2020 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Rosalie Villapando, University of Michigan (Ross)

Rosalie Villapando

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Lifelong learner, loving mom and wife, extroverted introvert, entertainment media executive, spiritually-centered being.”

Age: 43

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Family Members: Husband Bruce, Daughter Sana (7.5 yrs), golden retriever Bodhi

Fun fact about yourself: Despite my weak swimming skills, I am a certified NAUI scuba diver.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of California, Los Angeles.  BA, Economics

Where are you currently working? Senior Vice President, Strategy & Operations.  A&E Networks (A+E Studios), a JV between The Walt Disney Company and Hearst Corporation.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work, and Leadership Roles:  

Now that I have more time, I hope to return to reading at least two books at a time, plus hiking, traveling and cooking.

  • Community work: Volunteer at local food banks and feeding the homeless.
  • Beta Gamma Sigma and Phi Kappa Phi Honor Societies.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Graduating at the top 10% of my class, as my hard work paid off. Also, being able to work on Otharkarhaka (OTK), a nonprofit in Malawi that empowers young girls through education, for my ExecMap project. As a minority woman, I felt fortunate to be able to pay forward my life’s blessings to one of the most vulnerable populations in Africa: young girls.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Being able to transition from a pure finance background to more strategic and operational roles. Sometimes, when you start in one area or discipline, it is often difficult to transition to a different role or have others change their original perception of your skills/capabilities.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? That one is tough. I had many wonderful professors. I think it is a tie between MP Narayanan and Izak Duenyas. They both have a true passion for teaching and it shines through. They made their subjects very relatable, practical, and actually fun!  MP’s laugh was infectious, while Izak’s storytelling was very memorable.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Michigan Ross’ Top 10 ranking and reputation for thought leadership were my top reasons.  Once I attended MP’s class and met with several Ross alumni, my decision was sealed. Its culture of excellence resonated with me. 

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I loved the formal learning experience and meeting and forming new lifelong friendships. It is rare to make new meaningful relationships as an adult. I underestimated the many enduring relationships that I now have, especially with many inspirational women.   

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned the critical importance of teamwork and collaborating with others. Sometimes, it seems like it is easier and faster to accomplish a task on your own, but more often than not, a project is so much better by bringing several ideas together. This lesson often applied at work, but it has the greatest resonance today with Covid-19. My team and I are collaborating now more than ever in bringing together information and crafting a strategic plan to safely restart production as the pandemic subsides.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I remember taking a work trip to New York during the program. I missed my family so I had them fly out for the weekend so that we could enjoy the city together. I still had school deliverables, so as soon as my family went to sleep in the hotel room, I would retire to the closet to finish studying. Thankfully, it was a large walk-in closet with decent lighting, but nonetheless it was still a closet!

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Ensure that you have the proper support from both work and family/friends. You will become very efficient with your time, but you will need the practical and emotional support from the people in your life.

You will realize that you have do have available time to devote to studying, but you will have to be more purposeful and disciplined with your schedule. Binge-watching Netflix will probably not be a priority any longer, but your productivity will definitely increase.  

What was your biggest regret in business school?  I wish that I had organized all of my school work and files better immediately after every class as I know that I will want to go back and refer to them.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Lynn Mulvihill. She is a smart, confident, positive leader who easily brings people together. She founded the Ross Entrepreneurial Ventures club in collaboration with others from our cohort. In addition to being an executive at Disney and a wife, she is a loving mom to two young boys.

“I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I saw the positive impact that having an MBA had on my professional colleagues.”

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Although I am quite happy and content in my current role, I would welcome an opportunity to serve as a CFO/COO while mentoring others.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like for them to remember that I was always willing to help and consistently gave my best.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Learn how to play the guitar and make a pilgrimage to Shirdi in India.

What made Rosalie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?  “Rosalie is a superstar! She is self-motivated with a strong work ethic and grit, and she holds herself to a very high standard. In addition to excelling in school, Rosalie maintains a busy career as the SVP Strategic Finance & Operations for A+E Networks (a Disney and Hearst JV). She is also a mom and a spouse.

Others in the cohort could always count on Rosalie to keep her word and to produce the highest quality of work. She is a true professional with high integrity and willingness to help others excel. For example, one peer said: “Rosalie is a natural leader. She sets the bar high and then inspires her team members to reach it while ensuring no one is left behind. Her desire to build camaraderie helped make the cohort a close-knit group. Rosalie strengthened our relationships and I’ll forever be grateful for it. I am honored to call her my friend and proud to be among her fellow alumni.”

Rosalie is also driven to make a difference in the world. She took on an ExecMAP project for the OTK Foundation with a deep sense of purpose for making a difference in the lives of the girls in Malawi, Africa. She showed tenacity and dedication in her work in Africa where she helped raise $25,000 for the OTK Foundation to educate young girls.

Rosalie lives every day of her life with intention. She is deliberate in making a positive impact on everyone she encounters. She meets each person where they are, with acceptance, always looking to inspire and find the best in others. She has earned the deepest respect from Ross staff, professors, and students.”

Sue Ann Gonis, M.A., CPCC, PCC
Executive Coach & Career Management Coach for Executive MBA & EMBA Alumni
Ross School of Business


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