2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Arghavan Victoria Nawaby, University of Texas (McCombs)

Arghavan Victoria Nawaby

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Age: 54

“Intellectually Curious, Ethical & Dependable, Highly Organized, Creative, Partnering Cross Functionally to Achieve Goals.”

Hometown: Shiraz, Iran

Family Members: Anthony John Fallon (Husband) – Reliability and Safety Engineer, Manager at Abbott Laboratories, Irving – Texas.

Dariya Zara Fallon (Daughter) – Economist (UT Austin – 2022), Graduate Student at Jackson School of Geoscience – Energy and Earth Resources Program (UT Austin – 2024)

Fun fact about yourself: Love to travel, cook, read, swim, ride horses and play the piano. I love learning and will never stop this process in my life!!!

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • University of Ottawa, School of Engineering, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Bachelor of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering (Cum Laude), 1991
  • University of Ottawa, School of Engineering, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Master of Applied Science in Chemical Engineering, 1993
  • Carleton University, School of Natural Sciences, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry, 1999
  • National Science and Engineering Research Council, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada – NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow, Polymer Physics, 2000
  • JSP International Fellow, AIST – Nanotechnology Research Institute, Tsukuba, Japan, Fellowship in Material Science, Bio-Nanomaterials, 2006

Where are you currently working? The United States Food and Drug Administration – FDA: Assistant Director – Office of Science and Engineering Laboratories (OSEL), Center for Device and Radiological Health (CDRH)

Contributing to development of the next generation of regulatory science tools to support medical devices development.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

1. Philanthropic activity – volunteering:

Assisted with fundraising activities to provide financial donations to food banks in Texas as well as battle homelessness among veterans.

* Our team raised $5,425 for the Central Texas Food Bank, which created 21,700 nutritious meals for families across 21 counties.

* Participated in the planning and launched a fundraising event for ATX Basecamp, this is a non-profit organization focused on helping veterans experiencing homelessness in the Austin, TX area.

2. President of the Executive MBA Consulting Club

3. McCombs MBA + Leadership Fellow program – completed program

The Leadership Fellows program is designed to develop influential business leaders. It provides enhanced leadership and professional development opportunities based upon the Leadership Framework, developed by the McCombs School of Business Center for Leadership & Ethics. The Leadership Fellows program is a self-paced program that is available when students enter the program. Its framework provides the following skills: Authenticity, Integrity, Meaning, Agility, Communication, Teamwork, Diversity and Inclusion.

4. Completed five projects as a part of the McCombs MBA +Project Program

Texas McCombs+ provides experiential learning and global programs designed to grow influential business leaders through action-based co-curricular and academic initiatives. The Texas McCombs+ Program facilitates an individually tailored co-curricular experience that includes seminars from industry experts, micro-consulting projects with outside companies, and access to a hand-selected group of professional communication and leadership coaches. McCombs+ Program is a highly relevant, immediate, tangible, and built to help you evolve a personal leadership style.

As a part of this offering, I was able to complete five hands on micro-consulting projects – one per semester. The experience has been extremely fulfilling which has enriched and diversified my capabilities.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Leading the consulting club and expanding its activities (September 2020 – April 2022). The aim of the EMBA Consulting Club is to educate and support our fellow MBA students.

Consulting Club Activities: Here., we improved on our membership, held biweekly meetings, and worked on case studies.  Members were a huge contributor to case studies and the meetings provided a stress-free environment to foster learning, work through cases, and ask questions.

We selected cases from free online case banks available to us through the web. The club and meetings served as a source to share information on interviews, the types of questions asked, the process, and how to become better at answering the tough questions.

The activities of the club were extended to collaborate with consulting clubs hosted by Houston, and Dallas MBA students at McCombs. We worked on outreach and helping everyone interested in embarking on a consulting career path. A quarterly newsletter was also developed.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I believe everyone’s life is structured based on cultural or societal norms. My life is structured in quarters – that is, the first 25 years of life was devoted to learning and education, the second 25 years to building wealth, the third 25 years to giving back, and the fourth 25 years is to reflect and find my true spiritual essence.

