2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: LaToya M. Gipson, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

LaToya M. Gipson

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Age: 40

“I am a forever learner who values authenticity, trust, courage, and helping others achieve goals.”

Hometown: Pearland, Texas (Greater Houston area)

Family Members: Johnny (husband), Jonathan (8yr old son), and Olivia (6yr old daughter)

Fun fact about yourself: I have been a crafter all my life, even before it was cool. Some of my fondest memories as a child were visits to Michael’s to get supplies for my latest project. One year, all my extended family members received decorated sweatshirts with appliqués and bubble paint. I still laugh when I think about it.  During my EMBA program, I have found a little time to slip away and craft, especially making custom face masks for family members.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Texas Tech University, Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering

Where are you currently working? I work at Bp p.l.c. as the Enterprise Agility Coach to Strategy & Sustainability, Regions, Cities & Solutions and Trading & Shipping entities.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Gift of Adoption Fund, Board of Directors – Texas Chapter
  • Spindletop Charities, Emerging Leader Steering Committee Member
  • Licensed Professional Engineer, State of Texas

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my courage to present a personal and emotional ‘UTalk’ in the Selling Yourself and Your Ideas course by Professor Craig Wortmann. I originally prepared to speak about my transition from an engineer and maintenance manager to an agility coach. However, I felt strongly about speaking about the racial injustice issue that was constantly on mind. The day before my talk, I changed my entire message. I later shared my talk with a colleague who asked if they could share on our company Yammer. I agreed and I received numerous comments, feedback, and thanks for openly sharing my personal experience and views on what I believe we can all consider doing to create change. To this day, I still receive emails and instant messages from colleagues reflecting after watching my talk. I am thankful that my courage to share created a safe space for others to engage in this important dialogue.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The decision to make a unique pivot in my career from maintenance execution to business transformation a few years back. This shift has led to my current focus in enterprise agility and the importance of building and sustaining growth mindsets in teams to support delivery of business objectives. Participation in Kellogg’s EMBA program has increased my business acumen and provided me with valuable knowledge and effective frameworks to complement my 15+ years of operations experience and passion of coaching others to effectively lead change.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor has been Professor (and former Kellogg Dean) Sally Blount. I enjoyed her course, Leading Organizational Transformation. Professor Blount created an insightful learning experience by providing several opportunities for us to learn from fellow students as well as special guests through engaging discussions. She helped us to think beyond the ‘right now’ and explore effective approaches for leading enterprise-wide transformations. She took an individual interest in her students and I appreciated the opportunity to speak with her in-depth on specific topics to gain additional perspective. Her powerful questions helped guide me to the discovery of compelling areas to focus. Her dynamic teaching style and passion will stay with me as I continue to apply the key concepts in my career.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? My biggest lesson has been the reminder of the importance of distinguishing between strategy versus tactics. We must work to ensure that we are effectively defining our activities that will deliver our strategy, and that the tactics are achievable. Additionally, knowing what you do not know is an important part of strategy. I am keeping this close in mind as continue to lead and coach teams.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? A story that is all too common for many during the pandemic was learning how to manage a new role at work, figuring out the best approaches for teaching our young kids at home, and preparing and participating in EMBA courses that moved online.

I initially chose the Kellogg program in Miami because the once-a-month schedule worked well for my family and allowed me to still be present for them. However, I quickly found myself learning how to switch between work in the day and home schooling in the afternoons alongside work and studying in the evenings.

I would tell my kids that “mommy has homework too” and we would sit at the same table to complete our work. We also created space to take on new and exciting activities as a family; rollerblading is my personal favorite. My husband is super supportive as he also sees the benefits of the program. We are a team and work together.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Your investment in the program is worth it. If you are interested and understand how you can leverage the MBA education to supplement your experience to help you become an even better leader, go for it!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? A common myth shared was that, as an experienced professional, I would not gain much from the MBA that I have not already learned in business. The learning experience has been extremely valuable as it comes from the professors as well as my classmates. This is a myth that Kellogg has helped debunk.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret was not reaching out to personally connect with more EMBA students from the very beginning. The professional diversity within the program is impressive. We each have a unique journey full of experience and learning and I gain so much from each one-on-one conversation. The Kellogg network is strong and although I did not get an opportunity to connect with as many as I intended, I know that I can reach out and still make the connection.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire my fellow study group member Angel Manuel Rivera Garcia. Angel brings energy, curiosity, and consistency to our group. We can always depend on him to share as well as seek to learn from each of us in the group. Angel shows up in the same way for our cohort, whether it is in class or outside of class. We can always expect him to be one of the first to show up and engage and one of the last to leave. He values and loves to hear many different perspectives. I am grateful to have met Angel through Kellogg.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The ability to spend class weekends with fellow students was desired as I sought to learn from leaders in other industries and to expand my network. The executive MBA program moves at an accelerated pace and the program schedule aligns with my personal and professional needs.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal is to serve others through leadership, coaching and strategic insight to build great teams and leaders that are inclusive and diverse, innovative, adaptable as well as sustainable and high performing.

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

“I met LaToya this past March when she was enrolled in my EMBA course Leading Organizational Transformation, that was taught to students from across Kellogg’s six-campus Global Network. LaToya is the type of person who sticks out in a Zoom crowd of 65 people from around the world, because of the energy and focus she brings to being present and engaged. Even among an electronic crowd, she comes across as tuned in, authentic, and wise.

From the first session, LaToya engaged in the course concepts with excitement while demonstrating a deep understanding of a broad range of materials — from organizational design, competitive strategy to executive development. This is a course where we tie it all together, and she was able to integrate the many frameworks with unusual facility. Her astute questioning prompted valuable classroom discussion on multiple occasions, and it is clear that many of her cohort members have come to expect that level of insight when she’s in the room.

I also got to know LaToya from several off-line conversations that we had. Her questions intrigued me, so we made extra time. From those conversations, I saw that LaToya values and lives transparency, trust and clear communication. At work at BP, she coaches cross-functional leaders helping to form strategic solutions to business challenges. She is a relationship builder, an organizational architect and a natural teacher. These characteristics will serve her well as she continues to grow as a leader and lean into her unique gifts and calling.

It is also clear that LaToya’s passion for connecting and lifting up others extends beyond business, as she gives of her time and experience to serve the youth in her community and her church. LaToya believes strongly that our children are gifts and deserve an opportunity to be safe, to grow and to learn.

In my career, I have seen a lot of talent – as a business school dean at Northwestern and New York Universities, a business school professor for 30+ years teaching thousands of students and executives around the world, in my corporate board work at Abbott and ULTA, and in my non-profit board work at the Aspen Institute, the Joyce Foundation and the Archdiocese of Chicago. Yet, I have rarely come across talent like LaToya’s. The combination of integrity, humility, self-confidence, and wisdom is quite unusual. She has my highest recommendation.”

Sally Blount
Michael L. Nemmers Professor of Strategy and former Dean



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