2018 MBAs To Watch: Gilbert Bonsu, University of Rochester (Simon)

Gilbert Bonsu

Simon Business School, University of Rochester

“Giving Imaginative Leader, Bold Easygoing Reasonable Teammate.”

Age: 29

Hometown: Newark, NJ by way of Ghana

Fun fact about yourself: Former DJ (Undergrad years)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Rutgers University, B.S. in Public Health; Boston University – Master of Public Health (Health Program Management & Global Health)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Peace Corps – Placement & Assessment Specialist

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? 3M (Strategy & Marketing Development), Minneapolis, MN

Where will you be working after graduation? AT&T Leadership Development Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President – Simon Africa Business Club
  • Class Gift Committee
  • Fellow – Consortium of Graduate Studies in Management
  • Managing Director – Simon Vision Consulting (pro-bono student-ran consulting firm)
  • OP Prep Committee – Consortium
  • Captain – Simon Soccer Club
  • Admission Committee Ambassador
  • 2017 Dean Leadership Community Award

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? There are two things I am most proud of during business school years. They are serving as a Managing Director for Simon Vision Consulting and co-leading and creating Simon Business School’s first global immersion program to the continent of Africa (South Africa).

As the managing director of Simon Vision Consulting, I oversaw over 20 consulting projects in the greater Rochester area and managed over 100 student-consultants.   This was a wonderful opportunity for my teams and I to witness the impact of our work and give back to Rochester community.

As one of the co-lead of a student group that pitched the South Africa Global Immersion program to our school, I also had the opportunity to serve as a teaching assistant for the class. The class-trip exposed 20 Simon students to South Africa’s history, economy, and culture. This was a proud moment for me as a returned Peace Corps volunteer of South Africa.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One achievement I am most proud of in my professional career is restarting a failed community bakery in rural South Africa during my Peace Corps volunteer service. The bakery, which was a high visible project supported by Nelson Mandela Children Fund and Atok Platinum Mines, was in debt and had to shut down. I took on the challenge of serving as the general manager of the bakery against the advice of my supervisor who felt without large influx of outside cash the bakery cannot be restarted. After conversations with the bakery staff, I restructured their compensation package and identified new material suppliers. We began production within two weeks. Within three months, I led the newly formed management team in redesigning marketing strategy, streamlining operations, and repositioning the bakery’s brand. These changes resulted in improved bread quality and 100% debt reduction by the ninth month. I was happy to see the bakery still functioning and maintaining its goal of delivering affordable products to its communities when I visited in late 2018.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? This is a tough one! I will have to say Professor Greg Shaffer, who teaches pricing policies. He perfectly blends both the theoretical and practical examples to demonstrate the importance of creating value through pricing. In addition, it was like a history class: we learned about the first coupon and air plane ticket price discrimination. Simply, he made pricing fun and easy to understand.

What was your favorite MBA Course My favorite MBA course was Market Research taught by Professor Mitch Lovett. In this era of big data and data-driven decisions, you are not always going to have complete information to analyze. This class was designed to help us improve our ability to use imperfect information to make decisions as well as frame, analyze, and communicate decisions from big data.

Why did you choose this business school? After visiting Simon for an admission event, I just felt a connection to the school. The students I met were accomplished, talented, highly motivated, and humble. From observations, I could see this was not a front and that it was truly a supportive environment. I saw what the school meant when they say #SimonStrong and #Meliora. Students, staff, and faculty worked together to help each other be a better version of themselves.

What is your best piece advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Know your story and be yourself. This may sound cliché but the reminder is needed.

What is the biggest myth about your school? People believe that Simon is for Finance folks. There is some true to this but Simon is more than Finance. With a concentration in Competitive and Organizational Strategy and Marketing

What was your biggest regret in business school? I wish I could have attended more conferences.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I am in awe at most of my classmates, but one that always standout to me is Treadwell Singfield. Treadwell is truly unselfish, genuine, inspiring, and committed to serving others. He is a catalyst of change and community builder. In addition, he is technically gifted and always provide valuable insights in discussions.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It was a combination of my mentor and former supervisor who advised me to supplement with my field experience in business with a technical education.

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a foreign service officer with the State Department.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? Improve the diversity, women and professors of color, of faculty members at Simon.  

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Visit 100 country (#Roadto100countries)
  • Seize opportunities to make positive impact in people’s life (a continuous item on my bucket list)

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as a positive deviance and community builder.

What is your favorite movie about business? Office Space – The movie depicts the importance of organizational strategy and managing human capital. Although not breakthrough revelations, the movie reminded us of the importance communication, defined roles, and building a productive work environment.

What would your theme song be? “M.anifest” – No Shortcut to Heaven

Favorite vacation spot: Mozambique

Hobbies? Playing soccer, basketball, and DJ’ing

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

“Gilbert Bonsu is one of those quiet leaders who brings his depth of experience and maturity to any endeavor he tackles. Gilbert is viewed as a leader among peers, but his style is one that brings others along. You will always find him working alongside others, bringing out their strengths, helping to develop their own leadership style.  He is the co-president of Vision Consulting, a student led program that provides pro bono consulting to non-profits, community businesses, and organizations throughout the world. However, in some ways, these are the expected activities of any student leader in a top tier MBA program.

There are two initiatives that really stand out with Gilbert’s time at Simon. He initiated the concept to bring students to South Africa, at a very early stage in our broadening of international immersion opportunities. He wanted to share the key learnings from his time in the Peace Corps, but also show a different side of Africa – that it is clearly poised to be an economic engine in the next 20 years, with the right leadership and infrastructure. His idea bloomed into a complete slide deck and itinerary, and in less than two months, this immersion opportunity was being offered to students. It was approved as a course, and nine months later, the inaugural class of 18 toured cultural, entrepreneurial, corporate, political and social elements of South Africa. He appropriately captured a key concept from our time there in his presentation – Saubona – a Zulu phrase that is used as a welcome. But, it’s literal translation is, ‘I see you’. It defines Gilbert’s view of the world and his leadership style. One must truly see and get to know one another to learn and to grow.

And finally, it is possible that many student leaders have had successful new initiatives such as the new immersion course. However, what else makes Gilbert’s efforts stand out is the understanding of how to make something sustainable. He led the effort to create the Simon Africa Business Club. First, it demonstrates the size and breadth of the African continent, with presentations from Egypt, Ghana, Niger, Zimbabwe and South Africa. It also created a sustainable structure to continue the work that immersion started, which is a better understanding of this emerging economic driver in the world.

Gilbert epitomizes our leaders at the Simon Business School, with a constant drive to succeed, develop others, and continuously use his strength and talents to give back to the community and those in need.”

Carin L. Cole ’99 MBA
Assistant Dean of Students
Simon Business School

 

DON’T MISS THE FULL LIST:

100 MBAS TO WATCH IN THE CLASS OF 2018