2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Larisa Friesen Hall, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Larisa Friesen Hall

Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business

Age: 40

“I am passionate about connecting people and resources to make transformative missions possible.”

Hometown: Silver Spring, MD

Family Members: My partner, husband, and rock is Desmond Hall, who is also a brilliant designer and architect. I have two girls, Elliana, age 6 and Anika, age 3.

Fun fact about yourself: On my way to a funder meeting in Chicago, I once hitchhiked from O’Hare to downtown when my cab ran out of gas on the freeway in rush hour traffic! I made it to the meeting on time!

Undergraduate School and Degree: B.S., International Business and Economic Development, Eastern Mennonite University

Where are you currently working? Vice President for Development, Bread for the World

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Member, Ellevate Network: I am thrilled to be a member of Ellevate, a global community of ambitious professional women committed to a more equal world and supporting one another in the next step of their careers.

Member, Barbara Chambers Children’s Center Board of Directors: Barbara Chambers is a childcare center founded in the heart of DC by an interracial group of parents committed to safe, friendly, and high-quality preschool education in a diverse environment.

President, Atonatl Condominium Association: I have served on the Association’s board of directors since 2008 when the building was redeveloped as affordable housing in one of the most dense and diverse neighborhoods of Washington, DC.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am extremely grateful to Professor Bob Bies for assigning the project of creating a Racial Equity Action Plan for the McDonough School of Business as part of our Ethical Leadership Course. My team conducted over 40 wide-ranging interviews in academia, the corporate sector, and with DEI experts as part of this project. In addition, we gathered original data sets through faculty surveys and aggregating data across business schools. It was an honor to hear from folks who have been leading on this work for decades and to write up a plan on how the business school can more effectively serve all students.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While I have recently transitioned, for the last 15 years I served at Sojourners which is committed to faith in action for social justice. Under my leadership as Vice President and Chief Advancement Officer, we increased fundraising by 44%. This included the launch of our first-ever capital campaign in the 50-year history of the organization. And leading up to the 2020 presidential election, we raised a record-breaking amount of funds to protect the vote in vulnerable communities.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Ella Washington takes the lead for me as a favorite professor. Dr. Washington mastered the virtual environment in the midst of a pandemic with effective tools and engaging energy. In her negotiations course, both the content of her lectures as well as the experiential nature of negotiation simulations were highly effective. The importance of deepening self-awareness as well as preparation and recognizing the many ways negotiations show up in every day life were key takeaways from this course.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? DC is a place where I want to put down roots and establish a learning community to be a part of. Georgetown’s commitment to Cura Personalis. This was a leading reason for my choice and I wasn’t disappointed. I was blessed with a cohort of classmates from a variety of sectors who are incredible mission-driven and values-driven individuals. I am also very excited to participate in Georgetown’s executive lifelong learning program for years to come.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I encountered assessments on identifying my dominant bargaining/negotiation style in three different classes, so this was a key takeaway! It helped me to understand how I can show up most effectively as a leader, negotiator, and champion for my team and the causes I am working on behalf of.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? None of us thought that on top of work, school, and family we would also be dealing with a global pandemic while working toward our degrees! I will be forever indebted to my parents who allowed my family of 4 to take over their basement for nearly 6 months from March – August 2020 and assisted us with childcare during that time when there was so much uncertainty.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth I think is that you have to be “ready” to go back to school. The truth is, that being “ready” is different for everyone. Sometimes I wish I had embarked on this journey sooner, but the reality is that the timing was perfect for me to leverage a career change with an incredibly supportive cohort as part of that journey.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I can’t say I have regrets. Georgetown and the McDonough School of Business have so much to offer and I definitely wish I had more time to engage more broadly. As an executive MBA student working and studying full time, one has to make really strategic choices. That’s one reason I chose a university where I knew I would want to be engaged beyond graduation so that I might be able to seek out some opportunities as an alumna that I didn’t have time for as a student.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have an absolutely incredible cohort of classmates. But if forced to choose just one, Harish Cherukuri rises to the top. Early on, Harish set a collaborative and supportive tone amongst the class by sharing generously of his time and expertise, as well as supporting ways we can give back to the broader community as a cohort. This tone was infectious and set a brand for our cohort that many of our classmates championed.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to build a community and a network and the Georgetown Executive MBA provided an opportunity to do that and brought together a cohort of classmates who had similar goals to also build their networks.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Eventually, I would like to lead a social impact organization or my own business.  But for now, I am enthusiastically looking forward to raising funds for ending global hunger, at this most urgent time when extreme poverty is set to rise this year for the first time in two decades.

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

“In the Ethical Leadership course, Larisa Friesen Hall stood out as a leader among leaders.  When I introduced the major course project, “Creating a Racial Equity Action Plan for the McDonough School of Business,” it was met initially with skepticism and questions by many in class (e.g., Why racial equity? How is racial equity relevant to Ethical Leadership?). From the first day of class, and throughout the semester, Larisa spoke up with an eloquence and a passion about relevance of the project to the course and to Georgetown University—and why this was an opportunity to make a difference for the McDonough School of Business and future Executive MBA students. Larisa’s leadership inspired others to lead, and what was once viewed as just a class assignment became a mission for social change, which resulted in the whole class collectively investing hundreds of hours across the semester on the project. That is ethical leadership in action—and that is Larisa!

As a student, Larisa is one of the best students that I have ever taught at Georgetown University. She has an intellectual curiosity and passion for learning that inspired her classmates—and me.   But what most stands out for me about Larisa is her commitment to excellence in her work and dealings with others, and that quality (indeed, that is “quality” in my judgment) is the primary motivation for her in life. It is an honor and a privilege for me to say that Larisa Friesen Hall was a student of mine—and that she truly is one of the Best & Brightest Executive MBA students!”

Robert Bies
Professor of Management
Georgetown University, McDonough School of Business



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