Claim that MBA! A grad’s letter says it all

Sawdon Crop2

How do you feel at graduation?

When you’re earning an MBA.

With honors.

From Notre Dame.

When you never imagined yourself doing it at all.

Kristen Sawdon was on top of the world when she graduated in May, especially because she never seriously considered an MBA in the past. She always reasoned that it wasn’t the right fit for her, even though she excelled in her undergraduate studies and had a rising career as a leasing broker for a commercial real estate firm downtown Chicago.

Even an encouraging talk from her then COO couldn’t convince her. “I left the conversation thinking there’s no way,” she recalls. “While I never consciously discounted an MBA because I’m a woman, I do think I struggled with the stereotype of the MBA being primarily for high-striving men.”

Her thoughts about the MBA changed when her husband, James Sawdon (MBA ’15), enrolled in the Notre Dame MBA program in 2014.

“I was always so interested in his class material and the knowledge he was gaining. I saw him grow exponentially, both professionally and personally,” she says. “He gained a more worldly perspective. I would hear a difference in his voice when he talked to people. I thought, ‘This is something I should really consider myself.’ Not only did I know it would be great for my career and general knowledge base, but I desired the boost in confidence that I saw in James and his classmates.”


Like Sawdon, it is common for women to wonder if the MBA is a viable option. Women make up only 37 percent of MBA students nationwide. Conversely, enrollment of women and men in law and medical school has become nearly equal, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

A number of efforts are underway to encourage more women to consider an MBA. Most notably, the Forté Foundation, a consortium of companies and business schools, including the Mendoza College of Business, encourages women to pursue business education. Forté highlights such MBA benefits as:

Pay increases of up to 65 percent within 5 years of graduation.

Career advancement that 85 percent of graduates attribute to their MBA.

An increase in confidence experienced by 95 percent of MBA graduates.

Forté estimates it has reached 53,000 women to build awareness of MBA programs since it launched in 2002. During its 14 years in operation, the percentage of women in MBA programs has risen from 28 percent to 36 percent.


Sawdon was so grateful for the MBA experience that she found a moment during her busy graduation weekend to write to Kristin McAndrew, director of MBA admissions.

Dear Kristin,

As graduation weekend wraps up, I’ve been reflecting on my experiences over the last year — from what I learned in class from my professors and classmates, to the extracurriculars, competitions and career development. As I walk away with my degree, it’s difficult to put into words how I feel.

I thought long and hard about getting my MBA, and enrolling in the Notre Dame program was the best decision I’ve ever made in my life, next to marrying my husband. This year has been nothing short of amazing and I am so, so grateful to have had this opportunity. I’ve grown immensely and feel stronger and more confident as a result of going through this program. Thank you for your support and for believing in me.

All my best,


The Sawdons are enjoying the fruits of their MBA success: Kristen is director of asset management for a private equity firm and James works as an investment analyst in wealth management.

Her advice to anyone even remotely considering an MBA? “Explore it. Don’t talk yourself out of it,” she says. “You may not think it’s for you, but you can really tailor the MBA to be what you want it to be. You have the opportunity to take classes that strengthen your weak areas, or you can spend your time focusing primarily in areas that are more of interest to you and your career. It’s your MBA — make what you want of it.”

Learn more about the Notre Dame MBA.
Phone: (574) 631-8488





Originally published by Christine Cox at on June 17, 2016.