Zena Stephens

Zena Stephens

University of Wisconsin–Madison Wisconsin School of Business

MBA Graduation Year: 2017

Specialization: Strategic Human Resource Management

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Internship: KFC, Yum! Brands

Before Wisconsin School of Business: Front End Supervisor at Costco Wholesale


Zena’s career goal is to lead talent management, acquisition, and retention for a Fortune 500 corporation. She needed to get skills only an MBA could provide in order to move into strategic HR. The Wisconsin MBA program with a specialization in human resource management was the ideal fit for Zena to get broad business knowledge plus a deep focus on HR to prepare for the exact career she wants.

Having one-on-one access to professors allows in-depth conversations about classroom material and how it applies to my field.

—Zena Stephens

With the unique structure of the Wisconsin MBA program I am getting a full two years to gain HR expertise. The specialized program offers the essentials of a general management MBA through core classes, and I am getting very targeted skills and knowledge focused on strategic HR that will help me make an immediate impact.

The leadership skills I’ve gained at Wisconsin are positioning me for career success. Applying leadership principles and practice is really at the core of everything we do in the MBA Program. I have gained so many critical skills I will carry into my HR career, like building collaborative teams and supportive environments, and negotiating and clearly communicating my positions on issues. These skills will help me affect change as an HR leader, particularly in developing rich workforces with people from diverse backgrounds.

Outside of class there are many opportunities to develop career success skills. I am a member of the Black Graduate and Professional Student Association and serve as an event coordinator. Being part of this organization has helped me hone organizational skills that will have immediate value as I move into my talent management career.

At Wisconsin, the class size is small, yet you are a part of something bigger. Small class sizes make this tightknit community feel like a family. I know every student by name. Having one-on-one access to professors gives me opportunities for in-depth conversations about classroom material and how it applies to situations in the workplace, particularly as it relates to HR strategy and management. I really enjoy all the benefits of these individual interactions and have the added plus of access to so much offered by the larger UW campus.

My negotiations class helped me determine my preferred negotiation style and specific persuasion tactics. I have enjoyed all my classes, but negotiations has been my favorite. The skills I have gained will make a significant difference for me professionally. Negotiation is such a core focus in the HR field, whether for hiring, benefits provision, or participation in business planning and strategy.

Alumni mentors offer outstanding support. In my summer internship I had two Badger alumni mentors who were full-time employees of the company. They offered advice and support, showed me the ropes and gave me specific advice for the job and for my career. People in the large Badger alumni network are always willing to connect. I know the value of my Wisconsin MBA and the alumni network will continue to be an asset throughout my career.