Meet The MBA Class Of 2020: Profiles In Courage

Michael Cox

Georgetown University, McDonough School Of Business

Brooklyn bred to serve; politico; convener; People fanatic, Football fanatic; non-concessionary serial social entrepreneur; #WantsCakeAndEatsItToo!”

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York City

Fun Fact About Yourself: My daughter and I went viral in a daddy-daughter affirmations video on The Scene. Check it out!

Undergraduate School and Major:

New York University, MPA, Social Impact, Investment and Innovation

Syracuse University, B.A. History, B.S. Political Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

  • Senior Policy Advisor, New York City Mayor’s Office
  • Consultant, Transform Finance
  • Candidate, New York State Senate
  • Assistant Director, NYU Brooklyn | Government and Community Affairs
  • Special Advisor, United States Department of Commerce, Office of the Secretary
  • Special Assistant, United States Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration
  • Legislative Assistant, Congressman Gregory Meeks
  • Teach For America Corps Member

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The most significant accomplishment of my career was working with my boss—Congressman Gregory Meeks—and the iconic John Lewis to secure about $1.5 Billion for an international economic development, human rights, and international trade package that included the Donald Payne graduate fellowship at USAID.

Normally, it is difficult to get Members of Congress to support new federal funding and 2012—during highly partisan sequestration—was no exception. John Lewis and staff, along with Congressman Meeks, myself, Congressman Elijah Cummings, and Angela Rye of the Congressional Black Caucus were able to work with business groups, education advocates and universities, and the private sector to demonstrate the benefit of this investment for fellowship awardees, our international partners, and American companies.

Nearly 7 years and more than $10 Billion later, the funding stream still exists and the Donald Payne Fellowship—among other parts of the package—has helped hundreds of students across the country pay for graduate school while they promote economic growth, international trade with American firms, and combat poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation, conflict, and violent extremism.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Georgetown has done a great job of assembling a really diverse set of students. It includes former engineers, techs, consultants, Peace Corps volunteers, bankers, and public sector journeymen. Like me, there isn’t a type, per se—at least not from a professional background or interest standpoint.

The clearest commonality that I have found is that McDonough students are exceptionally self-aware, driven—but not overbearing—and most of all, there is a very strong orientation toward business leadership that advances social responsibility.

When I speak with finance people, they want to understand markets and catalyze change for the greater good; multiple prospective consultants are interested in premier firms to gain insights they can use to help disadvantaged businesses or international development.

People at McDonough live out the Georgetown value: Men and women for others, and that level of selfless and audacious optimism in the concept of shared value is infectious and energizing.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? I was driven to Georgetown by the overarching idea that the world doesn’t need more MBA’s who are only and primarily personally successful. Instead, it needs business students and leaders who are individually successful and who also disrupt and improve inefficient and inequitable systems across and between sectors.

I did a ton of research on US b-schools and felt Georgetown McDonough’s culture, academic training, location, and inextricable connection to businesses, policymakers, ambassadors, and trade associations was a unique.

Like Ross Baird of Village Capital wrote in the Innovation Blind Spot, ‘Business has to move toward a model of shared value as its core function,’ and I think McDonough at Georgetown is best positioned to help me do just that.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m passionate about entrepreneurship and innovations that support financial inclusion, so I am especially excited about joining the FinTech club at Georgetown, which has synergies with my entrepreneurial and social impact side.

One of the special things about Georgetown is that it is so well connected to industry trade associations and policymakers—the Fintech club is no exception and recently collaborated with FINRA to explore business opportunities and policy considerations for innovations in financial technology.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? When I led Government and Community Affairs for NYU Brooklyn, the university was awarded valuable real estate by the City of New York to develop a $350 million science and innovation corridor.

The University was obligated to partner with women and minority owned firms, and after evaluating 115 lines of business NYU and its construction manager could only identify less than 10 lines of business where contractors anticipated bids from women and minority owned firms, in New York City!

The lack of women and minority firms was shocking to me and I knew what I was witnessing was an end result of the inequitable education system I observed as a Teach For America Corps Member serving Brooklyn.

I realized I could not count on regulations, incentives, or public investments to do this important work anymore. Instead, I committed to creating the type of company and value—through advisement or entrepreneurship—that I wanted to see, and I realized that a MBA is uniquely positioned to help me achieve this goal.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? I actually made a financial model and a personal roadmap to look at b-school return on investment—the investment in school is worth it!

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Tepper; Johnson

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I prioritized culture, location, reputation, as well as access and support that would be available to me. Additionally, I did not want to be removed from my network for two years so I sought schools near population centers where I have been and where I see my career taking me.

Similarly, I wanted a campus and collegial environment, but as an older student I wanted to be at a university that would not constrict my networking to primarily MBA’s and undergrads, which I found to be the case at some of the more rural schools.

Lastly, I wanted to be at a place whose ethos was to build business leaders who sought to solve problems in the world and wanted to explore innovative ways to do so. When I spoke with Senior Associate Dean Prashant Malaviya about my long-term interest in Private Equity with an impact thesis, he was incredibly attentive and asked what he and the school could do to help. Others just mentioned that I an interesting idea.

Bonus: I love Georgetown’s focus on partnering with the Consortium and growing its footprint on campus.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? The defining moment in my career was when I ran for New York State Senate in my hometown of Brooklyn. After witnessing income inequality, failing schools, and a local economy that rendered 45% of New Yorkers near or below the poverty line I knew I had to run. The campaign was the culmination of my experience as a TFA corps member, congressional staffer, and Obama Administration official working on economic development. While I was witnessing how ill-suited our political and governmental systems are to solve problems, I simultaneously began to feel empowered to solve the problems in my community on my own.

I pitched my case and raised multiple tens of thousands of dollars every month from donors of all sizes ranging from my mom to Steve Jobs’ mentor, famous Silicon Valley venture capitalist Arthur Rock. With money in hand, I had to develop marketing material, hire nearly 30 staff members, secure office space, dissect data, keep raising money, meet voters, and manage team dynamics.

While I ultimately didn’t win the campaign, I garnered nearly 5,000 votes against a 32-year incumbent. I believe my run led to a movement within the old guard to begin to listen more closely to their constituents as opposed to resting on their laurels. As I think through my next steps in life, I know an MBA will help me address the challenges I’ve faced and have seen so many in my community face and improve my management skills so I can tackle the next set of problems I seek to change.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After I graduate, I plan to celebrate—then go into management consulting. Later in my business career, I plan to launch a private equity firm with a social impact thesis and at some point in the future I would love to hold elected office.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years I see myself with a family, in a great life-rhythm, contributing to an awesome consulting firm.

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