A Dallas native, Tara Tenorio, 39, moved to Nashville 20 years ago for the sole purpose of attending Vanderbilt University. She never left.
She started her career in politics, joining Governor Phil Bredesen’s successful re-election campaign and administration and working with Mayor Karl Dean. Much of her career was in community development for nonprofit organizations such as Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee and Hands On Nashville.
Working with Bredesen, a healthcare executive turned politician, her days were fueled by working alongside talented leaders making decisions with tangible impact on individual lives. When her former boss ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2018, Tenorio realized she missed the growth and learning from her early career.
“Having been in the government and nonprofit sectors for so long, I felt the need to bridge what I perceived as a vocabulary gap. A mentor of mine – also in nonprofit – said: An MBA won’t change who you talk to in your career, but it will probably change what you’re talking to them about,” says Tenorio, a 2021 graduate of Vanderbilt’s Owen Graduate School of Management’s Executive MBA program.
“I couldn’t imagine going anywhere else (other than Vanderbilt) for graduate school. The resounding sentiment was that the Owen experience was a personal one. The team from admissions to alumni services is committed to your success,” she tells Poets&Quants.
“Owen’s EMBA program groups students into C-teams, curated to pair different skill sets and sectors together. This diversity was empowering as it positioned people to be able to swap back and forth between the role of ‘student’ and ‘teacher’ depending on the challenge at hand.
“It also presented some really powerful learning moments as we worked through the forming, storming, norming phases of group development. For me as an executive and longtime people manager, it was hugely beneficial to practice leveraging influence (rather than positional authority) to affect change around the table.”
VANDERBILT OWEN EMBA SPOTLIGHT
Vanderbilt Owen offers a 21-month lockstep executive MBA in two tracks: Executive Edge and Global Immersion. Both programs begin with a week-long residency in New Harmony, Ind., and complete the first year together as a single cohort, with in person classes on alternating Saturdays. In the second year, students declare their preferred tracks. The Executive students continue the same twice-per-month schedule, with an international residency at the end of the program. The Global students complete four week-long residencies in the U.S., Canada, Mexico, and Brazil.
Vanderbilt Owen ranked 21st in Poets&Quants’ 2022 composite EMBA ranking, falling 10 spots from our previous ranking after not participating in U.S. News’ 2022 ranking. Our composite ranking is based on U.S. schools’ performance in the three major EMBA rankings – U.S. News & World Report, the Financial Times, and The Economist – and schools that don’t participate in all three are penalized by our methodology. Owen ranked 14th by the Financial Times and 24th in the Economist. (The Economist, which announced this summer that it was killing its MBA ranking because of withering criticism, did not release an EMBA ranking in 2022.)
A LESSON IN PERSEVERANCE
One lesson Tenorio learned through her MBA journey is the power of perseverance.
The year prior to joining her cohort, she applied for a full-tuition scholarship to the program but didn’t get it. She almost took the rejection as a sign that she didn’t belong in business school.
Then, her executive coach asked some pointed questions: Do you believe you can get this scholarship? Are you willing to bet on yourself and find out?
“In that moment, I realized I’d turned business school into something to win (or lose) - paying too much attention to the outcome and not the experience. Betting on myself reminded me that with or without the scholarship, whether I got straight As or struggled through to make Cs, I was there to develop and grow and do my best,” she tells P&Q. “That was a commitment I knew I could honor and a bet I was willing to take. I’m glad I did.”
Tenorio applied for the scholarship the very next year and received it. She enrolled in 2019.
Since graduating, Tenorio transitioned from a 20-person nonprofit to a 60,000-person corporation. She now works as a community development regional manager for Meta, Facebook’s parent company.
“The scale is certainly different than anything I’d experienced previously, but my role on the Community and Economic Development Team at Meta feels like the best of all of my past roles have come together to form this magical unicorn of a job,” she says.
“I love that I found this opportunity after earning my EMBA because you leave the program having learned to identify and value your strengths as a leader; at Meta we’re encouraged to continue doing the same and I feel so excited to keep exploring.”
This week, Poets&Quants For Execs is diving into the Vanderbilt Owen EMBA as part of our EMBA Spotlight series. We spoke with Juli Bennett, executive director of the EMBA program, and Joe Wagstaffe, associate director of EMBA recruiting and admissions. Our conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Tell us more about the Global Immersion Track.
Juli Bennett: About 25% of our cohort, somewhere between 10 and 12 students, will join the Global Immersion Track in their second year. They have a completely different cadence. Instead of coming back to class every other Saturday, they go on four one-week residencies with our partner schools in Canada, Brazil, Mexico and the United States.
In August of their second year, they go to the Beedie School of Business at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver. In October, they visit FIA Business School at the University of Sao Paulo. In late January, early February – right when it gets cold in Nashville – they head off to Mexico City to our partner school ITAM (Instituto Technologico Autonomo de Mexico). In each of those cities, they take two courses and are in residence with about an equal number of students from those three partner schools. They also do site visits of local businesses and corporations.
Then they are in Nashville in April and receive a certificate for doing that global track with those students from the other schools. It's pretty unique.
What is the size of the cohort typically?
Juli Bennett: Average size is between 45 and 50, with about 25% of those choosing to do the Global Immersion in the second year.
NEXT PAGE: A cohort diverse in industry and job function
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