2022 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Megan Wenrich, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

Megan Wenrich

Northwestern University, Kellogg School of Management

Age: 46

“An optimist who loves people, learning and achieving aspirational goals.”

Hometown: Winter Park, FL

Family Members: Married with two daughters – and a big extended family that I adore.

Fun fact about yourself:  I love competitive rowing and a huge amount of my leadership development has taken place on the water. Those generic rowing posters with cringy quotes about teamwork, determination, the power of your mindset – they’re all true and when you row at a competitive level you internalize and operationalize these lessons for life.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • Hollins University: BA in Biology & Environmental Studies
  • Vermont Law School: Masters in Environmental Law

Where are you currently working? Global Director of Philanthropy Effectiveness at The Nature Conservancy

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

For the last two years it’s felt more important than ever to invest in health, spending time outdoors and holding the people you love tight. Beyond time with family and exercise (pilates, yoga, long walks), these are four communities I’ve invested in and the awards I’ve benefited from.

Drake Scholar: I’m a Drake Scholar (one of Kellogg’s most generous merit scholarships) and actively engage in the Drake Scholars Network, which was generously established by Ann Drake ’84 to support and connect women leaders. Ann is an inspiration and actively engaged in building this community.

Youn Impact Scholar: I was recently selected as one of the five graduating students (four full time and one EMBA) to join this elite alumni community of leaders who draw upon their business skills to create positive change in the world. Being welcomed into this community this Spring at the two-day in person convening was humbling and inspiring.

Forté Fellow: This fellowship connects, empowers and supports women from business schools across the country who demonstrate a commitment to advancing women in business. It’s a powerful network and I’m grateful for the resources the Foundation and community offer.

Chief: The one community I prioritize right now outside of family and school is Chief, a female-founded startup that just finished its Series B and hit unicorn status. It’s a private network for executive women to strengthen their leadership, magnify their influence and pave the way to bring others along. I became a Founding Member of in 2021 and am actively engaged.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m proud of my learning journey – especially on the quant side. My academic background is in biology and law, so I was ready to skin my knees a bit in finance and accounting. I had to work really hard to catch up on the front end, but I found it so refreshing to be a novice. My classmates and study group were incredibly generous, and I just threw myself into the challenge. I’m proud I was able to embrace being a beginner. Now I’m in the homestretch of the program and all the core work is coming full circle in our advanced courses and electives, which I’m relishing.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I’m proud to have raised hundreds of millions of dollars for climate solutions and sustainability. The face of my career has always been working directly with investors and philanthropists looking for bold ideas that will help change the world. For 20 years, I’ve also been charged with simultaneously leading people and operations.

I transitioned from being an individual contributor to a manager very early in my career, but the task at hand has always been “both/and” – go raise money with one hand and build a team and run operations with the other. I’m proud of my ability to do both because the skills required are different.

On the external fundraising side, it’s all about emotional intelligence: listening, communicating a bold vision succinctly, following up, and being undeterred by rejection. I didn’t know it at the time, but my bootcamp for all these skills came right after law school when I worked for three years as lobbyist. I represented businesses that wanted fiscal policy changes to incentivize renewable energy. When my boss asked me to also raise funds from the CEOs I was working closely with, I realized it was no different than asking them to call the Governor or testify in a committee. The skills required for fund raising and lobbying are remarkably similar.

Leading people and operations on the other hand is all about recruiting and empowering the best people you can afford. I’ve done a lot of hiring and I’m always looking for the qualities least easy to train – mindsets, ability to prioritize, hunger, comfort with failure, willingness to learn.

You also have to get comfortable leading people smarter, faster, and better than you and not having all the answers. This part came naturally to me. I have a super interesting family full of talented people. In my mind they were all better at everything – more creative, superior athletes, better traveled with more knowledge of the world. I realized early on that I didn’t need to compete with them. My value proposition in the family has always been bringing everyone together and leveraging the diversity of our individual talents, passions, and skills. That’s translated naturally to my work. Three of my five direct reports have PhDs in fields I’ve never formally studied and I view that as gift not a threat.

As the African proverb goes, “If you want to fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My Venture Capital course,  taught by Ronen Nir and Rotem Shacham in Tel Aviv during one of my global electives was my favorite. They both work full time in VC – Ronen as a Managing Director and Rotem as a Principal. I have a bias for learning from practitioners and my goal is to help leverage more capital to clean tech, so this course was perfect for me. It was structured as dual narrative – learning from the entrepreneur’s perspective and the VC’s perspective.

