As a successful young professional, Kandace Barker was ready for an MBA early in her career. She assumed business school would be delayed until she had a couple more years of work experience under her belt. Then Kandace learned about Chicago Business Fellows (CBF) at Chicago Booth.
CBF is part of Chicago Booth’s Evening MBA and Weekend MBA Programs, designed for candidates with three years or less of full-time business experience.
“I knew it would be challenging to pursue my MBA at this point in my career because I’m young and most programs require you to have a significant amount of experience prior to applying,” says Kandace, who has a degree in advertising from Howard University. “But Chicago Booth looks at potential candidates holistically. Our goals and the things we've already accomplished are taken into consideration, along with my story and history.”
Kandace’s story begins with her upbringing, watching her father—a serial entrepreneur since the age of 21—build businesses that were wildly successful at the get-go but unsustainable in the long term. Benefitting from the same ingenuity and drive as her father, Kandace had already founded her own start-up, Mosaic Alumni and Friends Association (MAFA) Chicago, a nonprofit that advocates for diversity and inclusion in marketing and advertising. But she wanted to get the formal education that her father had lacked.
Now at Booth, Kandace is working toward three concentrations: marketing, entrepreneurship, and managerial and organizational behavior. “This is something unique to Chicago Booth that makes it so incredibly different,” she says. “Other schools’ programs require you to follow a very strict curriculum or to only select one concentration.” Booth’s flexibility allows students to pursue courses that are inline with their individual trajectory and career goals, no matter what their professional background or age.
Embarking on an MBA, regardless of the number of concentrations or the amount of professional experience, can be intimidating. Chicago Business Fellows provides a supportive community and opportunities to connect with current students and alumni, leading to mentoring relationships that ease the transition to a rigorous academic schedule.
“That additional support is really important for someone that's not used to this type of environment,” says Kandace. She also felt, as a CBF, she was part of a community and wider Booth network that opens doors many professionals her age would not otherwise have.
“These are the people that will be there for you, that you can call on to ask questions or to help you get that next job or to practice for an interview. This community is really what makes this experience so valuable.”