2018 Best EMBAs: Jennifer Malherek, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Jennifer Malherek

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

Energetic, optimistic, constantly in motion and always have my eyes on the next goal.”

Age: 29

Hometown: La Plata, Maryland

Family Members: Parents: Patrick (ND ’79) and Janet Malherek; Brothers – Christopher (US Navy Pilot, ND ’09), Andrew and Michael

Fun fact about yourself: I have done two deployments on US Navy warships overseas, including capturing pirates, rescuing hostages from pirates, and being part of the first strikes on ISIS in 2014.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business. Bachelor’s of Business Administration in Information Technology Management

Where are you currently working? United States Navy. Currently an active duty Lieutenant attending Surface Warfare Officer School in Newport, RI. I have been active duty Navy for almost 8 years as a Nuclear Engineering Surface Warfare Officer.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Beta Gamma Sigma Honor Society
  • EMBA Class of 2018 Social Coordinator – I spent a lot of time organizing events for my classmates to be a part of the “Notre Dame experience” while on campus during our residency weekends.
  • Notre Dame Naval Leadership Weekend Coordinator (2017-2018)
  • Surface Warfare Officer Advisor
  • Athletics: intramural sports (soccer and softball), Spartan Race athlete/participant and training for half marathons and marathons.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? To be completely honest, I wasn’t the strongest student during my undergraduate business days in accounting, finance and economics. During macroeconomics, my test and submitted homework assignments were used several occasions as the “sample” answer and I received near perfect test scores in those three subjects. I definitely felt proud of those moments to show that I have grown substantially since my undergraduate days and it felt so rewarding to truly understand the material so much better now that I’m “older and wiser.”  When I was getting C’s in undergrad, I never thought I would be the one helping teach my classmates that same material 8 years later.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Being a Nuclear Engineer in the Navy has proved to be the most stressful (and incredibly rewarding) part of my job. However, my most recent tour serving as an Assistant Professor of Naval Science at the University of Notre Dame NROTC’s unit, I was able to serve as a teacher, mentor, and advisor to over 100 future Junior Officers in the Navy. Through that experience, I was able to coordinate and execute two leadership conferences we host annually, Naval Leadership Weekend (NLW), during 2017 and 2018. During those two conferences, we hosted over 300 visiting midshipmen from across the country with dignified speakers, including the Chief of Naval Operations, Commandant of the Marine Corps, Director of Naval Intelligence, Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, along with several others. We were able to execute one of the conferences against all odds (a government shutdown and winter snow storm), which caused half of our speakers to cancel the evening before the conference began… and we were still able to rework the schedule and execute contingency plans in order to put on an incredibly successful conference.  I was incredibly proud of my midshipmen team for everything they overcame during that process to still host an incredible event against all odds!

What was your favorite MBA course and what was the biggest insight you gained about business from it? My favorite MBA course was the international consulting project. My group was assigned a non-profit in Buenos Aires, Argentina and were fortunate enough to all travel there together for a week over the summer. We worked with our client for about 4.5 months prior to visiting them in person. I think we all thought we knew what to expect when we got on site… but we were wrong! We had such a fulfilling experience to visit our client on site and it really opened our eyes and changed our perspective on the project. It was an incredibly rewarding experience that I’ll never forget.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? I was very fortunate to be allowed the opportunity to return to Notre Dame as an Assistant Professor of Naval Science with the NROTC Unit. One of the reasons I accepted that position was so that I could have the opportunity to receive my MBA from Notre Dame. I understood the value and community Notre Dame creates as an undergrad and was really looking forward to being back in a ND classroom environment.  It’s a fulfilling place to be.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Hands down, the best part of this experience has been meeting my classmates and learning from all of their different backgrounds and life experiences. I have always said that I have felt sort of “sheltered” since my only work experience has been in the military and was unsure how much value I would be able to add to the classroom of executives. The amount of learning I did purely from hearing of my classmates’ unique experiences and challenges was rewarding and unexpected.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? It’s really tough to narrow down a response to this question because there wasn’t just one lesson gained during my MBA. There were several instances where I would take what I was learning in class and immediately apply it to my job. One example of this was through readings and discussions we had in our Change Management course and how to effectively promote change within an organization. I find this to be difficult in a constantly changing work environment in the military. Not only did I learn tools to implement change with my organization, I also solidified my own ideas about proper methods of communication and what it means to be a change leader.

