2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Cara Habegger, Arizona State (W. P. Carey)

Cara Habegger

W. P. Carey School of Business, Arizona State University

Age: 42

I’m a life-long learner, dedicated listener, driven achiever, and I want my life to count.”

Hometown: Phoenix, AZ

Family Members: Aaron (husband) and Noel (daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: I was in a mime troupe in high school.

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.A. English Education, Cedarville University

Where are you currently working? Cara Habegger Consulting, Marketing Consultant

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Beta Gamma Sigma; Outstanding Graduate Student Speaker Nominee; Anchor Church of Gilbert, Volunteer staff leader, kids, guests; Junior Achievement of Arizona, Volunteer.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? My business school experience was one interrupted by a global pandemic, a hurdle none of us anticipated. In a very challenging year, professionally and personally, I’m glad I stuck with it and invested the time to get the most out of my EMBA projects and deliver quality work.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’ve been employed by some wonderful organizations and worked on industry-changing product launches that really make a difference in how people save for retirement. But I’m most proud of the decision I made to go out on my own as a consultant, achieving more flexibility and building a broader portfolio of clients and experiences.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I can’t choose one: I enjoyed the depth of the qualitative courses like Organizational Behavior (Joan Brett taught us practical management tips) and Ethics (Don Lange pushed us to engage with social issues and keep an open mind in discourse); and on the quantitative side, Phil Drake and Dan Brooks showed us how to look for the narrative behind the numbers in accounting and statistics.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? W.P. Carey has a strong reputation and ranking, and when assessing programs I was impressed by their focus on innovation, cohort diversity, and international practicum.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Having years of work experience under my belt, I know how to tackle technical problems in my field of expertise. HGowever, the program put a framework around how to deal with tougher, more ambiguous “adaptive” leadership challenges. I now have more tools to work with. Having a non-traditional business background, I’m always watching for how to apply different disciplines like design or healthcare to business processes to come up with something better and more customer-focused. Working in teams gave me the opportunity to tap the diverse thinking of my cohort to solve specific challenges at work and my volunteer organizations.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Juggling is the key word there… you have to accept a level of disequilibrium for a season. I have an amazing husband who not only took on the majority of daily housework and childcare, but gave me the mental time and space to do homework without guilt. A support system makes the experience much easier. After a full day’s work and spending time with my daughter, schoolwork happened late at night. I’d be studying, reading, typing away after midnight… and then see a gif from the “late-night crew” on our cohort text thread. We used a lot of humor to get us through!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school?

Myth: Once you reach a certain age, the ROI isn’t worth it.

Reality: The EMBA program is about more than the letters. It’s an investment in yourself and your learning, no matter where you are in your career.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Being in business school as COVID-19 hit was a life-changing, refining experience. I really regret that our cohort didn’t get to travel together as planned to experience other countries on the ground. However, I can still picture our virtual cooking classes (paella!) and chocolate and cheese tastings shipped in to make the best of our situation!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I can’t pick one; I was honored to sit alongside exceptional leaders. I watched some of my colleagues adapt in a matter of weeks to keep their businesses alive in the pandemic; some left secure jobs to venture out on their own; others blew me away with their generosity or a constant energy to always be learning and improving.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? This program’s power is the network; alongside the management lens in the classroom, I wanted to hear from other seasoned leaders in a variety of disciplines. I wanted a dual degree, if you will: the academic curriculum, and the stories and lessons my cohort shared over the two years we were together. 

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? One of the benefits of this program is the way it opens your eyes to other career possibilities and paths I hadn’t considered. I want to be leading teams and empowering others in their careers, creating products that help people and improve quality of life, and making a difference in my community.

What made Cara such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Cara is a truly exceptional student. She has the grace to know when to speak and when to listen. Her contributions are insightful, balancing her experience and knowledge against what she doesn’t know or hasn’t experienced, but seeks to learn. Through her thoughtful approach, she has gained the esteem of her colleagues and the praise of her professors.”

Matthew Semadeni
Professor of Management and Entrepreneurship
Dean’s Council Distinguished Scholar


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