Perspectives: Why HBS SEI?

Shannah Varon

Executive Director, Boston Collegiate Charter School
MBA 2009


“As the head of a school with nearly 100 staff members, I rely on my MBA every day...”


Before coming to HBS, I was a corps member for three years with Teach For America (TFA), teaching at a school along the Mexican border in Mercedes, Texas. Then I worked in a management position for TFA's New York office for three more years, helping to build an infrastructure to provide support and development to teachers in their classrooms. Two of my mentors at TFA were HBS alumni, and I admired the way they thought about problems—they could always zoom out ten levels and help me see the big picture. I knew I wanted to be a school superintendent one day, and that I'd need good management and problem-solving skills. That's what brought me to HBS.

Why SEI @ HBS?

When I first came to HBS, I was scared. I was worried about my background being different from everybody else's. But the admissions process was very supportive; my interviewer's questions showed that HBS is a place that actually cared about what I wanted to do. The case method was great because I was able to verbally grapple with ideas placed in real-life contexts and have classmates offer different perspectives to push my thinking.

The HBS sense of community is phenomenal. I was involved in a lot of activities here, including the New Orleans Immersion, which I loved. It was a group of passionate, committed people, and the experience itself was a very self-directed learning process. There's a great deal of energy at the School in general when it comes to delivering value to social enterprises.


After HBS, I was fortunate to join The Parthenon Group, a strategy consulting firm that has a very well-regarded Education Practice. At Parthenon, I was able to apply my passion for education and my MBA skills to large-scale school district reform efforts, which I loved. I never would have thought that one year out of business school I would be serving as an advisor to senior district teams, but I was! After about two years at Parthenon, I decided I wanted to go back to having a more direct impact on students, and I found my way to the Executive Director position at Boston Collegiate Charter School. As the head of a school with nearly 100 staff members, I rely on my MBA every day to help me think through how to navigate the leadership, management, organizational, strategic, and financial challenges that come with running a complex organization like a public school. My team and I are responsible for the education of over 630 children from every neighborhood of Boston, which is incredibly challenging and rewarding. I know that my experience at HBS was one of the main reasons why the Board of Trustees at Boston Collegiate had confidence that I could lead the school forward.