Meet The Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2017


The Johnson Atrium

The Johnson Atrium


For students like Matt Weisse, who has worked in finance since graduating from Bentley in 2010, Johnson offers the “best of all worlds” – both in terms of academics and recreation. “I chose Johnson at Cornell because [of its]… include small class size on a beautiful campus, not in a large city. The core allows me to exempt classes in which I already have experience, so I can use all of my credits to learn new things.  The curriculum has a strong focus on leadership, and will allow me to pursue a career in consulting while complementing that interest with studies in other fields – both by taking focused immersions as well as classes at Cornell’s other schools. The Ivy League name and proximity to snowboarding didn’t hurt either.”

Johnson’s small size and heavy personal attention – as evidenced by its 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio – stoked the imagination of the incoming class. Whether it is the Johnson Outdoor Experience, a retreat for first year orientation, or leadership training at the United States Marine Corps Base in Quantico, Virginia, the school works diligently to build a tight-knit student community. However, the school’s willingness to go above-and-beyond for applicants sealed the deal for Jason Zelley, a Marine Corps officer.

“I did informational interviews with two or three people at every school, including students, alumni, and faculty. It might be superficial, but it turned my “long list” in to a “short, short list” based on how they treated me as a human being. I was sold on Johnson because they overwhelmingly went out of their way to answer my questions and connect me with person after person. They never told me exactly what to do to ensure my acceptance, but they gave me more relevant tips than anyone else. I thought that if they were willing to go to these great lengths for someone who hasn’t yet applied, imagine what they will do once I’m accepted. Some other schools were welcoming, but no other school did for me what Johnson did.”

Ithaca, New York

Ithaca, New York

What’s more, Jessica Lowery, a communications major turned investment banker, was sold on how Johnson emphasized the big picture for potential recruits. “The moment I realized that Johnson was right for me was when I noticed that people at every other school I visited focused on students gaining employment upon graduation. Johnson, however, was the only school where the current students, professors, and faculty discussed achieving both short- and long-term career goals.”

At the same time, incoming students were drawn to unique wrinkles to the program. Carabias lauds the school’s BR Ventures, a student-managed capital fund. He also appreciates that up to a quarter of his MBA courses can be taken outside the MBA program. “I really valued the chance to study courses in the engineering and hospitality schools (also among the best in the world) and tapping into their world-class student and alumni networks.” Similarly, Minnesota native Mehrdad Moghaddam cites the school’s Emerging Markets Institute and Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, which afford him the “opportunity to participate in school and company-sponsored research or consulting projects and a platform for conceptualizing, developing, and evaluating new ventures.”


Nearly three months into the full-time program, the Class of 2017 has already made strides towards their graduation goals. For Andrew Vittetoe, an engineer from Florida, the plan is to establish the right habits for success. “To me, earning an MBA is not about learning tons of business knowledge from courses. It’s about learning a repeatable process of personal growth and self-improvement. By graduation, I hope to have a process and mindset that will enable me to be constantly relevant and to add value both inside and outside of the workplace.”

Likewise, Alexa Ing Stern, a Harvard graduate and Roy H. Park Leadership Fellow, plans to gain a command of the advanced business concepts – the ones that plagued her as an entrepreneur. “I want to develop advanced technical skills that can guide my decisions in the workplace. Before business school, I had a lot of hands-on experience opening and running a new business – but had to learn much on the fly. I’m looking forward to being able to take a step back and delve into technical topics like finance, accounting, and strategy more deeply.”

For Zelley, the next two years about choosing a direction and living in the moment. “[I want to] figure out what I want to be when I grow up. I spent the last ten years in the Marine Corps, so, like most veterans, my knowledge of corporate life is a little thin. I want to explore all the opportunities available to me and find the career that will be the right fit for me. When I look back over the two years I will have spent at Cornell, I want to be able to say I left it all on the field and swung at every pitch — no regrets.”

To read profiles of incoming Cornell Johnson students – along with their advice on tackling GMAT, applications, and interviews – click on the student links below.

Olga I. Abrosimova / Saint Petersburg, Russia, and Eschweiler, Germany

Steven Batista / Queens, NY

Megan Baxter / Tallahassee, FL

Mitch Brummer / Hudson, OH

Connor Buczek / Cincinnati, OH

Adrian Carabias / Mexico City, Mexico

Patrick Grumley / Minneapolis, MN

Alexa Ing Stern / Winchester, MA

Jessica Lowery / New York, NY

Mehrdad Moghaddam / St. Paul, MN

Jaimie Park / La Cañada, CA

Elizabeth Suspanic / Richmond, VA

Erik Suspanic / New York, NY

Andrew Vittetoe / Clearwater, FL

Matt Weisse / Tolland, CT

Jason Zelley / Lumberton, NJ

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