Program links MHC to Harvard Biz School.

MHC participants gather with trustee Kaitlyn Szydlowski ’09 (third from left) during the PEEK program. Photo by Barbara Baumann ’77.

By Emily Harrison Weir

Thirteen Mount Holyoke College students and recent graduates who aspire to enter the business world had the chance to network and glean career insights through the PEEK program at Harvard Business School (HBS) this summer.

The program immersed a select group of aspiring businesspeople in a weekend-long MBA sampler that included classwork, networking opportunities, and career insights.

Mount Holyoke College trustee Kaitlyn Szydlowski ’09 and Board of Trustees chairwoman Barbara Baumann ’77 rallied alumnae to fund the tuition fully for each of the students and graduates so they could participate in the program.

“It’s rare that any undergraduate student gets the chance to experience in person the curriculum, the learning style, and the classroom environment of a top-notch graduate program,” Baumann said. “I didn’t have that experience prior to attending business school, so I jumped at the chance to ensure that these students did.”

When Szydlowski—who once worked at HBS—learned that MHC students wanted to attend, she called on her Mount Holyoke network. Alumnae responded  in record time.

Baumann hopes that the PEEK program will become another solid pathway leading Mount Holyoke College graduates toward top business schools.

“The degree is a great entrée into management positions in nonprofits, into corporate and government offices, and into entrepreneurial opportunities,” Baumann said. “Plus the curriculum builds beautifully on a Mount Holyoke liberal arts education. But it’s a hard program to describe and too often it is stereotyped as only worthwhile for those interested in mainstream financial jobs.”

What a difference a weekend can make.

Liz Lierman, director of MHC’s Career Development Center, said the participants described PEEK as “a valuable and enjoyable way to learn how a business degree can support one’s career; a chance to attend case-method classes; and an opportunity to network with HBS faculty, students, and participants from other women’s colleges.”

PEEK is just one of several options for MHC students interested in business graduate school and careers, Lierman noted. They also can join two campus organizations: Women in Business, which prepares members to participate actively in the business world, and the Entrepreneurship Club, which aims to inspire, teach, and connect Mount Holyoke women to become innovative business leaders and social entrepreneurs.

Margaux Holloschutz ’16 said the PEEK program helped solidify her decision to attend business school after graduation.

The economics major, who also completed a summer internship at Morgan Stanley in New York, said she learned through the PEEK program about the breadth of learning that happens in business school beyond advanced economics, math, and accounting. Business school also delves into sociology and psychology, for example, she said.

Szydlowski noted that HBS benefits from the participation of students from women’s colleges, too.

“Mount Holyoke students especially are a rare breed,” she said. “We are not afraid to bridge boundaries and find new, innovative avenues for collaboration. HBS wants more of this type of student, and PEEK is how they are pinpointing a new era of superstars.”

Wanted: More businesswomen.

In sending students to PEEK, Mount Holyoke is also helping to meet a need identified by the business community—recruiting more well-qualified women.

The pool of female MBA graduates is still relatively small, and enrollment at North American business schools is only about 37 percent female, according to the most recent data available from the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business. Getting more women into graduate business programs—a common on-ramp to corporate success—could also boost the currently small percentage of women in executive suites.

According to Lierman, recent studies show that many business executives value the communication, analytical, and problem-solving skills developed by a liberal arts education.

“Those who combine Mount Holyoke’s academic preparation with graduate work in business-specific topics have great potential to lead in a variety of organizations,” she said. “We see this all the time in our graduates’ careers.”

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