Frances Dixon
Home Region

Buffalo, NY

Undergrad Education

Tufts University, International Relations and Community Health (double major), 2006

Previous Experience

U.S. Air Force

“How does someone in charge of a large group make each person better?”

As an undergraduate attending Tufts, Frances Dixon was deeply impressed by the idea of service to others. While searching out how to accomplish this life goal, she was inspired by the military officers she met. “They were clearly leaders,” she says. “They walked into a room and commanded it; they were instantly accessible and able to build trust with everyone. How do you do that? How does someone in charge of a large group make each person better? I saw that as part of the incredible leadership training the military provides.”

By entering the military, Frances could “serve my country and learn leadership.” She chose the Air Force because it had the highest percentage of career fields open to women.

After two years stationed in Florida, Frances then spent six years in Nevada working with remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs or “drones”). In addition to maintenance, she worked with acquisitions and contracting functions and was exposed to industry partners and, “became interested in the business side of how these programs are run.” Following that, Frances assumed responsibility for sixteen C-5 cargo aircrafts as a Maintenance Manager leading 330 people. After three years, Frances knew it was time to pursue her dream of getting an MBA.

Transitioning to the private sector

“I realized I didn’t know much about business,” says Frances. “In order to truly leverage my leadership skillset and make the transition easier, an MBA was the best option.” HBS became her top choice “because of its learning environment. As a non-traditional student with more professional experience, I was concerned that a straight lecture environment wouldn’t be a good fit. As soon as I sat in on a case, I knew this was the perfect academic environment for me.”

“I’m interested in what the professors have to say. But I'm fascinated by what my peers say and the experiences they bring to class. They’re brilliant. The level of discourse here forces you to be on your toes. You’re engaged—you have to be. You can’t sit back and just listen.”

For her upcoming EC year, Frances intends to explore an old interest: access to water. As an undergraduate, she studied abroad in El Salvador and Bolivia, which awakened her awareness of the struggle for potable water. “Part of the impetus for HBS was to find ways I could do work with water,” she says.

While pursuing her course work, Frances will also fulfill an independent research project on water technologies. “I’m interested in private sector solutions. There are a couple of Boston startups that are investigating new technologies for filtering water or desalinating water with less energy. I want to find ways technology can be applied to get clean water to populations without adequate access to it.”