Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2020

Thomas Stelle

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

I’m a hardworking, family-oriented person whose life is driven by a keen interest in hospitality.”

Hometown: Sag Harbor, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I spearfished a 250-pound yellowfin tuna off Ascension Island.

Undergraduate School and Major: Trinity College, Hartford, Conn., Literature Major

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: BBHG, Restaurant Consultant

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Several years after working at Mario Batali’s flagship restaurant, Babbo, my leadership and dedication led to the honor of overseeing the logistics of President Obama’s 14th and final state dinner.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? I would say commitment is the best quality I have experienced by meeting other Johnson students. Whether it’s about Cornell, the Johnson curriculum, or the MBA culture, Cornell stands out to prospective MBA students immediately.

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? Coming from a food and beverage background, Cornell stood out because of classes in hospitality and real estate offered at the School of Hotel Administration and classes in entrepreneurship, sustainability and business at Johnson. All of these offerings exist within Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, which comprises Johnson, Dyson (undergraduate business), and the School of Hotel Administration.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I’m most excited to get involved in the Sustainable Global Enterprise Club, because this is something that has moved to the forefront in terms of creating a business and being a more responsible citizen in the world.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After working in restaurant operations and consulting for four years, I felt as though I had reached my ceiling at BBHG and decided that in order to start my own business I needed to become more educated about the foundations of business.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? An MBA was clearly worth the investment because everything from the core courses to the more specialized electives were going to provide me with a necessary set of skills and knowledge to start and successfully run my own hospitality group.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Columbia and Dartmouth.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I approached the process of picking a school by considering “the whole package,” and not one particular aspect of the MBA program. This spans from the actual campus feel to the MBA curriculum and extracurricular opportunities. Having a strong connection to the school, a robust sense of community, and well-known entrepreneurship and social enterprise programs were specific requirements.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? I can’t say that I have a defining moment per se, but I can say that my mother and father have actively shaped me into the person I am today. From a young age, they allowed my sisters and me to follow our dreams, whether that involved hobbies, education, or in our careers, with a support system that fostered passion. Through this passion, and their focus on instilling kindness, I was able to bring hospitality into my life and live out my dream of making people happy through my work.

What do you plan to do after you graduate? After graduating, I’m planning to work for an investment or private equity fund and work specifically in the sector of food and beverage, restaurant technology, and fast casual concepts. This is an emerging part of the investment world, and I think by taking my operational expertise and combining it with an MBA I will be able to approach the business in a very holistic and comprehensive manner.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, after forming my flagship restaurant, I plan to build a hybrid hospitality group with a focus on sustainability and social impact that combines restaurant and real estate investments, food production, and product branding. I’ll diversify my portfolio of investments throughout the food, wine, and hospitality industries, as well as associated markets, using these mediums to address social issues such as residential development, sustainability, and healthy living.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.