Importance of Support: Pre-MBA Mamas Share Their Thoughts on The Business School Journey
Nadia, Samantha, and Jennifer give their unique perspectives on balancing mommy duty while navigating the business school application process.
Nadia Marston is a driven, motivated and ambitious finance professional. Nadia attended the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, majoring in Business Administration with a concentration in Finance. Despite becoming a single mother to Jaiden at the age of 21, she has held prominent positions within JPMorgan and DuPont, and serves her community as a JPMorgan GoodWorks Volunteer. Currently, Nadia works as a Global Wealth Management Analyst-PB Credit at JPMorgan, in which she underwrites Securities Based Lending Lines of credit for High Net Worth clients. In addition to caring for 4-year old Jaiden, Nadia is preparing for the rigorous MBA admissions process.
Jennifer Sepulveda is a New York native who attended SUNY - New Paltz for her first three years of college. She took one year off to give birth to her daughter, Jenelle, who is now a fashionable seven year old 2nd grader who loves steak and friends. After spending one year breastfeeding, caring for, and bonding, with Jenelle, Jennifer transferred to CUNY Baruch College where she graduated with a BBA in Finance. Jennifer currently works as a Project Controller Consultant at Deloitte Consulting LLP and will attend Columbia Business School this Fall. 

Samantha Broxton is a Jill of many random trades (hence her nickname: Random Sam). Born to Caribbean immigrants, Samantha grew up in South Florida, where she was widely known as an awkward duck that spent way too many hours reading period or science fiction novels and watching films released decades prior to her conception. She went on to graduate from the University of South Florida, where she left her mark as an insanely active student leader and learned to be less of an introvert. Personally, Samantha is an accidental mother of two, Sophie (age 5) and Nathaniel (age 3), and ecstatic wife to one (her very own Mr. Darcy). Sophie and Nathanielare bursting with energy and creativity. Sophie has been in ballet since 3 and Nathaniel loves karate; they both love music as much as their father and we plan to start piano and violin lessons. When she is not spending 50 hours a week in the office, she volunteers for Bankers Without Borders, speaks publicly to anyone who will listen, and live tweets her favorite tv shows.  In her spare time (when she should be sleeping), Samantha also runs a successful natural hair and living blog: Sisterlocked.com and random life blog: RaisingSelf.com, as well as editing random life videos under her YouTube persona. She’s also known for making her own skincare products and food from scratch (her homemade vanilla whipped cream recipe is to die for). Professionally, Samantha’s done everything from originating and managing multi-million dollar commercial loans to leading a failed internet start-up. Currently, Samantha is a Commercial Risk Manager for a global fortune 500 company in sunny Southern California.