Having started the third 25 years in my life, I wanted to embark on a career path which would focus on helping and providing the opportunity to give back to my community. Joining the Texas McCombs Executive MBA program was a means for me to strategically identify a career path which would fulfill my career and life aspirations. The training provided and the opportunity to complete MBA + Projects was a significant contributor to my success in achieving those goals. My first MBA + project provided an excellent learning opportunity to fulfill the missing parts in my skillsets. This project had a profound impact on diversifying my capability and being able to present myself effectively during the interview process with the FDA. Having gone through the pandemic and witnessing the stress on our medical communities as well as the impact families and the workforce experienced, I felt as a scientist this is my time to help in any way I can. My current position with the FDA supports my aspirations in life and I am very proud to be a part of the administration.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? There are a few professors in the program who are incredibly valuable. I find myself gravitating to them even well after the course they offered is over. Professors Luis Martins, PK Toh, Ken Wiles, Stephen Walls, and Steve Courter are extraordinary contributors to the Executive MBA program – I call them the gemstone collection.  Their teaching touches students profoundly and they have touched me in so many ways. However, it is the learning and constant coaching I receive from Luis Martins that has made him my all-time favorite professor. Luis has and continues to regularly provide coaching; we meet every 4 to 5 months for check points and catchups. He provides learning opportunities for me to further improve as a leader, be effective and remain empathic. He has given me all the tools to be clear in my purpose as a leader, my role, who I serve, focusing on important values in life/profession, and remaining authentic. These are important criteria in becoming an impactful leader aiming to make a change and improving lives.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I was born in Iran to academic parents. My father was educated here in the US and was a university professor in Iran. Education was at the forefront of our upbringing at home and as such the dream of attending a university in the United States was instilled in me at a very young age. After the Iranian revolution in 1979, my family migrated to Canada where I received first class scientific training at its institutions of higher education. During this time, I was introduced to the University of Texas at Austin (UT) as a leading institution in the sciences. In 2007, I was able to relocate from Canada to Texas for employment reasons and, in 2018 our daughter, Dariya Fallon, was accepted to UT to study economics. Hence, with time, I became more acquainted with UT and was able to compare this university with other institutions on several fronts. UT does not only offer business studied through a first-class business school, but also leads in science as it is evident by the Nobel Prize recipients in physics (1979), literature (2003), physiology (1946, 1990, 2017, 2018) and chemistry (1977, 2019). In addition, the values the university and McCombs hold for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are important for me as a female scientist.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? The learning in the McCombs EMBA program has been immense; however, the biggest takeaways for me have been listening, being empathic and understanding how lucky we all are in life. Everyone has challenges or situations in their lives to manage and one’s silence does not mean they are experiencing an issue free life. It sometimes means they may be suffering quietly. Being empathic is the biggest lesson which I will apply at work: “One should not be judgmental, one should be curious!”

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? COVID caused so many issues and heartbreaks for families. In my case, we lost three family members to this virus and our 80-year-old mother, after our father’s death, was separated from us for two years. We were neither able to visit her in Canada nor bring her here to the US. Facetime, kind neighbors, and positive thoughts carried us through. McCombs staff knew exactly of the situation and truly provided support to me and my family. The team at McCombs went above-and-beyond to assist with online classes in order to reduce contact for those who had high risk family members.

It is important to remember the EMBA program at UT is an in-person program and Assistant Dean Joe Stephens and his team had to deliver an online program in a very short window. They had very little time to prepare, yet they were able to deliver and support students with various constraints.

Finally, I am very fortunate to be a part of an incredible team at the FDA and have managers who are very supportive. Getting to this point has been truly a team effort and many deserve recognition; the university, my family, and my employer.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program?

My advice will be if you are thinking about joining an Executive MBA program then you owe it to yourself to get educated about all the programs offered. Make a list of pros and cons and see which program and university shares your values, suits your lifestyle, career aspirations, and professional interests and outlook. I travelled from Dallas to attend the in-person classes at McCombs, while others travelled from the Bay Area, Houston, and San Antonio. Distance should not be a deterrent for attending a program and neither should the cost.  Instead, focus on what the program will give you and your career. It is important to keep in mind the EMBA program will provide the opportunity to study alongside students who are very experienced in their field, and they provide interesting and educational perspective on situations during problem solving sessions. For female candidates, my advice would be this: the Texas McCombs EMBA program is life changing. You will find your voice, get comfortable with negotiations, and take your career to heights you never imagined possible.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? There were two negative points (myths) which was communicated several times:

1) I was too old to go back to school.

2) Going to a business school after my level of education (Ph.D.) made absolutely no sense.

