Dawn Arthur is 2013 graduate of the Daytime MBA program. Dawn currently serves as the Chief Operating Officer for KIPP ENC (Eastern North Carolina). Prior to Fuqua, Dawn worked at the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton and for Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding.
What was your career path before Fuqua?
I spent seven years in the private sector working as a database programmer, systems engineer and eventually a consultant before joining Team Fuqua. I spent three and half years at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding where I learned about government finance and massive systems development, i.e. aircraft carrier programs. I was connected to Booz Allen Hamilton via a friend and joined during a period of accelerated growth. At Booz, I learned the value of diversity, teamwork and collaboration to develop solutions for complex Navy operational challenges. I supported the development of the Navy’s long range strategies to prevent cyber warfare and effectively operate in the cloud.
Why did you choose to come to Fuqua?
I chose to go to business school, because I wanted to pivot away from ‘a job’ and into a ‘life’s work.’ I liked what I was doing and the team under which I was working, but I longed to pursue and even lead something I loved, something I felt I could sink my heart into for a long time. I wanted to explore the interplay between the public and private sector, between profit and progress. I wanted to succumb to a space where learning and reflection were held in tension with production and growth.
In what ways were you involved with CASE at Fuqua?
I basically immersed myself into CASE and Net Impact events and recommended classes through my time at Fuqua. I participated in the Global Consulting Practicum (now called the Fuqua Client Consulting Practicum) and developed a marketing and strategic plan for Food and Trees for Africa. I engaged with a mentored study with East Durham Children’s Initiative and supported Social Impact Architects (an alumni led social impact consultancy) with key projects through an independent study structure. I hope that I gave back to the Global, Durham and Fuqua communities in a way that honored how much I received from the CASE and Net Impact teams.
How did Fuqua help prepare you for your career?
As much as I lamented having to write so many growth or business plans, it was those experiences that are helping me now. As the COO for KIPP ENC, I am responsible, with our Executive Director, to design and execute an accelerated growth strategy in eastern North Carolina. Without a fundamental basis of learning – finance, marketing, leadership – and the incessant real world practice in scaling, I would be unprepared for this current role. Even though I have not grown an organization from small to large, my CASE and Fuqua experiences helped me to think about strategies for growth and for building trust within communities and teams to enable successful execution.
What are the skills that you have found to be most relevant to your career?
A strong financial backing and ability to model and analyze what-if scenarios is proving invaluable to me and my organization. Further, an understanding of organizational structure and leadership values is also critical to success. Finally, I cannot overemphasize the importance of leading, failing and getting great feedback. The tough feedback from mentors and teammates shaped who I have become, which is both stronger in my areas of greatness and more developed in my areas of weakness. I am better able to coach myself and others which is 90% of the work that I do.
What does social entrepreneurship mean to you?
To me social entrepreneurship is about finding the marriage of what works and what is meaningful. Business, profit and innovation work; these concepts drive change and scale. Serving human lives, promoting justice, ending poverty and living into the values of who I want to be are meaningful.
What impact is KIPP ENC having and how does your Duke MBA help you contribute to that impact?
KIPP ENC is trying to change the life trajectory of kids who live in low income communities. We believe one of the levers for doing so is through education, hard work, time and love. We are committed to seeing youth from low income households going to and through college such that they strengthen their communities and fight towards social justice. My MBA lead me to this organization and to this opportunity. It is enabling me, still, to give my best self for KIPP ENC in areas where it needs support – finance, operations and strategic planning and execution.