On a more personal note, I learned a lot about myself during this experience.  During our leadership 360 feedback and week of EIL, I had to do a lot of self-reflection on my own leadership strengths and weaknesses. It was difficult, and sometimes embarrassing, to admit my leadership flaws, but through the course of the entire MBA program, I was able to self-reflect on what I need to change, develop a plan for how to improve, and have an environment where I could work on fine tuning the areas where I needed to improve. Every day I learn something new about myself, and the MBA program provided me with tools on how to continue to evolve and grow into the leader I want to be.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Well, I was fortunate in a sense that I am still single and my job while at ND was very accommodating in allowing me to take time away from the office to work on my MBA. However, the Navy did need me to change jobs earlier than expected and I had to move to Rhode Island to complete 10 months of Navy training prior to reporting to my next ship, the USS ROSS in Rota, Spain. Because of that, I am now a full time Navy student and EMBA student, which has provided a new set of challenges in de-conflicting school schedules and exams. I am very fortunate the Executive MBA administration and the Navy were both able be flexible to allow me to complete all of my duties. On another note, having a team in the MBA program that works well together is a life savior. I wouldn’t have been able to do this program without their constant help and support.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? You can do it! Just take it one day at a time. When looking at it in the big picture, it definitely feels incredibly daunting and not manageable. But with the support of your friends, family, and classmates, you will be able to be successful. We are all in it together and will do anything to help each other out when we need to. It is definitely worth the extra work load!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? You’re never too old to go back to school (and it’s never too late)! One of my classmates (my other idol) is Wally Brant. He is 68 (but who’s counting), the CEO of his own company, and still went back to school. Yes, it’s daunting, but you can do it…it’s never too late to put yourself out there and try something new.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I honestly do not think I have any regrets in business school. I attacked the curriculum with everything I had to give and spent a great amount of time getting to know my classmates (including organizing functions to promote team building and camaraderie). There isn’t anything I would have changed about my experience.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Pierre Charbel Atallah. He has become my closest friend and lifeline in the program. I don’t know how he manages his career as a Cardiologist along with the dozens of extracurricular activities he and his family participate in… not to mention having his fourth child while in the program (his first son!), all while remaining an amazing father, husband, classmate and friend. This man can literally do it all. I strive to be more like him every day.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I discovered business as an undergraduate major. I started out college as a Pre-Med major and never even gave business school a second thought. I am fortunate for struggling in general chemistry as a freshman and finding my way to Mendoza… and even more fortunate to have had the opportunity to be back at Mendoza from my MBA. It just seemed like the next logical step for my education. ”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…probably still doing the same thing I am right now (training to go back to a ship in the Navy) but without the added education!”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? This is such a hard question because I have so many different long-term goals that are not related to one another in the slightest. My dreams range from one day commanding my own Navy warship, putting on the rank of Admiral and serving as a Fleet Commander or Chief of Naval Operations. Perhaps working for the International Olympic Committee, owning my own wine, cheese and chocolate shop, or maybe even one day becoming President of the United States. At this point, I have no idea, but all of those options are honestly on my list of “long-term professional goals.”

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? As a compassionate leader and team player who is always available and willing to help others.

Favorite book: Freakonomics

Favorite movie or television show: Madam Secretary (TV show)

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Backpack across Europe

Run a marathon

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

“Jen Malherek is the definition of a leader in the best sense of that widely used term. I had the pleasure of having her in three courses during her EMBA program and was able to see how she handled assignments that ranged from in the classroom to consulting local businesses to consulting with an international NFP.

In one instance, she was a member of a consulting team assisting a not for profit in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She smoothly and without confrontation took charge of the effort; guiding a very diverse and highly educated group. Every element of the consulting engagement (something that ran for six months and included a week in-country) was managed and led by Jen. Her team would turn to her as a spokesperson, project manager and guide.

Never reticent about speaking her mind, she challenged concepts in the courses in order to understand how to apply the material. The embodiment of an EMBA is that they are able to use the material from any course immediately in their work environment and this was Jen’s approach to the whole program.”

Charles E. Bamford, Ph.D.

Adjunct Professor of Strategy & Entrepreneurship

Stayer Center for Executive Education


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