Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2020

Serena Elavia

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

“Bold, bookish and blissful.”

Hometown: New York City, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m blessed in the Zoroastrian faith, one of the world’s oldest and smallest religions. There are just under 200,000 Zoroastrians worldwide, so you could call me an endangered species!

Undergraduate School and Major: Trinity College (CT), Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Finsbury (public relations agency), Senior Associate

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Before I worked in public relations, I was a reporter at FOX Business and covered the 2016 presidential election. I was scheduled to interview presidential hopeful Senator Ted Cruz during a College Republicans event at the 2016 Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., but he canceled at the last minute. I had to strategize quickly and figure out how to get a quote from Cruz to replace the interview. While the other reporters were waiting by the stage, I decided to wait by the exit so he would have to walk past me. My strategy worked and he stopped to answer my question. I was the only reporter he spoke to at the event. Later, I published an exclusive quote in the story, and it was the most read article on the website that day. It might have been a brief episode, but I learned not to take no for an answer and find another way around obstacles. This lesson has served me well in the rest of my career.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Because Johnson has a small class, I’ve been lucky enough to meet many of my classmates, and they each share the quality of generosity. Whether they’re sharing their time to chat about recruiting tips or provide edits for others’ résumés, Johnson students are always willing to help out. I’m excited to get to know my classmates when we start the program in a few weeks.

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 attended a high school and college which focused on a sense of community and knew I wanted that aspect in an MBA program. Johnson is known for its emphasis on community both on and off campus and I learned this the day I started my application. After applying online, I received a call from Johnson admissions asking if I needed anything or wanted to speak to a current student. Having that kind of individualized attention for its applicants showed me that Johnson truly has a warm and supportive community. I’ve also met several Johnson alums and current students who have provided excellent advice about the program. This strong sense of community proved that Johnson was the right school for me.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? Because of my interest in marketing, I’m excited to join the marketing club and learn about roles in various industries. I’m looking forward to not only meeting second-year students and hearing about their internship experiences, but also fellow first-year students and the backgrounds they bring.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Since my career in journalism and PR, I realized that I wanted to oversee the creation and management of a consumer product. Because I don’t have the marketing or product development/management skillset, I realized an MBA would provide me with the tools I required.

How did you decide if an MBA was worth the investment? My sisters both earned MBAs and benefited greatly from the program. I witnessed their “MBA journeys” and knew that building a network, having access to recruiters, and acquiring a new skillset was extremely valuable to future career success.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?  McDonough, Ross, Tepper, NYU Stern, and Fuqua. Johnson was my number one choice, and I’m thrilled to be a member of the class of 2020.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? When looking at schools, I prioritized the feeling of community, the list of recruiting companies, alumni engagement and student life. My primary research tools included contact with alumni, current students, admissions officers, in addition to referring to websites like Poets & Quants and U.S. News & World Report. I knew that Johnson fit my career goals based on the employment report, which showed a wide variety of employers, especially in the CPG sector. While I’m targeting CPG companies at the moment, I knew that if I changed my mind down the line, I would have success at Johnson as the school places graduates at many different companies.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? When I was 17, during a family vacation, I went ice climbing in Iceland, not knowing what I had signed up for. It was one of the most terrifying experiences. Looking down into bottomless crevasses was not exactly my idea of fun. As much as I wanted to, it’s not easy to give up and turn around while hiking in the middle of an enormous glacier. I had to persist and finish the trip. After stepping off the glacier (and running for solid ground and hot chocolate), I felt proud of myself for accomplishing this amazing feat. Giving up is always an easier option, but it won’t show you anything new or provide you with a reward. Since then, I’ve tried to challenge myself, work hard in everything I do, and most importantly not give up when a situation becomes difficult!

What do you plan to do after you graduate? While I’m still exploring various career paths and industries, I know that I want to work in marketing and product development at a B2C company.

Where do you see yourself in five years? In five years, I see myself in a management role responsible for a product at line.

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