2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Tracy Bourke, New York University (Stern)

Tracy Bourke

New York University, Stern School of Business

Age: 35

“Australian woman with a passion for bringing stakeholders together to create value and impact.”

Hometown:  Melbourne, Australia

Family Members: Mum, Dad, and sister in Australia; American fiancé here in NYC!

Fun fact about yourself: When I first moved to America, I joined an improv comedy group in New York.

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Melbourne, Bachelor of Commerce; Monash University, Master of Applied Finance

Where are you currently working? Ernst & Young, Senior Manager in Digital Strategy

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: NYU Stern Student Ambassador, Melbourne University Alumni Committee, and learning the violin and improv on the side.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? While most of my classmates don’t know this, I was actually diagnosed with blood cancer at the end of my first semester. Now, as I’m nearing graduation, I’m cancer-free and inspired by my courses and classmates to have a bigger impact in my career and life.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Establishing myself as a strong team leader at EY and business school here in the US. I was the first in my family to attend university. While there are now plenty of us Aussies in New York, it was not something I ever imagined would be possible growing up in the working class suburbs of Melbourne.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? It’s difficult to pick one, but Professor Sonia Marciano is an outstanding strategy professor. It’s fun to analyze successful business strategies and she breaks everything down into simple, memorable concepts.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? NYU Stern is based in New York City, is a top-ranked school, and has a practical curriculum. It also gave us reason to move to the West Village!

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? After my first week at NYU Stern, I had the opportunity to think critically about what it means to provide value to all of the stakeholders involved in a project. While it seems obvious, and it’s something I’ve been doing throughout my career, my time in business school has really taught me how to better align the values and needs of my team, business, and clients in a way that is making us all more successful. Throughout my time at Stern, my different classes helped me reinforce this perspective. I’ve been able to integrate lessons in innovation, marketing, leadership, and technology into my daily work, while again taking this deeper strategic approach to build consensus and create durable value.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? As classes were winding down for the holidays, my future mother-in-law noticed an unusual rash and sent me to the doctors. After a quick visit to urgent care, and some strange blood test results, I was told that I likely had blood cancer. The next month was filled with more pricks and doctors appointments that confirmed I had stage IV cancer. This was a complete shock to me and everyone around me, and completely unexpected, three months into a new executive MBA program.

I started cancer treatment in the spring while continuing to work and study, despite the unexpected challenges. With the support from my family, EY, close friends, and doctors, I completed treatment last summer and am approaching one year of being cancer-free. While I was passionate about business school from the get-go, this experience supercharged my interest in creating a career (and life!) with impact and value. I’ve already been able to bring a renewed determination, resilience, and focus to my school and work.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Determine your own end-goal of an executive MBA, and then find a school and program that aligns to that goal. Dig a level deeper to do your own research on the school and program to make sure that it is the right fit for you. I spoke to current and former students, attended information sessions, and reviewed the faculty and subjects offered to decide to attend NYU Stern, and I’m so glad I did.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? I imagined that my life during the program would just become about studying all the time. Given that executive MBA students have diverse professional backgrounds, and the courses build on this real-world experience, I found the degree helped me grow professionally right away. My coursework compliments my job, and I have been able to maintain a nice work-life balance through the program.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not doing an MBA earlier! I’ve noticed a profound impact on my skills, approach, and community from business school, and I think I would have benefited even more if I did an MBA earlier.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Kelly Rose-Upton. Kelly was an officer and nurse for the Air Force and with that she brings outstanding leadership and organization skills and a different perspective than a lot of my peers. She has many stories from her time in the Air Force and can relate to folks from all walks of life. Kelly is an extremely empathetic person and saving lives is just another day in her life. I’ve learned so much about strong leadership, and made an incredible friend, by doing the program with a veteran!

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? The executive MBA caters to a more experienced cohort, combined with the flexible structure of every other Friday and Saturday. I knew that I wanted to do an in-person program since I wanted to build a strong network with my classmates and professors, and I have done just that.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? To make a lasting impact and add value to business and society.

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

“Tracy exudes resilience, kindness, and a spirit of leadership that truly represents our NYU Stern values. It has been wonderful to see her succeed in the Executive MBA program at NYU Stern. Early on when meeting Tracy, she shared her cancer diagnosis news with some of the team and the uphill battle she had ahead of her. I was moved by her firm resolve to continue on with her coursework during treatment. As she is about to embark on graduation, not only did she continue on with her classes, but she thrived and was a star academic performer. Tracy is well respected amongst her peers and brings so much to the EMBA community. As a business leader with a focus on digital strategy, we look forward to hearing about her successes and I’m sure she will make her strategy professors proud.”

Alanna Valdez
Assistant Dean of NYU Stern Executive Programs


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