Meet Five Women Leaders from Baylor’s EMBA Program

March 2, 2023
EMBA Women Leader Blog Photo

An accomplished panel of students and recent graduates reflect on the personal and professional impact of their EMBA experience.

Meet Five Women Leaders from Baylor’s EMBA Program

Comprising 60 percent of Baylor’s Executive MBA (EMBA) Class of 2024, women are setting new records at the Hankamer School of Business.

Recently, we sat down with three members of the Class of 2024 and two alumni from the Class of 2022 to find out what inspired them to join the program and how they are leveraging what they have learned to lead effectively in a diverse variety of settings.

Swati Bharathi

Swati Bharathi

Class of 2024

Hometown: Houston, Texas

Undergraduate Degree/Institution: Bachelor of Arts (Integrated Communications), University of Houston

Current Position: Business Development Executive; Sodexo

What has been the most rewarding aspect of your EMBA experience?
The adjustment to being a student again was challenging, but my cohort has provided a support system. Through discussions in class and group projects, I have learned approaches and solutions to core issues we face regardless of the field we are in.

What is one way your EMBA cohort has been supportive of your career?
I was promoted to a new role only three months into the program. While I was excited about it, I was also concerned about working remotely for the first time. I am a huge extrovert who is happiest when hopping from one call or in-person conversation to the next. I really did not know how I would go from the energy of being in an office to working alone at home. Thankfully, the members of my cohort have been able to offer helpful tips, from separating my apartment into school, work and leisure spaces to taking a quick walk after calls. They also check in on me frequently. It is going well so far!

What does your current role entail?
I manage sales in four states for the university arm of an international food company. We serve customers in resident dining, sports and leisure, special events, conference services, weddings and more. The core of my job is building relationships on campus to better understand customer needs, preferences and culture.

What is one lesson about leadership you have learned throughout your career?
There is always a bigger picture. Keep your mind open and make sure you are not too narrow in scope or focus when making decisions. Staying transparent and maintaining an open line of communication with your team will help with making sound decisions.

How has the EMBA helped set you up for future success?
I have always been a planner. When I first enrolled, I was on a defined career path. I always knew where I wanted to go next. But my EMBA experience has really opened my eyes to options I had never considered. I could pivot back into marketing, where I built my career, go into operations or even pursue the VP track. That is the beauty of the EMBA—it opens so many new doors of possibility.

How do you like to spend your free time?
I love to take my Blue Heeler on long walks. I am also a huge podcast junkie. Lately, I have been into crime podcasts like “Crime Junkie” and “Court Junkie,” in addition to business podcasts like “Freakanomics” and “WorkLife with Adam Grant.”

Amy Schmidt

Amy Schmidt

Class of 2024

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Undergraduate Degree/Institution: Bachelor of Science (Education), Miami University

Current Position: Director HR Strategy, Employee Experience and Operational Excellence; Commvault

What does your current role entail?
As an HR leader, I am focused on architecting strategies to attract, retain, engage and develop top talent through a best-in-class employee experience to drive business growth. The fundamental challenge of my job is building a culture of belonging, where people feel motivated, connected, and cared for in a remote and hybrid workforce. I lead global transformation projects like Covid back-to-work initiatives, business reorganizations, ESG and employee experience efforts—all of which are guided by our values-driven framework.

What are some tangible ways to cultivate a sense of belonging in the workplace?
At Commvault, I am passionate about empowering and equipping leaders to build inspiring cultures of diversity, inclusion, and belonging that amplify everyone's voice. One way I do this is through our Courageous Conversations initiative, which creates a space for employees to connect and care for one another in open discussions on courageous topics.

How would you describe your leadership style?
My focus has always been to coach and develop the members of my team so they are empowered to grow in their career trajectories. I am most motivated by seeing my team accomplish new and exciting things.

What is one emerging HR trend to be aware of?
With the increase in remote and hybrid workforce, companies are very interested in creating work-life balance with flexible work arrangements. Flex time and fewer limitations on location are now a norm and something leaders are giving increasing attention to.

What is one highlight of your EMBA experience so far?
One highlight is that professors share new insights that challenge me to find practical applications in my current role. That real-life connection is the most rewarding aspect of the program.

What is one exciting thing that has happened in your life this year?
I started my EMBA the same week as my youngest daughter moved into her freshman dorm at Baylor. It is fun attending the Hankamer School of Business together with my two girls!

Vannessa Walls

Vannessa Walls

Class of 2024

Hometown: Pittsburg, California

Undergraduate Degree/Institution: Bachelor of Arts (General Studies), Southern New Hampshire University

Current Position: Solutions Architect; CDW

What motivated you to pursue an EMBA?
I went into the military right out of high school and did not have the opportunity to complete my undergraduate degree until recently. I was proud to become the first college graduate in my family, but I sensed further opportunity for growth in several key areas: I wanted to be in an environment where I encountered diverse perspectives, and I wanted to master the art of strategic thinking.

What is one lesson about leadership you have learned throughout your career?
During Boot Camp, I found it daunting to meet some of the physical demands, especially running. I remember one day when I was ready to give up during a run and an officer urged me onward across the finish line. Officers like these taught me the importance of leading by encouragement. When others demonstrate faith in you, you persevere even when you doubt yourself.

