2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Emiko FitzGerald, University of Texas (McCombs)

Emiko FitzGerald

The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business

Age: 40

“Leader in marketing communications grounded in inclusivity, self-awareness and empathy.”

Hometown: Colleyville, Texas

Family Members: Husband, Greg Luk and daughter Madeline Luk

Fun fact about yourself: I have a side hobby as a commentator for ultimate disc live streams. I have announced pro, college and club tournaments on the local, national and international stage.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor’s of Journalism, Broadcast News, University of Texas at Austin

Where are you currently working? Senior Director, Core Media at Saatchi & Saatchi

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: Communications Chair, Graduate Women in Business; McCombs Ambassador Committee, McCombs+ Leadership Fellow, McCombs+ Go-To-Market Consulting Project with Stripe, Global Sports Mentoring Program mentor, semi-retired ultimate player and aspiring golfer and Pickleball player.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As part of the Graduate Women in Business (GWiB) leadership group, we organized and implemented the first ever GWiB Women’s Empowerment Summit in support of International Women’s Month. Through our networks and cohort, we brought in a diverse group of speakers, organized a drive for menstrual products to support a local non-profit, and one of our professors taught a session on allyship. Women have come far in business world, but there is more to be done. I am grateful to have been a small part of the conversation around women’s empowerment.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am proud of shifting from working in local tv news to a successful ad agency career during a major evolution in the media landscape. I have always loved storytelling in written, verbal and visual forms. Working in marketing, I can tell the story of brands as well as hone my skills as an engaging public speaker and presenter no matter what new platform emerges.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? (I thoroughly enjoyed Tim Werner’s class on Managing Social and Political Risk. Working as a communications professional, I appreciated the way Tim provided frameworks behind analyzing social and political scenarios to understand interest and influence for various stakeholders. It was obvious he understands the real-life implications of the subject matter and the intersection of the academic side. This has already helped me in my work environment in giving counsel on situations.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? Texas McCombs is a top program, especially for the part of the country where I live. Beyond that, their recent shift to once-a-month programming and revamped curriculum made it doable from a personal life perspective, as well as interesting from an academic perspective. Additionally, knowing the makeup of the cohort were folks from a variety of industries was attractive as well.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? I gave birth to my first child, Madeline, in September 2022, near the beginning of the second year of the program. I was juggling being a new mom, managing my own health postpartum, and keeping up with the schoolwork. The program moves so quickly I did not take a break. I turned in my assignments on time and kept up with the schedule. My incredible support system made this possible. My parents watched Madeline during the day, cooked meals and did laundry while I studied and tuned into class remotely. My mom traveled with the baby and me to Washington, DC when I was 6 weeks postpartum, so I could participate in our domestic immersion. During the spring semester, my husband solo-parented Madeline while I was away for class weekends. Our cohort was incredibly supportive sending gift cards for meals, checking on me and there to study and discuss course material.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Set boundaries for school, work, and family time so you can be present at each. I would create a game plan on tackling assignments a few weeks in advance, so I knew when I needed to set aside time for schoolwork and balance with family events, work events, etc. I couldn’t attend every social event but with some planning it’s possible!

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth is “I’m too busy to go back to school.” That was my excuse for many years despite wanting to get my MBA. The truth is, there is never the perfect time to go back to school. It seems daunting but before you know it you are finished and have meaningful educational experiences, professional connections and a clearer focus for the future.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I had been able to attend the international immersion in Copenhagen, but I was too far along in my pregnancy to travel safely.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Dr. Meena Iyer the most. She is highly regarded as a physician and chief medical officer at Dell Children’s while also being humble, supportive, and has a great sense of humor. She exudes a quiet confidence I hope to emulate. Beyond her accomplishments and brilliance, she is a caring friend and mom.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? In seeking an executive MBA program, I looked not only for the academic curriculum, but also the interaction I could receive from my cohort. McCombs’ once-a-month, in-person offering was attractive to me because I could spend quality time learning and discussing with the cohort, while also balancing my professional and personal life. The cohort spans a variety of industries and expertise, so it was a thrill to interact with such bright people from different backgrounds.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Through the program, I have realized my “superpowers” of collaboration, presentation skills, emotional intelligence, and love of branding and marketing. I hope long term I can make meaningful impact to teams and organizations in these capacities.

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

“Emi has a positive presence about her no matter the situation. From the moment I interviewed her for admission into the program, I knew the kind of supportive energy she would bring her classmates would also translate into helping us sustain the collaborative culture we’re known for at Texas McCombs. I wasn’t wrong. Her unique background in broadcasting and competitive sport brought a special quality to her class, evidenced by her active involvement in co-curriculars as well as her leadership in the classroom. I cannot recall a single time when I didn’t see her flash a smile and offer encouraging words to her cohort, her faculty, and our staff. Emi is highly respected by all who know her – as a mom, a colleague, a student, a mentor, a leader, and a friend.”

Joe Stephens
Senior Assistant Dean & Director
Working Professional and Executive MBA Programs

“Emi was an incredible addition to her class. In many ways, her presence in the classroom was a godsend for me, as my course on managing social and political risk was transitioning from being an elective to the executive MBA core. With her professional background in media and public relations, Emi brought a unique perspective to the class, enlightening her classmates and myself as to the real-world challenges companies face on these fronts both on a day-to-day basis and in crisis situations. She was quick to offer examples beyond the class material and was an active leader in all large class and small group discussions. This even played out in our in-class crisis simulation, as Emi kept the coolest head out of the fifty plus students present as we worked through how a hypothetical firm might deal with the competing stakeholder pressures caused by concerns related to product safety. Beyond being a rockstar in the classroom, I would also note that Emi has been heavily involved in extracurricular activities that are close to her heart, and I am particularly impressed by her role in organizing and running the first-ever Graduate Women in Business Empowerment Summit at McCombs this year!”

Timothy Werner
Associate Professor of Business, Government & Society:

“Emi leads through empathy, deep insight, and inclusivity. With her innate ability to recognize and celebrate the talents in those around her, she has helped strengthen the Executive MBA community by encouraging others to share their voices courageously and bring their whole selves to the conversation. Relying on her professional marketing and PR experience as well as her natural ease with interpersonal communication, Emi has set an example that empowered her classmates to challenge ideas with respect and enthusiasm, enriching the learning environment for all.”

Alma Moore
Director of Working Professional Career Education & Coaching

“Emi is a role model for Executive MBA students who want to make the most of their program. Despite managing a full-time job and giving birth to her first child, Emi found time to take advantage of co-curricular offerings through the McCombs+ Global & Experiential Learning program. The programs and services offered through McCombs+ are entirely optional, yet Emi chose to commit at the highest level by joining the McCombs+ Leadership Fellows Program. Guided by the McCombs+ Leadership Framework, students are required to participate in 20 different McCombs+ programs/services and write a brief reflection paper about what they learn from each experience. They also must complete an intensive set of diversity training models and participate in a live discussion to reflect on what they learned and hear about others’ experiences.

There are various options to make progress in the program, and Emi was a model participant as she took advantage of all our offerings. Emi met with leadership and communication coaches, joined a micro-consulting project team, and participated in synchronous and asynchronous leadership and professional development trainings. The most important part of the program is the reflection requirement, and it’s tempting for students not to take that seriously. But Emi took the time to really reflect upon what she was learning through her participation in the various activities and how she might implement these learnings in her various roles in life. I believe that Emi will be successful in all these roles given her commitment to personal leadership development.”

Deidra Stephens
Director of McCombs+ Global & Experiential Learning


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