2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Alicia Hardy, Yale School of Management

Alicia Hardy

Yale School of Management

Age: 46

“I am a mom, an athlete, a dreamer, and an advocate committed to advancing health equity.”

Hometown: Napa, California

Family Members: Ryan (partner), 3 kids – Abby (12), Molly (10), Noah (7) and two cats

Fun fact about yourself: I run exactly one marathon every decade, no more, no less.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Boston College, BA in English

University of California, Berkeley, MSW

Where are you currently working? OLE Health, CEO (Federally Qualified Health Center in California)

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Health Equity Leadership, Yale SOM

Clinica Verde, Sustainable Healthcare for Nicaragua, Board Member since 2017

Partnership Health Plan, Medi-Cal Managed Care, Board Member since 2018, Current Chair

Solano Coalition for Better Health, Board Member since 2018

Redwood Community Health Coalition, Board Member since 2019, Vice Chair

Community Leaders Coalition, Advocacy for Vulnerable Populations, Member since 2018

Extracurricular activities include: spending time with my family, traveling, reading fiction, running, cooking and dancing.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I was honored to host almost half the class and their families in Napa, California – many of whom had never visited. During that trip, I was able to tour my class through our newest FQHC clinic and share information about our care delivery model and how it improves the health and well-being of the most vulnerable in our communities. We also visited several wineries, created new memories together, evolved friendships, and strengthened our Yale SOM bond. And many ran in the Napa marathon or half marathon! While it was quite a bit to organize in between classes I was proud to create that space for new shared experiences and add to what makes Yale SOM such a special place to be.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am currently in the process of merging two similarly sized, high performing, and financially strong FQHCs, with the goal of increasing resources and talent across the system. I am proud of taking this on voluntarily with a peer CEO because it demonstrates what is possible when we can set aside egos and hold a long-term vision that will benefit tens of thousands of patients and hundreds of employees. I was also proud that I was able to apply so much of what I learned in the EMBA program in a way that will positively benefit the health care system this partnership.  It has been challenging, inspiring, humbling, and energizing to help lead our organization through a merger of equals. My hope is that this merger will serve as a template for other FQHCs facing similar challenges and will provide a road map for optimizing resources through proactive, voluntary mergers between high-performing organizations.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor was Amy Wrzesniewski because so much of her research and teaching was relevant and applicable to my role and to managing complex organizations. As a heath care administrator leading through post-pandemic burnout, it was so helpful to learn about how people find meaning in work, how to increase engagement, as well as different aspects of organizational design, building effective teams, and aligning incentives. She was also engaging, accessible, funny and thoughtful – I always looked forward to her lectures and was able to immediately apply much of what I learned.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? This was the only program I applied to and I applied specifically because of the Pozen-Commonwealth Fund Fellowship in Health Equity Leadership. I also wanted to be part of a program that had an area of focus specifically for health care. Yale’s mission of creating leaders for business and society resonated with me as a mission that is aligned with my personal values and motivation for pursing this degree. I wanted to be part of this community of learners who were willing to travel to be together and support each other and I loved the in person aspect of the program.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? I learned new questions to ask that I may not have known to ask before about data, how models are designed, forecasting, and how to make better and more informed decisions. Also, while much of the MBA program focused on developing new skills in quantitative areas, there is also significant time spent learning about leadership, communication, and organizational behavior. Overall, my takeaway from this program is that technical skills only matter so much as you can ensure that groups, teams, and organizations are grounded in shared purpose and shared values. While it is challenging and time consuming to ensure and cultivate alignment, it is also critical to success.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? During this program there was never a moment that I felt like I could stop juggling work, family, kids, sports activities, homework, exams, community events – it was constant. I tried to take advantage of the travel to the east coast and brought my kids with me one class weekend and we were able to spend a few days in NYC where they got to experience Broadway for the first time. I also did homework when my kids were doing their homework and I remember thinking that I was modeling what is possible for women in leadership for my kids, and for my daughters in particular.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Listen to yourself and make a quiet decision without all the noise and opinions of others. Anything is possible, and I believe anyone can complete an EMBA program if they are at a point where they are ready to make the sacrifices involved.  Some people told me not to pursue an additional degree because I am “already a CEO”, and it would be so hard with 3 kids. However, for me it was about the professional learning and personal growth, and I was ready, energized and excited for the adventure.

What was your biggest regret in business school? While I would do it all over again, my biggest regret was that I was not able to participate in more of the activities that happened in between class weekends.  Traveling from Napa to New Haven every other weekend did not allow me any extra time or flexibility. Had I lived closer or not had the same level of work and family obligations I would have enjoyed taking some electives and taking advantage of all that Yale has to offer outside of SOM.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Hard to choose because I have such high respect and admiration for all my classmates, but Meshie Knight stands out to me as someone that I admire most. She is driven, hard-working, always willing to help and offer support. Whenever she spoke in class, I wanted to hear what she had to say because he was thoughtful and thought-provoking and never afraid to ask the hard questions. I also admired her ability to facilitate panels and structure discussions in a way that was inviting, warm and peppered with humor and personal anecdotes. I can’t wait to see what she does next!

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I wanted to be part of a community that was committed to learning together in person and I did not believe that I would have the same richness of experience in an online program. My role as CEO also would not accommodate a part-time program so I knew that the executive MBA at Yale was the right choice for me.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My goal is to positively improve and advance the health care system so that vulnerable and complex patients have access to high-quality, affordable care. Having only ever worked in non-profit or government environments, SOM provided so many new ways to think about approaching the complex problems we face in our system.  s a result of the program, I have been exposed to many other ways to have impact and advance health equity and I now have a life-long community of friends and leaders to support me in my professional journey.


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