2022 Best & Brightest Business Major: Drew Arnson, University of Michigan (Ross)

Drew Arnson

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

Passionate about empowering others to find their passions – big or small!”

Fun fact about yourself: I love solving and making crossword puzzles! I’m always on the hunt for theme ideas.

Hometown: Lake Forest, IL

High School: Lake Forest High School

Major: Business Administration, concentration in Strategy

Minor: Education Policy

Favorite Business Course: Equity Analytics: Identifying and Addressing Societal Inequities

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Vice President of Consulting, Impact Investing Group: Sourced and designed 12 engagements for clients including local entrepreneurs, national CDFIs, economic development organizations, private equity firms, and venture capital firms. Projects focused on strategic growth, brand development, and operations improvement. Four projects a semester, managing four project managers and sixteen analysts each semester.

BA200 Curricular Design Assistant and Head TA: Redesigned the final project for a foundational course required for all sophomores. New assignment addressed learning goals of critical thinking, effective writing, collaboration, and designing ESG-driven business solutions. Also served as TA for two semesters, one of which I taught 2 sections over Zoom for one period a week with no professor due to hybrid scheduling. As head TA, I focused on standardizing grading across professors and refining assignment design.

Sanger Crisis Challenge Lead Case Writer and Lead Student Volunteer Coordinator: The Sanger Leadership Center hosts an interactive case competition called the Crisis Challenge twice a year (once for grad students, once for undergrads). I served as the lead case researcher and writer for a case focused on Smart Home technology being implemented on a university campus. I also served as Coordinator of Student Volunteers for four challenges, ensuring that the interactive portions of the scenario were performed consistently and at a high level of quality.

Student Researcher for the Associate Dean of Teaching and Learning: First research project analyzed the syllabus of every required course in the BBA and MBA curriculum, auditing for quality control, inclusive practices, and consistency across professors of the same subject. I also analyzed the authors of every required reading, creating a base understanding of the racial representation of the authors that Ross students are learning from. The second project was more academic, performing text analysis of end of semester reflections from sophomores after BA200, using text analysis to see if students were embracing the learning goals of the course.

Volunteer Reading Coach, Family Literacy Institute: Read with and performed instructional literacy activities with third  grade students from underrepresented backgrounds to supplement their in-school reading curriculum.

Highest Ranked Proposal, 2020 Michigan Student Caucus: Researched and authored a comprehensive proposal to make Michigan’s charter school application system more equitable for lower income and non-native English speaking families. Was voted as the strongest and most feasible policy by my peers, experienced policy professors, and Michigan legislative employees.

Selected Participant, Carson Scholars Business and Public Policy Program: Selected to (remotely) attend a week at the Washington Campus, learning about the intersection of business and public policy from private and public sector leaders.

Senior Thesis Capstone Participant: One of 16 BBA seniors choosing to write a thesis to satisfy the senior capstone requirement. Research focuses on the effectiveness of learning and development opportunities in attracting a diverse applicant pool.

Where have you interned during your college career?

Junior Summer: Guild Education, Solution Exploration Intern

As part of the Project Management team within Solution Exploration, I contributed to the management of 14 cross-collaborative initiatives developing new strategic capabilities for the company. My position at the intersection of many working teams has given me exposure to all three key Guild stakeholders: students, academic partners, and employer partners. I also contributed to the Government & Public Policy team, helping Guild navigate a complicated regulatory landscape.

Sophomore Summer: Ross School of Business: Curricular Design Assistant and Student Researcher

Freshman Summer: The Zaf Group, Summer Associate (private equity)

Where will you be working after graduation? Huron Consulting Group, Higher Education Strategy & Operations Consulting Analyst

Who is your favorite professor? My favorite professor is Dr. Cathy Shakespeare. I have been her student, her teaching assistant, her research assistant, and now she is co-advising my senior thesis. I did not realize how much a college professor could care about their students until I met Cathy. She spends so much time making her lessons thoughtful, engaging, and challenging, a mix that is very hard to achieve! Her feedback is very honest and helpful, whether it’s about an assignment or life in general. Learning from her, working with her, and now being advised by her have all been unique experiences that I have taken so much away from. My college experience would be incredibly different if I didn’t get assigned to her section my sophomore fall, and I am so glad that I did.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Spend a lot of time thinking about what truly motivates you, or as I like to say, “Find your ‘Why.’” If you haven’t found that certain thing that helps you get out of bed every morning, keep trying new things, keep reading about new topics, and periodically reassess what really drives you forward. For some, it’s as simple as earning as much as possible, while others may be very passionate about an industry, or just enjoy performing a specific skill. All of these “whys” are completely valid, but it’s up to you to understand what is pushing you forward before you take the steps necessary to get there.

