2015 Best EMBA: Jackie Dawson

Jackie Dawson

Jacqueline A. Dawson


University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business

How is this for high praise? William Valenta, assistant dean for Katz’s MBA and Executive MBA programs, refers to Jacqueline Dawson as the “epitome of what we expect of our executive MBA students.” Looking to get out of a rut and improve her toolbox, Dawson also became known as a tireless recruiter for the program. A Six Sigma manager at McKesson, Dawson is also a mentor to college-aged women at the Pittsburgh chapter of Strong Women, Strong Girls.

Age: 35

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Family Members: Charles Dawson, husband

Undergraduate School: Robert Morris University

Undergraduate Degree: B.S. Information Science

Where are you currently working? McKesson, Manager Six Sigma

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I knew I wanted to go to business school when I found myself relying on the same tools, methods, and techniques to solve problems time and time again. I felt in order to give myself a competitive edge, I needed to improve my toolbox.”

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…stuck in a rut instead of bringing new problem-solving methods to the table and mentoring my peers.”

What are your long-term professional goals? My long-term professional goal is to continue to expand the breadth and depth of my process improvement toolbox. As I continue to grow my list of accomplishments and experience, I will obtain a C-level position. Ultimately, I plan to write a book on continuous improvement filled with the tools, techniques, and methods I have put to use over the years including those which I learned in business school.

Favorite Courses: Business of Humanity, Marketing Management, and Financial Management

Which academic or professional achievements are you most proud of? Over the span of my career, I have had the opportunity to lead a variety of Lean and Six Sigma projects, which have delivered a grand total of over $6 million of cost savings and improved efficiency and effectiveness.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I want to thank my mother for my success. My mother has Crohn’s Disease and suffered two strokes as complications from a blood clotting disorder before she was 36 years old. Through all of the physical pain and challenges, she never lost focus of her personal goals. She has taught me the importance of believing in one’s self and never giving up. The challenges I have faced in my academic, professional, and personal life pale in comparison to those which my mom bravely faces every day. Watching her battle it all with a smile on face gives me the strength to get through anything.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? Aside from being a best-in-class program staffed with world-class faculty, the Executive MBA world-wide program, the University of Pittsburgh includes four Global Executive Forums. Students from the Pittsburgh, Prague and São Paulo cohorts come together to take class, complete group projects, and network. Having the opportunity to interact with not only business leaders from the Pittsburgh area but also leaders from across the globe is an invaluable experience which helps prepare students for working in a global model. This international component gives Pitt’s program the edge over others.

What did you enjoy most about the executive MBA program? Every class provides a format that encourages students to share their experiences and perspectives. Given the high caliber of the students in Pitt’s Executive MBA program and the number of industries represented, there is a wealth of knowledge to be gained. I have enjoyed learning from the experiences of my peers and have also enjoyed sharing my own experience and receiving their input and advice.

What is your most memorable moment from business school? While in São Paulo, Brazil as part of the class Business for Humanity, we visited a newly constructed community center in the low-income part of the city. Built by the electric utility company AES Brazil, the center is the heart of the community. It was constructed as a safe haven for the local children to learn about art, music, and different cultures. It was an amazing opportunity to see an organization’s sustainability project come to life and to see the impact it has had on the community firsthand.

Fun fact about yourself: My husband and I were married in the Candlelight Wedding Chapel in Las Vegas, Nevada. About a week after we were married, the chapel closed. Eventually it was renovated and moved to the Clark County Museum as a permanent exhibit.

Favorite book: The Lean Startup (Eric Ries) and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t (James. C. Collins)

Favorite movie: Some of my fondest memories from childhood are having movies nights with my mom and grandma every Friday. We would watch the classics from the golden age of Hollywood and eat popcorn. Their favorite movie, and mine as well, is Gone with the Wind, which I have probably seen over 100 times.

Favorite musical performer: My favorite musical performer of all time is Frank Sinatra.

Favorite television show: For one hour every Sunday, I allow myself the opportunity to catch up on current political affairs by watching “This Week” on ABC. My favorite television show to DVR is “Shark Tank” on ABC.

Favorite vacation spot: The architecture, history, food, and ambiance are the reasons why I love Paris, France.

What are your hobbies? In my free time, I like to travel, visit museums, and write.

Twitter Handle: @jdawson0521

What made Jackie such an invaluable addition to the class of 2015 for your executive MBA program?

“A successful student in an Executive MBA program is one who gives to the class as much as he/she receives. Jackie Dawson clearly falls into this category. Her positive demeanor is one that the members of her class, as well the staff and faculty, have frequently noted. She is an outstanding student and team member.

Jackie is also a true advocate for the EMBA program as she is at the forefront of attending recruiting events for prospective students as well as going out of her way to meet and talk to prospective students that visit the class when thinking of attending our program. Without question, Jackie has been instrumental in our ability to successfully recruit these students.

Jackie is also a role model. At a time when we are seeking more women to pursue graduate business education, Jackie is leading the way through her participation in the Strong Women, Strong Girls organization. Jackie is a wonderful mentor.

Jackie has a successful career, has been an outstanding representative of our EMBA program, is a strong student and is active in the community. She is the epitome of what we expect of our Executive MBA students.”

– William Valenta, Assistant Dean, MBA & Executive Programs

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