It’s amazing to think that though Anna Thompson is set to embark on two very significant steps in her educational and professional journey, she has already had a dizzying number of experiences and responsibilities at UVA.
Let’s start with her undergraduate coursework: The Atlanta, GA, product who concentrated in Management at McIntire and double-majored in Foreign Affairs (Politics) also carried two minors, thanks to the curricular flexibility afforded her as an Echols Scholar: Leadership and Public Policy (Batten) and French.
Outside of class, Thompson served as a peer leader with the Blueprint Leadership Development Program, was a French tutor and college application process mentor for Charlottesville high school students, and participated in the Women’s Business Forum student organization. In addition to the time she spent as a top-ranked female competitor in national sporting clays tournaments, she also maintained a book list for her friends that tracks her thoughts on the 60-plus titles she tears through annually.
Next, during her first internship, the summer before starting her third year and McIntire education, Thompson worked for a Dakar, Senegal-based group called OAFRESS (Organisation d’Afrique Francophone pour le Renforcement des Systèmes de Santé et de la Vaccination). Connected to the civil society organization through UVA’s global internships office, OAFRESS focuses on health and economic policies and programs in African francophone countries.
“I had the exciting, if nerve-wracking, task of working entirely in French!” she says, explaining that she leveraged her French skills to collaborate with employees and political leaders across francophone African nations, building project proposals and program budgets for community vaccinations and more.
“We worked in tandem with the Global Financing Facility, WHO, Gavi, UN, and the World Bank,” she says. “Part of my job was training young community leaders and reaching out to new partners, so I had lots of exposure to communication and data modeling for persuasion before coming to McIntire,” Thompson notes, remarking that she even worked through a coup in Mali, “an experience of teamwork under pressure that I knew would come in handy once I got to McIntire.”
The global experience directed the choices she made once she returned to Grounds—as well as her future career plans. “I knew immediately that Francophone Africa would remain a regional focus for me, and that the interplay of healthcare, policy, and business was a theme I wanted to explore at the Comm School,” she says.
In what could be considered a more traditional internship in the summer before her fourth year, Thompson served as a Business Analyst Intern at McKinsey & Company.
“Consulting was interesting to me right off the bat because the fast-paced approach and focus on strategic problem-solving were what I enjoyed about both my previous internship and time at the Comm School. However, what especially drew me to McKinsey was the level of and emphasis on thought leadership, something I really wanted to contribute to,” she says. “During my summer at McKinsey, I worked on global vaccine strategy for an international nonprofit.”
She’s excited to continue in the field of public sector work at McKinsey when she returns—which she will do in one year.
But before that, Thompson’s due at Trinity College, Cambridge where, as a Lenox-Conyngham Scholarship recipient, she will be pursuing her MPhil in Development Studies.
Graduate studies and her first post-University position await. Before Thompson leaves McIntire, where she says she chose to major in Commerce because “I wanted McIntire to teach me how to think and give me the space to apply business frameworks to the subject matter that is important to me,” we asked her about the courses and lessons that made the difference for her as a student—and what she’s hoping to achieve in her next exciting chapter.
What Comm School course has made the greatest impact on you and why?
I have to pay tribute to Professor Peter Maillet’s Foundations of Global Commerce, a class I think every fourth-year should take, whether they are on the Global Commerce Track or not. The class is very much structured to give you the freedom to explore the key themes that are coming next in business and that will affect the world as we know it, from climate to AI to demographic shifts. Regardless of whether a student has overtly global interests, Professor Maillet’s material is a reminder that globalization will affect the business careers of each McIntire student, so why not be knowledgeable enough to navigate the benefits and challenges that come along with it? The truly big impact of this class is that, once you’ve completed ICE, it’s the first time a set of really broad interests outside of McIntire can come together and play out in the classroom.
On a more personal note, it was also through this class and Professor Maillet that I figured out what was next for me. While I am thrilled to be returning to McKinsey in Washington, DC, in a year, I knew I wasn’t done with academia. I’ve spoken a lot about the broad range of subjects that I’m interested in, and before coming to McIntire, finding support for that variety of interests and knowing what to combine and home in on for my future were really difficult—I wanted to do it all and needed experienced guidance to prioritize and identify my strengths. Knowing I had more to offer and that Professor Maillet’s goals of supporting students at McIntire with diverse global interests aligned with mine, it was an easy choice to walk into his office and ask for advice. It was Professor Maillet who pointed me towards the Lenox-Conyngham Scholarship. Not only was this class personally important to my future, but it also allowed me to make business connections to global themes and political subjects that I had never considered would be a focus within the walls of Rouss & Robertson Halls before. Professor Maillet allowed me to spend a great deal of time discussing everything from my thesis on the future of art sanctions in the economic context of the war in Ukraine to U.S.-China resource competition in Francophone Africa, and I will forever be grateful to him and McIntire for encouraging that creativity of thought in a business context.
What’s one lesson that you’ve learned at the Comm School that you see yourself relying on most in your career?
One lesson I’ve learned at the Comm School that has helped me navigate my professional future is how to approach analytical business thinking in a way that accounts for differing global values and perspectives. The anchoring experience of the Comm School actually happened outside the walls of Rouss & Robertson Halls, in Copenhagen, Denmark. Enabling McIntire students to study abroad is one of the best possible things about this place because it facilitates an exchange of ideas and perspectives that would never happen without the experience and makes us better leaders in an increasingly globalized world of business. Working on a consulting project with a group of UVA students for People Like Us, a Danish bottle shop run by people from socially marginalized groups, we focused on especially Danish business priorities in making our recommendations, from sustainability to cultural socialization practices. The lesson was one of cultural adaptability and learning to be flexible within a new cultural context, something I know has been valuable after returning to the Comm School and that I will continue to rely on throughout my career.
What are you looking forward to most and why?
After I walk the Lawn, I am most looking forward to starting my MPhil in Development Studies at Trinity College, Cambridge through the Lenox-Conyngham Scholarship, thanks to generous support from the Schefer Foundation. McIntire has undoubtedly taught me how to think in a new, analytically elevated way, with a critical, business-oriented mindset for approaching and solving wicked problems. I’ve also been lucky enough through my Foreign Affairs major, plus French and Leadership and Public Policy minors, to explore subject matter that is deeply important to me and identify spaces where I think my work and research can make a difference. Equipped with the right thought system from McIntire, I’m really excited to work at the crossover of these interests for the first time. I’ll be writing my dissertation on the importance of building equitable health systems to advance state building and institutional legitimacy in post-conflict zones, examining the business case for reforming international aid systems with a regional focus on Francophone Africa. I think the McIntire difference is that, while we all graduate with a great business education and competitive spirit instilled in us by the School, we also have the direction to be “great and good”—this MPhil is what trying to fulfill that goal looks like for me, and I can’t wait to get started.