2022 Best & Brightest Business Major: Hannah McDonald, University of Denver (Daniels)

Hannah McDonald

University of Denver, Daniels College of Business

“I am forward-thinking and inquisitive, empowering others. And, I enjoy a good adventure.”

Fun fact about yourself: I drive a manual transmission car.

Hometown: Niwot, Colorado

High School: Niwot High School

Major: Business Information and Analytics

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: My favorite business course was INFO 3240: Enterprise Information Management. In this course, I designed, built, and programmed an enterprise information management database using SQL Server, interactive forms using Visual Studio and SQL Server, and a Windows integrated application, along with reports, using Visual Studio and SQL Server. This course challenged me, helped me develop technical skills, and allowed me to critically consider how data can be used to empower decision making when managed appropriately. Further, this class helped me identify the work I enjoy and want to pursue post-graduation.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Microsoft Office Certification Program Teaching Assistant Coordinator (June 2020 – Present)

  • Manage day-to-day operations and serve as primary point of contact for TAs and students, communicating weekly.
  • Develop lab materials and coordinate teaching by hiring, mentoring, training, supporting 18 TAs for 350-500 students.
  • Automate business process to minimize repetitive work and maximize time to support TAs and students.
  • Enhance managerial decision-making and program growth by analyzing and reporting student and staff performance.

Microsoft Office Certification Program Teaching Assistant and Proctor (September 2019 – Present)

  • Teach classes of 30-80 students the most recent Microsoft programs, in preparation for certification exams.
  • Understand user problems to deliver optimal solutions and explain the how and why behind those solutions.
  • Develop student relationships to serve as a peer point-of-contact in Daniels now and in the future.

Daniels Ambassador Team Member (September 2019 – Present)

  • Ensure an optimal student-University match across academic, social, cultural, and graduate outcomes.
  • Meet with prospective students and families of the Daniels College of Business to share my experiences and answer questions in conversational settings of 1-10 people and panel settings with up to 40 people.

Thrive Peer Health Educator (April 2019 – June 2020)

  • Empowered DU students to make informed choices about sexual health, alcohol and other drugs, and mental health.
  • Collaborated with local businesses to provide safer alcohol consumption strategies for “21st Birthday” initiative.

Wellness Living and Learning Community (September 2018 – June 2019)

  • Learned and applied individual and community health and wellness principles.

Dean’s List and Hornbeck Scholar List (Fall 2018, Winter 2019, Spring 2019, Fall 2019)

  • This is the highest academic honor any undergraduate student at the Daniels College of Business can receive. It recognizes students who earned a 4.0 grade-point average while taking at least 15 credit hours..[

Where have you interned during your college career?

St. Vrain Valley School District, District Technology Services

Longmont, CO June 2019 – August 2021

Programmer / Analyst Intern

  • Enabled data-driven decisions for student success by evaluating 12 request for information responses and completing two proof of concepts for data management and analytics platforms
  • Proved value of data visualization tools for a variety of stakeholders using Microsoft SQL and analytics tools
  • Optimized reporting and user experience by rewriting SQL query to run in 12 seconds, rather than 2.5 minutes
  • Empowered early intervention for student success as the backend programmer on a student performance project

I was an intern on the DevOps team at St. Vrain Valley School District for three consecutive summers, in addition to one winter break. On my first day, my supervisor asked about my technical skill set, to which I shared my basic Excel knowledge following my first year at DU. In return, I got a puzzled look and one question: Do you know SQL? Seeing as I had never heard of SQL, I was now the puzzled one. Returning home after that first day, I immediately found an online SQL course, and I taught myself SQL in one weekend, equipping myself with the skills to support and contribute to this team. Since then, I received the opportunity to build and expand my SQL skills working in a real, large database while contributing to a variety of projects impacting stakeholders across the school district, including attendance reports and a student performance application. Further, once I began taking database classes at DU, this internship gave me real-world experiences to apply what I had learned, allowing me to get more out of the classes and better develop my skills.

Where will you be working after graduation? I have not secured a post-graduation job yet and will spend the summer traveling.

Who is your favorite professor? Amy Phillips, my instructor for two database classes, remains my most impactful professor. The expertise and passion she brought to class engaged me and continues to inspire me; her unwavering commitment to students facilitated my immense growth and development throughout her course sequence. Amy has spent many hours answering my questions and supporting my learning as I challenged myself on the scope of our projects. Further, she continues to be a resource to me after completing her classes, offering advice and support on a variety of topics and endeavors.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Always seek and pursue opportunities for growth and development, regardless of fears or reservations. In my years at DU, there were many pivotal moments resulting from simply asking a question or taking advantage of an opportunity.

My freshman year, I applied for a position as a tour guide for the University, and unfortunately I did not receive an offer for the position. Rather than becoming discouraged, I reached out to the Manager of Enrollment Services at the Daniels College of Business, asking if similar opportunities were available within the business school specifically. To my excitement, there was a position. I spent the next several years working with prospective business students and families. This experience taught me resilience: When one opportunity does not work out, seek others.

As another example, the Daniels College of Business has a Microsoft Office Certification Program that teaches Excel, Word, and PowerPoint classes, preparing students to pass the certification exams for each of these programs and to apply these skills in their classwork and professional work. After taking the classes and certification exams myself, I applied for a position as a Junior TA with the program, and I quickly advanced to teaching my own classes and then managing the program. My quick advancement came with many personal reservations about whether I was ready to fill those roles. Nonetheless, I pursued the opportunities recognizing others saw my potential, knowing my own drive and ability to learn, adapt, and meet challenges. By doing so, I developed countless valuable skills and made a positive impact on my students and team. I cannot imagine my college years had I allowed those reservations prevent me from pursuing these opportunities, and I learned that it does not hurt to at least try.

