Mendoza School of Business

A Leap of Faith

Published: February 26, 2020 / Author: Ryan Millbern



A Leap of Faith:
One woman’s journey from Nigeria to Notre Dame to grow the good in business

In 2016, Faith Manuel was living in her home country of Nigeria, raising a one-year-old daughter and pregnant with her second. She worked full-time at KPMG in Lagos, conducting grueling audits. “There came a point where I realized I was done with audits and I needed to make a jump to consulting,” Manuel remembers. “But I needed more training.”

After giving birth to her second daughter, she decided to take a break from work and find an MBA program where she could not only amass the skills necessary to advance her career, but learn to conduct business in a way that served the greater good.

Growing up as a clergyman’s daughter, Manuel spent her youth helping underprivileged citizens navigate unemployment, lack of access to education and poverty. “In my experience and interactions with small business owners, I didn’t see enough business models or innovations that prioritized improving the quality of lives of the underprivileged while making profit,” she recalls. “When I found the Mendoza College of Business, I immediately felt that this was a place where I could learn about making the right decision and not just the best decision in business.”

Notre Dame wasn’t originally on her radar, but after receiving an email from Mendoza’s admissions team, she explored the website. “There were strong ethical undertones to everything and that made me excited,” she says. “I’m from a country where if you’re helping a client out, no one’s thinking about what that means for the community. I felt like there had to be more to business than what I was hearing from my bosses and colleagues. Notre Dame intrigued me.”

So she packed up her two young daughters and made the 5,896-mile trek to South Bend, where her family would encounter snow for the first time – and a professional community unlike any she’d ever experienced.

It was important for me to show my two daughters the value of education through my actions. Self-determination, a curious mind, knowledge, and understanding are some of the values I hope to instill in them. Faith Manuel, MBA '20

MBA student Faith Manuel with daughter

For the greater good: More than just a tagline

When Manuel arrived on campus, she learned Mendoza’s focus on the greater good wasn’t just promotional website copy; it was a mission embraced by the entire community. “Whenever we have a project in class, yes, we’re talking about numbers and the market, but there’s always a third piece: what is the overall purpose of this business? Is it ethical? Who will be affected?”

She found that conversations about ethics permeated even her strategy and consulting courses. “My strategy classes have forced me to think of a strategy, but with the undertone of what you can do to change the world. In consulting, we were challenged to devise a ‘blue ocean’ solution that not only served the client, but that could help people lead better lives. Everything has an ethical component here.”

It was no surprise to Manuel that this focus on the greater good translated into a welcoming campus community in which students look out for one another. “I was anxious about what to expect in the U.S. and how my kids would adapt to a new culture, weather and diet. However, this anxiety quickly dissipated after a few weeks because of the support from the people and organizations I came in contact with here in South Bend. I do not walk around feeling different or out of place and I have the Notre Dame and South Bend community to thank for this. The students here are very close, and they care about how you’re doing. The atmosphere is very welcoming and it helps put you at ease.”

Flipping the switch: Professional preparation

In the spring of 2019, Manuel participated in an intense interview process for a competitive internship spot at EY in Dallas, Texas. To prepare, she tapped into the personal connections she’d made, and into the resources of the MBA community. “Career services gives you a lot of guidance on what you need to do, how the interview is structured,” she says. “We also have a strong consulting club that makes sure you’re really prepared. They put us in groups and we did a simulation of the real-life situation.”

Manuel earned the internship spot. “My work with career services and the consulting club helped me feel confident about my experiences so that I could turn on the switch during the interview process and perform.”

Growing the good at EY and beyond

One week after her 10-week internship ended, Manuel was offered a full-time position at EY upon graduation from the MBA program. “My experience at Mendoza has given me the confidence to ask more of business and to do things the right way even when it is not popular,” she says. “My interactions with colleagues, guests, speakers at the Berges lectures, and the Idea Center have solidified my understanding that business is not just about numbers but about impacting people’s lives.”

She believes a focus on ethics is something the international business community is starting to embrace, and that a Notre Dame education is great preparation to conduct business the right way. “This is the mindset that business leaders, especially my young African leaders, need to create the future we all want. The world is just catching on to the importance of having leadership training that includes strong ethical foundations with a focus on sustainability and stakeholder interests. Mendoza has been training its good force leaders for decades and I am proud to be one of them.”

Manuel is also proud to serve as an example for her two young daughters, and to show them what’s possible through hard work, determination and a world-class education. “It was important for me to show my two daughters the value of education through my actions. Self-determination, a curious mind, knowledge, and understanding are some of the values I hope to instill in them. The world I grew up in will have women believe that motherhood can strip you of your dreams; that is a perception I don’t want my children to have. I hope that my girls will learn from me and be better, stronger women. I want them to value personal growth and development and, above all, understand that anything is possible for a woman, even in a male-dominated world.”

MBA student Faith Manuel with her husband Tekena, and daughters Nimi Aubriana and Lolia Zuri

MBA student Faith Manuel with her husband Tekena, and daughters Nimi Aubriana and Lolia Zuri

MBA student Faith Manuel with her husband Tekena, and daughters Nimi Aubriana and Lolia Zuri

MBA student Faith Manuel in class.

MBA student Faith Manuel works with her team on a project in class.

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