Our Stories

Leveraging a Pandemic

Turmoil in her industry prompted editor to plan new course

Laura Brown
Chief Marketing Officer, ISeeChange

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2022

Laura Brown had landed what she considered her dream job as the publisher of a travel magazine. Then, in March 2020, the global COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. Vacation travel screeched to a halt. “Our parent company downsized 97% because of Covid,” Laura recalls. “I only kept my job by the skin of my teeth.”

To her, it seemed like a smart time to return to school again (she already had one master’s degree) to pursue an Executive MBA. Growing up in Nashville, Laura says, “I always knew Vanderbilt was an academic powerhouse. Coming out of high school, I could never have gotten into Vandy for undergrad, so I was tickled to death and proud of myself when I got accepted into Owen.”

Despite her wide range of experiences–from working as a hand model to attending the White House Correspondents’ Dinner—the EMBA program was a revelation for Laura. It started with the people, she says—“just the quality of my fellow students. There were 50 of us, and everyone had at least 10 years of experience. That means the quality of conversation we had during and outside of classes is so elevated, something I had never experienced before. And now I have these 50 people I can call friends and call on in my network.” Among those close colleagues, she notes, were members of her C-team, who together won the Launching the Venture competition as part of a course project.

Laura also had opportunities to augment her learning through other courses at Vanderbilt, including environmental governance, which addressed her growing interest in devoting her remaining career to fighting climate change. Through the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, she was able to participate in Project Pyramid—a student-led, interdisciplinary effort to alleviate global poverty. For her part, Laura and other Vanderbilt graduate students consulted on a renewable energy project in Asia.

As she neared graduation, Laura’s publishing job ended. But she found herself highly encouraged by her skills and connections as she began to pivot her career. “When I signed my acceptance letter, I questioned whether it was going to be worth the amount of money that I would invest into this program,” she says. “I'm happy to report that it is the best investment that I have ever made in myself. As I looked for a job, I got meetings because I have Vanderbilt on my resume that I wouldn't have ever gotten before. And the confidence I’ve gained, studying alongside some of the most brilliant and accomplished people I’ve ever met, has made me really fearless in a way that I wasn’t before.”

Fun Fact: During the pandemic, Laura learned to paint and play the ukulele.

The confidence I’ve gained has made me really fearless in a way that I wasn’t before.