2020 Best & Brightest: Carolyn Kirshe, Georgetown University (McDonough)

Carolyn Kirshe

McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University

Thoroughly “extra” about everything I do!”

Fun fact about yourself: Before I studied business, I used to direct theater in high school! I transposed most of the score of Pippin for a female lead.

Hometown: Bucks County, Pennsylvania

High School: Central Bucks High School South

Major: Marketing, Operations & Information Management (OPIM)

Certificate: Global Business Fellows Program

Favorite Business Course: Marketing Intelligence

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • Chief Executive Officer of Innovo Consulting
  • Treasurer, Former President of the Georgetown Marketing Association
  • Founding Member, McDonough Global Case Team
    • 1st Place Winner, Scotiabank International Case Competition, Ivey Business School (London, Canada)
    • Finalist, NHH International Case Competition (Bergen, Norway)
    • Finalist, International Case Competition at Maastricht University (The Netherlands)
    • Finalist, McDonough Undergraduate Case Competition
  • Co-Chair, OPIM Majors Board
  • Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship Recipient
    • Final presentation was awarded “Outstanding Methodological Rigor”
  • Honors Thesis Candidate
    • Thesis will explore advertising disclosure efficacy in search engines from a policy and regulatory perspective.

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Prophet Brand Strategy: Digital Strategy Intern
  • Horizon Media: Search Engine Optimization Intern
  • McDonough School of Business / Executive Education and Custom Programs: Marketing and Business Development Intern
  • DDB New York, Advertising Agency: Strategy Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Prophet Brand Strategy, Digital Strategy Associate

What did you enjoy most about your business school? What I’ve loved most about the McDonough School of Business are the incredible opportunities I’ve received to study business on a global stage. As a Global Business Fellow, I had the privilege of taking graduate-level courses in the School of Foreign Service within the Global Business department and expanding my knowledge in areas of economic development and international technology policy. Through this program, I also traveled to ESADE in Barcelona to present recommendations to executives in the confectionery industry (a sweet experience!). As a part of the McDonough Global Case Team, I got the chance to compete all over the world – from Canada to Norway, from Seattle to Maastricht. As someone from a small suburb in Pennsylvania with limited international exposure, the chance to network, present my ideas, and learn on a truly global stage has been the opportunity of a lifetime for me.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? While a bit cliché, the biggest lesson I learned through studying business was what I learned about myself. Before I came to the McDonough School of Business, leadership was always a secret aspiration of mine, but one I lacked the tools or knowledge to bring to fruition. Likely an internalized bias, I saw leadership through a very masculine lens: to be a good leader was to exude strength – to be someone with a deep voice who effortlessly commanded attention. Almost all of those ideals contrasted with how I saw myself. I have never been able to “command” anything, I’m utterly effortFULL in everything I’m passionate about, and I can’t do a single pushup, so strength was out of the question.

Yet studying business at Georgetown, with so many female professors and older students to aspire to, my perception of leadership began to shift. Though my Principles of Marketing class had just five female students, Professor Neeru Paharia led the class with ease, exuding her knowledge of the subject matter in a way that “commanded” without actually commanding anyone. In my extracurricular activities, Elizabeth Morris was the first female CEO in our club’s history. Instead of casting an effortless aura, she was the pinnacle of effort, baking 60+ cookies or brownies before every meeting and putting in so much work behind the scenes to make sure everything ran smoothly. When I became her successor, I felt more confident to be my effortful self, following in the path she had paved. As I transition into the professional world, I go into it with a newfound sense of who and what a leader can be, shaped by the powerful, strong women who have come before.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? When I entered the business school, I was fully prepared to develop expertise across many subjects, hoping to leverage this into a job. However, when I got into the interview room, one thing helped me more than anything I had learned: authenticity. Interviewing for jobs can be nerve-wracking and daunting – I’ve had my fair share of intimidating one-on-ones. Yet, it was those interviews where I was able to connect with the person sitting across from me, sometimes on unrelated subjects, where I found success. I can recall interviewing for a financial services firm where I spent half of my phone interview talking about my passion for public transit or going on a tangent with a media executive about the future of voice and search engines. Even if our conversation topic didn’t always relate to something I’d learned in class or even the role I was applying for, I was able to convey passion for a subject and connect with a person on a very personal level.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Looking back, I’d have to say my proudest achievement has been leading the winning case team in the Scotiabank Case Competition at Ivey Business School. Though I had done a few national case competitions, Ivey was my first international one, so I was a bit intimidated. Unfortunately, it seemed the odds were not in my favor.

At a typical case competition, a team of four will attempt to put together a business presentation over the course of a few hours, supported by a faculty or professional advisor. A few days before our flight, a dean called my teammates and me into her office to tell us that a student had dropped the competition and that no advisors or faculty were able to accompany us. Despite being short-staffed with no one to advise us, the three of us were determined to try our very best. Though the case ended up being about auto loan financing (a subject none of us knew much about), we relied upon the strategic frameworks and research methods we DID know about. We developed a two-pronged approach to address not only the rapidly innovating (and driverless) future of transportation but also the current market, 92% of which still intended to buy and own a car within the next 10 years.

