Here’s a talk with Ashley Elleby, a student at Washington University’s Olin Business School and a member of The Consortium who is pursuing her dream of opening a clothing store for tall women – featuring her own clothing line! Thank you Ashley for sharing your thoughts with us!
This interview is the latest in an Accepted.com blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?
Ashley: I am originally from a small town in Southern Illinois called Fairview Heights. My dad was stationed at a military base near there when I was a kid, so after a few years of moving around we finally settled down in that area. I went to Georgia Tech for my undergrad, where I studied Industrial and Systems Engineering. I graduated in 2008 and went on to work for Johnson & Johnson in one of their leadership rotational programs before I started by MBA program in 2010.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend Washington Olin?
Ashley: When I was looking for MBA programs, I had a small list of requirements.
- It had to be a smaller program. I was tired of being just a “number” at bigger schools (like a Harvard or a Ross) and was really interested in having a more intimate educational experience.
- It had to be close to my family.
- It had to be a top 20 program.
So, as I was applying to schools, Washington University naturally rose high on my list. St. Louis is 25 minutes away from my parents and younger siblings in S. Illinois, and its program is relatively small and yet still in the top 20. My older sister went to Wash U for her undergrad so I was already familiar with the high caliber of faculty and students, and I was confident that I would receive a top notch education. Thankfully Wash U and the Consortium also thought I would be a good fit and I was admitted as a Consortium Fellow. All of the pieces were starting to come together so I couldn’t turn down such a great opportunity!
Accepted: What are some of your favorite things about living in St. Louis? Least favorite?
Ashley: My favorite thing about St. Louis is being closer to my family and having easy access to Chicago, where the majority of the rest of my family is. I also enjoy the low cost of living here because as a student I have a very small budget. The cheaper rent, gas, etc. allows me to also have a social life while in grad school.
My least favorite thing is that St. Louis is not as progressive of a city as I would like. There is little to no new job creation happening here, causing young entrepreneurs or current graduates to search for jobs elsewhere.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Ashley: Intro to Entrepreneurship/The Hatchery – taught by Professor and fellow entrepreneur Cliff Holekamp.
Accepted: According to your LinkedIn profile you are the founder and CEO of Alyssa Vermell Apparel, LLC. Is your post-MBA goal to continue working on your clothing company, or do you have other plans for after your graduate?
Ashley: Yes, I will most definitely continue to work on building my clothing line. I am currently in the process of developing my first line of clothing for tall women and I plan to have them in boutiques by the end of the year with a goal of opening my own store in Chicago within the next couple of years. I will also be working as an Associate Brand Manager at Conagra Foods. So I will be quite busy! But all the better, I will do whatever it takes to see my dreams fulfilled.
Accepted: The Olin website talks about the school’s “non-traditional learning structure” for elective courses. Can you tell us more about that?
Ashley: At Olin, you can pretty much customize your MBA education. There is a “core” of classes that everyone must take and there are platforms for marketing, finance, consulting, etc. that one can follow. However, you are not required to select one particular path. You can pick and choose which classes you feel will provide the most well-rounded education, and are not restricted to learning one specific topic. This has especially benefited me as I concentrated in both marketing and entrepreneurship.
Accepted: What attracted you to the Consortium program? Is the program living up to your expectations?
Ashley: The Consortium was attractive to me because it offered financial assistance to minorities looking to obtain a MBA and was affiliated with some of the country’s top schools. I also liked the vastness of the Consortium network of schools and companies. It reassured me that being a part of the Consortium would provide me with long lasting friendships and network connections.
Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our applicants who will be applying to Olin?
Ashley: Anyone applying to Olin, or any other business school, should first think about WHY they want an MBA and HOW they plan to use it in the future BEFORE they apply. Understanding what you ultimately want to accomplish in the next phase of your life will help you choose the right school that fits your educational needs, write better application essays, and find a better internship and full time employment. If you don’t know what you want to do, I’d recommend holding off applying to b-school until you figure it out. Otherwise you will spend too much of your first year trying to figure out where you fit in and you will be at a disadvantage when looking for that all-important internship.
For complete, soup-to-nuts guidance on the MBA admissions process, please purchase Linda Abraham’s new book, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools – now available in paperback and Kindle editions!
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