Duke - The Fuqua School of Business

Carla Hickman

Class of 2013

Carla Hickman

"I am shaping a career where profitability and impact are not at odds, where a company can be committed to improving its products and services, while holding itself accountable to a stakeholder community broader than just shareholders."

My Background

I grew up in Chattanooga, at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains, and will always call that home. My extended family spans much of the Southeast, so even though my accent has faded, I most definitely know the difference between "y'all" and "all y'all" and am very proud of my southern roots. I ventured 15 hours north for college to attend Colgate University where I studied political theorists like Rousseau and Kant as a political science major and German minor. It was there that my love for adventure developed during a month-long trek to Japan, a semester in Europe, and a summer spent interning in Berlin.

Post-college life has afforded me the chance to work in the education sector in New York City and Washington, DC. I was a classroom teacher before transitioning to social sector consulting and am committed to a career focused on improving educational outcomes and systems. Outside of work and school, you are most likely to find me trying the latest food trend at a new restaurant, enjoying a latte at a coffee shop, or attempting to whip up my own version of something delicious that I saw on Top Chef. On weekends, you can spot me at local flea markets hunting for vintage eggbeaters to add to my collection, or finding inspiration for a new project on one of the many DIY blogs that I read.

Why I Chose Fuqua

Beautiful city with an amazing food scene
Cameron Crazies
World-class global business education
Team Fuqua
Opportunity for impact

There are many reasons why I chose a Duke MBA. But, beyond the above checklist was the feeling that I got while on campusthis was a place where I belonged.

I am shaping a career where profitability and impact are not at odds, where a company can be committed to improving its products and services, while holding itself accountable to a stakeholder community broader than just shareholders. My sense of the world, and the role business can play in shaping a better society, resonates with the people and community that I have here at Fuqua. The school has a very vibrant social sector community of students, faculty, staff, and practitioners. I feel fortunate to learn and study among classmates who not only are interested in the work I do in education, but also share their experiences from start-ups, social sector consulting, impact investing, or one of the many other fields and functions that focus on applying business principles to the challenges facing our world.

Fuqua's commitment to the social sector and social entrepreneurship is reflected in the diverse membership and dynamic programming of our Net Impact Club. It is strengthened by a concentration in social entrepreneurship and the coursework and research opportunities offered by the faculty and staff at the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE). It is also obvious in the thoughtful conversations held in classrooms, at speaker events, and during everyday meetings in the hallways or Fox Center.

Leadership Attribute: Motivation

The key to my classroom was slightly bent, and so on that morning, like most, it took a few tries and a good shove to unlock the door. Once inside, I threw down my heavy bag, placed the key that dangled from a lanyard back around my neck, and flipped on the lights. 7:18 a.m. I might have 10 minutes before Carlos arrives. I rush to put my personal things away, place the daily lesson plans on my clipboard, find the dry erase markers, make sure the trash can is by the door instead of in the middle of the floor, straighten the desks for the first of countless times that day, and, at the last possible moment, change out of my sneakers and into dress shoes. I am taking a sip of my already chilling coffee when I hear his footsteps in the hallway.

"Good morning, Miss! What are you doing? Can I help you? Do you need anything?" Carlos, my morning assistant, barrels into the room, backpack swinging wildly, excited to learn that I have graded papers for him to file away in his classmates' mailboxes. Another day in my life as a classroom teacher had begun.

I began my career in the education sector as a Teach For America corps member. I taught fifth grade students, including the precocious Carlos, at a middle school in the Bronx, NY. Teaching in an under-resourced school in a low-income community offered little in the way of extrinsic motivators. My motivation to rise early and stay long after many people assume a teacher's day ends was found in Carlos and my many other students. They needed a leader of consequence at the front of their classroom, and they inspired me each day to be just that.

Five Random Things About Me

  1. I was an anchor for a local television station's Kids News program in elementary and middle school. I recorded segments in the TV studio that ran during the morning news hour. I learned to work a teleprompter, overcame my shyness, and developed a love for public speaking that I still can't shake! 
  2. I design and build furniture with my dad. Last year's projects included a woven wooden headboard and a side table created from an old cable spool, while this year we tackled a coffee table made from reclaimed farm windows. I dream of one day having space for a workshop where I can create enough inventory to open a small business.
  3. My goal is to see all 50 states (plus Washington, D.C.), and I've checked off 39. Airports don't count, but random trips to see quirky landmarks (I have my eyes on a wacky turtle statue in North Dakota) most certainly do!
  4. I am terrified of birds. All of them. I blame the phobia on a childhood run-in with an angry hen on my aunt and uncle's farm and one too many trips to feed the not-so-friendly geese at a local pond. (Need proof? Just ask my classmates from GATE - South Africa, who saw my reaction to the birds on Robben Island!)
  5. I love word games, puzzles, and trivia. In fact, I'm so good at the board game Tribond (where you have to figure out what 3 seemingly random words or phrases have in common) that it has been banned from family functions because no one ever beat me.

The Impact of Team Fuqua

It was a hot, sunny Saturday morning, and I was perched precariously on the roof of a house in downtown Durham. A cloth nail pouch was strapped around my waist, a hammer poised in my right hand. The task before me was to tack down a sticky roll of roofing tar paper so that new shingles could be placed on the roof the next day. I was volunteering with Habitat for Humanity along with 3 of my classmates.

We arrived at the work site that morning, with no clue that we would soon be asked to climb up onto a roof. Crouched high up in the air (shoes sticking to the tar that was melting in the hot sun) we were quick to apply the principles of collaboration and communication that we practice in team rooms everyday. Shimmying to the very edge of the eaves, hefting the heavy paper from one end of the roof to the next, I think we were all surprised by how quickly we acclimated to our new surroundings.

Service to others is a value of Team Fuqua. Fuqua students often travel to Habitat houses around town to pitch in however they can. It allows us to apply the lessons of Team Fuqua in a new setting, and it pushes us a little outside of our comfort zones. I was certainly sore and sunburned after a morning spent on the roof, but what I really remember is how much fun I had, and how I continue to be surprised by the unexpected ways and places I apply the lessons of my Duke MBA.