2018 Best MBAs: Francis Varrichio, New York University (Stern)

Francis Varrichio

New York University, Stern School of Business

Career military officer with a good sense of humor and a desire to learn.”

Age: 30

Hometown: Highland Park, NJ

Fun fact about yourself:  In the last eight years since my graduation from the United States Coast Guard Academy, I have spent over a year of my life on the ocean. Few things teach you resilience better than having to optimize your productivity despite the continuous rolling of the sea.

Undergraduate School and Degree:  United States Coast Guard Academy

Bachelor of Science: Marine and Environmental Science

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Before enrolling in business school, I was at a military unit called Pacific Tactical Law Enforcement as a Lieutenant in the Coast Guard. The main objective of this job was to protect the United States from coastal threats and combat transnational organized crime in international waters. Prior to that job I worked in a counter-terrorism mission defending the Port of New York, including patrolling NY Harbor and conducting boardings of cargo vessels offshore.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? Since I am still an officer in the Coast Guard, my internship was to take on a professional project in my future full-time position with the Coast Guard Headquarters Finance Division. During this internship, I worked on a consulting project at the Admissions Department for the United States Coast Academy and used regression and budget analysis to write a proposal that could potentially save millions of dollars while increasing underrepresented minority enrollment. It was a great opportunity to work on a real-world business problem for the military that could best utilize taxpayer funding while also serving a social good in supporting minority enrollment in higher education.

I also volunteered as a student Graduate Fellow to coordinate and lead NYU Stern’s first full-time summer transition program for veterans as part of the School’s Fertitta Veterans Program. Along with my classmate Drew Cavanagh (another Coast Guard Lieutenant), we welcomed 25 veteran students to NYU Stern and helped facilitate programming that would ease their transition to business school and civilian life.

Where will you be working after graduation? I will be working as a Financial Analyst for the U.S. Coast Guard Finance Division. In this role, I will be assisting with the Coast Guard’s budget implementation and working to solve big business problems that present challenges for today’s military. I will specifically be using my MBA to assist the Coast Guard in making important financial decisions regarding essential military projects, asset recapitalization, and operating costs.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President and Co-Founder of Stern Chats, NYU Stern’s Official Student Podcast
  • Co-hosted 26 episodes featuring NYU Stern students, alumni and faculty downloadable on iTunes, Google Play and Soundcloud.
  • Has over 20,000 unique downloads and listeners in over 50 countries
  • Grew the production team from an initial team of two to 20
  • Created “Stern Chats Live” during orientation week for an audience of over 400 incoming students. The program featured current students providing honest advice about navigating an MBA program.

Graduate Fellow, Fertitta Veterans Program

  • Welcomed and facilitated programming for the first group of MBA students who participated in the School’s Fertitta Veterans Program, easing the transition from the military to business school.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of founding the “Stern Chats” podcast at NYU Stern with my classmate Sheri Holt. During orientation, we were inspired to provide a platform for people in the NYU Stern community to tell their stories, build community, and highlight the incredible people that live and work in this School. Starting a professional podcast required a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial spirit and salesmanship. The podcast has been incredibly successful since its first season in 2016.  Immediately after launching Stern Chats, the podcast made regular appearances on the iTunes list of “Top 200” Education Podcasts and was eventually moved to a professional studio within Stern. Now in its third season, Stern Chats has over 20,000 unique downloads and listeners in over 50 countries. The podcast has hosted some incredible guests including New York Times best-selling authors, TED Speakers, Emmy winners, Navy Seals and even Professor Scott Galloway (he gets his own category). Since its founding, the podcast expanded from its two initial members to a group of 20 students that are dedicated to producing high quality, professional, weekly audio stories. With newly elected leadership and hosts, the podcast is certain to continue to be a staple of the Stern experience for years to come.

