02 Dec 2017
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Helping HBS Make Big Bets

Kara Medoff Barnett (MBA 2007)

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Kara Medoff Barnett (MBA 2007)

Kara Medoff Barnett (MBA 2007) loved being a Broadway producer and came to HBS because she thought the live theater industry could learn a lot from other industries. She also loved her time on campus, especially the people. “I was constantly dazzled by the level of talent and myriad accomplishments that everyone brought to the table,” she says, noting that she appreciated how much her classmates challenged and supported her.

Barnett initially assumed that after HBS she would return to her entrepreneurial life as an independent producer. However, through the HBS Leadership Fellows program, she discovered nonprofit arts organizations as “an ideal way to scale the impact of the arts.” Established in 2001, the program connects graduating MBA students with nonprofit and public-sector organizations to work in leadership roles for a year at a competitive salary. Barnett landed at the iconic Lincoln Center in New York City. “I was impressed that Lincoln Center’s leadership valued and sought out the talents and skill sets of Harvard MBAs,” she says.

After her fellowship year, Barnett stayed on at Lincoln Center for almost nine years, helping to transform the organization’s business model and launching Lincoln Center International, an offshoot that provides consulting services and convening opportunities to worldwide clients seeking to plan, build, and operate vibrant arts facilities and cultural districts.

In 2016, Barnett was named executive director of American Ballet Theatre (ABT). “After studying ballet from toddler years through my late teens in North Carolina, it was an honor to take the helm of America’s National Ballet Company,” she says. In her new role Barnett is striving to respect tradition while also fostering innovation through programs like the ABT Leadership Lab, where company dancers demonstrate their creative process to business executives to help them improvise and problem-solve.

Barnett is deeply grateful to HBS and gives annually to the HBS Fund for Leadership and Innovation. As a nonprofit professional, she understands how her unrestricted contributions allow the School to allocate resources where they are most needed. “I admire and trust the HBS leadership team, and I support their efforts to experiment and make big bets,” she says.

It’s also important to Barnett to stay connected to the School: She has hired MBA students as summer and leadership fellows at Lincoln Center and now at ABT. And shortly before her 10th HBS Reunion this year, she hosted a private rehearsal and reception at ABT for leading donors in her class. “My time at HBS was eyeopening, energizing, inspiring, and pivotal in my professional career and life,” she says. “It’s a pleasure to give back.”

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Featured Alumni

Featured Alumni

Class of MBA 2007, Section E

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