2017 Best & Brightest: Mimi Verdonk, University of Maryland (Smith)

Mimi Verdonk

University of Maryland, Smith School of Business

“A business-minded activist with big ideas and even bigger hair takes on the world.”

Fun fact about yourself: I’m allergic to kiwis

Hometown: Takoma Park, MD

High School: Montgomery Blair High School

Major: Finance and Arabic Studies

Favorite Business Courses: Financial Markets. As an avid newspaper reader, I love seeing how events happening all over the world impact the markets.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College: President of the Smith Undergraduate Student Association (SUSA); Dean’s Student Advisory Council; Academic Committee Member for Honor’s Student Advisory Council; Director of Recruitment and mentor for local chapter of nonprofit Moneythink; Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams (QUEST) Honors student; Banneker-Key Scholar; Entrepreneurship & Innovation Program Honors Scholar; Phillip Merrill Presidential Scholar; Omicron Delta Kappa Fall 2015 Inductee

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • PwC, Washington, D.C. – Management Consulting (Financial Services) Intern & Start (Master) Intern
  • American Embassy, Cairo, Egypt –Winter Economic Intern
  • Afreximbank, Cairo, Egypt – Strategy & Project Finance Intern

Describe your dream Job: My dream job combines my love of languages, business and education and enables me to uplift communities in need. I spent a semester designing an app helping blue-collar immigrants develop necessary English skills. Working on a project like this on a larger scale would be a dream come true.

What did you enjoy most about majoring in a business-related field? I love the opportunities for teamwork that are presented in the world of business. Speaking with friends majoring in other fields and even in my own personal experience double-majoring in Arabic Studies, I’ve come to realize business, and the business school experience, is much more collaborative. That being said, I’ve grown enormously from the variety of peers I’ve worked with because of these team-oriented experiences.

Where would you like to work after graduation? McKinsey as a Business Analyst. I’m so excited to be starting with them next fall!

What are your long-term professional goals? Somewhere down the road, I’d like to be a Chief Diversity Officer for a firm, helping corporations learn to appreciate and utilize our differences for the betterment of the company and in conjunction with the company’s mission.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? To quote my mom, “the world is your oyster.” The great thing about business is the interdisciplinary function of it; use this to your advantage because business will be a great asset no matter what kind of organization you choose to start your career with.

“I knew I wanted to major in business when…I started to understand the value of a dollar. As someone who has gotten the opportunity to travel and live abroad, nothing has been more salient than the difference money can make in someone’s life. Once I saw the impact of a lack of financial literacy, I knew business, and understanding the way money grows, was a lesson I needed to learn for myself.”

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be…an Education major. I’ve always had a passion for teaching and mentoring young minds and helping others to unleash their potential. Even now, working in a local high school teaching financial literacy is often the highlight of my week. And while I hope that they are taking home some of the lessons I’m giving them, I’m equally as excited to hear their perspective on the world around them.”

“Before I entered business school, I wish I had known…that every element of the world has a piece of business. While I came in believing an Accounting major had to be an accountant and a Supply Chain major was destined to find themselves working in a warehouse, there is a certain element of versatility in business.”

What was the happiest moment of your life? One of the happiest moments of my life was getting back on the soccer field after tearing my ACL and meniscus in high school. Until that point in my life, I’d defined myself as an athlete; to not be able to run and to have to re-learn how to walk, I felt as though I wasn’t myself. The recovery process was long and strenuous but nothing felt better than the moment I was able to return to the game, realizing that while my knee was a bit weaker, I was a lot stronger from the struggle.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of?  I’m most proud of being able to learn, practice and actually utilize the Spanish, Portuguese, and Arabic skills that I’ve worked hard to obtain. While I know that languages aren’t for everyone, I’ve been fortunate enough to use my languages as a window into someone else’s perspective. I’m proud and humbled to have been able to meet and become friends with people from all over the world, due in large part to the languages I’ve acquired along the way.

What animal would you choose to represent your professional brand? Thanks to a childhood obsession with the Little Bear series and Fozzie Bear from the Muppets, I’ve always found myself identifying with bears, either of the real or teddy bear variety. A bear brings comfort and empathy to those in need; known for their acute hearing, they’re great listeners, a critical element both in the wild and in corporate America. Like a bear, I am a strong but gentle giant, who is not always the loudest voice in the forest or classroom, but is a force to be reckoned with all the same.

Who would you most want to thank for your success?  My grandma has always been and continues to be a constant source of motivation and wisdom for me. When you’re the granddaughter of a woman who integrated her college and refused to get up from white-only counters, you learn quickly that there’s no challenge or hurdle that you can’t overcome. Her stories and gusto have always pushed me to strive for success, following along the path that she has made possible for me and others like me. A simple thank you doesn’t do her justice.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? While I hope that I’ve made a good impression on my peers over the last four years, the thing I’d most hope people would recognize me for is my sense of advocacy. Be it serving as the president of the Smith Undergraduate Student Association, which acts as the voice for all 3,000 University of Maryland undergraduate business majors, or on the Dean’s Student Advisory Council, my entire college experience has been about making sure that the wants and needs of my fellow students are being addressed. I hope that my legacy is one of positive change for our community.

Favorite book: Drown by Junot Diaz

Favorite movie: Love & Basketball

Favorite musical performer: Eminem

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere with tasty food and sunshine!

What are your hobbies?  I love running, camping, trying out different kinds of food and watching documentaries.

What made Mimi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2017?

“There’s hardly a corner of the Smith School that Mimi has not influenced with her seemingly endless energy and optimism. Mimi has taken advantage of every opportunity to come her way, while giving back to the Smith community through her leadership and service in roles that allow her to advocate on behalf of her peers and influence their experience at Smith. Even while participating in our QUEST (Quality Enhancement Systems and Teams) Honors consulting program, serving as president of our Smith Undergraduate Student Association and as a member of my Dean’s Student Advisory Council, she has maintained the highest level of academic achievement and finds time to give back to the local community by teaching financial literacy in a nearby high school.

Mimi is a well-rounded, talented individual. Not only does she possess strong business skills, she speaks several languages, is an avid runner, and cares about making the world a better place. The Smith School is proud to claim Mimi as one of our own.”

Victor C. Mullins Ph.D.
Associate Dean
Undergraduate Program
Robert H. Smith School of Business


Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.