2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Debra L.A. Schrader, Ohio State (Fisher)

Debra L.A. Schrader

Ohio State University, Fisher College of Business

Age: 40

“According to my classmates: tenacious, driven, unifier, caretaker, smart, fun, bold, trustworthy and high integrity.”

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Family Members: Matthew (husband), Nolan (son) and Bennett (son)

Fun fact about yourself: I make elaborate birthday cakes for my kids for their birthdays. They get to pick the theme and look online at pictures to help me design the cake. My favorite cakes so far were the pirate ship from Jake and the Neverland Pirates and BB-8 from Star Wars.

Undergraduate School and Degree: I received my BA in Finance, Economics & Pre-Law from Ohio University and Juris Doctorate from Capital University Law School

Where are you currently working? As Managing Corporate Counsel, I lead the Legal team at CAS, a division of the American Chemical Society.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Women for Economic and Leadership Development
  • Ohio Academy of Sciences, CAS volunteer coordinator
  • Active involvement in my children’s schools and sports
  • Nationwide Children’s Hospital fundraising activities
  • Ohio Food Bank, volunteer
  • Avid reader

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of my ability to demonstrate the values of perseverance, dedication, and resilience to my 9- and 12-year-old sons. Twice while in the process of completing my program, I suffered from a detached retina with both instances resulting in emergency surgery and lengthy recoveries. Despite these unplanned surgeries, I continued to work hard and with the support of my family, classmates, and professors, I finished my program summa cum laude.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m most proud of the opportunity to be a leader and manager. Leading people is a true honor. It is something I genuinely love to do, and I take very seriously. I have been very fortunate throughout my career to have inspirational mentors and be surrounded by strong leaders. As a leader and manager, I feel so lucky to be able to support others in growing and developing and accomplishing their own professional goals.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor was Nate Craig. He taught Data Analysis…the class I was most afraid of taking. The material itself was very overwhelming for someone like me who spends much of their workdays drafting and negotiating legal documents. Despite the challenge, I wanted to understand the material though because I knew it would be beneficial when analyzing business data to make sound strategic decisions.     Professor Craig went above and beyond and always made himself available to help.  It was evident he was not only extremely knowledgeable in his field, but also very passionate, about data analysis and teaching. I am so thankful to him for his patience and willingness to help me understand the course material.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I knew other working professionals who had completed The Ohio State executive MBA program and they all spoke very highly of it. I also knew the program was well known and highly regarded in the business community. What ultimately made me choose this program though was my application interview with Professor Dan Oglevee. His passion for the program was both genuine and inspiring. After ending my interview with Professor Oglevee, I knew The Ohio State University executive MBA program was the right place for me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Know when to cut your losses and walk away. Early in the MBA program, you learn about a “sunk cost” – a cost that has already been incurred and that cannot be recovered. Too often, when trying to decide on whether to keep investing in a specific project, a company fixates on all the money and other resources its already invested in the project.

One of the driving factors for the majority of companies when deciding whether to keep investing in a project is how much the company has already invested in the project. This factor shouldn’t be a factor at all. The money has been spent and resources expended. They are gone. You can’t get them back. This lesson is applicable both in and out of the office. When deciding how to proceed forward, don’t fixate on the past. Use the past as a learning opportunity, but not a driving factor in deciding your path moving forward.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? There was no singular moment or time where I juggled work, family, and education. This juggling was a constant activity throughout my program. Both my husband and I are full-time practicing attorneys, and we have two very active boys (ages 9 and 12) involved in sports. With our already busy schedules, we knew me pursuing my MBA would require extra effort and sacrifice from our entire family. My husband had to log a lot of extra hours as parent while I converted some of my own “parent hours” to being a student.

There were often days where work, family, and education conflicted, and I had to choose. While the choice was never easy (I always aim to be an active, loving and supportive mother, a dedicated and collaborative employee and colleague and student driven to learn and achieve), I knew these sacrifices were both necessary and worth it to achieve a larger benefit for not only me, but my family too.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? As a professional, you are likely already very busy and may gravitate towards a 100% virtual or online program. Don’t do it. Pick a program that gives you an opportunity to engage with your classmates and professors in-person. One of the most valuable aspects of an executive MBA program is the opportunity to learn from other seasoned professionals – your fellow classmates. While the world has come a long way in technology to enable people to connect virtually, nothing can completely replicate a lively discussion and healthy debate in the classroom among you and your classmates.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I don’t have any regrets. This program has challenged me in so many ways – academically, professionally, and personally. I’ve been pushed into subjects and topic areas far outside my comfort zone and I’ve been stretched in so many ways. I am a better attorney, employee, leader, parent, and wife because of my experiences throughout the EMBA. I look at challenges and opportunities through a bigger lens.  Most of all though, the program reminded me of how much I love to learn. Being outside my comfort zone, entering new territories and being challenged in different ways feeds my mind and my soul.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my classmate, and good friend, Jenny Jones. Jenny was one of the three female students in my program. She works full-time for a major pharmaceutical company supporting an international team and is also a single mom to twins. She also graduated as co-valedictorian of our class.  Jenny is the epitome of hard work, dedication, and achievement. She is also kind, funny and always willing to help others.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The primary reason I chose the executive MBA program was the people. I wanted to surround myself with other seasoned professionals with real-world knowledge and life experiences in their respective industries. I learned so much from all of my professors, but learned just as much, if not more, from my classmates.

The second reason was the schedule. With a full-time job and a family, I needed flexibility. Our program met in-person three consecutive days per month. The rest of each month was spent meeting virtually with my teammates, reading, writing, and completing assignments. The program was still a sizable time commitment of around 10-15 hours per week, but it gave me the flexibility to shift my schoolwork time as needed to ensure I could also meet other commitments to my family, team and CAS.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I will leverage the combination of my law degree and MBA to provide meaningful contributions to my organization’s strategic initiatives and business growth. I also aim to serve as a member of the executive leadership team of an organization and be a leader that models and inspires qualities and characteristics such as learner, achiever, team player, hard worker, empathy, loyalty, trust, sincerity, and humor.

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

“I believe Debbie’s character, professionalism, and hard work made her an invaluable addition to the class of 2022. Debbie was a very giving student and was admired by her classmates for her ability to successfully balance school, work, and most importantly to many, family. Debbie holds a very high position in her company but never promoted herself as anything but a student member of her EMBA cohort.  Specific quotes from classmates include:

“She is an advocate for our class, keeps everyone organized and on target. She embodies professionalism and is a strong role model. She also completed school through adversity as she had surgery mid-year!”

“Debbie steps up first, often when no one else would. Always willing to go the extra mile on assignments, class leadership or engagements. Glad she is part of my cohort.”

“Simply took tremendous initiative, every additional duty she performed was for the benefit of the group. Very selfless.”

I would characterize Debbie as a student with an engaging style; who is warm and approachable and has an energizing influence on her team and cohort.  She has a clear bias for action. Debbie took personal accountability and raised the bar for the entire EMBA cohort given her high standards of excellence which she practiced both inside and outside of the classroom. I have immense respect and admiration for Debbie Schrader and believe I echo the sentiments of the EMBA Class of 2022.”

Daniel D. Oglevee, MBA
Academic Director, EMBA
Sr. Lecturer, Finance
Department of Finance


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