Director, Accenture

Women Webinar Lindsay

Lindsay Bergemann (MBA’20)

Women Webinar Kendall

Kendall Carroll (MBA’19), Product Marketing Manager, NetApp

Women Webinar Carly

Carly Hernandez, Executive Assistant, Leeds Graduate Programs

Women Webinar Jenny

Jenny Gerson (MBA’14), Sr. Director of Energy and Environmental Management, Zayo Group

Women Webinar Thaala

Thaala Loper (MBA’21)

Women Webinar Shannon

Shannon Flahive (MBA’21)

Women Webinar Kristi

Kristi Ryujin, Associate Dean for Graduate Programs, Leeds School of Business

Why Leeds

A panel of women students and alumnae offered personal insights into life at Leeds in the “What Makes Leeds MBA & Boulder Special?” session. What came through, time and again, was the immense support panelists felt from faculty, staff and peers.

Shannon Flahive, a first-year MBA, revealed that Leeds was the only school she applied to. “If I wanted an MBA degree, this was the program I wanted—a program so focused on empowering women...and really passionate about moving women forward. That spoke to me.”

Many commented on the tightknit collaborative culture.

“Everyone wants what’s best for everyone—it’s a bunch of people trying to build each other up,” said Flahive.

First-year MBA Thaala Loper relayed how her classmates pooled their diverse skill sets together to create a universal study sheet for a challenging finance exam. “Collaboration is the bread and butter of what the Leeds experience is like on a day-to-day basis,” said Loper.

Connecting students and community

Panelist Jenny Gerson (MBA’14), senior director of energy and environmental management at Zayo Group, pointed out, “Not only is there collaboration within the program, but there’s a strong collaboration between the local business community and Leeds.”

Dean Matusik expanded on this: “So much of what we do here is not just deliver that content knowledge with world-class faculty, but also that connection, that access to our community and the engagement of the community to help you move forward in your career.”

Some attendees asked how the panelists had built their networks and established professional relationships through the program.

Leeds alumna Kendall Carroll (MBA’19), a former high school teacher and now a product marketing manager at NetApp, described the abundance of informal and formal opportunities available. For instance, she found a pivotal internship through her professional mentor—a woman she still maintains a relationship with today.

A virtual MBA experience?

Given the uncertainty about the impact COVID-19 will continue to have on program delivery, attendees were understandably concerned about how they would get to know their cohort and build their network virtually.

Balaguer, a seasoned pro at working remotely across the globe, recommended that students see it as an opportunity to learn how to form virtual relationships—a necessary skill for working in a global marketplace.

“There is a mindset and approach when you have to establish and maintain relationships this way…I can assure you over the course of your career, you’re going to need to use these skills,” said Balaguer.

During a Q&A session with Graduate Programs staff, Tracee DeAntoni, associate director of student services, outlined several programs designed to facilitate relationship-building, including coordinating small group work on Zoom and an ongoing series of virtual networking with women executives, known as the Women’s Leadership Forum.

COVID-19 contingencies

Dean Matusik was candid in addressing the school’s plans for moving forward during the pandemic.

“We’ve built out a number of different scenarios that we’re prepared for, so whatever happens over the next couple months, we’re very well prepared to deliver a high quality Leeds experience.” She went on to say, “We think it’s likely to be a campus experience observing social distancing, with smaller, more personal interactions.”

Despite the last-minute shift from an in-person to online event, Balaguer confirmed that “the [Graduate Programs] team demonstrated the extent of the support and collaborative experience women receive at Leeds—whether it’s in-person or virtually.”

“The women saw first-hand the agility and creativity of our program,” said Balaguer.

Get more details about the event or watch the webinar recording.