Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business students come to learn, explore, and build community. As they move forward in their careers, they take everything they've learned and use it to power innovation in industries and businesses across the globe. In celebration of Spring 2023 Commencement, we sat down with a few students to learn about their experiences and the wisdom they've gained in the process.
Meet Awonda Luangphasombath, who is graduating from the Evening MBA program.
Where are you from?
Forest Park, GA
Describe yourself in 15 words or less:
An antisocial extrovert who just wants to put a smile on everyone’s face.
Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? (A parent? A teacher? A role model?)
My mother influenced me the most. Growing up, she always told me stories about her struggles when immigrating to America to escape the genocide occurring in her home country of Cambodia. I can’t even imagine the resilience and strength it took for her to create a new life in a country where she didn’t know the language and had little to no money in her pockets. She has inspired me to create something even greater with my own life. Hence the reason I became the first college graduate in my family and now the first MBA graduate!
What was your favorite business course and why?
Work, Equity, and Wellness with Dr. Tiffany Johnson. This course was nothing like any other business course I had taken! Instead of a focus on common business topics such as financials or operations, we focused on the intersection of work, racial equity, and wellness. This can be a touchy topic, but it’s incredibly important to have these discussions.
Dr. Johnson made us all feel comfortable and led the class through wonderful thought-provoking discussions. We analyzed present-day work concepts and how they could be reimagined to provide a more equitable and just workplace for everyone. It was such a phenomenal class that I still review the course content regularly and try to apply the concepts to my current organization. It was also a great reminder that it’s okay to step away from the “grind” and focus on rest and self-care. In turn, this allows me to always bring my best self to work and influence those around me to do the same.
What activities were you involved with on or off campus, and did your business education impact those activities in any way?
I had an employment transition from the public to private sector during my first year of the program, and my business education helped me immensely. A course on Responsible Corporate Governance helped me better understand what matters to our board members and shareholders, so I was able to create decks that would be used in board meetings and lead projects that would have a direct impact on organizational activities. Furthermore, I was involved with spearheading a few committees related to DEI and training within my work group that were made possible with the skills I’ve picked up throughout the program.
What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at Scheller?
I always loved attending Schnacks Week! Getting a moment to catch-up with classmates and staff while munching on the BEST snacks was a great way to get your evening started before heading to class.
What was a moment when you had to practice persistence and/or resilience while in the MBA program?
I recently had to practice persistence and resilience throughout the entire month of March. In the midst of having classes and midterms, I was also traveling for work and leading my department’s annual three-day training event that was packed with guest speakers, CPE sessions, and team-building activities.
One week before our training event, I got Covid-19 for the first time ever! I took some time off to recover, but I stayed focused on my goals. After weeks of traveling, attending class from a different time zone, and being sick, we held a very successful training event with about 30 attendees. The entire month tested my ability to prioritize and execute, but I’m extremely proud of the end product!
What was your career journey in the Evening MBA program?
I started the MBA program as an employee of Georgia Tech in the Internal Audit Department where I worked for three years. Coming into the program, I knew that I wanted to lead a team one day and develop a more well-rounded business acumen outside of my traditional accounting education, especially in the analytics space. I loved my job, but I was also getting complacent, so I began meeting with my career coach during my first semester.
Our conversations motivated me to begin looking at other opportunities and step out of my comfort zone. Nine months into the program, I accepted a job offer at Delta Air Lines in their Corporate Audit Department where I have been for the last 18 months. Switching industries can be incredibly scary, but Scheller helped me build up the confidence and skill to take this transition head-on. I’m so happy to have found an organization that aligns with my values and look forward to my post-graduation journey at Delta.
What is the biggest lesson you gained from your Scheller MBA?
The biggest lesson I gained was that I can always do more than I think I can. There were so many moments I felt like my plate was too full or I simply wanted to give up, but with perseverance and a lot of coffee, I was able to purchase my first home, get a dog, and even change jobs all whilst taking a 9-credit course load each semester. Looking back, it was all worth it. I’m incredibly proud of my accomplishments. I literally feel like superwoman at this point!
What advice would you give to an incoming Evening MBA student?
My advice would be to take advantage of the amazing classmates, staff, and faculty you interact with throughout the course of your MBA journey. People that I’ve met through group projects or social events have become a strong part of my network, and being able to share information, experiences, and advice to one another is priceless. These individuals may one day be your colleague, boss, mentor or even your spouse!
What will you be doing to celebrate your graduation?
I will be going on a safari at the Serengeti National Park this summer. This has been a lifelong dream of mine, and I’m excited to see all the amazing creatures in their natural habitat! I might even get lucky and see the Great Migration!
What is a fun fact about yourself?
I married my high-school sweetheart. We just celebrated 15 wonderful years together!
What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?
1. Lead a team
2. Write a book