2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Kirstin Ann Kapustik, Penn State (Smeal)

Kirstin Ann Kapustik

Penn State University, Smeal College of Business

Age: 39

“An arts executive in the nonprofit space, passionate about creating sustainable and innovative business practices.”

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Family Members: Husband Charles Marshall, and dog George Marshall

Fun fact about yourself: I studied ballet and piano for more than 20 years, starting at a young age. My childhood dream was to become a professional ballet dancer.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Florida State University, Department of Dance | Tallahassee, FL
Master of Fine Arts in Choreography & Performance | May 2009

Pennsylvania State University, Schreyer Honors College | University Park, PA
Bachelor of Arts in Crime, Law and Justice with Honors | May 2005

Where are you currently working? Executive Director, The House Foundation for the Arts, Inc.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: My favorite actives include reading, running, baking cakes, and hanging with my husband, dog and friends. I love to try new restaurants, and experiment with natural wines and the newest cocktail bars. Besides my job as Executive Director of a touring performing arts company, I enjoy going to the theater and seeing dance and music performances both in NYC and while traveling. On the weekends, I volunteer at a community kitchen that delivers meals to families in need in our neighborhood in Brooklyn.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? There really is not one achievement that stands out for me. This whole experience has been a great achievement, and I am very proud of having got over my insecurities about going back to school once again, and feeling confident and proud of the work I have done.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I work in the performing arts and have had the great pleasure of touring and producing shows around the world including Europe, South America, Australia and most importantly New York City where we received raving reviews.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? We had so many fantastic professors but I think the one that left the biggest impression on me was Al Vicere. His ability to talk about leadership in a way that brought it back to the individual really resonated with me. While the MBA was a fantastic place to learn practical business applications, I feel that my big take away is building a deeper understanding of who I am and the leader that I would like to be.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Teresa, Penn State Smeal’s EMBA’s Managing Director, reached out to me over LinkedIn, inviting me to investigate the program at the beginning of the pandemic. I had always wanted to do an MBA and as a Penn State grad, I knew the EMBA would be a good fit! With work projects and traveling on hold I knew now was the time.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? What I have gained from the EMBA is the tools for how to be a better leader. While I have not yet mastered them (that will be a lifelong journey), I have taken those tools into my day-to-day life and am applying them in how I communicate and interact with both my team at work and at home. Furthermore, recognizing that people are what is most important, regardless of the work – and learning how to create a space in which individuals can feel autonomy, engagement, and valued – is one of the most important lessons learned (and will be essential to my career moving forward). It has changed my perspective on what management is, and the value I can bring to a team as a manager.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? My now-husband, who is from the UK, and I had to go to England over the Xmas holiday in 2020 for a family emergency. It was hard time as my father-in-law was diagnosed with cancer and his health quickly deteriorated. Being in England, with a time difference of five hours, I was able to maintain my engagement in class and with my team over Zoom. I was so thankful for the flexibility that the program and my team offered me so that I could maintain my studies while balancing my family needs.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? While you will learn from your professors and classes, you will learn the most from your colleagues and the students around you.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? After being removed from school for 10+ years. you will not fit in. In fact, you will fit in because everyone is there to learn, grow and better themselves. And the best thing you can do is be vulnerable so you can soak up as much engagement and knowledge as you can! 

What was your biggest regret in business school? No regrets, other than I could have put in a little more time studying for that Econ exam, but at that moment the new puppy took precedence!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? All of my classmates are amazing people and I admire all of them for different reasons. I did gain a special fondness for Dr. Joe Lombardi, who is a very accomplished surgeon. His ability to stay on top of tasks, keep things fun, and yet I knew that that morning he was in the surgery room saving someone’s life was impressive. For him, I suspect, that was his job – but admirable nonetheless as we all tried to wrap our heads around accounting homework!

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to have the rigor and the camaraderie that I would get from an MBA. One of the best learning experiences from the MBA was learning from my classmates and being a part of a team.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal?

I am not sure anymore as it feels like the work itself is less important than the people that are around me. Ultimately, I want to be happy, satisfied and fulfilled in knowing that I am creating a space where my team can do their best most innovative work, whatever that work might be, and that I have the opportunity to continue to learn and be challenged.

What made Kirstinsuch an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?

“We were thrilled to have Kirstin as a member of the Penn State Smeal EMBA Class of 2022 and so lucky to get to work with her during her time in the program. An artist and a leader, Kirstin brought a unique perspective to classroom and team discussions. She has led teams all over the world in putting together exceptional shows and experiences. To create those experiences, she not only had to think from a business and logistics mindset, but also had to think creatively about the work itself and how best to present it and the artists. This unusual ability to combine logic and creativity in discussion made Kirstin a particular asset to her class.”

Dr. Lou Gattis
Faculty Director

Penn State Smeal Executive MBA in Philadelphia


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