2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Cietta Kiandoli, University of Maryland (Smith)

Cietta Kiandoli       

University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

Age: 44

“Public servant/advocate for bridging gaps between public, private, and nonprofit organizations to help underserved communities.”

Hometown:  Washington, D.C.

Family Members: Mother: Luana Kiandoli, Brother: Crispin Kiandoli

Fun fact about yourself:  I am really bad at bowling, but I love it.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Boston College, BA in History

Where are you currently working? United States Senate, Director of External Affairs for Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:  My career has and always will reflect my values and commitment to service. Sometimes, it means long days and nights. I use my free time to connect with friends and family and find ways to be of service to others.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While in business school, I was honored by the National Action Network (NAN), a civil rights organization, for my leadership and commitment to advancing civil rights. Academically, I am most proud of my work in the managerial accounting course. I initially struggled with the curriculum, but I learned to excel by the end. I credit our professor, Michael Kimbrough, for his ability to connect practical work with the curriculum.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career?  I am most proud of coordinating the Senate leader’s public communication and messaging in leading the confirmation fight for the first Black female Supreme Court Justice, Ketanji Brown Jackson. It was the pinnacle moment in my career.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Rellie Rozin. She is smart about engaging executive students and connecting our experience to the material. Equally important has been her support of our work outside the classroom and helping us navigate the workplace.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I chose the University of Maryland program because of its purposeful leadership journey, strong academic record, and commitment to leadership development. Additionally, I was raised in Maryland, and the university has always held a special place in my heart.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA, and how did you apply it at work? You must set boundaries, know your priorities, and protect your energy to achieve your goals. Pace yourself and stay focused.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? The entire program is designed to teach you how to manage your priorities. It was critical for me to prioritize and acknowledge when some things just could not be done. The biggest challenge was when we had finals and deliverables to complete in the fall. I had a packed work calendar as we were finishing the legislative session and, unfortunately, was managing a crisis with my family. I can’t say that I juggled it all well, but I learned to take each task one-by-one and every day-by-day.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? I would advise prospective students to be certain about why they are getting an MBA. An MBA is a financial and personal investment and should not be done to check a box. You should think about what and how you will use this MBA well before you apply.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had spent more time getting to know my amazing classmates. Building these relationships has been the best part of getting an EMBA degree.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire?  I admire all my classmates for a number of reasons. They are a dynamic and talented group of individuals. To choose one classmate, it is Felicia Mullaney. She has a great spirit and commitment to helping people. More importantly she had the fortitude to start her own legal firm, while pursuing her EMBA to help veterans (particularly those that traditionally do not have the resources) obtain their benefits so that they can live full meaningful lives after service.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I think I sort of alluded to this, but it’s about the relationships that you develop during the EMBA program. My classmates are entrepreneurs, business gurus, and medical professionals. They have all taught me so much about myself and about the type of person that I want to become. But more importantly, I knew that an EMBA would help me build these types of relationships with my peers and professors.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term goal is to continue to help people and particularly underserved communities that are often disenfranchised from the political and economic systems. I also hope to bridge the social impact and the corporate world and help both be of greater service to one another.

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

“On the first day of class, I ask students to complete a poll filling in the blank to the sentence: “Accounting is________”. Typical responses are “difficult,” “complex,” “bookkeeping” and “boring.” It is clear based on these responses that I face an uphill climb to get executives excited to learn accounting. My goal is to show executives how some accounting knowledge can empower them to make better, more informed decisions. To make this case, I need some students who are open to persuasion and who can influence their classmates to come along for the ride. Cietta was just such a student. Although she had no prior accounting background, she brought a strong intellect combined with a natural curiosity to our class discussions. She was excited to learn about how accounting can help executives better understand how their organizations work and, more importantly, how their organizations can work better. The excitement she brought was infectious and the questions she raised led to spirited class discussions that brought accounting alive for the other executives. She ended up being a top performer in the class. I have no doubt that Cietta will use her newfound accounting knowledge to promote positive change wherever she chooses to lend her considerable talents.”

Michael D. Kimbrough
Professor and Chair

Leroy Herbert Jr. Faculty Fellow
Department of Accounting and Information Assurance
Robert H. Smith School of Business


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