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Outstanding grad expands approach, goals through MBA program

W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student Matt Totlis

W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student Matt Totlis.

April 16, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

“I majored in math in college, and although I absolutely loved it, mathematicians tend to believe that there’s one singular way to solve a problem,” said W. P. Carey School of Business Outstanding Graduate Student Matt Totlis. “W. P. Carey taught me how to tackle problems from several perspectives at once, and once you’ve learned that method, you start to apply it to everything you do.”

Totlis, who is graduating with his MBA this spring, credits this change in approach as leading him to several new opportunities. He worked as a data analyst before returning for his MBA and was looking for opportunities to unite the technical work with leadership. “I assumed that sort of job didn’t exist, but when I discovered management consulting through our career management team and during my internship at Kearney, I knew immediately that I needed to do whatever it took to develop myself in that space,” Totlis said.

While at W. P. Carey, Totlis was able to focus on his studies through the Logan Keaton McKenzie Scholarship, the Bill and Mary Reilly Scholarship and the Innovation Scholarship. He also contributed to W. P. Carey as vice president of Consulting Club, which developed a new case curriculum and mentorship network that led to classmates receiving offers from consulting firms like McKinsey and Kearney. Totlis also was a leader in Stand OUT, a teaching assistant in statistics and a student fellow at the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations.

We caught up with this Outstanding Graduate Student to hear more about his experience at W. P. Carey and what comes next.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: The daylong interview really sealed the deal for me. I got to spend time on campus attending classes, meeting with administration and interacting with students. It sounds corny, but everyone showed up with focus, diligence and kindness, and I felt like I belonged. Before that weekend, I had of course heard W. P. Carey’s motto — "Business is personal" — but a day with members of the W. P. Carey community made clear it wasn’t just an advertising slogan.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would tell them what my fiancé, who was on his way out of law school, told me on the first day of class: Time is not your scarcest resource, mental energy is. Your brain will get tired before the day ends and before you can complete your to-do list. Monitor your commitments, be selective about what deserves your attention, and identify your daily peaks and valleys so you can prioritize big tasks for your most productive hours.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends, or just thinking about life? 

A: I have very fond memories of the courtyard outside the McCord classrooms, but I am admittedly a little biased. I developed a habit of taking phone interviews while pacing around that area, and it was apparently a good luck charm — I landed my postgraduate job based on a call I made in that courtyard.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am looking forward to starting the next stage of my career at Kearney (formerly A. T. Kearney) in early July as a consulting associate in the strategic operations practice. I will be aligned with the San Francisco office. I’m also incredibly excited to be getting married in January 2022 to my fiancé, Jack, who recently graduated from law school. We are looking forward to post-student life and starting our careers together.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Increasing access to high school education. For about a decade, I’ve volunteered with a program, Literacy Volunteers of Maricopa County, that helps adults return to school for their high school diplomas. Many of them had a hard time in school the first time around, but I am regularly inspired by their commitment to taking the more difficult, but ultimately extremely gratifying, path of returning to their education as nontraditional students. I would love to find ways to help public schools reduce their dropout rates, and that probably requires rethinking the pipeline — there is an exciting postgraduate future for every high school student, be it college, trade school or the workforce.

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