Lauder Student Spotlight: Azline Nelson

We are delighted to share profiles of our new Lauder Class of 2022. Lauder students are gifted, driven, and exceptionally academically talented. Students share their stories, offer advice, and discuss their reasons for joining the Lauder program.

1. Where you are from and what were you doing before Lauder?

I am from a rural small town in Iowa called Waterloo. I became a National Gates Millennium Scholar in 2009 and pursued my undergraduate degree in Atlanta, GA at Spelman College. After graduating, I decided to stay in Atlanta and started my career in the travel industry at Delta Air Lines working in the Pricing and Revenue Management Department. In this experience, I learned the core business model of supply and demand for an airline and contributed to the transformation of how Delta de-commoditized the market. I supported the company’s efforts on the pricing team for the Basic Economy and Delta One branded aircraft products. My fascination of how Delta elevated its brand position and gained global market share encouraged me to join the Sales department where I managed the pricing strategy for travel agents in the the Asia-Pacific region. In this role, I discovered my passion for multi-cultural marketing to influence consumer perception of products and services.

2. What made you decide to pursue Lauder along with Wharton as part of your graduate studies?

My passion for the French language and multi-cultural learning is a cornerstone within my educational and professional experiences. My desire to achieve business fluency in French and live abroad naturally led me to consider the Lauder Institute when considering my MBA opportunities. The Lauder Institute facilitates a mélange of language, global learning, and research aspects that has refined my thought leadership within business, policy, and economics. It is important for leaders to understand the role that governments and politics have within the realm of business decisions. As such, I appreciate the Lauder Institute’s curriculum because it expands my acumen for global communication and leadership, given my long-term ambitions to live in Africa.

3. How are your courses going so far? How are you balancing doing two degrees at once?

I am taking the full core curriculum and I am currently managing six classes; many are quantitatively focused. This is a stretch experience to refine my strategic thinking and I decided to attend The Wharton School to build my quantitative skillset. To balance my time and be efficient, I work with academic fellows and I attend regular study groups with my classmates. This builds shared success knowing we are empowering one another and midterm exams brought us all closer as we start the recruiting cycle.

4. Are there any events, experiences, or conversations that you’ve had so far that have been especially meaningful to you?

Lauder recently hosted a Black Entrepreneurship panel with Professor Steven Rogers to discuss economic reparations and barriers to owning a business for Black Americans. He leveraged history and economic justifications to create a rational framework to advocate for Black Americans, who are the descendants of slaves, that deserve $120K in reparations to address the growing wealth disparities. Professor Rogers discussed entrepreneurial challenges such a personal branding on the business website, access to funding, and capital concerns related to expansion. He highlighted that within some industries, the owner’s race can influence the viability of business expansion, so Black owners might omit their picture on the company website. Furthermore, Professor Rogers shared how MBA students can support the black community through banking at Black-owned institutions and patronage at Black-owned establishments since Black businesses employ more Black Americans than any other company in the US. This panel was meaningful to understand how I can build my entrepreneurial ventures moving forward, while simultaneously supporting other Black entrepreneurs. Additionally, Professor Rogers’s insights represent a positive step forward in the business school curriculum to normalize conversations related to race and bias within the business ecosystem. Largely speaking, this panel was a call to action for Lauder students to become stronger allies to understand the historic challenges within the Black entrepreneurial community.

5. What do you enjoy the most about being a part of the Lauder community?

I enjoy the student-led culture within the Lauder community. I serve on the Student Advisory Board and as first and second year liaison, I connect with my classmates to strengthen our student experience. I am working on creating new Lauder branded swag/apparel and I am working with admissions to facilitate a talent pipeline for diverse candidates. While we are within a virtual learning format, it’s imperative to have a positive can-do attitude and be creative in our approach for how students can maximize the community to create shared experiences. Additionally, I also enjoy speaking French with my classmates both in class and socially. It has been a great way to expand my French language skills and deepen the intercultural community engagement within the Lauder program.