I think both statements could not be more wrong; we as humans are constantly learning. If we did not evolve, we would not be who we are today. Learning has such a positive impact on our brain’s health and aging. Learning is essential to our longevity and going back to school in adulthood is a little harder but not impossible. I learned so much from my younger classmates and brushed up on so many skills not to mention learning new ones. I noticed the younger generation (younger than me) enjoys being efficient and uses apps to achieve that efficiency.  Through them, I became so well versed in using technology to make studying and working much easier. Going back to school has sharpened my skillset, and I find the learning has affected how I manage stress, deliver on my projects and mentor the next generation of young scientists and engineers.

What was your biggest regret in business school? During my postdoctoral studies in Canada, I once asked my mentor if he had any regrets in life. He told me, there are no regrets – there are never any regrets in life. There are all experiences which you learn from; how do you know if you had chosen another path, it would have ended in a better place!! I think we put too much emphasis on being regretful about situations rather than focusing on what we have learned and how the process has changed us.

In my case, COVID caused some very big issues and in the case of my studies I was not able to attend the classes in person for majority of the time. However, I am not regretful because that experience has made me become closer to my classmates. When I get to see them and interact with them, I cherish the time more because I know how valuable it is. So, there are no regrets – make a decision and go for it. There will be some ups and downs, and it is in hardship of those moments you realize how strong you are.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? There are many classmates I could list here. I am part of a cohort who has students that are so special in so many ways; their experiences and knowledge have enriched my life in so many ways. However, I would like to list one person who has become my closest friend and confidant in life – Dr. Leilani Valdes, a physician pathologist. Leilani has changed my life; I admire her for who she is and what she has achieved in life. She is a mother of three beautiful children, a wife, daughter, and sister who not only cares for her family, but also gives selflessly to her community. During the pandemic, she worked many hours in the hospital to cover colleagues and help. Many times, she would take our Zoom calls for homework discussions just outside of the operating room, or in her scrubs in her office. She taught me how to persevere, a skill which I thought I had developed very well. However, Leilani took it to a completely different level. She has taught me to never give up even if there is a 1% chance of success – just try she would say, what if it works!!! She kept me going and always would say “Arghavan – We got this.”

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I have always attended schools and university in person. My idea of learning is to attend classes in person as I believe personal interactions make one’s learning experience richer. Although there are many degrees available through part-time online programs, I do not believe they are for everyone. My belief was confirmed with the situation COVID caused and I found while I was able to connect with my cohort over Zoom, being with them in person and working on projects together provided the learning opportunity I am most comfortable with.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My ultimate goal in life is to never stop learning. However, my long-term professional goal is to effectively use my learning at Texas McCombs and apply that to the world of Research & Development. I believe there are immense opportunities in the world of research to address strategic initiatives which can lead to high impact technologies capable of touching lives.

What made Arghavan such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“Arghavan Nawaby is one of the most active students in the McCombs+ Global & Experiential Learning Program. She has participated in most of the programs and services we offer, including micro-consulting projects, student training and development, individualized coaching, and the McCombs+ Leadership Fellows Program. It’s rare to have an Executive MBA student so heavily involved in our optional programming as these students are extremely busy balancing successful careers, families, and schoolwork. But Arghavan told me at the beginning of her program that she valued the co-curricular components of our Executive MBA Program as much as the curricular aspects.

Students learn leadership, communication, and industry skills through their academic classes. The McCombs+ program teaches these skills as well, but also offers a format to that allows them to roll their sleeves up and practice these skills. Arghavan took full advantage of every opportunity she had to do this through participation in McCombs+ consulting projects. She served on five different project teams throughout her tenure. These projects were presented by corporate partners and had to be defined and scoped by their project team. This takes a great deal of communication, negotiation, ability to manage ambiguity, and resilience. Arghavan and her various teams were highly successful in managing their projects. Furthermore, they reported that they were able to translate theory learned in the classroom to real life practice as well as hone their leadership and communication skills.

Participation in the McCombs+ Leadership Fellow Program is one of the highest-level commitments that our Executive MBA students at can make. Guided by the McCombs+ Leadership Framework, students are required to participate in 20 different McCombs+ programs/services and write a brief reflection paper about what they learn from each experience. Arghavan not only committed to finishing the program, she did so in record time. Most students wait until the very last minute to turn in everything by the deadline, but Arghavan completed all program requirements with months to spare before graduations. Most impressively, we continued to see her participate in McCombs+ programs/service even after she completed the program!

It’s rare to have students like Arghavan who not only appreciate both the curricular and co-curricular aspects of our Executive MBA Program but also fully engages in it. It has been a pleasure to work with Arghavan over the past two years and see her grow and develop into an even better leader.”

Deidra Stephens
Director, Texas McCombs+ Global & Experiential Learning


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