Student Spotlight: Cecelia Jenkins, MBA ’22

Q: TELL US ABOUT YOUR CAREER AND PROFESSIONAL AMBITIONS BEFORE STARTING YOUR MBA AT ISENBERG.

A: My career has taken some unique turns. After completing my undergraduate education, majoring in US History at UMass Amherst, I initially started out on a non-profit grant writing track but soon realized I wanted to pursue a lifelong interest in food. I attended culinary school, cooked in restaurants, and then started what became an extensive career in food media, where I created magazine, television, and digital content for America’s Test Kitchen. In my role as a senior editor for Cook’s Country Magazine, one of the company’s two national cooking magazines, I worked to lead a team in product (recipe) innovation and development. In addition, I worked to create marketing plans to showcase the smart techniques, methods, ingredients to use, etc. we engineered into the recipes; managed magazine photo shoots; co-produced the culinary programs on PBS, and expanded the brand by leading a digital foray into new territory, developing and featuring in The Test Cook YouTube series and cultivate new audiences.

Q: WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO PURSUE YOUR MBA?

A: I reached the top of my profession and realized I wanted more opportunities and challenges to come my way. I came to the hard realization that although I loved what I was doing, I was not going to be satisfied for the long-term staying in my lane. I knew I wanted to build more skills and to apply them on a broader scale, and an MBA was an excellent way to do that.

Q: WHAT ARE YOUR CAREER GOALS?

A: I ultimately want to be in a position of leadership in the food industry where I can make and see results from my positive influence. I want to employ biomimicry (modeling sustainable solutions after ways animals and nature have adapted to survive) and the concepts in Systems Thinking to find sustainable solutions to the food industry without creating additional negative unintended consequences, specifically in the areas of growing food to food distribution to Consumer-Packaged Goods and our single use and plastic packaging problem.

Q: WHAT ARE YOU DOING THIS SUMMER?

A: I am so happy (and incredibly relieved) to say I am doing very exciting work for the Massachusetts Lobstermen’s Association, in partnership with the Urban Harbors Institute and the UMass Gloucester Marine station, as a marketing and supply chain intern on their Seafood Incubator Project. I am focusing on addressing challenges and opportunities facing the lobster industry (especially after restaurant closures from the COVID crisis), and am responsible for assisting and supporting the MLA with a variety of social media and marketing initiatives. I am contributing to initiatives to engage lobster fishery stakeholders and conservationists in group discussions focused on exploring the needs of the MA lobster industry supply chain amidst statewide fishing-area closures and industry compliance to federal conservation measures. Additionally, I will be collaborating in initiatives to develop a statewide campaign focused on promoting the sustainability of lobster industry, one of the largest industries contributing to the economic welfare of the state of Massachusetts.

Q: HOW HAS YOUR FIRST YEAR IN THE MBA PROGRAM IMPACTED YOU THUS FAR?

A: I understand the world on a deeper level, and the knowledge and concepts I’ve gained make me feel empowered to tackle problems and find sustainable solutions to them. I come from a food background, so I like to describe it in those terms; so when I say I feel I understand how the world works on a deeper level, I liken it to feeling the difference between bland and seasoned food. It’s the salt that is allowing me to really be able to taste. I understand nuances and there’s just so much more there that I didn’t know was there before. Or, for the non-foodies out there, it is the feeling of blurred vision turning crisp and crystal clear.

Q: WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE FOR OTHER FIRST-YEAR MBA STUDENTS?

A: Arrange standing meetings with the wonderful folks at the Chase Career Center for help in developing your narrative and interviewing skills. They are incredible resources and want to help you! And if you don’t feel prepared, be honest about it, tell them that, and ask for help making realistic, even the tiniest steps towards improving your narrative. In the meantime, before you start the program, devote a notebook to interviewing and start thinking of questions peers or prospective companies might ask you like: “How do you describe what you’ve done in your career so far? Why did you want to get your MBA?” Give a lot of thought to your answers. Don’t memorize them but know the points you want to make and practice saying them different ways to get comfortable talking about your journey.

Q: WHAT IS ONE THING YOU WISH YOU KNEW BEFORE YOU STARTED AT ISENBERG?

A: At an Isenberg alumni virtual speaking event this past year, one alumna summed it up pretty well. She said, “Getting your MBA is not necessarily about the grades you get. The majority of it is about your ‘stickiness.'” This resonated with me because, before you start, it’s critical you get in the mindset of sticking with stuff as it comes to you and diving in to investigate it. Don’t put off reading a syllabus or getting organized – do it as it comes at you or beforehand, if you’re able. Staying on top of it all is difficult and can be overwhelming: Show people you take initiative to stick with stuff that challenges you and that you’re not afraid of hard work.

By Melissa Salva
Melissa Salva Director of Employer Engagement Melissa Salva