2020 Best & Brightest: Kate Oh, Notre Dame (Mendoza)

Kate Oh

University of Notre Dame, Mendoza College of Business

“Shaped by decades of hope and inspiration, and always in search of more.”

Fun fact about yourself: My clarinet teacher wanted me to go pro in middle school – what a different life that would’ve been!

Hometown: Northbrook, IL

High School: Glenbrook South High School

Major: Accountancy

Minor: Korean

Favorite Business Course: Strategic Cost Management

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • First Gen Careers (FGC) – Co-founder & Co-Chair (2018-2020)
  • Eugene D. Fanning Award for Business Communication – Finalist (2019)
  • Strategic Cost Management – Teaching Assistant (2019)
  • Beta Alpha Psi – Member
  • Her Campus Media (Notre Dame) – Editor in Chief, Senior Editor (2018-2019)
  • Mendoza Department Chairs’ Office – Student Employee ­(2017-2020)
  • Howard Hall – Mail Clerk ­(2017-2020)
  • Student International Business Council (SIBC) – Accounting Project Leader, Travel Team (2017-2018)
  • Notre Dame Welcome Weekend (Parents’ Sessions) – Student Speaker for the Center for Career Development (2017, 2018)
  • Notre Dame Symphonic Winds – Clarinet (2017-2018)
  • Notre Dame Marching Band – Clarinet (2016)
  • Dean’s List

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Ernst & Young (Chicago, IL) – Assurance Intern
  • Ravinia Festival Association (Highland Park, IL) – Finance Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? 

Ernst & Young (Chicago, IL) – Assurance Staff

What did you enjoy most about your business school? Mendoza fosters an extraordinarily welcoming environment of teamwork and community – traits that reflect the values of the Notre Dame family and also traits that one would be hard-pressed to find elsewhere. We all root for each other’s success, and the relationships among students, staff, and faculty are deeply rooted in the basic tenants of kindness, integrity, and respect. I’ve received an unparalleled education and great opportunities at Mendoza. When I look back at my time here – a year, ten years, fifty years from now – I’ll be remembering my professors, peers, and the staff and how proud I am to have been part of such an enriching community.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Book smarts matter, but gaining experience is key! Excelling in classes will give a person a solid technical foundation in a subject area, but effectively utilizing those technical skills along with soft skills in leading projects, organizations, or groups is what distinguishes someone from a good business leader and a great business leader.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? When students are at the major discernment stage, I encourage them to talk to as many people in business as possible. I emphasize to them: “You don’t know what you don’t know.” Beyond the basic research that goes into learning more about these business majors, it’ll be difficult, if not impossible, to try to find answers to questions that you don’t already have due to the lack of exposure and experience – and that’s exactly what you’re trying to gain.

So, one of the easiest things to do is to reach out to alumni. Be respectful of their time, be courteous, and ask for a quick chat about their career or discernment journey. Go in with specific questions but also leave unstructured time for just listening to their stories and see if anything sounds interesting to you.

Whether it’s reaching out to alumni, upperclassmen, professors, or business people, actively listen and see if you can imagine yourself studying one of the business majors for the rest of your time at college. There are so many different people in business whom you don’t need to fit into any kind of mold. So, through conversations especially, find what interests you and that’ll fuel your curiosity and drive to learn more about the world of business.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? Before I began my studies, I was aware that teamwork and group-based activities would make up a substantial portion of my education in business. However, it was only when I started taking business classes that I realized how every aspect of business is so interconnected and vital. Students can see these interactions on a micro-level. For example, when I was in my Process Analytics class, I often referred back to my Data Analytics in Accounting class on specific topics and applied the logical skills that I gained from the latter to the former. Majoring in business gave me a greater appreciation of teamwork and others’ skill sets, without which the business world would be a much less dynamic and impactful ecosystem.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? As an intern at EY, I felt the surge of pride that came with already having made a difference in the firm. EY chose me as one of sixty interns across the United States to participate in the EY Digital Ambassador Program in Hoboken, New Jersey, during my internship. In two weeks, I learned how to use data analytics applications, apply them to real-life problems, and present solutions and insights to a live audience for evaluation. Those two short weeks highlighted and reaffirmed my ability to quickly and efficiently learn, adapt, problem-solve, and work as part of a team. It was truly exhilarating to see the impact I could make in a company as established and excellent as EY ­– even as an intern!

