2019 Best EMBAs: Stephanie Tanous, University of Chicago (Booth)

Stephanie Tanous

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Bright, witty, sharp, funny, generous, reliable, kind, strong, honest, accountable, ambitious, passionate, inquisitive/curious, skeptical.”

Age: 33

Hometown: Boston, MA, USA

Family Members: Mary and Dave (parents), Marc (husband), Chelsea and Rebecca (sisters), amazing in-laws, 7 nieces and nephews, many aunts and uncles

Fun fact about yourself: I lived on a boat in Boston harbor for the first 6 years of my life. (My parents couldn’t afford an apartment, it was cheaper to buy a small boat and rent a slip in the marina.)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, B.S. Chemical Engineering minoring in Psychology

Where are you currently working?

Biogen (a biotech company specializing in developing treatments for neurological diseases such as ALS, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s), Chief of Staff to the CEO

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: High Honors/Summa Cum Laude, Beta Gamma Sigma, “Most Likely to be CEO”

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of doing well in the many finance classes that Booth has in its curriculum. With a background in engineering, I had never really seen a P&L before. Fast forward to the end of Booth and I’m in the boardroom discussing discounted cash flows. I was surrounded by people who made a career out of finance and was able to hold my own!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I was part of a team that started a business unit in Biogen. It was a bit of a skunk-works, start-up within the larger company. No one thought it would succeed… which made me want to join the effort even more. Through this business unit, we launched biosimilars – which are medicines that are “highly similar” to original medicines on the market, developed at a substantially more affordable price. In some places in Europe, only 1% of those patients diagnosed with a chronic disease were receiving the life-changing treatments available due to cost. In four years, we went from nothing to launching three medicines, 150,000+ patients treated, and saving European healthcare systems $1.7B annually. Principally for me, we were bringing a class of medicines called anti-TNF to patients, which my sister has relied on for years to control her debilitating Crohn’s disease. The need for healthcare is as basic as the need for shelter. Anything I can be a part of to get healthcare to patients around the world is something to be proud of doing.

Why did you choose this executive MBA program? At the time, I was based in Zurich, and knew I wanted an American business school. I was introduced to Booth by my mentor and alumnae Deb Glasser. It was Booth’s academic rigor and substantive approach that sealed the deal. I did not want to “check the box,” and I did not want a watered-down experience. Booth did not disappoint.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? Expanding my view of the world. This included exposure to new industries (from my classmates, professors, guest lecturers), new methodologies, and new skills. I have been described as a sponge with no saturation point. Booth is a place for those who have an unyielding thirst to learn.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? An executive MBA can be memorialized in the phrase “No rest for the weary” – and for me on top, Murphy’s Law. About halfway through the program, I was in a new, very challenging job had two unexpected deaths in the family, and my husband and I both had very ill family members 3000 miles away back in the States. I was fortunate to have a manager who was incredibly supportive of my MBA quest, and a husband who had the flexibility to take care of our families while I held the fort on the work front.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? How hard it would be to get back to studying. I was probably overly excited (nerd alert) to learn again, and had no trouble getting (back) into a rhythm of studying after being away from a formal learning environment for a decade.

What was your biggest regret in business school? No regrets!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are so many to choose from. In general, I have the most admiration for the moms in the program. Specifically, I’ll call out AC Mullin. AC has a phenomenal job that she is passionate about, is a mother of two, a pillar of strength to her own family and her Booth family.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? COO of a mid-sized biotech. Serving on the Boards of a Charity and a public company.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? It’s not a sentence, just a single word: dancing. While most of my colleagues relied on Red Bull and coffee to stay awake, I resorted to dancing and singing in the aisles on the classroom during breaks. I am one of those strange morning people and I lack the gene for embarrassment. It usually brightened people up, or at the very least confused them as to why someone surviving on little sleep could have so much energy.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I’ve never had a bucket list, and don’t plan to start now.

What made Stephanie such an invaluable addition to the class of 2019?

“Stephanie has been an exemplary student and demonstrated an excellent track record of achievements in every aspect. She is smart, intelligent, strong in academic (High honor student) and displays excellent leadership and interpersonal skills during the program. Professionally she has been very successful as well, having promoted twice during the program and now is on her 3rd promotion opportunity at graduation. She is the epitome of a Boothie.”

Intan Chen

Managing Director – Europe campus 


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