First Gen: Inspiring Stories Of MBAs Who Beat The Odds

Giovanni Cruz

Yale School of Management

Class: 2020

Hometown: Carolina, Puerto Rico

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have a twin sister.

Undergraduate School and Major: Industrial Engineering from the University of Puerto Rico

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Director of Reporting & Analytics at Teach for America

What did your parents do for a living? My dad was a bus driver and my mom worked as a cashier at a bakery.

What was the highest level of education achieved by your mother and your
father?
Both completed high school.

Which of your family members is your biggest inspiration? Why? My grandmother. After my parents’ divorce, my grandmother became heavily involved. To this day, she continues to guide me with her wisdom and helpful advice. I definitely wouldn’t be here without her!

What was the moment that led you to decide to pursue higher education? Growing up, I was fairly obsessed with home improvement shows. I wanted to be an architect or interior designer. Once I learned you had to go to college to be an architect, my mind was set: I wanted to go to college. With time, my interests changed, but my desire to go to college didn’t.

What was your biggest worry before going for your undergraduate degree? Fear of the unknown. Because I didn’t really know many people who had been to college, I really didn’t know what to expect.

What was the most challenging part of getting your undergraduate degree? I struggled, academically, my first two years in college. I went from being at the top of my class in high school to finishing my first semester with a 2.78 GPA. It was tough! With the support of family and friends, though, I was able to push through and graduate with honors.

What didn’t your family understand about the higher education experience that you wish they would understand better? The truth is my family was incredibly supportive and continues to be to this day. Because nobody in my family had been to college, though, I couldn’t ask them for advice related to finding an internship or navigating my way through a difficult class.

What led you to pursue an MBA degree? I wanted to switch functions (within the nonprofit sector) and figured getting an MBA would be the quickest way to do it.

How did you choose your MBA program? Yale SOM’s mission of educating students for business and society really shines through their student body. I wanted a program where my fellow classmates would share my passion for contributing to society, and I believe I’ve found it at SOM!

What was your biggest worry before starting your MBA? It has been (and continues to be) financials. An MBA is a huge investment. Unfortunately, my family isn’t able to financially contribute.

How were you able to finance your MBA as a first-generation student? Fortunately, I received a scholarship from the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management. To cover the rest, I took out federal loans.

What advice would you have for other first-generation college students? It’s better to serve than to be served. Make sure you help others along the way.

What do you plan to pursue after graduation? Social impact consulting, with the long-term goal of leading strategy for a large nonprofit.