2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Cecelia Bolden, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Cecelia Bolden

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

Age: 55

“I am a faithful, talented, ambitious, and a hardworking person that believes in service to humankind.”

Hometown: Bermuda

Family Members: Curtis Bolden (Husband), Avery Bolden (Daughter) and Malcolm Bolden (Son)

Fun fact about yourselfI have traveled to five (5) out of the seven (7) the continents. I have only Antarctica and Australia left to visit.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Wesleyan University, Bachelor of Arts

Where are you currently working? I am the Chief Experience Officer, SDI Presence, LLC, which is an IT Managed Services Firm headquartered in Chicago, IL.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

* I am a member of the Business Leadership Council, a 501(c)(6) organization composed of African American businesspeople in every sector, from financial services to construction to technology. The mission of the Business Leadership Council is to advocate to Chicagoland corporations, non-profits, local, county, and state governments for the importance of doing significant business with African American-owned firms on a consistent and ongoing basis, primarily through organized contacts with the leadership of the entities.

* I am a member of the Board of Advisors for Catholic Charities, whose vision is to provide compassionate, competent, and professional services that strengthen, and support individuals, families, and communities based on the value and dignity of human life. I sit on the IT Oversight and Development Committees.

* I work with the Chicago Apprentice Network, which collaborates with local corporations to formulate curricula that prepare its graduates for careers in technology. I have given presentations to City Colleges of Chicago students about the variety of careers and opportunities in the Technology field. I sit on the Cybersecurity and Information Technology Advisory Board at Wilbur Wright College. In addition, I represent my company on theAdvisory Board for the Kennedy King College Tech Launchpad. The Kennedy-King College’s Tech Launchpad provides students with access to high-quality academic and training experiences in new and emerging information technology industries to ensure students have a competitive edge to compete globally.

* I have been a member of Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated for eighteen years (18). Jack and Jill consist of 252 chapters nationwide, representing more than 40,000 family members. Each chapter plans annual programming activities guided under a general five-point programmatic thrust: cultural awareness, educational development, health (education and advocacy), civic (legislative advocacy and service), and social/recreational areas. Through service projects, Jack and Jill of America creates a contact medium for children to stimulate their growth and development. Through lobbying, educational programming, dissemination of educational materials, and community and charitable events, Jack and Jill has promoted children’s public awareness and interests, including child development, growth, quality of life, child care, and promotion of children’s rights. I have served as a Chapter PresidentVice-President, and Recording Secretary. In addition, I have served on the Jack & Jill Midwestern Region Community Impact Committee. The goal of this committee is to support and encourage the fundraising efforts for Jack and Jill of America, Incorporated and the Jack and Jill Foundation, which supports organizations such as the Children’s Defense Fund, March of Dimes, and St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital, the American Heart Association and many more.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am proud that the Notre Dame Club of Chicago allowed me to be a member while a graduate student and to represent the Mendoza College of Business for the EMBA Class of 2022. I am proud that I can participate and start giving back while still a student when Notre Dame has given so much to me already.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud that I made it to the C-Suite through the support of colleagues, family, friends, hard work, and never forgetting where I came from and not leaving anyone behind. I believe that when one climbs the ladder of success, you must hold it steady for those that come after you.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was John Affleck-Graves. Professor Affleck-Graves brought art and thoughtfulness to Finance. His knowledge and respect for the class as working professionals made his class exceptional and developed a desire within each of us to learn. He did not make our 4-hour session feel like 4 hours. He was engaging and was genuinely interested in what we thought and our perspective on what was going on in the business world.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program?  I visited and reviewed several schools and programs over the years, but I always returned to Notre Dame. The sense of community and family came through each time I attended an information session and shadow day.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Self-care, self-awareness, and good time management are the keys to success. The ability to manage all these three things is not easy, but by striving to be in balance, one learns to prioritize and appreciate what is truly important.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My husband had two medical scares during the program. The most serious of them occurred in December during finals. He ended up having viral meningitis and was hospitalized for five days. I learned how to ask for help and grace.

My friends helped with my son, getting him to school and fed. My office and team took take care of things, and told me to just worry about my husband. Notre Dame was supportive and gave me grace. They told me to take care of myself and my husband and that together we would figure out how to get the finals done.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program?  All MBA programs are not the same. Find a program that feeds your mind, body, and spirit.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that you are “too old.” You are never too old to learn. Notre Dame students, faculty, and staff welcomed me with open arms, and I never felt that I did not belong. It was even better than my time as an undergraduate. It was everything I hoped for and more.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret is that I did not apply to the University of Notre Dame sooner.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The classmate that I most admire is Mike Nellis. Mike started a very successful company called Authentic, which allowed him to build a business in line with his values. In addition, Mike is one of the most intelligent, thoughtful, and focused people I have ever met. He is fabulous at what he does and pursues his passions with the same focus he uses at work and in the EMBA program In addition, he always manages to spend quality time with his wife and son. He is compassionate but pragmatic and tries to look at obstacles from multiple lenses. 

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives due to the following: I wanted a sense of family, which Notre Dame is all about. I wanted a program that taught me concepts and methods that I could apply right away, which happened at Notre Dame.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal is to secure the presidency within a company in the near term. After a few years, I plan to grow into the role of the Chief Executive Officer of a company with a solid philanthropic arm that is in line with my values, in which I can continue to share my resources and time with those in need.

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

“It was a joy to have Cecelia Bolden in my finance class this semester. Although she has had limited experience with financial concepts, she was everything a professor could hope for in a student. She is smart, hard-working, dedicated, and committed to her studies.

In addition to being an energetic and engaged student, what impressed me most about Cecelia was her openness and willingness to challenge herself. When faced with complex concepts for the first time, many students choose to leave the difficult parts of a case study to the “finance leader” in the group. Not Cecelia! She embraced the challenge and would probe me with questions and comments until she had a full understanding of the issue we were discussing. In turn, her participation drew other students into the conversation, so the entire classroom experience was enriched for both me and her classmates.

In summary, Cecelia is a natural leader. She wants to learn and understand, and is willing to admit what she does not know. In addition, while she is willing to question others, she never does this in an aggressive or confrontational way. Rather, she was always respectful of other views and showed a genuine kindness and caring for her fellow students, marking her as a very special student and member of her class.”

John Affleck-Graves
Notre Dame Chair in Finance
Vice President and Associate Provost of the University of Notre Dame (retired)


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