Once that final goal is established, then decision-making becomes very straightforward: you can pick the option that gets you to your goal more effectively. Bringing this perspective on decision-making has helped me tremendously through many tough choices. Sticking true to my “why” has always been a way to confidently move forward.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I was surprised by the entrepreneurialism of my peers! The creativity and passion people have shown in order to get new ventures off the ground — whether it’s a new club, an app, or an entire business — is very inspiring to me. I’m not sure what I expected coming into college, but I found it very energizing to see my classmates push themselves beyond our already rigorous coursework and extracurriculars. While it wasn’t something I was thinking about coming in, I definitely started to think more entrepreneurially and to look more closely for problems that could use creative solutions.

What business executive do you admire most? I admire Gordon Fuller, who is the Chief Learning Officer of IBM. He leads IBM’s ‘Your Learning’ platform, which facilitates AI-enabled course recommendations for employees. He helped ideate the platform and is now a champion for IBM’s impressive learning culture. He also spent over an hour getting interviewed by my group for a project on corporate learning and development, giving us very detailed and thoughtful answers. Gordon then finished the call by giving us some great book recommendations at the end of the call!

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of making my own path to build my portfolio of education-related experiences. I have been able to gain experience in every aspect of the learning process from early literacy to corporate learning and development, giving me a holistic view of how people can learn and grow throughout their entire lives. I knew that I wanted to go to business school to develop a set of skills I could apply to the education sector, because giving people the foundation of reading creates many more avenues of success in the future. This path is definitely less common, especially in a highly competitive business school, but I am proud that I’ve been able to develop and stick with this plan throughout all four years of college.

Which classmate do you most admire? Neha Allathur: Neha is an amazing friend who is a great listener and is always down to go on a new adventure. She can always lend a thoughtful and caring ear, usually with some spot-on advice to follow. Professionally, she took Impact Investing Group from a small Ross club producing research reports to a well-regarded club that has loaned out over $20,000 in low-cost capital to underrepresented entrepreneurs based in Detroit. She has led the development of a great organization and has been succeeded by a well-prepared and enthusiastic executive board. In addition to being so impressive in the realm of finance, she also maintains her pursuits of writing poetry and running, leading a balanced lifestyle that most undergrads would be lucky to have.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? The person I would thank the most for my success is my mom, Germaine. On a very foundational level, she instilled a love of reading and learning in me at a very early age, which I am so thankful for. She gave me the tools to foster my own curiosity, and I am so lucky to have had that base to really explore what I was passionate about. I knew what I wanted to pursue early on, and that is only because I had received the support to learn about and try anything that may have interested me. This intellectual freedom was backed up with a firm push to work hard and be a high achiever, giving me the opportunity to excel in a field that I love.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? My ultimate professional goal is to leave a lasting difference in the improvement of childhood literacy in America. Reading sets the foundation for so many other types of learning, so I am motivated to keep working toward that goal, regardless of how that takes shape (private sector, public sector, non-profit). A slightly more out-there goal is to work in the intersection of education, architecture, and urban planning. The environment in which students learn has a massive effect on their performance, safety, and community engagement. I would love to be a part of designing the physical spaces that facilitate an effective, safe, and intellectually engaging school experience for students.

What are your hobbies? My biggest hobbies are solving and making crosswords, reading, and exercising. I love how crosswords challenge you in multiple ways: vocabulary, knowledge, pattern recognition, and word play. After doing them for so long, I wanted to start making my own. I currently send my friends and family a mini every Monday through Friday, but I have a notebook of full size puzzle themes that I hope to construct soon. I usually read biographies, education policy, or urban planning books, with the occasional fiction book sprinkled in. I think exercising is a great way to stay healthy, give your brain a break, and live a more balanced lifestyle.

What made Drew such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2022?

“Drew Arnson has been part of the fabric of the Undergraduate Program at Michigan Ross. He has made deep meaningful impacts on the curriculum and sought to enhance the experience of his fellow students and future students in the BBA program. Drew’s work with my team and I has ranged from supporting the Foundation Course Initiative work with the Center for Learning and Teaching in BA 200 to providing course-level support to the eight faculty and 40 course assistants in BA 200 this past fall. Drew was also directly involved in the first phase of Assurance of Learning work that happened last year by researching the Ross curriculum and seeing where we were meeting our course objectives. This work with Rob Bobowski, Curriculum Support Coordinator, and Cathy Shakespeare, Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning, was essential in preparation for accreditation this year. During all of these interactions, Drew reflected upon his experience and sought ways of improving the education for future students. Drew was also incredibly aware of his own biases and sought to ensure any recommendations that he made were framed in his own identities. This commitment to education, education policy, and its intersection with the Ross BBA program made Drew an elite addition to the Class of 2022.”

Timothy Webb
Curriculum Engagement Director, Undergraduate Programs

Ross School of Business




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