I was recently told by an Admissions Officer at NYU Stern that they are now starting to see prospective students talking about the Stern Chats podcast in their application essays. If our podcasts have played any part in helping prospective students understand the culture and magic of NYU Stern, then this endeavor has been truly worthwhile.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of earning “Jump Wings” while in the United States Coast Guard. Jump Wings are typically an Army or Air Force badge given after extensive parachute training and the completion of five successful training jumps. Although this is not a common Coast Guard training, I was provided the opportunity to participate through a brief exchange program at the United States Air Force Academy. While this achievement lacks the obvious impact of a million-dollar deal or the clear necessity of completing of a national security mission, I am most proud of this achievement because it was my earliest professional memory of making a deliberate choice to overcome fear in a task. While being afraid is a normal reaction to jumping out of a plane, there was great personal importance to acknowledging my fear and then jumping anyway (…and then again four more times).  This early lesson of not letting fear control you, and learning how to manage stress has been an important value I have carried throughout my entire military career.  When I wear the Jump Wings it is a reminder to ignore fear, trust myself and choose resilience over retreat.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite Professor is Nate Pettit, who teaches Leadership and Organizational Behavior. Professor Pettit is no stranger to Poets and Quants, as he was named one of the “Best 40 Under 40” MBA Professors in the United States. He has been an incredibly supportive influence for the Stern Chats podcast and recently joined as a faculty representative. He demonstrates excellence in many essential professorial tasks but especially his academic research and acumen in the classroom. What is most impressive about Professor Pettit is his open-minded approach to dealing with his students, his course and to important academic conversations. Professors Pettit’s examination of the governing dynamics of organizational behavior provides a logical and essential road map to prosperity.

Why did you choose this business school? By its own admissions policies, NYU Stern focuses on the EQ + IQ of its students. This focus was meaningful to me because it signaled how important the whole person is to the MBA experience at Stern. At Stern, you are more than your resume, and I knew I wanted to go to a school where my personality and unique perspective mattered. NYU Stern’s EQ + IQ focus showed me that the School seeks students who demonstrate personality and heart combined with superior academic and technical ability.

Also, I am a veteran in the military starting a new specialty in government finance. Not only is NYU Stern arguably the best Finance MBA program in the country, it is one of the most Veteran friendly. With the addition of the Fertitta Veterans Program, which offers scholarship, academic and professional support to U.S. military veterans and active duty students, NYU Stern has positioned itself (in my opinion) to be the #1 full-time MBA program for veterans in the whole country. These assertions aside, the Veterans community at NYU Stern is a prominent part of the school. While I was still in the application process, Veterans from Stern reached out to me as a prospective student to provide assistance and show support.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? I would say: Focus on the attributes of the MBA experience that matter the most to you (or your future employer).

Instead of trying to being in 15 different clubs, try joining an affinity club and professional club that add articulable value. Use the extra time you saved to pursue challenging classes or other professional goals. Choosing is hard, but essential to getting the biggest return on your investment. You certainly can’t do everything and can’t make everyone happy. So pick what matters to you (and your future).

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about my school is that it is unfriendly. Heck, people are so gosh darn nice! Although there are heavily structured recruiting cycles that can be stressful, students genuinely look out for each other and try to help. Recruiting seems to be a collaborative endeavor and there are whole clubs and organizations at Stern to support students through the recruiting process. The stress of school has never seemed to make people less friendly or hyper competitive. Quite the opposite, any stress associated with school has only caused classmates and peers to band together and form stronger bonds of friendship and camaraderie.

What was your biggest regret in business school? It wouldn’t be fair to say I have any regrets because honestly, the experience exceeded all of my expectations. NYU Stern is a perfect fit for me.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire my co-founder of Stern Chats: Sheri Holt. Although Sheri and I are incredibly different in both background, disposition and general opinions, our interactions have been truly beneficial to my growth as a professional. Sheri has a lot of excellent organizational and efficiency skills that have taught me to tighten up on my own time management when performing administrative tasks. She is also a loyal friend and teammate and her skills were essential to the founding of an innovative student venture.

