2016 Best EMBAs: Audrey Klein, University of Minnesota (Carlson)

 Audrey Klein MinnesotaAudrey Klein

Carlson School of Management, University of Minnesota

Audrey Klein is a force. She approaches everything with the open-minded craving for learning that one would expect from a Ph.D., but she is no stereotypical bookworm. Audrey is creative, fun, energetic, and compassionate. She was elected as a class representative by her cohort and was a superb advocate for her fellow classmates.

Age: 44

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Family Members: Married

Undergraduate School and Degree: BA in psychology, Kenyon College; MA in experimental psychology, Case Western Reserve University; Ph.D. in experimental psychology, Case Western Reserve University

Where are you currently working? I am executive director of the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. The foundation focuses on providing treatment services and other types of support for individuals suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. My team designs and conducts clinical research studies on specific topics and supports the clinical data needs of all strategic business units within the foundation.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles: I regularly work with the foundation’s Institute for Recovery Advocacy to help raise public awareness of addiction-related issues and trends. I also work to help the homeless by volunteering at organizations like Feed My Starving Children.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My study group did a fantastic project on Yum! Brands for Dr. Madzar’s international business course this past fall. I was instrumental in shaping the project and helping the group analyze the company’s go-to-market strategy for KFC in China. In a period of two to three weeks, I read everything I could about Yum! Brands. To this day, I consider myself an expert in its China strategy. The paper was an extremely thorough, astute analysis and I think the class and other observers benefitted from hearing our presentation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Several years ago I designed and conducted a truly innovative research study on the cognitive effects of suppressing drinking-related thoughts in recovering alcoholics. At the time, the majority of addiction scientists were studying convenience samples of college students, most of whom did not suffer from addiction. My study was one of the first in the addiction field to acknowledge that distorted thinking processes play a role in addiction. I was the only researcher at the time to examine whether or not the impact of these cognitive changes was related to how long a person had been sober. This study was the springboard for launching a series of related studies on exploring the role of cognition in addiction and treatment outcomes.

Favorite MBA Courses? Marketing Management (Joe Redden) and Advanced Marketing (Akshay Rao). I came to the Carlson School knowing very little about marketing and I’ve learned that it’s a vital part of business strategy. Both courses involved analyzing Harvard Business Review cases that outlined the marketing strategies of well-known companies. Both professors were experts in the field and were willing to share their knowledge with us in a very engaging way. These courses impacted me so much that I am considering a career pivot to marketing and market research.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I chose the program at the Carlson School for its international and global markets focus. Understanding the globalization of business and emerging markets is essential to being successful in business, and the Carlson Executive MBA is structure with this focus. The course content, the virtual team project, and our international residency experience all impart valuable lessons on the nature of global business.

What did you enjoy most about business school? Getting to know my amazing cohort. The Carlson Executive MBA class of 2016 is a group of talented, motivated people. The opportunity I had to work with them on a wide variety of projects and learn from them both inside and outside of class was extremely valuable.

What was the hardest part of business school? Juggling all of my life responsibilities and being frequently anxious about my ability to effectively do so.

What is your best advice for juggling work, family and education? Prioritize, and set boundaries. It is really easy to overextend, but the result is never good. Also, being clear and candid with loved ones about the time required to do well in the program is important.

What’s your best advice to an applicant to your executive MBA program? As cliché as it might sound, make sure you’re ready. Pursuing an MBA is a huge commitment. Make sure you will have the time to devote to the program and garner support and buy-in from your family and co-workers.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when …” I realized I wanted to be one of the people creating and defining organizational strategy, not just implementing it. But as someone with a strongly scientific background, I couldn’t picture myself sitting at the senior executive table without knowing a lot more about the basics of business.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be …” Writing government grants to help cover the costs of my team’s research activities.

What are your long-term professional goals? Pretty simple: I want to run a company that makes products/services that make people’s lives better and make a lot of money in the process. Free cash flow and strong margins allow one to make products and services that add value and create wealth for stakeholders and shareholders. Important changes happen through money and influence.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Paulette Dewey, my literature professor in high school. She was the first person in my life to look me in the eye and tell me I could be anything I wanted to be. Her support and coaching made me realize that I had talent and she told me at 17 years old that I was one of the most talented presenters she had ever seen. Each day she taught class, she had a way of mesmerizing me and making me care about what she was saying. I sometimes receive similar feedback when I speak and it reminds of what an influence she was in my life.

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a twin, I’m left-handed, and my blood type is AB positive. A friend of mine once joked that the combination of these fairly rare traits in one person makes me a bit of an anomaly

Favorite book: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Favorite movie: The Big Lebowski

Favorite musical performer: Aretha Franklin

Favorite television show: “Homeland”; I’m a huge Carrie Mathison fan

Favorite vacation spot: Jamaica; my husband and I try to go at least once a year

Hobbies? One of my goals is to become fluent in at least a couple of languages. Right now I’m focusing on Spanish, so I spend much of my spare time doing language drills and watching Univision. I also love to read and have focused lately on memoirs written by famous business leaders, e.g., Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg and Confessions of a Street Addict by Jim Cramer. I enjoy sports and try to play basketball and volleyball whenever possible.

What made Audrey such an invaluable addition to the class of 2016?

“Choosing nominees for the top executive MBA students was an easy choice this year. Audrey Klein stands out for many reasons. Having worked with the EMBA program for over 16 years, and in serving as director for six years, I feel confident in saying that I know what makes a good executive MBA student. Audrey fits the bill in several ways. Academically, she is a strong contributor in the classroom and on her study teams. Professionally, Audrey’s path was a nontraditional one: She earned a Ph.D. in cognitive/experimental psychology that led to her current role as executive director of the Butler Center for Research at the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation. Academics and career success are wonderful, and she has had an impressive career.

“It’s imperative I convey who Audrey’s impressive personal character: Audrey Klein is a force. She approaches everything with the open-minded craving for learning that one would expect from a Ph.D., but she is no stereotypical bookworm. Audrey is creative, fun, energetic, and compassionate. She was elected as a class representative by her cohort and was a superb advocate for her fellow classmates. She dives fully into both the academic and social components of the executive MBA program, making every effort to experience all that she can in two years. When we need volunteers, she is always the first to commit. Audrey is engaged on all levels.

“She is an amazing person that I am proud to have in the program and proud to know!”

Robyn Wick


Carlson Executive MBA Program


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