Growing Future Leaders

STACEY RUDNICK ’85 HAS DEVOTED her career to a mission that’s more imperative than ever: leadership education. As director of the Center of Leadership and Ethics (CLE) at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas at Austin, Rudnick gives MBA students the tools to become the “effective, thoughtful, moral leaders that businesses so desperately need,” says Rudnick.

“It’s an audacious goal, but a great one,” she says. “Leadership education is the gap we so frequently see in companies for students, and that recruiters desire.”

Though she’s extremely passionate about her work, Rudnick didn’t always know she wanted to be in career management. After graduating from Duke with a degree in art history, she worked briefly in an architecture firm before getting a job in retail.

“I started on the sales floor at Nordstrom and fell in love with it,” Rudnick recalls. “I was promoted to manager in six months.”

After eight years at Nordstrom, she’d worked her way up to assistant buyer. By then Rudwick was married, and she and her husband both had aspirations for business school. She started on the MBA track at Emory University, with the goal of pivoting from retail toward a career in brand management.

Rudnick worked first in branding and then consulting for several years, until one day her former career advisor from Emory called and said they were hiring for the MBA Career Management Center.

“My advisor asked me, point blank, when I was going to give up the whole ‘corporate thing,’” Rudnick says.

The timing was perfect. Rudnick was pregnant with her first child, and felt that she needed a better work-life balance.

“It was a natural fit,” she says of the job at Emory. “I’d always loved marketing, and it turned out that my best talent was marketing people.”

Three years later, UT recruited Rudnick to be its director of MBA Career Management. Born and bred in a small town in Maryland, Rudnick found Austin to be a whole new world, but she quickly fell in love with the vibrant, forwardthinking city and her new position.

“I was managing around 1,200 full-time MBA students, guiding each one toward the right career path,” she explains. “The amount of growth you see in a student in two years is astounding. It’s immensely satisfying watching them go out into the world and achieve their potential.”

After 14 years in the role, Rudnick had quadrupled her initial Career Management team of five. When she heard about the CLE director opening, she knew it was the right next step. She was offered the position and started in the spring of 2018.

Rudnick (fifth from right, in white and blue) with faculty, staff, and MBA students of the McCombs School in New York at NASDAQ for the Texas Venture Labs Investment Competition.

“It was a smooth transition since I saw the role as an extension of career management,” Rudnick says. “If career management is helping students figure out what they want to do and how they want to get there, CLE brings that up a level. We ask students to think about what kind of a person, manager, and leader they want to be.”

New assets under Rudnick’s direction include a leadership core course for MBA candidates, as well as an MBA CLE fellows program offering a group of second-year students the opportunity to coach first-year teams in leadership. “This is about making our students better future leaders,” she adds. “Companies are looking for skills in judgment, flexibility, and problem-solving skills.”

Rudnick’s passion for the work comes from a deep-seated love of helping others, which she attributes to her Taft days.

Non ut sibi was a big deal to me,” she says. “The idea of being in service to others in everything that you do really resonated with me. There’s nothing more satisfying than helping my students become better leaders.”

With technological advancements ever on the rise, Rudnick believes that human capital will be the greatest differentiator in the future of business.

“The workforce needs authentic voices,” she says. “Technology is doing more and more, but leadership? That’s a purely human ability.”

—Carola Lovering ’07