2022 Best & Brightest Business Major: Mikaela Bretz, Purdue University (Krannert)

Mikaela Bretz

Purdue University, Krannert School of Management

“An advocate for individuals with disabilities who shows students that they can achieve anything.”

Fun fact about yourself: I stand tall at 6’0” but I am the shortest of my siblings who are 6’3” and 6’7”.

Hometown: Oxford, OH

High School:   Talawanda High School

Major: Industrial Management

Minor: A Concentration in Data Analytics

Favorite Business Course:     Development of EEOC Law

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

  • Doster Leadership Conference
    • Senior Mentor (Nov 2021 – Present)
    • Vice President (Jan 2021 – Nov 2021)
    • Junior Logistics Chair (Nov 2019 – Feb 2021)
    • Attendee (Sept 2019 & Sept 2018)
  • Disability Resource Center Peer Mentor Program
    • Mentor (Aug 2020 – Present)
  • Larsen Leaders Academy Mentor Program
    • Mentor (Aug 2020 – Present)
  • Purdue University Boiler Gold Rush Orientation Program
    • Team Leader (Aug 2019)
  • Purdue Women’s Club Basketball Team
    • Team Member (Aug 2018 – May 2021)
  • Dean’s List
  • Semester’s Honors
  • 1st Place – 2020 STAMINA/IT Analytics Case Competition

Where have you interned during your college career?

  • Textron Systems
    • HR Analytics Intern
    • June 2021 – Aug 2021
    • Wilmington, MA
  • Textron
    • HR Information Systems Intern
    • June 2020 – Aug 2020
    • Providence, RI
  • ProCamps
    • Operations Intern
    • May 2019 – Aug 2019
    • Cincinnati, OH

Where will you be working after graduation? Capital One as a Data Analyst Associate in McLean, VA

Who is your favorite professor? Cara Putman, JD, MBA

My favorite professor in the Krannert School of Management is Cara Putman. Professor Putman is an author, lawyer, professor, mother, my honors advisor, and holds many more roles within Krannert.  Each of these roles has shown me that I can succeed personally and professionally, and that I can pursue any and all of my dreams. As my professor in two law classes, Professor Putman pushed me to think outside the box; she has shown me how the law integrates into business operations and how we can protect our employees best by learning from mistakes of the past. Professor Putman has positively impacted my life and the lives of other students at Krannert to the extent that my Purdue experience would not have been the same without her.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? The biggest lesson I have learned from studying business is how important it is to implement the things we have learned in the classroom, outside in the real world. Theories teach us the foundation we need to be able to “speak business.” However, it’s important to go beyond the theory; being able to add a humanistic perspective into what problem you are trying to solve that will result in the best solutions.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? I want to give advice to students with disabilities looking to major in business: Don’t be deterred from pursuing your dreams because of your disability. Businesses care about your passion for your field, your ability to lead those around you and what unique attributes you can bring to a team. Some of the most amazing individuals I know have disabilities and that has not kept them from being successful. I want you to know that whether your disability is visible or invisible, your disability does not define you or your potential in business school.

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? I never realized how intricate a business truly is. Businesses are comprised of HR, Finance, Accounting, R&D, Product Development, and more. Before coming to Krannert, I used to think businesses were simple and seeing how intricate they truly are has been very interesting to me.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? If I were to travel back in time and change one aspect, I would share information about my disability with those around me. In 2019, I started working with the Disability Resource Center on Purdue’s campus because I had begun to struggle in school due to mental health. At first, I felt shame about needing “extra help.” Soon, I learned that accommodations do not give an individual an advantage over their peers but instead they create equity. I never realized how many business school students have disabilities and I wish I had been more open about mine sooner so that other could see that it is possible to be a successful leader on campus in spite of having a disability. To help share this message, I became a mentor for the Disability Resource Center at Purdue. I get to help foster self-awareness in my mentees and help them navigate resources for individuals with disabilities.

What business executive do you admire most? A business executive I admire is Julie Duffy. Julie Duffy is the Executive Vice President of Human Resources at Textron. I admire her because while I was interning for Textron, she made it a point to have lunch multiple times with all of the interns; this speaks volume about her character and leadership style. She wanted to know about our experiences and what she could do to make them better. I knew that, as the VP of HR, she had many other tasks demanding her time, and it meant the world to me that she would sit down with a dozen interns and get to know them.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? I am most proud of my involvement with the Doster Leadership Conference (DLC). DLC was founded in namesake of Barbra Doster, an academic advisor and director of undergraduate programs at the Krannert School of Management. DLC is a conference where students, of any age, learn their leadership styles and how there is no one “correct” way to lead. I am proud to be a part of this organization because I have seen the impact we make on students. This year, we taught freshmen how to talk to recruiters and the importance of diversity of thought.  We also taught juniors and seniors how to lead groups of students only a few years younger than themselves.

Which classmate do you most admire? Grace Bosma is someone who I admire. Grace is a dear friend of mine and is kind to everyone she meets; she’s also one of the smartest people I know. Grace is one of my team members for case competitions; no matter the prompt or subject matter, I know she is going to be an asset to our team. Grace is creative, determined, ambitious, and courageous — and I could go on with all of the qualities she brings to our case competition team. Another reason I admire Grace is because she juggles being a full-time student, having a job at a local apartment complex, and being a primary caretaker of her siblings; I don’t know how she manages it all and I am envious of her ability to handle anything that is thrown at her.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? I think the most important people to thank for my successes are those who didn’t think I would be successful. When I struggled my sophomore year, I had people tell me that I would not accomplish the dreams I had set because they were unrealistic and that I couldn’t compete with my peers due to a disability. I want to thank the people who did not believe in me because it only pushed me to be better. I learned how to best support those around me, and I learned that I am capable of much more than they thought I were.

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

  1. Lead my own data analytics team.
  2. Help break down the barriers that keep individuals with disabilities from pursuing leadership roles by becoming a leader myself and not being afraid to share my disability with others.

What are your hobbies? In my free time, I enjoy taking my one-year-old beagle to the dog park as well as watching The Bachelor with my friends.

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

“Having served as the club advisor for the Doster Leadership Conference (DLC), we have had the unique perspective of interacting with Mikaela over the past three years. DLC is a student-run leadership conference that is held annually. Mikaela has held various positions on the planning committee over the past three years. In each one of these positions, Mikaela has dedicated countless hours to ensure the conference is a success for every participant, which includes fellow students, staff, faculty, corporate sponsors, and alumni. In fall 2021, all of the members of the DLC committee either graduated or decided to leave the board. A whole new board was chosen, and Mikaela volunteered to stay on to mentor the new group during the transition. She has done a fantastic job at leading this group. She offers advice while allowing them to learn on their own. She is patient as they navigate through decisions. She is a true leader, and is an exceptional example of the Krannert School of Management.

DLC has benefited from Mikaela’s creativity, organization, and attention to detail. The contributions she has made to DLC will still be in place years after she graduates. Mikaela is a driven and motivated student. We have enjoyed getting to know her over the years. She is exceptional and we look forward to her future accomplishments. We have no doubt her future is bright and full of possibility.”

Abbey Mikesell
Director of Undergraduate Advising,
Krannert School of Management

Julie Lanz
Senior Advisor, Krannert School of Management



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