When it came time to present, we built each other up, encouraging one another if we stumbled in rehearsals, tag-teaming to answer a tough question. Despite our expectations, we made the finals and ended up placing first in the whole competition. At the end of the competition, one of our judges gave us each a pin – the kanji symbol for “dream” – encouraging us to believe in ourselves and never let circumstances hold us back. It’s the pin I’m wearing in the picture above, and the pin I wear whenever I have a tough interview or presentation. No matter what odds I’m up against, I can just put on my pin, take a deep breath, and dream.

Which classmate do you most admire? Karina Chan is an inspiration to anyone who knows her. College is supposed to be the time to explore and discover your true passions, but completely changing majors or schools can be daunting to even the most ambitious. In her sophomore year, when most students are declaring their majors, Karina transferred schools to study computer science and pursue her dream of working in tech.

Many people get inspired, but few actually follow through on their ideas. Karina is ALL follow-through – she makes her ideas a reality at every turn. What started as a presentation to the school about fashion and sustainability, she turned into an on-campus clothing exchange app. What started as a series of Instagram posts about the cost of salon nail appointments, she turned into a side hustle doing nails at a reduced rate for her friends. Even within Innovo Consulting, a club we both work on, what started as a vague idea to connect students with our clients turned into a full-fledged internship fair for students interested in social impact. Working with Karina inspires me to turn a more critical eye to the world around me and to never be afraid to convert those ideas into action.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? Without a doubt, I’d have to thank my younger sister, Katie. Katie and I couldn’t be more different: she’s studying at Georgetown to be a nurse, literally saving lives while I’m studying profits and losses. She’s also hilarious and my friends never let me forget that she’s “MUCH cooler” than I am. Yet, my sister loves me unconditionally and supports me in everything I do.

We’ve spent our whole lives together, a rare constant in a sea of uncertainty. Though she chose to come to the same school as me, we’ve each charted our own course as individuals while still making time to share a meal over a Boulengerie Christoff baguette. In the rare moments when the jokes subside, her consistent and unwavering pride in what I’ve been able to accomplish here at Georgetown, even if it’s completely outside her realm, means the world to me. I don’t know where I’d be without my first and closest sibling, and I hope she knows just how thankful I am for her love and support.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Run a company someday
  2. Be a mentor to young women later in my career

What are your hobbies? Outside of pre-professional organizations, I’m a cantor at the 5 p.m. Mass at Georgetown’s Dahlgren Chapel. I also dabble in painting (mostly decor for my room), cooking (mostly for myself), and I’m incredibly passionate about public transit and urban development.

What made Karolyn such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Kirshe is probably THE most motivated and active student I have met in 30 years of teaching. Oh my God, she is smart, insightful beyond her years when it comes to marketing, a case competition rep for the school, president of several organizations during her time here, doing a senior thesis and research with me, and took on a consulting project for a non-profit last year. I am not at all sure when (or if) she sleeps. Many people can be this busy, but no one else I can think of can take on all of this and excel at everything on that list. Yes, she is that good!  Add to that the fact that she is also one of the nicest students I have come across during my 20 years at Georgetown. She always has a smile and she makes people feel good just being around her.

I first met Kirshe in our first-year seminar, BADM 101: Marketing in a Globally Connected World, three-and-a-half years ago. (I am not sure where the time went because I am so sad to see her cohort leave, but also very proud of them.) She was always a central figure in our discussions and was the leader of her team’s pitch for a charitable organization that is part of the class across sections. This was her first case and case competition, and she took to it like a duck to water. Our administration saw her present to the organization and immediately recruited her to be on the school’s case competition team that competed both in the US and abroad. I noted her skills as well and that is why I asked her to be my TA for the course her junior year. The students she tutored loved her and their presentations were much improved after these meetings. While the BADM 101 course is one that is tough for freshmen, as it requires them to think far outside of the books they read and apply marketing to the real world as issues arise, Kirshe shone in this environment. She loved going off the slides and into the applications as they exist (e.g., political elections, BP’s marketing fiascos in handling the oil leak, stereotyping issues in ads, etc.). I knew early on that she would leave her mark on the school, and she has in spades.

I know what you are thinking, “Is he done yet?!  Does he also think Kirshe walks on water?!” The answers are “no” and “yes,” respectively.  Kirshe continued to be a star in my senior course (which she took as a junior), Mark 225: Marketing Analytics and Strategy. This class also requires students to step out of the textbooks and into the marketing manager’s position for many companies. Further, the experience requires that students run their own companies in terms of cases and projects, a simulation and that they develop a marketing strategy campaign for a company. In fact, the course is actually the combination of two of our MBA courses. The environment is competitive in that students must be able to defend their points of view versus others in the class. While this was challenging for many, Kirshe excelled in this environment. Her case preparation was always well done and she never hesitated to state and defend her view. She challenged others’ thinking but in a way that helped them to learn rather than just put them down. At the end of the semester, I ask students to anonymously write down the names of up to three students that they believe contributed to their learning. Kirshe was at the top of that list, which is quite a compliment from her peers.

To say that Kirshe is insightful, thoughtful, fun, and motivated to learn more than simple classroom lessons is a huge understatement. She is learning and applying all of the time. She is going to be a major success in business…I know she wants to run her own company, but I am hoping this will be a side business while she instead chooses to be an extraordinary professor; she has both the teaching and research abilities already. Kirshe is the real deal…the whole student ideal that we tout to produce here at Georgetown.  I am glad that she chose my first-year seminar and continued to work with me every year since.  She has made a real mark on me.

Ronald C. Goodstein, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Marketing


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