2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Angela Shakur, Penn State (Smeal)

Angela Shakur

Penn State University, Smeal College of Business

Age: 43

“Driven, strategic, resilient, effectual leader that is motivated by amplifying and supporting others.”

Hometown: Lansdale, Pennsylvania

Family Members: Mujahid Shakur (Husband), Amira Shakur (Daughter), Amani Shakur (Daughter), Pamela Davis-Lee (Mother) and Bentley Shakur (Dog)

Fun fact about yourself: I pride myself on having a willingness to take on new challenges and move beyond fear. An unexpected, interesting fact about me is that I have walked on fire (actually coals that were 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit). This exercise taught me how to be calm, focused and to have resolve to push through challenging situations. It helped to highlight how we, as humans, have control over how we govern our thoughts, feelings and actions as we navigate life.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Penn State, B.S. Agricultural Business Management

Where are you currently working? ALDI, Inc. – Director of Purchasing and Administration

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

* I am a member of the Board of Directors for The House of Umoja. Using the nucleus of family, culture, agriculture, individual & community empowerment, and peace, the House of UMOJA seeks to continue reducing violence evident among at-risk youth.

* I am a member of the National Black MBA Association®. The mission of this organization is to lead in the creation of educational, wealth building, and growth opportunities for those historically underrepresented throughout their careers as students, entrepreneurs and professionals.

* I have been a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Incorporated® (AKA), an international service organization for 21 years. AKA was founded on the campus of Howard University in Washington, D.C., in 1908. It is the oldest Greek-letter organization established by African American college-educated women. Our mission is to cultivate and encourage high scholastic and ethical standards, to promote unity and friendship among college women, to study and help alleviate problems concerning girls and women in order to improve their social stature, to maintain a progressive interest in college life, and to be of “Service to All Mankind.” I currently serve on our Scholarship Committee.

* I am a member of Jack and Jill of America Incorporated. Jack and Jill, is an organization of mothers with children ages 2-19, dedicated to nurturing future African American leaders by strengthening children through leadership development, volunteer service, philanthropic giving and civic duty. The organization is comprised of 262 chapters, representing more than 50,000 family members. In my local chapter, I have served as Recording Secretary, Fundraising Chair, and I am currently Community Service Teen Advisor. This program year, I supported the teens in their efforts to make a positive impact reducing food insecurity in our local community. We adopted a local elementary school, providing healthy snacks when their funding was cut, partnered with the Share Food Program to pack and distribute food items for seniors in our region that struggle with food insecurity, and worked with a local food Co-Op to donate food items to the community.

* I served as Class Representative during my EMBA program. In this role, I acted as a liaison between students and EMBA staff; bringing issues to the attention of staff when appropriate. I also served as an advisor to EMBA staff when the program considered changes or initiatives.

* I was recently inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma, the international business honors society for AACSB-accredited schools. This honor is bestowed to students in the top 20% of their class. I am humbled and grateful to achieve this distinction amongst the amazing group of leaders and professionals in my cohort.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I take my health and well-being very seriously. I am very proud of the fact that despite the rigorous program I was in, and the challenges of simultaneously balancing professional and personal life, I was able to continue to make the consistent choice to exercise and meditate daily. This allowed me to refocus, alleviate stress, and show up as my best self for the others around me.

I believe that discipline in one area of your life has spillover effects into other aspects of life. When you challenge yourself with vigorous exercise, you feel like you have accomplished something really hard at the onset of your day, making it easier to do hard things, whether that be professionally or academically. I am also proud to model a healthy lifestyle for my children.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Throughout my career, within my organization, I have played an active role in developing and implementing people-focused initiatives that improve our organization. I have worked on these projects in addition to my customary responsibilities. I helped initiate and create my company’s Student Ambassador program. I also worked on a team that established programs to support mothers in the workplace and help ensure that talented women come back to work. As a mother of two, I can relate to the challenges associated with being a working mother. I was also appointed by the CEO of my company to serve on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Steering committee that guides and directs initiatives that enhance our inclusive culture.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Dr. Sajay Samuel has a unique ability to teach accounting in a very eloquent way. He approaches it as a work of art. He is skilled at enabling others to make connections in their business lives with his course content in way that is very meaningful for them. I appreciate how he used relevant materials and adapted his teaching to fit the needs of each person in the class. He also always offered sound advice and guidance. He exemplifies providing value to others.

