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Women MBA Students Begin New Chapter

Manning School Joins National Association, Opening Doors for Networking and Mentorship

Four Manning School MBA students at the NAWMBA conference
MBA students, from left, Ekaterina Soloveva, Raysa Mateo, Marcie Byrd and Lisa Passaretti take a break from networking at NAWMBA’s annual conference and career fair in Stamford, Conn.

By Ed Brennen

MBA student Marcie Byrd doesn’t have to look far to find female role models in leadership positions. Jacquie Moloney is her university’s first female chancellor. Sandy Richtermeyer is her business school’s new dean. Leticia Porter is her school’s director of graduate programs.

“We have a lot of wonderful women in important positions here at the university, and they are always reaching out to me and others to connect and offer help,” says Byrd, a part-time MBA student who has worked in the university’s Information Technology department for the past 14 years.

Byrd has now taken on a leadership position of her own, serving as president of the Manning School of Business’ new chapter of the National Association of Women MBAs. With 72 student chapters and 18 professional chapters across the country, NAWMBA is a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing female business professionals and enhancing workforce diversity. 

And, contrary to its name, it’s not just for women.

“It’s for everybody who’s committed to diversity and advancement in the MBA-related professions,” says Richtermeyer, who made establishing an MSB chapter an early priority as dean. “It’s an important way to bring our MBA students together and build a community.”

Membership is free and open to all of the roughly 600 students currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration, either on campus or online. Alumni of the MBA program are also welcome to join.
Two MSB students and Leticia Porter at NAWMBA conference
MBA students Lisa Passaretti, left, and Marcie Byrd, right, attend NAWMBA’s annual conference and career fair in Stamford, Conn., with Director of Graduate Programs Leticia Porter.

The group’s first meeting in September drew approximately 50 people, a number Byrd expects will grow as the chapter becomes more involved in networking events and professional development opportunities.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring like-minded women together to create some connections and offer mentorship and support,” says Byrd, a senior network engineer who will complete her MBA this spring.

While women’s enrollment in MBA programs has grown globally over the past decade, they still represented just 37 percent of the overall applicant pool this year, according to an annual report by the Graduate Management Admission Council. That was down from 40 percent worldwide in 2015.

In October, Byrd and fellow MBA students Ekaterina Soloveva, Raysa Mateo and Lisa Passaretti attended NAWMBA’s annual conference and career fair in Stamford, Conn. For Passaretti, an online student from New Jersey, it was a chance to meet some of those in her cohort for the first time.

“It was great to hear her viewpoint as an online student,” says Porter, the chapter’s faculty adviser who joined the students at the conference. “There were so many companies there recruiting, and it was an opportunity to learn from all these women from across the country.”

While at the conference, Byrd connected with several other NAWMBA chapters from across the state, including those from UMass Amherst, UMass Boston, Suffolk University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute. She is now working to combine each of the school’s email listservs into one statewide NAWMBA listserv to share information on upcoming networking events.

“We can use it as a way to state connected,” says Byrd, who, as working professional herself, knows how difficult it is for graduate students to connect with one another and make time for events.

“So many professionals come flying in after work for their class, and then by 9:30 they’re gone,” she says. “One of the challenges, from a startup perspective, is how do we connect with everybody?”

Byrd and her chapter vice president, Maria Correa, hope the Manning School’s new NAWMBA chapter can start making those connections easier for students.

“I’ve really appreciated being a part of something like this,” Byrd says. “It’s nice being with like-minded women who are intelligent, women who are trying to figure out their business careers, as well as their lives.”