Which classmate do you most admire? Alex Muck is one of the kindest and the most grounded people I’ve ever met. She excels in her classes and is a phenomenal student, but her immense dedication to the numerous organizations both on and off-campus is what especially distinguishes her from others. Her ability to balance both the academics and her desire to help others through these organizations has enabled her to make as much of an impact on people’s lives as possible. Always full of humility and poise, Alex is definitely someone to look up to!

Who would you most want to thank for your success?

Decades of Hope and Inspiration: My Mom, Dad, and Sister

For bringing out the best in me

And nurturing who I could be,

From the life of hope and imagination

To the world in which they’ve come to fruition.

For courage and love aplenty

And zeal that I’ve gained already,

From you who are the true accumulation

Of my decades of hope and inspiration.

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

  • Earning an MBA from Harvard
  • Becoming the “go-to” person in my field

What are your hobbies?

  • Playing the clarinet, ice skating, cooking, trying out new restaurants

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

“I could start my response by praising Kate’s intelligence and work ethic. How she excelled in all exams and assignments. Or how she handed in all assignments on time. But that would not be different from other students portrayed in these pages nor would it reflect the impact that Kate had on our learning journey.

I taught Kate in Strategic Cost Management during the fall 2018 semester. I follow the Socratic method in my class. Students’ contributions to the class discussion are the key to the success of the learning experience. Kate was always prepared to participate in class, but again, that is not unique to Kate. And she was not always right—of course, she was not expected to already know the materials we were learning—and you would not be surprised to know that she was not the only student in the class to not be right all the time. However, Kate was unique and contributed in unique ways to the progress in the learning journey of the group.

Kate is determined, intellectually humble, and very articulate and gracious in expressing her opinions. Naturally reserved, she prefers observing to being in center stage. However, a discussion-based class can only succeed if students take the driver’s seat, so I forced Kate and others in her class to participate by cold-calling. The first time, I could see the panic on Kate’s face, but soon she got comfortable and started to raise her hand and participate voluntarily. In the beginning, she typically chose passages of the discussion that were not difficult or controversial. Then, I talked to her after class and told her that she needed to take more risks and participate even when she was not sure of the answer. In other words, I asked her to expose herself to one of the situations most feared by students: to be wrong in front of them. With a smile, she accepted the challenge. She understood that only when you lift your intellectual safeguards that you open yourself to true learning. Further, by showing this intellectual humbleness in class, other students followed suit and the path of learning of the class accelerated significantly.

And Kate did this with her sempiternal smile. If Kate were an emoji, she would not come in the unhappy face format. She always has that peaceful smile that facilitates communication with her, even when she disagrees. In class discussions, if her opinion differed from what was said, she had no problem in presenting her arguments and defending them. But she also was gracious in her defense of the arguments, keeping it at the intellectual level, never antagonizing anyone. Another way in which Kate helped steering the learning journey of the group.

Kate was also my Teaching Assistant, which was what gave me further insight into her capabilities. She was very efficient in grading and excellent in managing my expectations. Kate never surprised me with an ‘I could not do it.’ She managed her time and obligations very well. However, this is not what made Kate an extraordinary TA. I discussed with her how to better help the students and she always gave me great advice. Thanks to my conversations with Kate I was able to find better ways to reach my students and facilitate their learning journey. She was not just a grader – she was my trusted advisor.

Finally, I did not want to finish these lines without making reference to Kate’s strong moral compass. For me, it is very difficult to communicate ethical issues to undergraduate students. They are too young and inexperienced to grasp the complexity of the situations that managers face in a real working situation. Kate is not the typical undergraduate student. She really has a more balanced view of the trade-offs associated with a decision and very strong values that allow her to handle ethical conflicts appropriately. I could mention many indications of this, but I think that by now you must have realized that I can go on and on praising Kate’s virtues. She is really an exceptional human being.”

F. Asís Martínez-Jerez
Associate Professor in Accountancy
University of Notre Dame | Mendoza College of Business


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