MBA Student Featured in College Guide for American Indian Science and Engineering Society
MBA Student Katherine Jacobs was raised in Cherokee, North Carolina on the Eastern Band of Cherokee’s reservation within the Great Smoky Mountains. At the age of 17, she left her tribal homeland to study at Arizona State University, which she calls a “life-changing decision for the better.” In May, she graduated with a B.S. in Finance and a minor in Fashion. “I am so thankful for the amazing mentors that I gained while attending ASU because without them, I would not have kept building greater ambitions for myself,” she said. Katherine, now a MBA Student at FIDM, is featured in the new College Guide for American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), the national non-profit organization focused on increasing the representation of Indigenous (Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian, First Nations, Pacific Islanders) students in STEM studies and careers. We recently chatted with her to learn more about her journey to FIDM, involvement with AISES, and preparing for an entrepreneurial career.
What was your childhood like? Honestly, I am very fortunate to have had the childhood I did. My parents sacrificed all they could to provide and support my brother and I in all that we wanted to do. Education was always a priority and I have my mother to thank for motivating me in my academics. We were practically raised in the kitchen because of our father’s successful catering and cake business. I think this early exposure to business, entrepreneurship, and self-expression really inspired me to chase my dreams and never stop setting goals for myself. What I cherish most about my childhood was my creativity; whether I was entering my paintings and artwork into competitions/exhibitions in middle and high school, or sketching my own clothing line at eight years old, I was never scared to create and express my artistic ability.
What was it like to leave your tribal homeland and move across the country for college? Leaving the only place that I have lived my entire life up until the age of 17 years old was probably one of the hardest, yet easiest, things I have ever done. Once I left for Arizona State in July of 2016, I could not wait to land in Phoenix and go shopping for my dorm. Since I was in middle school, I had always dreamed of attending college at ASU. This was mostly because my Papa Ray, or my A-gi-du-da, wanted nothing more than to watch me go to ASU and graduate with my degree in Finance. It wasn’t until my birthday in September when I finally felt homesick and wanted nothing more than to go back home to the reservation. Thankfully, I toughed it out and kept myself happy and busy with my new friends and school schedule.
When did you realize you were interested in math, the arts, and fashion? Once I could walk around my grandmother’s house, I instantly was drawn to her clothing and jewelry collection. No matter the time of day, I was in her closet trying on clothes and styling outfits. I vividly remember asking my mom every day if I could wear my high heels to school. In elementary school, I would always personally compete to finish the multiplication or division tables first. I’ve always loved numbers and that there is a solution to every problem in mathematics.
Oftentimes, I would be given projects or homework that I enjoyed so much I would finish and then ask for more difficult problems. When I was in high school and finally able to take advanced level art courses, I further learned that my ability to create art and play around with mediums was something that I could not waste. A huge part of my desire to learn more about math and art in high school was because I have always had tremendous teachers in both subjects. It wasn’t until I was attending Arizona State that I realized that the fashion industry was the perfect mesh of both mathematics (finance, data analytics, et cetera) and art (various mediums, colors, self-expression, et cetera).
How did you learn about AISES? My mother was active in AISES and brought me along with her as a volunteer to show me the opportunities that the organization brings to many Indigenous students. I first began attending the AISES National Conference when I was a freshman in high school. My passion for mathematics and desire to further my education is exactly why I knew AISES was meant to make an impact on my future. After attending my first national conference I was hooked. The opportunities and community at AISES are beyond anything I could have ever imagined for a young Indigenous woman.
Tell us about your experience as a Regional Student Representative for AISES: Truly, it was one of the best experiences of my life. Outside of the amazing opportunities, I also gained a new AISES family alongside the other representatives; my peers quickly became some of the best friends that I have now. I was able to learn so much from the other student reps, Board of Directors, leaders in Fortune 500 companies, fellow Indigenous students, and many others through the encounters at AISES conferences and leadership summits. Being forced to break out of my comfort zone and getting the experience to talk to thousands of individuals was life changing. I found that even though I have never been shy or afraid of being a leader, this experience as a student representative highlighted my purpose more than ever before and emphasized that I do have the power to make an influence on another’s life.
During my time as the Region 3 rep, I traveled to Milwaukee, Wisconsin for the National Conference and met amazing professionals at Wells Fargo, Amazon, IBM, Intel, and so many more. Later in my term, I traveled to San Diego/Temecula, California for the annual Leadership Summit, where I completed my Wells Fargo Native Financial Cents Ambassador program training and networked with many professionals and students within the sessions. Without the various opportunities and motivation to further my education with the help of AISES, I would not be where or who I am today.
What made FIDM's MBA program right for you? Every part of the program, from the curriculum to the professors to the opportunities in the fashion industry, makes it the perfect fit for me. Before learning about the MBA program at FIDM, I found myself unsure of what to do or where to go after I received my degree from ASU. Throughout elementary and high school, I found myself torn between having to pursue either a mathematical or an artistic career, without getting to mesh my passion for both, until I found FIDM. What stood out to me the most about this program is that I felt as though I could take the greatest advantage of my passions and not have to leave out any aspects of my talents or ambitions. I am able to express myself in any way and bring my experience to the program with the most confidence.
This MBA program has an emphasis on financial literacy while also allowing students to gain the professional business knowledge needed to become an effective leader in business. What I love most is that it truly encourages each student to tackle their aspirations, no matter how big, with the help of the amazing professionals and professors at FIDM. Additionally, the career opportunities provided by FIDM are beyond what any student could imagine. There are truly no career goals too big or wild; the Career Center is an amazing asset for all FIDM Students and I encourage everyone to build their portfolio and go after whatever interests and inspires them because there is no better place to do so.
How is FIDM preparing you for your ultimate career goals? Every day in class is an opportunity to gain more knowledge that will prepare you for your career. For me, I make sure to discuss and ask as many questions as possible in class to truly take full advantage of learning as much as possible about the industry and real-life application of coursework. This has helped me more than anything because the professors at FIDM are so experienced and have amazing feedback and knowledge to share.
Specifically, I am currently taking BUMT 5650 which is Creativity, Innovation, and Design in Business with Professor Selinske. This class requires weekly journal entries, including both visuals and written statements, and is one of the assignments that I dedicate solely to the development of my own business. Every week, I push myself to draw new styled looks for models, sketch business logo ideas, design garment tags, and so much more. On top of the journal, I take great advantage of the weekly assignments by incorporating my business and ways to optimize my ideas for its development.
For example, one of my assignments was to do an experiment that you have never done before: I chose to offer free styled photoshoots for young women while I am staying in Cherokee, North Carolina. This experience allowed me to make a positive impact on others lives and give back in a passionate manner. I watched each girl’s confidence grow tremendously and was able to share my story with them.
Each class and professor at FIDM will push you to ultimately achieve all of your career goals, but it is up to you to make sure that you utilize each course within your program to tackle your goals. Since my acceptance into FIDM’s MBA program, I have been able to develop and create my business plan and gain a visualization of what my career path is going to be. The mentorship and curriculum in this program are two of the most beneficial aspects that have helped me pursue my dreams and journey as an entrepreneur.
Is there anything else you'd like to share? My overall career goals are to have my own fashion and style house. My fashion brand will be called Katherine Helen and my styling services business will be called Katherine Helen Style. Ultimately, I will curate or design all pieces used for styled photo shoots and purchase.
Keep up with Katherine on Instagram @katiejacobs_ and @katherinehelenstyle.