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Denver Business Journal 40 Under 40 honoree credits Professional MBA for skills, confidence and friends

Kate Barton

Photo courtesy Kate Barton

Kate Barton (MBA 2018) was at Denver International Airport on Feb. 19 waiting for her flight to Costa Rica during the interview for this article on her recent award and the impact of her education at Daniels College of Business.

It was the perfect scenario. Why? She was headed to the wedding of a friend—a classmate she met in Daniels’ Professional MBA program.

After she explained the reason for her trip, Barton offered a wry chuckle, proof she got the aptness.

No doubt, Barton is going places. A week before her trip, the Denver Business Journal honored her as one of its 2020 40 Under 40, the trailblazers to watch in business circles.

It’s no surprise she made the cut to anyone who knows her. Since joining the Downtown Denver Partnership (DDP) in 2014, a nonprofit with 700-plus member organizations that serves as the voice for downtown Denver-based businesses, she’s soared through the ranks.

Today, at 32, as the senior vice president, executive office and special projects, she runs marketing, communications and public policy, fosters entrepreneurship, serves as the liaison to board members and stakeholders, manages the president’s office administration and oversees programming. In a word, she’s busy. In a sentence, she waves a heavy hand in shaping Denver into the city it will become.

Before the DDP, Barton, a Denver native, spent three years in New York City in digital advertising, but she missed Denver.

“I am passionate about the city where I grew up,” Barton said. 

Now the city is noticing she’s back and that she’s good at her job. She calls the 40 Under 40 award a huge honor.

“To be recognized by the business community—and to be a part of this year’s class that is making a huge impact in the community—it’s humbling to be a part of that,” she said. “I also see it as a reflection of the work we’ve done [at the DDP]. I’m really proud of that.”

Barton is quick to credit her MBA not only for seeding the friendships that formed there (and sometimes lead to destination weddings), but also for prepping her to flourish at work.

Professional MBA Cohort 20 in Colombia

Professional MBA Cohort 20 in Colombia

“I see my MBA as codifying the skills I use … and in understanding budgets, in planning and in building a strong network, especially of women who are working and impacting the community,” she said.

And she sees the business principles she garnered at Daniels as tools to help her mold Denver.

“We’re looking at all the pieces you need for a great city—sustainability, cleanliness, economic opportunity … these are many of the same factors that go into building strong businesses,” Barton said. “And to build a strong business—and resilient city—you have ROI, financial success, and even marketing and management.”

She described the choice to attend Daniels as a risk. “I went out on a limb and I ended up growing and gaining a lot of confidence,” she said. “And now I know no one can take that away from me.”

But beyond self-confidence, solid academics and technical lessons, Barton said she ended up with something of great value: friendship. She said she chose Daniels because of its cohort model where students tackle classes together from start to finish. She had already learned that working with others was a massive part of her job at DDP.

“I had looked at many other schools and models, but I really liked that my classmates would be with me through the program; that was important to me,” she said. “Everyone else was working, too, and bringing their experiences into the classroom. We were all in the same boat and we all shared, learned and grew together.”

Not long after Barton said that, the public address beckoned: “Attention in the terminal: Flight […] to Costa Rica, now boarding.”

Visit to learn more about Daniels’ Professional MBA program.