What do you enjoy most about your current role?
I am someone who loves to take a lot of different puzzle pieces and figure out how they fit together in order to solve a strategic problem. As a solutions architect, I take this approach to building cloud-based strategies for companies across industries. The process of figuring out pain points and solutions has given me the opportunity to tap into my entrepreneurial spirit, which has been rewarding.

Has anything surprised you about your EMBA experience?
It was not necessarily a surprise, but I have been particularly impressed by how everyone connected to the EMBA program models servant leadership. You notice it all the way from admissions down to the professors. Everyone wants to help you succeed and is willing to do whatever they can to help you get there.

What is one EMBA class you have found particularly helpful?
My class in negotiations has been pivotal, because it has helped me build confidence in my reasoning and convictions, even when my perspective differs from someone who might come to the program with more experience in a certain area. As women, we too often take what we are given and sell ourselves short. I am learning to have a voice.

How do you like to spend your free time?
My husband and I just got two new puppies—a mini Bernadoodle and a Rottweiler—who keep us on our toes. We also enjoy traveling and exploring local distilleries.

Amanda Armstrong

Amanda Armstrong

Class of 2022

Hometown: Ayer, Massachusetts

Undergraduate Degree/Institution: Bachelor of Science (Business Administration: Marketing and Management), University of Massachusetts Lowell

Current Position: Senior Director of Marketing; Compass Group

What motivated you to pursue an EMBA?
I had just relocated to Texas and was looking for a way to build my network, especially as I was traveling much less during the pandemic. I was also in a new role that involved more strategic, high-level conversations with clients and colleagues. The MBA program presented an opportunity to learn and become more comfortable in approaching these conversations.

What are some of the strengths of Baylor’s EMBA program?
The cohort experience is unmatched. I found it incredibly valuable to sit in a classroom with folks from different industries, job functions and backgrounds. There was always something I could take away and apply in my own industry. I also appreciated the way the classes provoked critical thinking. They pushed us to develop an opinion and justify it. I was used to sitting back and taking everything in, so it made me uncomfortable at times, but that was where the most learning took place.

What does your current role entail?
I manage a team of five district and regional marketing professionals for Chartwells Higher Education, a sector of Compass Group that provides contract dining services for colleges and universities. My role is a mix of training and developing team members, supporting new business opportunities, ensuring a high-quality student experience on campus and implementing marketing strategies that drive revenue for our campus partners.

What is one lesson about leadership you learned during your time in the EMBA program?
Gary Carini’s global leadership class was particularly impactful because it taught me to be more intentional in my day-to-day operations. I am naturally very quick to take charge and act on instinct, so it was essential to learn how to pause, solicit feedback from team members and make sure that the solution I have in mind is right for my team.

What was it like to have a baby during the EMBA program?
I delivered my son at the end of my second semester. It certainly took a lot of mental fortitude and caffeine to push through the program with a new baby at home, but it was perfect timing because I was able to work and study from home at first. When I began to travel again for work, I would complete my coursework in the evenings. Fortunately, I have a supportive husband at home and leadership at work who helped me create boundaries to get everything accomplished. Now, we have traded places and my husband is the one enrolled in Baylor’s EMBA program!

Ruth Ann Adell

Ruth Ann Adell

Class of 2022

Hometown: Burleson, Texas

Undergraduate Degree/Institution: Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine, University of North Texas; Bachelor of Science (Genetics), Texas A&M University

Current Position: Medical Director, Central Region; USMD Health System

What was it like to transition from a clinical practice to an administrative role?
I have found it rewarding to be able to build relationships with the 100 clinicians in my region. There are so many clinicians who do not feel adequately supported, and I have the background to empathize with their struggles and ensure they are equipped to serve their patients well.

What is one leadership lesson your EMBA imparted?
The physicians I support face challenges ranging from personal health problems to meeting a specified set of metrics while maintaining a heavy case load. My leadership and management classes reinforced the idea that you cannot just show up as an issue arises. You have to build relationships with new team members from day one so that you learn their personalities, frustrations and motivations. When that relationship is solid, it is easier for people to come to you with problems because they know you will take care of them.

How did your EMBA help set you up for success?
Healthcare is traditionally siloed between the clinical and business parts, which are often like oil and water. My EMBA equipped me to bridge that gap and communicate to clinicians about what needs to happen from a business perspective, while conveying clinical needs to business professionals. Being able to speak both languages has proven advantageous from the start. As soon as I joined the program, it opened the door to more leadership opportunities.

Why would you recommend this program to other physicians and healthcare professionals?
Every clinician is a leader, so having a deeper background in management and leadership through the EMBA program can help all of us. It is also becoming increasingly important for clinicians to understand business. We are some of the most measured professionals in the world, and understanding the context and purpose behind that is important for avoiding burnout.

What is something people may not know about you?
I have a passion for writing. I enjoy using my experience to tell stories that inspire or challenge myself and others.

What's Next

Are you ready to follow in their footsteps? Learn more about Baylor’s EMBA program by clicking here or fill out the form below to speak directly with an admissions advisor.

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