May 21, 2022

We’ve been fortunate to have so many accomplished and interesting people walk through our doors. Every month, IEA highlights one of our program alumni to let the community know what they’ve been up to. This month, we caught up with 2004 CDB alumni, Jianna Lieberman.

What are some educational, personal and professional highlights and/or accomplishments of yours since graduating from high school?

It feels like high school was ages ago – I must be getting old! But a couple things stand out…

In college, a close friend and I started a non-profit to encourage voter registration. We registered a little over a quarter of the entire campus and received a Civic Engagement Award that was presented by the late Congressman John Lewis; though we only exchanged a couple words, it was amazing to meet him.

Next would be when I took the GMAT, the entrance exam for Master’s programs in business. I hadn’t studied for anything in years, and I spent 8 months getting ready for that exam. Most tests had always been easy for me growing up – something I’m sure many CDB scholars experience – but man! That test is TOUGH. I had never had to study so hard before, and the effort made the results far more meaningful.

After the GMAT and applications, I ended up attended Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management for my MBA . My undergraduate degree was in fine arts – not at all a common path to an MBA. I honestly couldn’t believe I was accepted, and I literally couldn’t have done it without what must have been an incredible recommendation by Bonnie – thank you Bonnie!!! That school and the two years I spent there was simply incredible. While I would love to identify a single moment that stands out, the reality was I felt an overwhelming sense of gratitude every time I walked into that building. It was the first time in my life – outside of IEA! – I felt surrounded by peers that were all so smart, so talented, and truly kind. My degree hangs over my desk, and every time I look at it, I smile.

What is a favorite IEA/CDB memory?

That one is easy haha. At one of the conferences during high school, after the day’s schedule had ended, a group of us got together to play poker. We didn’t have chips to play with, so we bought out the gift shop’s entire supply of tic tacs. PS: playing poker with a bunch of mathematic geniuses is awesome, as long as you aren’t playing for money, because they will wipe the floor with you!

What words of wisdom would you pass on to current IEA students?

My goodness…having seen so many years of scholars come in, I am consistently amazed by the caliber of incoming students. Us “old guard” often say to each other, if we had to apply these days, there is no way we can get in! I feel like many of them could give me words of wisdom instead of the other way around. But here’s a few, with a caveat – you’ll get lots of advice from tons of places (just like this!), much of it conflicting over time. Ignore what doesn’t feel right for you, and take what serves you. That said,

  1. If you’re a chatterbox like I was (and still am at times), practice active listening, even if you have a great fact to share or a solution to the problem at hand. You can learn more about the people around you by observing, and build deeper relationships asking questions rather than answering them.
  2. At some point, you will probably need to make some decisions about what you want to do with your life (personally or professionally). The thing about CDB scholars is they are capable of doing so many different things that it can be really hard to choose a path. But to do anything truly well, you have to commit! You can always change your mind down the line, but don’t be afraid to make a bold choice, go all in, and let some of the other pursuits go for a while. If you find yourself missing one, you can always add it back in!
  3. This is a silly one, but don’t completely ignore pop culture. It might be “basic”, but it can be an easy bridge to conversation or connection.
  4. Finally, life gets easier. Every year, I know myself better, and the people around me become kinder, wiser, and more accepting. It becomes easier and easier to find your people, to find rituals that nourish the soul and the mind, and to structure your life the way you want. So hang in there.

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