Why did you decide to pursue your MBA?
Nadia Marston (NM): I need an MBA to fill in gaps of knowledge around portfolio management, capital markets, alternative investments, and institutional investing, so that I can transition into a front office position within Asset Management.
Jennifer Sepulveda (JS): I want my MBA to facilitate a career switch. 
Samantha Broxton (SB): I have one of those personalities where I dare you to tell me “no”. Tell me I’m not qualified. Tell me I shouldn’t be here. Tell me that I don’t deserve a seat at the table. That’s ammunition for my will and fuel for my fire. I’ll work that much harder to close the gap and show all those that doubted that it is never wise to bet against me.
What steps have you taken to pursue your MBA?
NM: I have visited a number of schools and am in the process of networking and developing key contacts. I am a MBA Prep 2016 Fellow with Management Leadership for Tomorrow, a program that provides me with coaching and assistance to guide me through the MBA application process.
JS: I completed Management Leadership for Tomorrow's MBA Prep Program as a 2015 Fellow.  MLT helped me prepare during the application process. I also took a Manhattan GMAT class and hired a private tutor.
SB: I set up school visits, applied and was accepted to Dartmouth’s Women’s Weekend and Duke’s Diversity Weekend. I researched preparatory programs and applied to Management Leadership for Tomorrow and Forte Foundation, two organizations known for selecting high potential minority and female Pre-MBA candidates.
What concerns do you have about starting an MBA program with kids? 
NM: I am concerned about whether my school of choice will have the resources and support needed for me to succeed. I'm also concerned about the quality of the surrounding elementary schools, since Jaiden will be school-aged at the time of my matriculation. 
JS: At first, I was concerned. From the beginning Columbia and NYU have been my top choices because my family and Jenelle's dad live in NYC. Nevertheless, I also started looking at other programs close to New York: Cornell, Simon, and Yale. When looking at schools, it was hard to determine how well I would perform as a single parent in a place where I did not have friends or family. I felt like I would have a supportive community of people at Cornell due to the strong presence of parents and the Joint Ventures Club seemed very tight-knit. Since I have decided to attend Columbia Business School in NYC, I am no longer worried about changing my daughter's school, moving, and baby-sitting because I have a great network of people to support me with childcare resources. 
SB: I don’t think I’ve had the bandwidth to be concerned about pursuing an MBA as a mother. I am more hopeful than anything else. I feel like so much has been put on hold because this has been a goal of mine for many years. I have a great support system in my husband. This isn’t a journey I am taking on my own and the entire immediate Broxton team is on board!
What unique mom-related challenges have you faced during your pre-MBA journey? How are you handling those challenges?
NM: During this journey, I have struggled with the challenge of balancing work and quality time with my son. Now, with GMAT Prep and MLT, the time I am able to spend with Jaiden has dwindled. Nevertheless, I have a supportive network of family and friends who assist with childcare and I spend as much time with my son as possible. I take him out to dinner once a week, and out for treats after school. At the end of this journey, we both will benefit greatly from the sacrifices that I have made. I know hundreds of hours will need to be invested during this journey, but I am confident success is possible.
JS: I struggled with the decision to go to school full-time or part-time. From my perspective, making the decision to stop working and attend school full-time is incredibly difficult for parents, especially single mothers. Ultimately, I decided that, as a career switcher, having a demanding job, being a mom and going to school part-time would be tougher than committing to a full-time program and giving my daughter the attention she needs. I have tried to save as much as i can in order to cover my living expenses while at business school. I also had challenges with the GMAT. Due to my added parental responsibilities, during my GMAT prep, I would wake up every day at 4:00 am to study for two hours. Then, I would wake my daughter at 6:00 am to get her ready for the day. After a full day of work, I brought my daughter to my tutoring sessions. 

SB: As a mother in the pre-MBA process, childcare is a huge challenge because you essentially need more help outside of traditional childcare hours. My kids have always struggled with an early bedtime and my husband often has evening events to attend, so GMAT studying another work can’t be started until fairly late most nights. I am handling these challenges with an excellent combination of embracing sleep deprivation and increasing efficiency. Staying up until 3AM and then getting up a few hours later to make an early morning meeting is not ideal but it is a requirement of the season I am in.

In your opinion, why is MBA Mama important for women interested in pursuing a graduate business degree?
NM: I felt alone throughout most of the application process because there were no resources available to help women like me. I am a single mom balancing a rigorous career, managing household duties, and navigating the MBA process. I love that MBA Mama will be the voice for all mothers, single or not.
JS: MBA Mama is the go-to place for parents, especially single parents like myself. When I was looking at MBA programs outside of New York City, I did not find resources I could relate to. Often times, the images many schools portray of students with families are married couples. Typically, the father is getting the MBA and the mother is the one staying at home watching the kids. I did not see any images or stories from single parents. MBA Mama will feature all types of resources that can help women like me in the future.
SB: MBA Mama provides a sense of community, a safe place where your narrative is both impactful and understood. It’s a place where you don’t have to wear a scarlet letter “M” because you dared spew forth life from your loins and have professional goals; because you dared to be a mother and a dreamer.
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