When LeeAnn Kuehnert completed the last class for her MBA in May 2012, her emotions were bittersweet.
Three years of balancing work and school, of commuting 40 minutes from her job at Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation to Stern’s Westchester campus and of sacrificing weekend and vacation time to catch up on projects certainly felt like running a marathon, according to LeeAnn. Despite her intense schedule, however, LeeAnn would not have traded the experience for the world. “I really liked going to class and talking with smart people about interesting topics. For years, I’ve been able to show up to class, hear topics dissected by great professors and I always felt smarter when I came out.”
The West Haven native first applied to the Stern MBA program because she had hoped to move from a technical operations role at Sikorsky to one with strategic management responsibilities. Having studied materials engineering as an undergraduate, LeeAnn was able to make the transition to Sikorsky’s corporate strategy team halfway through her second year in the program.
“In my field, to advance you generally have to make a decision to either delve more deeply into the scientific end or to break into the business end. I enjoy taking things that look complicated and making them simple,” she recalls.
Part of the reason for LeeAnn’s enthusiasm for education is also the support she received from her employer. Sikorsky, a United Technologies Company, provides tuition remission benefits for employees, as well as a supportive environment for students looking to pursue a graduate degree.
“I have several colleagues who also pursued graduate degrees, including at Stern,” said LeeAnn. “Nobody’s ever even suggested that I skip class, no matter what’s happening at work.”
In her new corporate strategy role, LeeAnn was able to put her business school learning into practice right away. “When I joined the corporate strategy team, my first goal was to develop a more structured way to approach opportunities for growth. In class, we were already breaking this down so I was able to easily suggest five or six different potential frameworks and analyze how they applied to our business.”
Another class LeeAnn found particularly useful was Tony Marciano’s Corporate Finance class. “Since taking the class, I’ve worked on a couple of projects and analyzed the financials in a way that was very similar to what Professor Marciano did in class.”
While LeeAnn did assess various business school options in the area, she admits that when it was time to make the choice, for her it was NYU Stern Westchester or nothing.
“Stern was my top choice. I didn’t apply to any other schools because to me, reputation was first and foremost,” she recalls. Three years later, MBA in hand, LeeAnn feels fortunate she not only attended Stern, but the Westchester program in particular.
“The students at Westchester shared their practical experiences and were very serious about learning, so the conversations that I had in class were so productive,” she said. “And like with all great teams, the attitude was more collaborative than competitive. We were all trying to further each other’s collective understanding. I think that’s what makes the program really special.”