Penn State Smeal truly has world-renowned professors, and I have been deeply impacted by many of them. I am so grateful for the leadership lessons I learned from Dr. Denny Gioia, Dr. Donald Hambrick, Dr. Vilmos Misangyi, and Dr. Al Vicere.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? As an alum, I was biased toward Penn State. I knew that Penn State has a professional network that is second to none, with more than 740,000 Penn State graduates and more than 90,000 Smeal alumni. I had also experienced how Penn Staters help each other.

As a busy working professional, I was looking for a program that made the experience as seamless as possible. I found that I couldn’t have picked a better program in that regard. Tara Banerjee, student services coordinator, is so impressive. The level of commitment she has to each student in the program is amazing. The support she provides is also stellar. Ste makes it stress-free for us, from registering us for classes, to ordering our books, to booking our lodging, to helping us navigate our billing. I was also very impressed with Teresa Avery, managing director, and Dr. Lou Gattis, faculty director. They were both knowledgeable, transparent, and easy to work with. I also liked that the program included executive coaching.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? There isn’t enough time to do everything, but there is always a way to find time for what is most important. Being in the program forced me to evaluate what I do on a daily basis, and eliminate tasks and processes that do not add value. I used this perspective to guide my team to stay focused on activities that yield our organization the most value.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program?

  • Engage the important people around you, and let them know that you will have a new routine and will need their support to get through the program.
  • Do not get overwhelmed. The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.
  • Set your goals and just start making steps in the direction you want to go.
  • You will experience failure and setbacks during your program. Life happens. Just keep moving along your path and you will make it.
  • Get to know your colleagues in the program, I have learned the most from my classmates and have been deeply enriched by their knowledge, experiences, and insights. I consider many of them to be lifelong friends.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that you need to have everything figured out before you get started. When I embarked on this journey, I didn’t know how I was going to balance being a wife, mother, executive, and business owner. When I look back on it, I wonder how I pulled it all off. If an EMBA is something you want to accomplish, just get started. Don’t wait. God willing, the time will pass anyway. Trust yourself and move in the direction of your goal, one step at a time.

What was your biggest regret in business school? During my program, I had the opportunity to work on three different teams. I found the time that we spent working in groups was a great way to learn more deeply about my colleagues and their industries. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to work closely as teammates with everyone in my cohort. There were so many talented, insightful people in my cohort, and I wish I had the chance to work with more people directly.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? This is a very difficult question to answer. Teresa Avery, managing director of the program, put together such a uniquely diverse, accomplished, awe-inspiring group of courageous, authentic people. There are so many admirable qualities that the members of my cohort possess. The first person who comes to mind is Gena Fells-Curtis. I admire Gena for her ability to uplift others, her strong organization skills, the value she brings to the classroom, and her work ethic (there were countless times that we had conversations at 5 and 6AM in the morning). She also balances a successful career, and is an amazing wife and mother.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I chose an executive MBA program because I wanted to be in an environment that would enhance my growth by learning with other seasoned business leaders. I discovered quickly that the spirited debates we had in the classroom, the thought-provoking questions, and exposure to professionals outside of my industry augmented my skills as a leader and deepened my knowledge of other industries and trends. Also, the flexibility of the weekend schedule allowed me to compress timeframes and have a full-time course load without disrupting my career.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I strive to have more responsibility, a bigger reach and solve larger problems. My ultimate long-term professional goal is to lead a world-class organization at the C-suite level. Alongside my corporate career, I am an entrepreneur. My husband and I own a home care agency, Executive Care of Montgomery County, Pa., and invest in real estate. I want to leverage my gifts of discipline, active listening, action, strategic implementation, engaging and developing others. Combined with my business acumen, I want to propel our family legacy in business by providing better solutions to the communities we serve in the larger world around us.

“If we are not a little bit uncomfortable every day, we’re not growing. All the good stuff is outside our comfort zone.” – Jack Canfield

What made Angela such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“The Smeal EMBA is incredibly fortunate to have Angela Shakur as a student in our class of 2023 cohort. An experienced professional and entrepreneur, Angela brought her work ethic and leadership skills into the classroom from day one. She asked probing questions and helped move discussions forward, impressing faculty from supply chain to finance and beyond. She served as an elected representative for her class and worked with program faculty and staff to co-create an EMBA experience that really worked for her class. Our EMBA program experience was richer and fuller for everyone because of Angela’s contributions. We’ll miss her as a student but are so excited to have her as an alumna!”

Dr. Lou Gattis
Faculty Director
Smeal Executive MBA


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