2017 Best EMBAs: Katherine Buehner, Washington University (Olin)

Katherine Buehner

Washington University in St. Louis

“I am a hardworking and ambitious mother of three beautiful children trying to be the best example for them that I can be.”

Age: 34

Hometown: Colorado Springs, Colorado

Family Members: Travis Buehner (Husband), Nolan (Age 4), Alice (Age 2), Claire (10 months)

Fun fact about yourself: I played Rugby (was a flanker) at Providence College.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Providence College, BS in Biology, Minor in Business Studies.

Where are you currently working? Presto Staffing, Co-Founder and Operations Manager.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Colorado Springs Little League Team Representative, Fellowship of the Rockies Bible school volunteer.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I worked with another classmate and his wife during the program and started a medical staffing company. I had absolutely no experience with staffing companies, but when my classmate came to me with the idea I thought that it would be a great way to enhance my education because I could take what I was learning and apply it directly to the startup. We launched the company six weeks earlier than we had expected and grew four times quicker than we had anticipated. The company was turning a profit within four months and I’m proud of all of the hard work that the three of us put into the company to get it where it is today.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The ten years I served as an Aviation Officer and Blackhawk pilot for the US Army is what I’m the proudest of. There are not many female aviators in the Army and I was proud to represent women in one of the greatest organizations in America. The camaraderie that exists within the armed forces is hard to put into words and every day I miss leading the less than one percent of American men and women who voluntarily join to defend America. It was an absolute honor to be able to serve and I believe I’m a better person for doing it.

What was your favorite MBA Course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? I really enjoyed the entire Growth theme. In particular, I enjoyed learning about the four colors of growth taught by Professor Thakor. I had never thought about the different types of people that can work in organizations and how the types working together can lead to great collaboration or completely break down an organization. I also loved learning about the colors of companies and how all types can be successful if they balance themselves towards the industry they are competing in.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? The program had been referred to me by a great friend who served with me in the Army. I knew in order to get the full experience from an MBA I couldn’t do an online program and I needed interaction with classmates and professors in an actual classroom environment. Olin provided exactly what I needed in a way that I could still do the program and take care of my family.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I loved flying into St. Louis (from Denver, CO) the second half the program and getting to spend time with the St. Louis students. My favorite memories are dinner together with fellow students on Thursdays and Friday nights enjoying each other’s company and sometimes lots of dancing!

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? When I signed up for the program my husband was not expecting to have to deploy. A few months before leadership week, we found out that he would be deploying for six months during the program. It was also at the beginning of the program that I found out I was pregnant with our third child. I also decided that while my husband was deployed, I would start a medical staffing company with a fellow student and his wife. The baby was due during Operations Management, but luckily she came ten days early. My mother and mother in law flew into Colorado Springs to help me take care of the kids because my husband was still deployed. I was able to have the baby and still make it to class the next weekend because my mother took care of her while I was in class and I was able to nurse her during breaks. It seems crazy thinking back on the situation, but I was determined to finish school on time no matter what was thrown my way.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s executive MBA program?  Reach out to people who have been through the program and talk to them about their experiences and the value they saw at Olin. There are many options out there for EMBA, but the diversity within my class and the caliber of my classmates was ultimately what made me decide to come to Olin.

What was your biggest regret in business school? It was that I didn’t get to spend more time with my classmates in the first year of the program. It was a daily struggle while my husband was deployed to stay on top of the kids, school, the staffing company and the new baby that I really didn’t make enough time for my classmates in the Denver cohort.

 Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Apeska Desai is one of the smartest woman I know. She is an extremely talented physician who came from India in her early twenties and she has thrived in America as a talented hospitalist. She always had amazing insights during class and I was always impressed at her ability to read cases studies and understand the content so quickly. Not only is she a beautiful, talented woman, but she also became a great friend.

 “I knew I wanted to go to business school when…both of my parents had successful business careers and I remember growing up going to visit them in their offices and thinking to myself, “I want to have success like this one day.” They were both able to create a work life balance for my family that I strive for as well.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…looking for a job with absolutely no idea where to start. This program helped to point out my strengths and weaknesses and through my interactions with my classmates I was able to find a path to pursue. Without the program I don’t think I would have been able to reach that point.”

What is your favorite company and what are they doing that makes them so special? Tech Qualled (qualled.com) is a new company founded by Naval Academy graduates and veterans. They saw a gap in veterans trying to get jobs in high tech sales and created a company that seeks out qualified veterans, puts them through a rigorous training program, and then places them in account executive roles in some of the best high tech companies in the world. The company is on its seventh cohort and growing fast.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the executive MBA experience? I loved to travel with my classmates and learn about different cultures and how companies operate in different parts of the world. China was incredible and I would recommend keeping that residency. I would have liked another international residency, maybe traveling somewhere in Europe or India to broaden our global experience even more.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I have a passion for children and any person or company that puts children first. I would love to be the President or CEO of a company that is solely focused on making the lives of every child in America better.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I could not have completed this program without the incredible support of everyone in my family. My parents and in-laws made huge sacrifices and flew into Colorado Springs during many occasions to help me take care of my kids. Additionally my husband has been completely supportive from the beginning and has made incredible sacrifices to make sure I could get the program completed to the best of my ability and on time.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? A hard working, ambitious but good person who listens well to all different views and appreciates all kinds of people.

Favorite book: Little Women

Favorite movie or television show: Top Gun

Favorite musical performer: Garth Brooks

Favorite vacation spot: Exuma, Bahamas

Hobbies? Running, Skiing, Golfing, Making photo books and playing with my kids.

What made Katie such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“Katie is an incredible addition to our EMBA cohort. She is hard-working, team-oriented, and incredibly bright. She gets things done without drama and in a professional way. But what is perhaps most notable about Katie – and incredible given her impressive military track record – is that she is just simply a delightful person…a humble, nice, and delightful person. Every one of her classmates would love to have her on their team.”

Stuart Bunderson
Associate Dean & Director of Executive Programs
George & Carol Bauer Professor of Organizational Ethics & Governance
Co-Director of the Bauer Leadership Center