2019 Best & Brightest MBAs: Neethi Johnson, Ohio State University (Fisher)

Neethi Johnson

Ohio State University Fisher College of Business

Indian-born, Ireland-raised, proud American. Compassionate, resourceful, life-long student, voracious reader, global outlook.”

Hometown: Columbus, Ohio

Fun fact about yourself: I once was featured on the front page of The Ohio State University’s newspaper, The Lantern, with a giant Madagascar hissing cockroach on my face. (I was president of Chrysalis—the undergraduate collective of entomologists— and at the time I was showing new students they shouldn’t be afraid of insects!)

Undergraduate School and Degree: Bachelor of Science, The Ohio State University

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Director, Business Development, Access Ohio

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Nationwide, Columbus, Ohio

Where will you be working after graduation? JP Morgan Chase

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Vice President, Class of 2019

Senator, Council of Graduate Students

Vice President, Fisher Graduate Finance Association

Board Fellow, Kaleidoscope Youth Center, Board of Directors

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? In May 2018, I embarked on a month-long strategic consulting project to Ethiopia and Kenya dedicated to the Global One Health Initiative, focusing on strategies of disease outbreak management and prevention. Working with local ministries of health, the CDC, and World Animal Protection, I worked with key stakeholders to draft a strategic plan of action to eliminate rabies in Eastern Africa by 2023. I also interviewed over a dozen NGOs, extracting key initiatives, resources, and frameworks to apply to Ohio State’s Global One Health Initiative expansion plan. The project fostered professional and personal growth, as I enhanced my strategic thinking, crafted the right questions, and made data-informed recommendations, all while building professional relationships and enhancing capacities for effective communication.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2016, I co-authored and was the winning recipient of a $2.5 million grant from the government on a radically novel pilot program for improving the homelessness problem in Central Ohio. The 5,600 homeless adults in the community were simply revolving in-and-out of the shelter systems because a root cause of homelessness for almost 50% is underlying mental health or substance abuse issues, which were not being addressed. The grant proposed a partnership with community organizations including the shelter systems, community mental health centers, Goodwill, and a low-income housing operator to staff a team that helped homeless individuals navigate their way through the government support systems, including access to vocational training and behavioral healthcare paid for by Medicaid. To date, the “Navigator Program” has housed over 2,500 adults while providing proper access to resources to make sure these individuals stay in their new homes, sustainably. It was an incredibly fulfilling instance where I was able to take an idea from the whiteboard to write the grant, working with partner organizations, getting buy-in by aligning incentives and helping hire the team that implemented the day-to-day operations. Ultimately, the program has proven to sustainably solve a serious social problem by tapping into public-private partnership and provided new chances to so many of members of the community who need it most.

What was your favorite MBA Course? Strategy was my favorite MBA Course and challenged me to think beyond the basic frameworks and models to effectively and efficiently tackle business issues. We were constantly challenged to push back, question, and apply innovation to creatively solve problems. Cases mirrored real-life business struggles and tangible, practical recommendations were made to align within contexts. Here, I learned most about focusing your strategy and tailoring to the appropriate markets. Most refreshingly, hearing the diverse perspectives of classmates allowed me to redefine and sharpen my own views on the pertinent subject matter.

Why did you choose this business school?

Access to World-Renowned Faculty: Spanning all concentrations and focus areas, the faculty at Fisher, whose experience and leadership in academia and industry, inspire in the classroom. Their dedication to research creates significant impacts around the world.

Collaborative Educational Environment: Collaboration is to the core of what Fisher represents. Core teams of 4-5 MBA students partner together during all core classes and learn together through case studies, presentations, and group projects.

Completely Customizable Majors: Allow students to think big and follow interests not confined to one specific area of study. This allows for the cross-pollination of ideas and well-rounded educational experiences.

Resources of The Ohio State: MBA students have access to the vast resources of OSU, a premier research institution with over 70,000 business alumni and 500,000 alumni from the university, located throughout the world.

