Mendoza School of Business

Student Perspective: Amanda Lester (EMBA ’21)

Published: April 30, 2021 / Author: Amanda Lester



Executive MBA student Amanda Lester shares why she chose to enroll in Notre Dame’s on-campus program, her plans to improve equity and accessibility in the tech industry, and what makes the Notre Dame experience so special.

An epiphany occurred when I realized it was important for me that I would not be happy working just anywhere, I needed to affiliate myself with an organization with a results-oriented approach to business and a values-based global mission.

Fostering the next generation of tech leaders

“Grow the good in business” is not just a phrase, it is a philosophy which is ingrained in the overall Mendoza educational experience.

I plan to utilize “grow the good in business” in my personal endeavors by contributing to the STEM education efforts in the local Dallas community middle schools. Hopefully, my efforts will contribute to the growth of entrepreneurship and interest in high-tech fields. I look forward to making a broader impact in the greater tech community developing and fostering the next generation of leaders and help provide guidance in their pursuit of higher education.

The values-based education I received in the Executive MBA program allows me to look beyond the numbers in business problem-solving. I have learned [to consider] the impact my decisions have on customers, the community, and the world. All of my decisions are tempered and influenced by the values-based education I received.

Improving access and equity in tech

I work in the artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) fields. Artificial intelligence can be an intimidating and confusing topic, but it doesn’t have to be. These sectors are the future of technology and have the potential to transform the way the world works and learns. I hope to utilize the knowledge gained at Mendoza to improve the access and diversity of the workforce who will be developing and implementing advanced AI and ML technologies to transform the world.  I intend to exercise leadership in my daily interactions with colleagues, customers, and partners with integrity.

I intend to help make the journey less complicated for motivated students by reducing the barriers to access whenever possible through mentoring and initiating practical solutions.

Similar to John Cardinal O’Hara, the College’s founder and first dean, I believe business professionals can use business as a platform to drive value for the greater good. A firm belief of mine is that individuals in every organization should demonstrate a commitment to improving the community in which they live and work. I’ll continue to live my life with an active social consciousness which includes a commitment to assist underrepresented minorities and women to join the ranks of the professionally employed.

I hope to encourage progressive hiring practices enabling women to reach their potential. The door of opportunity can lead to a magic carpet for those individuals lucky enough to have access to the entrance. Underrepresented individuals and women have traditionally had a more difficult access to the modern business environment. I intend to help make the journey less complicated for motivated students by reducing the barriers to access whenever possible through mentoring and initiating practical solutions. I hope to lead with integrity and use business as an influential platform for promoting positive change in my local community and the world.

Opening the door to a world-class opportunity

It was a difficult decision opting for the Executive MBA program over the full-time [MBA] program at Mendoza. I believed that I would benefit from continuing to work and gain more experience, as well as the opportunity to take what I learned in class during residency weekends and apply it to my workweek by the following Monday.  I chose the Notre Dame Executive MBA program to challenge myself to think differently, transform my approach to problem-solving, and strengthen my management and leadership capabilities.

I believed the program would challenge me both academically and professionally, open the door to a world-class educational opportunity, and allow me to study with a group of motivated and experienced group of business professionals. Equally important was the opportunity to pursue an advanced business education with fellow students and faculty who had a deep-rooted commitment to improving the world we live in.

The expense of attending the Executive MBA program was daunting at first. However, I rationalized the additional expense of attending the EMBA program over the full-time MBA program because I was able to gain more work experience and not have to put my career on hold to obtain my master’s degree. The opportunity to study and learn with experienced business professionals from a variety of industries was a major benefit of the program.

Most schools just have a focus on education, while Notre Dame has an emphasis on developing the total person both educationally, physically, and spiritually. Notre Dame is a place you just have to visit to understand.

Finding her inner “futurist”

During the Executive Intergral Leadership (EIL) course, I learned that I hated accounting and I was never going to be an accountant and I would hire someone to do that work for me in the future. I also learned what were my strengths and weaknesses, and that I had a real talent for strategic thinking and was a futurist.

I was more than surprised when the EIL course identified those strengths for me and they were reinforced by the feedback from my peers in the program. I discovered my most effective work, leadership, and learning styles. I learned I was not going to be happy unless my career centered around a role and work environment where I could utilize those strengths.

An epiphany occurred when I realized it was important for me that I would not be happy working just anywhere, I needed to affiliate myself with an organization with a results-oriented approach to business and a values-based global mission.

A campus experience like none other

Notre Dame is a special place and a person doesn’t appreciate how magical Notre Dame is unless you spend time on campus. It is such an epiphany when you step onto the Notre Dame campus. It is overwhelming just how wonderful the experience can be. It is unlike any other school I’ve attended, or visited.

I don’t know how else to express it more clearly other than it feels like home. Most schools just have a focus on education, while Notre Dame has an emphasis on developing the total person both educationally, physically, and spiritually. Notre Dame is a place you just have to visit to understand. The ability to pursue my graduate business education on campus was a dream come true.


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