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MBA grad balances personal goals and academics

  • Communications
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  • Jun 22, 2022
MBA grad balances personal goals and academics

Jenny Zhang, MBA ’22, is one of the outstanding graduates in the Class of 2022

Going into the school year, Jenny Zhang, MBA ’22, knew that she would have a non-traditional experience. With unpredictable COVID-19 restrictions challenging the ability to facilitate in-person learning, Zhang was determined to make her time at Ivey unforgettable.

Before attending Ivey, Zhang studied political science at the University of Toronto. She worked for the financial services company, Reinsurance Group of America, in digital marketing for three years before deciding to continue her education.

“I was drawn towards problem-solving, but I realized that in my job at the time, I was limited to just that marketing piece,” said Zhang. “I wanted a chance to be able to solve problems from a wide range of perspectives. I felt that it would be really good for me to fill that educational gap.”

Excited about a career change, Zhang came to Ivey’s MBA program.

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Creating a memorable experience

Starting the school year, Zhang was elected president of the 2022 MBA Association (MBAA). As president, Zhang led the association’s Executive and Council committees with the objective of enhancing the Ivey MBA experience for 175 students.

“That was a very surreal moment for me. It's very exciting, but also humbling to know that you've got these incredible people who have now put their trust in you to lead the class through what was, at the time, still the thick of the pandemic,” she said. “I knew going in that it would be challenging to curate an impactful student experience when everybody already had an expectation that it wasn't going to be the same as a regular year.”

Overcoming adversity

Zhang showed resiliency in the face of a number of personal and academic challenges. As the evolving COVID-19 pandemic continued into the school year, students were tentatively allowed to return to campus in the winter.

“We were dealing with restrictions changing one day and then going back to something else the next day. When planning events, logistics are sometimes hard to move around. We would be nearly done planning and something would change. We'd have to pivot and find another solution,” says Zhang. “At the end of the day, we made it work. There were not many events that we had to cancel. We kept all of our legacy events and found fun ways to celebrate in the new normal."

Bringing the Ivey community together 

One memorable moment was the inaugural Toronto mixer weekend that Zhang and the MBAA team organized. The purpose of the event was to bring together multiple generations of Ivey MBA students in Toronto and provide the current class with a unique opportunity to bond in person. Current students participated in some quintessential Toronto experiences, including attending a Toronto Raptors game and exploring the city’s neighbourhoods. Recent Ivey MBA alumni were also invited to an evening cocktail reception to reconnect with their classmates and get to know the next generation of MBA graduates.

“It was clear to me that the pandemic had been tough on not just our class, but also the Class of 2021. In-person social interactions were severely limited over the past couple of years, and no matter how hard you try, those kinds of interactions can’t be replaced virtually,” said Zhang.

The weekend was a huge success and Zhang said many international students remarked that they had never seen an NBA game before and would remember that moment for years to come. Zhang said a highlight for her was when Terry Lee, MBA ’21 – her predecessor as the 2021 MBAA president – told her she had “done it.” That’s when she realized the impact she and the MBAA team had made.

“It sunk in that after two long years of lockdown, we still managed to create an opportunity in one of the strangest periods of our recent history to bring our special community together. To me, it was such a gratifying feeling to know that I was able to play a part in creating this type of impact for the community,” said Zhang. “These people were my family for the year (and years to come), and it means the world to me that I was able to help make their experience a better one.”

Finding the right balance

Outside of COVID-19-related challenges, Zhang also overcame personal struggles by finding the optimal balance between personal expectations and academic responsibilities.

“It was challenging to find balance with everything that was happening. You come into this program with high expectations for yourself and realize the amount of resources that you're sinking into this year. You want to make the most of it,” said Zhang. “There are academic responsibilities that you have to fulfill, and if you're elected into student leadership positions, you also want to do that job to the best of your ability. I think I took that accountability pretty seriously. I recognized there were so many people behind me and that this was a huge part of their experience as well."

Achieving career goals

Following graduation, Zhang will join Monitor Deloitte as a Senior Consultant with the Strategy and Business Design team, a position she believes would not have been available to her prior to doing the MBA.

 It's very rewarding to be able to tell yourself that you managed to hit your goal.”
– Jenny Zhang