2018 Best EMBAs: Ande Noktes, Emory University (Goizueta)

Ande Noktes

Emory University, Goizueta Business School

Passionately and unwaveringly committed to doing what’s right, shirking no challenge, unafraid of obstacles.”

Age: 41

Hometown: Atlanta, GA

Family Members: son Addison (14), twins Rowan and Gavin (13)

Fun fact about yourself: In 1999, at 21 years old, I packed a suitcase and moved to Thailand. I didn’t speak the language, or have a job, or even know if I’d like the food, but was excited to embark on a new adventure in life. On one of my many solo adventures there, I found myself stuck on a beach with tides coming in, backing me up to a sheer 50-foot cliff. I didn’t see much choice but to scale it, slippery though it was, and then ended up crawling on my belly through a dense jungle at the top of the cliff making my way back to the road. It was a moment I look back to as crazy—but at the time it just seemed like the logical thing to do!

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA (Liberal Arts: Humanities) Colorado State University, MA (Philosophy) Assumption University in Bangkok Thailand

Where are you currently working? Midtown International School, Founder and Head of School

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

-Founder of International Preschools (2005), IPS Morningside (2008): Grew IPS from 4 students in May 2005 to 250 students by 2008, with all of a $100 gift card as start-up capital. Held Executive Director role until 2012.

-Founder of MIS (2012): Grew MIS from 47 students in 2013 to 225 in 2017 and purchased a 5-acre campus. Focused on ensuring that no one waits to learn, MIS will have its first graduating 12th grade class in 2020.

-Girls on the Run (Coach and mentor),

-Georgia Organics (Developing business model workflows and strategy for small organic farmers)

-Start:ME (Supporting strategic growth and funding alternatives for organization educating micro-entrepreneurs in Atlanta)

-Greece Needs Love (Consulting on board development and expansion)

-Atlanta Jewish Academy (Consulting with school leaders and teachers on breaking from traditional educational models)

-Georgia Chess Association (Board member; grew membership, participation, and enrollment in scholastic chess; redesigned website; 2008-2010)

-Evansdale Elementary School (Directory chair; supported FERPA compliance and publication of school directory; 2007-2012)

-Junior Achievement (Volunteer presenter and facilitator, 2008-2012)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? When going through the admission process at Emory, I asked the admissions counselor what she thought might get in the way of my being successful in the eMBA program. She told me that she saw how introverted and introspective I could be, and that she really thought there would be no greater disservice to myself than to hold back socially in the program. I was later nominated and selected as social chair for our class. While it’s been a huge stretch for me, I am so delighted to have been able to craft meaningful community building activities across our terms.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? It’s hard for me to look into the past, as there always seems to be so much to do moving forward! If I think about MIS, I am proud to have created a haven for Atlanta’s brightest students where they don’t have to wait to learn and where they find opportunities to meet their potential, whatever that might be. I’m proud to have fostered a space for outstanding faculty members who understand what it takes (and buy in to what it means) to create a culture of thinking and learning for themselves and our students. And I’m proud that we’ve found a way to help parents appreciate their children more deeply as they discover the amazing things going on in growing brains.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is an impossible question—I learned tremendous amounts from all of my professors, and their different styles and expertise were like no other educational experience I’ve ever had. If I had to call out one, I would say I loved Professor Walton’s classes—his energy and enthusiasm had me on the edge of my seat, and I still use the tools, insights, and strategies from his classes in my day-to-day work.

