“A pathologically optimistic hard worker with a passion to experience life in the fullest.”
Hometown: St. Charles, MO
Family Members: I have two children and a beautiful wife.
Fun fact about yourself: At 12 years old, I was a U.S. Junior Olympic gold medalist in Tae Kwon Do. And I spent over 6 years as a professional ballet dancer in my late teens and early twenties.
Undergraduate School and Degree: Hampshire College B.A., University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign M.Ed
Where are you currently working? ArtsFund, Seattle, WA – President and CEO
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Current trustee on Inspire Washington, Prior trustee on Oregon Arts Commission, Cultural Advocacy Coalition, and United Way of Greater Portland.
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being a Black man at the Wharton School. I hope that my being in the program offers an opportunity for others to see themselves in the same role. I feel that representation is important, and I am proud to be part of the diversity in the WEMBA program.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am fortunate enough to lead an organization that provides financial, leadership, and advocacy support to arts and cultural nonprofits in Washington State. We also serve as regional representatives in national conversations around the role of arts and culture in our communities. I began my professional career as a ballet dancer, and arts and culture afforded me the opportunity to explore the world and view it through different lenses. I am proud that I am now able to use my skills and experiences to give back to the community that set me on my own path.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? All of them. Wharton’s strengths are too numerous to list, but the faculty is a real stand out. The fact that they are all accomplished and brilliant goes without saying, but what has struck me throughout the program is their humility. WEMBA faculty are some of the most recognized people in their field and yet each of them were willing to spend personal time with all of us to help understand the material, and also better understand their lives and professional trajectories. Access to these leaders and their experiences is truly priceless.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? My goals for getting an MBA was to be able to bring best-in-class financial techniques, strategies, and networks to the nonprofit sector. I also wanted to inject an arts and culture perspective into C-suite conversations in different sectors. After doing my homework on MBA programs, Wharton was a clear choice. It has the academic rigor and networking reputation to do what I wanted to do with my degree, and I have not been disappointed with my choice. For me, I didn’t go back to school because I wanted an MBA, I went back to school because I wanted to be a part of the Wharton MBA family. I only applied to one school and WEMBA has exceeded expectations.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The best advice that I received prior to beginning the program was that you will have to juggle work, family, and school and at any given time, you will be failing at one. The key is to keep the balls in the air and not fail at any one thing for too long. As for a story, I think the best was the weekend that my company was hosting a major gala on a class weekend. I remember going to class all day, getting on a plane and flying home, and having my wife and kids pick me up at the airport. I changed into a tuxedo in the car while listening to my kids tell me about their day, got to the event and gave numerous speeches and networked, then went home and crashed. Not a typical WEMBA weekend, but definitely expect at least one of those during your program.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would have different advice for someone looking to enter a program versus someone who is already in and just getting started. My advice for someone considering a program would simply be to just do it. If you are reading this site or talking to an alum like myself, you have most likely already given this a lot of thought. In addition, the application process is rigorous enough so that it will test your assumptions about why you think you want to do the program at every step of the way. My advice is that, if you are considering this path, go ahead and begin the journey. It will become clear if it is not the right fit or the right time, but you will never know if you don’t start and as they say, not starting will 100% guarantee that you don’t get in.
What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is that I didn’t get to spend enough time knowing my classmates even better. Your cohort will be filled with fascinating people and two years is not close to enough time to know everyone as well as you should. I hope to continue these relationships for years to come. The coursework is important and will improve your skills, but in hindsight, I’d say that I could have spent a little less time in the books and a bit more time in the bar J
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Every woman who has given birth during the program. I have two children and a beautiful wife, and I cannot imagine how that is even possible. My family rearranged our entire lives to make space for a pregnancy and even with that, it was a stressful time. And this is from the perspective of a man. I can’t even begin to understand what it must be like to be a woman in this situation. I mentioned before that there is always work, school, and family that you are juggling and usually, you are not performing well at one of those areas. Well, if you are pregnant on top of all that, you have added yet another layer and one that you have no choice but to do well at. I want to give my utmost respect and admiration to all the women who have and will continue to take on so much with grace.
What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I chose the WEMBA program because it was the exact same academic rigor as the full-time program. Same number of class hours. Same professors. Same resources. All that was important to me and I just didn’t see that option with other styles of programs.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I hope to continue advocating for arts and culture as the economic sector it really is. There are many talented people out there driving our missions, vision, and values, but I want to add to that by maintaining a seat at the decision-making tables of business and economic strategy. I often remind people I speak with that the creative sector provides nearly $1 trillion in economic activity in the U.S. and supplies 5.5 million jobs. One of the reasons that I did this program was so that I could learn the skills necessary to strategize on behalf of an industry this large and to be able to have confidence in my own leadership voice within the sector. I plan to continue to amplify my voice in the sector and use my network to position arts and culture in strategic conversations about the future of our economy and our country.
What made Michael such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?
“Michael has been the consummate class colleague to all that know him at the MBA for Executives Program. He is a natural leader in every aspect of his life. Michael freely shared with his classmates whenever possible and took on a leadership role in developing a panel on the arts, helping others to see how culture plays a critical role in community renewal programs. Michael’s position as President and CEO at the Arts Fund and prior experience as a professional ballet dancer brings a unique set of skills and perspectives to the Wharton MBA for Executives community.”
Director of Alumni Engagement
Wharton MBA Program for Executives
Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.