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Leslie Garrison

Leslie GarrisonA job with a wind energy developer sparked an interest in both law and business for Leslie Garrison. At Michigan State University’s Eli Broad College of Business, she gets to pursue both.

Garrison enrolled in the joint JD/MBA program in fall 2012, focusing on corporate law and supply chain management. The New Jersey native, who has an undergraduate degree in environmental policy, says her job taught her the value of understanding both policy-making and its implementation.

“[In the environmental field], there’s a lot of political work intertwined with core business projects,” Garrison says. “The people I saw who were most successful were those who could navigate both sides.”

Though she knew she wanted a dual degree, “the decision to go to MSU was largely driven by the decision to go to Broad,” she says. “The supply chain side was very interesting to me. I worked on a supply chain on a daily basis with the wind projects, and in a lot of ways, the supply chain drove the arguments I was making on the policy side. And there’s really only one choice for a supply chain school, and that’s Broad.

“That decision’s been more and more validated,” she adds. “I’ve learned so much. From day one at Broad, you’re working on your résumé, getting tutorials on soft skills like dress etiquette and pitching yourself. You can tell from the beginning they really care.”

Garrison spent the first year of her four-year program focused on law; now she’s enrolled full-time in business classes. She’s also working as a graduate assistant at Spartan Innovations, an incubator for businesses and technologies connected with the university. SI supports nascent companies in part by hiring CEOs-in-residence to take them to the next level. Garrison has helped two CEOs with legal and business work, filing trademarks, developing budgets and strategic plans, and more.

“It’s been really cool,” she says. “It’s how do you get this idea that you’ve written on the back of a napkin to something that’s commercially feasible?”

Garrison is also the president of the MBA Association, which provides regular social and professional development events open to all MBA students. Many of the events are sponsored by recruiters. The association is one of many ways MBA students get to know each other.

“I think a lot of Broad’s culture is due to its small class size,” Garrison says. “My class is 75 people. I’ve found that to be really rewarding, being able to know everyone’s name. And it gives you that strong network you’re looking for when you do this sort of program.”

Garrison will intern this summer in supply chain management with Intel in Portland, Oregon. Tech is very different from her work in wind energy, she says, and that’s why she chose it.

“I’ve always tried to navigate steep learning curves,” she says. “I know nothing about the tech industry outside of what I’m reading in trade journals. I’m from the East Coast, so from a cultural standpoint, I’m going to be learning about a very different way of life. Everything will be different, and I really thrive on that.”

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