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite course was definitely Marketing Management—as an entrepreneur with no formal business training, I always had a bias against what I thought marketing was, largely because I thought it was rooted in a “needy” mindset rather than a positive one germinating from growth and strengths. Professor Bowman turned that worldview upside down in the first class session. My biggest insight was that using marketing strategies and analyses effectively was all about becoming more fully oneself as a business.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I loved Emory from the moment I walked on campus—the diversity of the student body, the appreciation for art and nature that was evident around the business school, the clarity of values and purpose that exuded from the people, the publications, and even the walls—I knew that my unique perspective and background would be embraced.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? The ability to think divergently and make connections among the different disciplines was a true joy for me in business school. I explored the impact of operational choices on organizational behavior, how the insights from a segmentation analysis might change strategy, and even how I might be able to apply portfolio theory to school admissions. These opportunities to delve deeper into the curriculum were the most enjoyable parts of this experience.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? One evening in our first semester, I had my textbooks piled on the dining room table with a laundry list of work to finish, and I was running back-and-forth to help the kids with their homework, making dinner, and responding to texts and emails from work. I experienced this dreadful sense of waste, and decided to restructure our evenings from that moment. I convened the kiddos and told them I thought it would be better if we all did our homework together; from that evening on, we sat together for an hour or more each evening. The kids got to learn about the time value of money and bottlenecks and education in Chile, and I was able to be present for them as they worked through long division and growth and decay formulas. Work took a backseat from then on in the evenings, until the kids were in bed, and it felt like the program brought us closer together as a family.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Do it! Be ready to challenge your thinking and the status quo. Be ready to see your colleagues at work in a new way after every single reading and class session. Work hard and keep up. Connect personally with each of your classmates. Find joy in every experience.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I love school. I love reading and writing and growing. But every single person I told about my choice to go back to school said I was crazy and that I wouldn’t have time. I think being creative about time and workload management was hugely important, but that’s different from not having time.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t really look to the past much, which doesn’t leave much room for regrets. If I had one it would be that we didn’t take another trip together as a cohort. I loved seeing my classmates in South America, adventuring and embracing the newness of the culture and the learning opportunities we had. I wish we could have done one more trip as a whole cohort to solidify our group cohesiveness.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Angelique Stewart is such a phenomenal woman. She contributes thoughtfully to class, steps up to lead groups and teams, worked with me as co-social chair, is an incredible mother, and experienced more personal tragedies during our short time in the program than anyone I know. She’s so strong and purposeful, despite or maybe because of her personal circumstances, and I will always admire her.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I went in to present at a board meeting one day and realized the trustees and I were speaking different languages.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…starting another business.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I think we have to change what it feels like to go to school for students all over the world. They are our future change makers and problem solvers and culture creators, and it hurts me to think about what most students around the globe experience when they go to school (IF they go to school!) each day. I want to fix that.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? “Ande was grounded but driven by vision, compassionate but unafraid to stand up for what’s right and just.”

Favorite book: Lord of the Rings (Let’s pretend all of the trilogy’s pages fit in one tome)

Favorite movie or television show: Contact (1997)

What are the top two items on your bucket list? 1) Learn to sail (I’m starting next week!) and 2) study physics (saving this for retirement).

What made Ande Noktes such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“The pioneers of business education such as Joseph Wharton intended it to be a force for social good. Ande Noktes exemplifies these roots. Seldom is there a student with such passion for an important societal issue, who has the natural charisma and leadership skills to motivate others to buy into her passion, and the motivation and persistence to succeed.

Visionary; Educator; Entrepreneur; Leader. As the founder of multiple global-themed educational institutions, Ande brings an entrepreneurial mindset and a passion for equipping the next generation to become lifelong learners through globally-minded education to our executive MBA classroom. She brings a diversity of perspective and level of curiosity that is unmatched by any student I have taught. Her world travels adds cultural understanding; her work with children and adolescents brings the outlook of our next generation; her vision for what learning can and should be helps her push class discussions in ways we’re not accustomed to.

Ande is an outstanding student and an even better person. Her passion for learning is exemplary, and her empathy and compassion for others is second-to-none. When emotions and stress-levels are high, she provides a needed calmness that becomes contagious. She is a role model for others.

“In closing, Ande’s already significant contributions to society will be amplified as she pursues them through business; something that is more likely due to her executive MBA training. She is a great ambassador for our school and for the degree. She is very deserving of this recognition. I give her my highest recommendation.”

Douglas Bowman
Professor of Marketing
Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

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