2018 Best MBAs: Julian A. Gordon, Duke University (Fuqua)

Julian A. Gordon

Fuqua School of Business, Duke University

I value the pursuit of persistent self-improvement, earnest integrity, and servant leadership.”

Age: 32

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Fun fact about yourself: One of my favorite pastimes is cooking. I have had three culinary instructors in my life: My mother (Southern style comfort food—Smoky Black Bean Soup), My best friend’s mother (classic Italian—Authentic Spaghetti and Meatballs) and my father (Hispanic/ West Indian—Curry Beef and Coconut Rice).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Temple University, Bachelors of Business (Major: Risk Management & Insurance)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Mercer Consulting, Health & Benefit Senior Consultant / Market Engagement Leader (2008 – 2016)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? GlaxoSmithKline, Philadelphia PA

Where will you be working after graduation? DaVita, Redwoods Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Section Representative: As one of only 6 section representatives across the entire class of 440 students, I was responsible for organizing section events, counseling class-mates, problem solving, and liaising with the MBA Association in this elected role.

MBAA Co-President: Leader of the governing body of the school of business which consists of 880 students and 60 clubs. Cultural steward for the school in charge of empowering and engaging students through several initiatives, including facilitating Paired Principle selection process, extracurricular programming as well as engaging with the school’s administration on strategic initiatives.

Global Academic Travel Experience Team Leader: Lead a group of ~20 MBAs on a cross-cultural tour of South Africa and its business environment. Arranged meetings with eight local & international businesses.

Active Member of Gender Equity & Empowerment Working Group at Fuqua: Facilitated discussions surrounding how to ensure that the school is a welcoming place for all students.

Ascend Undergraduate Coach, Management Leadership for Tomorrow: Mentored a college Junior at Temple University who is preparing for a career in technology.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? As co-president of the business school, one of the mandates that I hold most dearly is to safeguard and enhance our culture. During the past year, I continued our tradition of encouraging students to participate in conversations on difficult topics through one of our flagship events titled, “FuquaListens.” This event is focused on providing a platform to engage in meaningful dialogue. We highlighted the differing perspectives with regard to athlete activism in the United States and how we as business leaders should be preparing to engage. I am proud of this event because we had 40 students participate on an afternoon in fall (peak recruiting and academic season) with several competing events. Furthermore, the cross section in the audience was a positive manifestation of collective diversity. We had students, administration, partners, parents, veterans and athletes all leaning in with their unique perspectives about this topic.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I became the first Engagement Champion at my pre-MBA employer. In this role, I was responsible for analyzing colleague engagement in my market of over 1,000 colleagues and developing an action plan to address metrics which were underperforming and ensure high performing metrics remained that way. In this role, I worked to launch an initiative that guided our colleagues on a path of introspection about where they had been in their careers in an effort to help them shape their future careers. I’m most proud of this accomplishment because of the reach we were able to garner. We had 20% of our colleagues join in this initiative!

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite professor is Aaron (Ronnie) Chatterji. Amongst a group of high performing professors Ronnie sticks out because of how meticulously his teachings are crafted and the personal impact that they create in the perspectives of the class. For instance, Ronnie familiarizes himself with the background of each student that he is teaching across all 3 of his sections (~222 students). Taking this extra step enables Ronnie to expertly guide the class discussion by pulling real insights from students’ backgrounds.

Why did you choose this business school? Fuqua is truly a happy place. Fuqua students have a strong commitment to helping one another achieve their personal and professional goals. The administration and faculty are also equally yoked in ensuring that we collectively achieve a greater good for all. Those commitments resonated deeply with me. From the first time I walked through our school, it felt like home to me. It was for those reasons that I felt compelled to run for co-president of this school. As a student who has received so much support, it felt like it was my opportunity to pay those gifts forward.

As someone who intends to start his own health care company, I was very interested in the Health Sector Management certificate. Given that health care is such a people-oriented field, I wanted to engage with a school that values leadership as much as business fundamentals.

Finally, Fuqua truly values diversity, in all its forms. The school gives students an opportunity to tap into the value of diversity by structuring first-year teams to create an environment where diverse backgrounds can be called upon. I knew that Fuqua would give me an opportunity to interact with classmates from all walks of life on a daily basis, and that is something that I truly value.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Be self-aware and authentic. In fact, “Authentic Engagement” is one of our paired principles. Future leaders of consequence should take time to internalize what that means to them and how they would engage and leave this school in a better place than when they found it. Also, if at first you don’t succeed, try again! “Failing up” is okay! I did not get into school on my first attempt, but I learned a lot through the process and the reward is well worth the journey!

What was your biggest regret in business school? It’s not secret, the first year as a business student is hectic. During my first year, I focused primarily on leadership development and academic pursuits. However, in retrospect, I wish I spent more time getting to know my classmates on a more intimate basis.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Luke Fangman. Luke is a high energy, selfless, humble and caring leader in this school. Luke contributes to our culture by leading as part of our Coach K Center on Leadership, helping to produce our quarterly comedy show, mentoring first year students and just being an all-around good person. I truly marvel at all he does in a 24-hour period.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father was a huge influence on my decision to pursue business in college. He ran his own insurance company for over 20 years before retiring. On many occasions, I witnessed his work ethic, leadership skills and dedication to his family. He showed me how business could be used to create positive outcomes for people. As an aside, he helped me successfully launch my first business as a 7-year-old. (You guessed it, a lemonade stand!)

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…running my own health care business.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? I would further enhance the opportunities available for those interested in entrepreneurial pursuits (academic and otherwise) at the business school.  Currently the school has several entrepreneurial initiatives, but my personal feeling is that the future of this country lies in small/medium business ownership and growth. The more that we as a business school, can usher that wave in, the better.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

#1 Climb Mt. Kilimanjaro;

#2 Address the burgeoning long-term care challenges faced by the baby boomer generation by starting my own technology based health care company.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as someone who helped others achieve their dreams and inspired others to live with integrity/gratitude.

What is your favorite movie about business? “The Pursuit of Happyness.” The lesson that I learned is that you must never give in to the challenges in front of you. There’s always someone who is facing more challenges than you are at any given moment, keep pushing! 

What would your theme song be?King Kunta” by Kendrick Lamar.

Favorite vacation spot: Cape Town, South Africa

Hobbies? I’m a fitness enthusiast! I balance my passion for fitness with a healthy love of South African wine and cheese.

What made Julian such an invaluable addition to the class of 2018?

“Julian Gordon has been invaluable to Fuqua through his commitment to fostering our culture of collaboration and support. His positive attitude and approach invites people to connect with him. He is a fantastic listerner with empathy for others, and is motivated not by self-interest but by helping others and enhancing our community.

I have spent a lot of time working with Julian on various intitiatives to enhance the student experience at Fuqua. He served in his first year as a section rep and over the last year has been co-president fo the MBA Association (MBAA). This role can be a full time job but Julian has managed to balance the demands of leading through his role with the pursuit of academic excellence.

In a world that seems to be becoming more polarized, Julian is the type of leader who unites and brings people together. He has an inviting personality and is the type of person you want to spend time with. In his roles as a section rep and co-president fo the class, Julian helped lead a number of initiatives for us that embrace our diversity of thought, opinion, and experience, somehow managing to seamlessly connect with anyone and everyone, regardless of experience, cluture and background. As we look to business to provide solutions to the economic and social issues facing the world, Julian is the type of person who I am confident has the skills to do so.”

Russ Morgan

Senior Associate Dean

Full-Time Programs

Professor of the Practice of Marketing


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