From Employee #1 to Vice President: How Her Barowsky MBA Helped Her Grow

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“The MBA program at Dominican sharpened my critical thinking skills, expanded my worldview and gave me the confidence I needed to put the principles of sustainability in motion at Equator Coffees integrating the social, environmental, and financial impacts.” – Maureen McHugh ( BA ‘01, MBA ‘11)

Maureen McHugh joined the Equator Coffee & Teas company in 1995, just six months after it was founded. Company co-founder Brooke McDonnell was a personal friend and asked Maureen to be the first employee, providing operational support at the time. As the company grew, Maureen’s role expanded to include people management responsibilities. This inspired her to pursue a Bachelor’s Degree in HR Management (‘01) through Dominican’s Pathways program. In 2011, after Equator had grown from a three-person team to a group of twenty-five, Maureen was looking to further expand her own professional growth. It was through her Dominican network that Maureen learned about the MBA program and decided to attend an info session. There, she says, everything about the program excited her.

The Barowsky mission ‘Transform yourself, transform business, transform the world’, spoke to me personally. I felt empowered by the opportunity to deepen our impact as a social enterprise business,” Maureen remembers.

She enrolled in the weekend program and recalls the time commitment was intense as she balanced her full-time job with her coursework. Yet she found the curriculum stimulating, her cohort engaged, and the teachers deeply committed. Maureen was energized by the relationships she forged and felt supported by the learning community she encountered. Classroom discussions highlighted critical thinking, interpersonal skills, values-based leadership, and employee engagement. It resonated deeply.

“The curriculum encouraged intellectual creativity which allowed me to use Equator and the coffee industry in case studies and research projects bringing true value to the business right away,” Maureen said.

During the program, they studied the B Corp, a for-profit business certification with rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability, and transparency. When Maureen completed her MBA in 2011, she began the process of getting Equator certified as a B Corp becoming the first coffee roaster in California to do so. It wasn’t easy to aggregate the information the certification required but today, their B Corp certification is a core expression of their company’s value system.

“Our B Corporation certification has been our guidepost. It is a platform to ‘measure what matters’ and it pushes us to strive for continuous improvement. In a competitive environment, how you conduct business matters. Consumers (and employees) seek out businesses that share their values,” said Maureen.

Today, Equator is a thriving woman-owned enterprise using the power of business as a force for good.  As Vice President, Maureen provides the day-to-day leadership, management, and mentorship at Equator. She assists in continuously defining and fine-tuning Equator’s vision, ensuring that business operations are aligned with the company’s mission. Her leadership, management, and vision ensure that the company has the proper operational controls, administrative and reporting procedures, and people systems in place to effectively and efficiently grow the organization. “Every day I use my Dominican background and experience to make well-informed decisions. The [MBA] alumni leave with advanced management and dynamic leadership skills.”

“The [Barowsky] MBA program rejuvenated my excitement for business and the skills I developed have helped me deepen my impact as a mentor, manager, and leader.”

Maureen is quick to note, “I’m always looking for alumni to hire.”

Find out more about the Barowsky School of Business MBA programs.

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