Columbus, Ohio: Fisher is uniquely positioned to help MBA students forge deep connections with firms across all industries. Columbus itself is home to the highest concentration of Fortune 1000 companies per capita in the U.S., allowing students countless opportunities to build relationships and garner experience that leads to career success.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Don’t be afraid to be yourself—your uniqueness is what brings diversity and strength to an MBA class.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Don’t be hesitant to dive right intake the class you always wish you had, sit in on that interesting lecture, spend late nights laughing with new-found friends, and reach out to that business contact or senior leader you’ve always wanted to meet. The MBA program will pass by in the blink of an eye, so take advantage of all the opportunities to ignite your passions and feed your mind—and soul.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have been fortunate to have forged deep, meaningful relationships with many of my 90-student MBA class. I am consistently amazed at the wide range of experiences and talents of Fisher students. Ever appreciative of our military veterans, I’ve watched them apply their service to business models and offer unique perspectives on management and teams. I admire the students who have branched out to pursue their own entrepreneurial ventures, networking their way through rounds of investors. I appreciate the students who are returning back to their family businesses, armed with the tools and confidence to take on any new challenge. I’ve watched international students flourish while learning to adapt and navigate not only a new degree program, but new continent, language, and culture. The fibers that stitch the cloth of Fisher students are strong, resilient, and powerful and it has been a privilege to do my MBA alongside them.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? Seven years ago, when I started working at my family business, a mental health clinic started by my father, we were barely $5 million in revenue but stood out in the community because of making a name for providing better care to patients and we could afford to do so only via increased efficiency through embracing technology and innovation. That commitment combined with a spirit of reaching for the stars, responsibly, has led to phenomenal growth. This year, the combined revenues of the companies I helped acquire and tuck into our family business will help us for the first time cross $100 million, employing over 400. My biggest hero will always be my dad. A selfless physician and talented businessman, he has inspired me to believe that no dream is too big, no aspiration un-worthy, and no problem without a solution. He inspires me to work hard and to always carry myself with integrity, grit, and unwavering confidence.

What is your favorite movie about business? Equity—it takes a very serious look at how women manage the dynamics in the still male-dominated financial services industry and open up the dialogue about women in finance.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? IHNI: I have no idea

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…working in a capacity that allows me to give back while creating something financially viable, innovative, and sustainable.”

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less? A dollar value can simply not be assigned to the friendships forged, relationships built, and networks created. Although rigorous at times, the MBA experience has been worth it all, many times over, and I would simply not think twice about doing it once again.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  1. Climb Kilimanjaro
  2. Become a senior female executive in the business community

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like my peers to remember me as someone who was collaborative and listened to a variety of perspectives and ideas before coming to a view, who was unafraid to stand up for her beliefs, who put 100% into everything she did, and who embodied someone who cared about doing good and helping others while also doing well professionally.

Hobbies? I have an eclectic mix of interests, passions, and experiences. I do not shy away from areas far outside my professional career. My science education has fostered in me an intellectual curiosity of how things work and I believe that problems solved in one industry might be translatable to others. My unusual hobby of collecting and classifying insects uses nature as inspiration for the design. My research on genetically engineered cassava in sub-Saharan Africa as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation taught me the power of applying knowledge to radically improve the lives of those in need.

I have researched on insects and disease, biofuels, and the link between behavioral health and immune function. Yet, I am social being fueled by people and relationships. I was selected as one among only 10 across an undergraduate class of 38,000 to represent on homecoming court and who entered a beauty pageant and was crowned regionally and represented nationally. I grew up on three continents and found a fondness for dance – from Indian classical Bharanatyam to Irish step dancing to American Hip-hop. My penchant for traveling has me constantly pondering my next adventure…

What made Neethi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2019?

“Neethi is a great student, and especially passionate about finance and strategy. She is known to be very helpful to her peers through their core and elective coursework, and as a graduate assistant helping students in the cohort behind her.

Beyond this Neethi has worked in many ways to support her peers and do her part in support of the college and the university. Neethi served as the VP of the MBA Graduate Council and has been an outspoken advocate for all FTMBA students in this role. She is also an active member and/or leader in multiple other student organizations.  Neethi has also served roles representing Fisher across campus at a higher level of university administration.  As her nomination form can tell, she cares greatly for her fellow students and the legacy she leaves behind; her impact on her peers has been significant.

In short, Neethi has consistently been willing to jump in and contribute her talents and effort to the benefit of those around her. She is a fantastic example of a Fisher MBA that goes beyond what is required, and she has my full endorsement as one of Fisher’s best and brightest.”

Roger Bailey

Co-director of the FTMBA Program



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