Our Stories

Enjoying Her Time in the Parks

Nonprofit manager finds EMBA to be a profitable decision

Layla George
President and CEO, Olmsted Parks Conservancy

Vanderbilt Executive MBA 2018

Layla George loved her job as a director of development for Louisville Public Media. Even so, she says, “I also knew that I didn’t want to be just a fund-raiser for the rest of my career. And in order to do that, I needed to build my financial acumen.”

A friend’s husband had attended the Vanderbilt Executive MBA program and suggested that George look into it, since the program was seeking EMBA candidates for its Nonprofit Scholarship (funded in partnership with the Center for Nonprofit Management). George heeded the advice, applied to the program, and won the scholarship.

At first, George wondered whether she could balance the demands of the program with the responsibilities of a full-time job and taking care of her family. After all, the drive from Louisville to Nashville takes three hours one way, and the program is a significant time commitment on its own.

But after talking with other friends who had attended various Executive MBA programs, George realized the value of attending a program in another city and having a clear break between school and the rest of her life. “That really was attractive to me, this idea that it was a physical destination and really sort of a mental and emotional destination as well,” she says. “And that proved to be very true.”

George hadn’t even graduated before she leveraged her Vanderbilt education to make a big career move. In February 2018, she accepted a position as the president and CEO of the Olmstead Parks Conservancy, a nonprofit that works with local government in Louisville to revitalize 17 urban parks designed by the famous landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted (who also designed New York’s Central Park).

George credits her choice of schools with helping her make the leap. “Any time you’re applying for a job and someone sees ‘Vanderbilt MBA’ on your résumé, it gives you so much credibility before you even walk into the room,” she says.

As she settled into her new role, George applied what she learned at Vanderbilt to her job at Olmstead. “For me, as a nonprofit executive, it was so great to be exposed to those for-profit ideas and business practices,” she says. “I transferred that [knowledge] immediately to my new job. I could certainly mesh what I was learning at Owen with what I was doing on a daily basis.”