Most important, Sheri is open-minded enough to have hard conversations that challenge preconceived notions or hardened ideological opinions. Sheri’s intelligence, ability to empathize, and willingness to have a dialogue is a unique combination that I truly admire.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My parents were by far the biggest influence in my pursuit of higher education. In many ways, my MBA is the culmination of 30 years of dreams, hard work, and sacrifice on the behalf of my parents. Also, I have to provide some credit my Aunt Donna Balon who is an NYU Alumna and had great advice about class selection and the benefits of NYU.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…continuing my career as an officer in the United States Coast Guard, but likely back in Deployable Special Forces or Boat Forces communities rather than looking to specialize in Coast Guard Finance. There are always important missions going on for the Coast Guard so, whether it is responding to Hurricane Maria or mudslides in California or making drug interdictions off of Florida you can always see a Coast Guard unit performing rescues or protecting our borders. Although I would miss Finance, I am sure those other jobs would provide a lot of excitement.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? This is an easy one. I would spend most of my day as Dean continuing to maximize scholarships to students. Also, I would order some of those nap pods they have on the Google campuses so students could rest between or during marathon study sessions.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

Train Trip across the United States

Give a TED talk

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would want my peers to remember me as: “Frank always made me smile, saw my unique value and made me feel like I mattered.”

What would your theme song be? “The In Crowd”  by the Ramsey Lewis Trio (1965)

An obscure jazz track is not everyone’s logical pick for a theme song. When I imagine a theme song it has got to be something upbeat that plays in the background while the protagonist has a typical day. So upbeat jazz makes the most sense to me. Listen to the song and this will all make sense, I promise.

Favorite vacation spot: San Diego, CA.  Having lived there for three years, there is nothing quite like a short trip to sunny San Diego.

Hobbies? Playing the guitar, lifting weights and producing podcasts about higher education.

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

“From his first day on campus, Frank has been taking on the school’s mission to use the tools of business to improve the world around you and meet unrealized needs. He began right here at home, looking at ways of improving the Stern community. Frank led several projects that will shape the school for years to come, including serving as co-lead mentor to the inaugural group of Fertitta Veterans Program students, and starting Stern’s first student-run podcast, Stern Chats.

Frank, an active duty student himself, first worked with the Office of Student Engagement by volunteering to serve as the coordinator for the Fertitta Veterans Program, a first-of-its-kind program guiding U.S. military veteran and active duty students transitioning from military service to business school and the civilian world. He helped develop, plan, and implement the non-academic curriculum for the veteran cohort in coordination with fellow vets. Frank facilitated more than 28 hours of programming, specifically coordinating exclusive career treks to Google, Bain, Price Waterhouse Cooper, JP Morgan, Barclays and Inc. Magazine. Frank created this position from scratch, building a template for future students volunteering for this role and setting the entire program up for the future.

In addition to his academic success, Frank has made great contributions to Stern by launching Stern Chats, a student produced podcast that highlights influential and outstanding members of the Stern community. It is one of the only student-run MBA podcasts in the country. Frank and his classmate began by bootstrapping the model themselves to later convince the administration to allow them to use the school’s state-of-the-art recording studio for Stern Chats. Now in its third season, the success of Stern Chats is shared across multiple departments and offices and has created a relevant touch-point for the community to tune in weekly and hear about the incredible people that may not be covered in more traditional marketing materials. The podcast boasts thousands of listeners from over 50 countries and features professors, students, best-selling authors, TED speakers and influential CEOs

Now in his second year, Frank will be completing his degree and returning to the United States Coast Guard, where he will be using his MBA for his military service. Frank’s initiative, optimistic outlook and desire to provide for the common good embody all the best qualities of a Stern student. Frank’s positive impact on Stern will be felt for years to come.”

Andrea Candelario
Associate Director
Office of Student Engagement

DON’T MISS: THE ENTIRE LIST OF THE BEST & BRIGHTEST: CLASS OF 2018