I am grateful to those in Daniels providing these opportunities and to myself for pursuing them.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Take time to explore what you are interested in learning and doing! There are many classes and opportunities available, and I found it valuable to explore a variety of fields, rather than pursuing a minor or second major. Read the course descriptions and take the ones that speak to you.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? My interest in data, databases, and coding, in addition to what can be done with this work, is what most surprised me about majoring in business. When entering college, I was Business Undecided, wanting to explore my options while leaning toward Marketing or Management. In my first Business Information and Analytics class, we were given dirty data in an Excel spreadsheet, and we were tasked with cleaning it, analyzing it, and presenting it. While it took me many hours and several attempts, I discovered my enjoyment of this data work and wanted to continue pursuing it. I saw the project as a puzzle to solve. Once solved, I realized the impact the outcome could make in driving decision making, which excited me. Following this class, I declared Business Information and Analytics as my major. For my summer internship, I asked to work on a team that aligned with that interest and skill set, allowing me to continue solving those puzzles while exploring the field and expanding my skills. If you asked me four years ago what I would major in and do in college, I would not have been anywhere near correct. This made my whole journey a surprise to some extent, beginning with that first Business Information and Analytics class.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? Much of my time in school was spent on classwork and professional opportunities. While this was extremely worthwhile and rewarding, I would strive to better “live in the moment” and spend time on non-work fun, such as exploring Denver, getting to the mountains, and being with friends.

What business executive do you admire most? The business executive I admire most is Kristen Hadeed. In her book Permission to Screw Up: How I Learned to Lead by Doing (Almost) Everything Wrong, Kristen tells her story, beginning with her experiences starting and growing her own business in college and including the valuable lessons she learned along the way. Her story particularly resonated with me because she was a college student managing college students, like I am doing. While reading, I connected with many of her experiences and appreciated her perspective. This book inspired me in many ways, and I had the opportunity to attend her Human Leadership Program to continue learning and challenging myself as a leader.

I admire how Kristen Hadeed “leads with love” as her “most authentic, human self.” The way Kristen cares for and supports her team, in addition to prioritizing her own wellness, is inspiring. She leads by example and gives grace for mistakes, empowering those around her. I learned a great deal at her Human Leadership Program and have sought to implement those lessons in my own leadership.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of my time with the Microsoft Office Certification Program and what we have accomplished in the last six months. Entering our Fall 2021 quarter, we were onboarding almost an entirely new team and returning to in-person instruction after over a year online, and we were doing so while short staffed and facing constant changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic and other factors. To best prepare our team for this, I updated all our program materials, developed a three-day onboarding program, and facilitated ongoing training through a series of workshops. Further, due to being short staffed, I taught an Excel class to a group of 80 students—a class size never seen before in Daniels. Despite these challenges, we saw incredibly high student pass rates on the certification exams, resulting from the development of a strong TA team. I am proud of this accomplishment because it demonstrated resilience and adaptability, and most importantly, I got to see the growth and success of those around me, including students and my team.

Which classmate do you most admire? The classmate I most admire is Fiona Koshy. I met Fiona in my Freshman Seminar, and we have worked together in many classes. Fiona is hard-working, supportive, and inspiring. She has successfully balanced a heavy school and work schedule, while also taking time for herself to enjoy college. I admire her hard work, drive, and balance.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I would most like to thank my mom. My mom is my biggest supporter, and she is always there for me, whether I am facing a challenge or celebrating an accomplishment. She listens, offers advice when needed, and reminds me of my own capabilities. My mom’s hard work and leadership inspires me every day, and I continue to learn so much from her. I would not be where I am without my mom, and I cannot thank her enough for the endless love and support she gives.

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

  • I want to use my skills to make an impact. While I have not decided exactly what I want to do, it is important that the work is meaningful and impactful. I want to use my skills to benefit those around me.
  • After a couple years working, I would like to attend graduate school, although I have not decided what I want to study, to continue developing and expanding my skills in an academic setting.

What are your hobbies? I enjoy traveling and being in the Colorado outdoors skiing, running, hiking, or paddle boarding. Further, I appreciate spending time with family and friends, having a game night, reading a book, and watching a good show or movie.

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

“It is with great enthusiasm that I have the opportunity to acknowledge Hannah McDonald. She is without question, an exemplar of the best and brightest business major of 2021.  It is not just Hannah’s scholastic achievements that speak the highest volume, one would expect the brightest to rank high academically.  To be the best categorically beyond educational competence, one does not need to dig deep to know what “best” truly means. Hannah is an individual that one can never forget and will always appreciate due to her exceptional character, charisma, positive attitude and dedication to achieve her extreme potential. She is the personification of someone with limitless individual capability who remains humble and dedicated to following a life code of morality and goodness.  She has been an inspiration to her peers as well as to me and my colleagues.  Hannah has been an invaluable member of the Daniels College of Business and the Department of Business Information and Analytics community, as a staple in the student body serving to bring positivity, kindness, resilience, and compassion for learning and personal achievement. This combined with Hannah’s academic prowess makes her one of the most influential individuals I have worked with.  Hannah will serve the business community well as she has served the Daniels College of Business and the Department of Business Information and Analytics with extreme compassion, kindness, and dedication.

Hannah… quite simply, thank you.”

Amy Phillips
Analytics Professor
University of Denver, Daniels College of Business



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