It was incredible to be in “Start Up Nation” and learn why the tiny country of Israel punches way beyond their weight class. We met with the founders of unicorns in their portfolio as well as MDs from other VCs in Tel Aviv. I enjoyed learning new skills from Rotem like how to do cap tables, waterfall analysis, and think strategically about dilution and miscalculating market size. Ronen really peeled back the curtain on his 20+ years in VC. I learned I’ve been honing some of the most important VC skills for years, like being able to raise money, working with LPs, and the art and science of managing a funnel of opportunities. He helped me realize I could combine new and existing skills to expand my impact.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I wanted to go to a top five business school with an expansive global footprint, a lot of diversity, a collaborative culture, and a structure I could manage with my job and family. Kellogg was the only school that fit the bill. The Miami campus is rich with diversity in all dimensions – geography, industry, ethnicity, functional role, education – we sort of joke that the only thing we all have in common is ambition. The once-a-month format seemed doable for me and I was sold on the school’s “low ego, high impact” ethos, expansive network of global campuses, and its deep commitment to collaboration & the study group model.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? It was the upside potential of embracing disruption and walking bravely into the unknown. My MBA experience is all mashed up in the chaos of what was happening in the world from 2020-2022. My cohort applied in Q1 2020 (pre-pandemic) but accepted in Q2 (post-pandemic). The rug wasn’t pulled out from under us. We knew there was a global pandemic and we knowingly signed up for what we thought would be a difficult first quarter followed by things going back to “normal.” We had no idea what was on the horizon academically, professionally, or personally. I’ve found enormous strength in my cohort’s resilience and courage to embrace the rodeo we’re currently living.

That’s shown up in my work as a new sense of resolve that we’re all doing the best we can, with what we have, where we are. In my work at The Nature Conservancy, I’m surrounded by ridiculously smart, hardworking, passionate colleagues. Throughout the pandemic I’ve never questioned anyone’s commitment or competence. I have worried about their well-being, stamina, and mental health and so I’ve tried to lead with compassion, flexibility and above all trust. My team’s stellar performance results, and overall positive employee engagement scores suggest that embracing new leadership models is good for business.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In the Summer of 2021, I had a serious bottleneck: In the span of seven days, I had to conduct twelve interviews for three different senior positions on my team, complete two exams (Advanced Operations and Fin II – both notoriously challenging) and get my daughters off to summer camp which required both emotional and logistical support. After a brief bout of panic and a few long walks to get my wits about me, I devised a plan and pitched it to my husband. We ended up renting an Airbnb near their camp for a week. I studied in the car on the long drive to camp. We spent the first weekend enjoying afternoons hikes with our girls followed by picnic dinners near waterfalls. Then we dropped them off and spent the week working long days, breaking for twilight hikes to keep us energized, connected, and calm. I spent the evenings and our second weekend preparing for and taking my exams. My husband is my rock. I wouldn’t have survived that week without his support.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? First, recognize what tradeoffs you will have to make to fit school into your life and get your priorities in order. For me, I decided Kellogg, my job, my husband and daughters were my priorities, and I was going all-in on all three. That meant I would have a lot less time (and sometimes none) available for my friends, siblings, and my parents. I know that doesn’t sound appealing but it’s basic math – if you already live a full life and you take on a massive commitment that will last two years, something has to give.

Second, be intentional and focused about what you want out of the program. Whether it’s cultivating a meaningful network in certain industry, gaining M&A chops, or preparing to launch your own venture, these things won’t just fall in your lap now that you made it to business school. You have to hold yourself accountable to putting in the work outside of the classroom to make your goals become reality. 

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I could have taken more electives. My electives in venture capital, growth strategies and entrepreneurship, corporate governance and AI were some of the most impactful. I loved traveling to Kellogg’s global campuses and meeting founders and investors from other parts of the world.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire so many of my classmates. I can’t name one person. Everyone in this program brings grit, curiosity, hunger, diversity of thought – and I deeply admire all those qualities.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to connect with classmates and professors in person and the structure of meeting once-a-month for two years was easier to balance than the longer-length and/or more frequent meetings of part-time structures.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My professional purpose hasn’t changed in 20 years: I want to raise capital and accelerate climate solutions. What’s changed is me. As I’ve gained more knowledge, skills, and experience, I’ve become capable of more audacious goals and my ambitions have grown. I adore my work at TNC but I’m hungrier than ever and eager to apply what I’ve learned about finance, investing, and entrepreneurship to expand my impact. One day I’d love to help build a clean tech firm and become an investor in climate solutions.

What made Megan Wenrich such an invaluable member of the Class of 2022?

“Every professor knows that first scan of the class in person. You’ve read the bios, seen the photos, and then you see the class live. I had already registered Megan’s job at the Nature Conservancy, an organization I am familiar with, and wondered what added dimension she would bring to the class. I thought about social conscience and philanthropy. That was true, but it wasn’t even a fraction of what I learned about Megan from the first class: add finance and entrepreneurship to her skills, maturity and mission to her character, and absolute commitment and joy to her personal affect. That would be a good start, at least.

Many students have good intentions and want to leave the world better than they found it.  I hope that is a quality of our general student body.  Some move beyond that to mission-driven vocations or avocations that move intentions to actions. Megan goes beyond all of this, understanding that her professional skills and standing can move the needle on climate and deliberately creating her path. She has enhanced her skills, bringing together multiple disciplines and invested in deep learning in science, law, and business. She also understands that change at this level is not a solo enterprise – solutions require everyone’s best ideas, the best science, and public buy-in.  She doesn’t leave anyone behind and is a leader in a diverse and broad class.

All of this happens with a backdrop of an active family, two daughters, and rich friendships.  Megan is an inspiration to us all, but especially to anyone who thinks it is … too late, too expensive, too hard, or just too much in every way! … to have an impact.  Megan exemplifies hope with reason. She’ll get it done and bring all the rest of us with her.”

Janice Eberly, Senior Associate Dean for Strategy and Academics
James R. and Helen D. Russell Professor of Finance



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