2019 MBAs To Watch: Aarón Ruvalcaba, Purdue University (Krannert)

Aarón Ruvalcaba

Purdue University, Krannert School of Management

I’m “the first” to do many things, but I make sure I’m not the last.”

Hometown: City of Commerce, CA

Fun fact about yourself: I backpacked through South America/Central America when I was 19 years old, and on my flight back from Guatemala to California carried on 25 pieces of chicken from Pollo Campero…just like everyone else, NBD.

Undergraduate School and Degree: U.C. Berkeley, Political Economy & Education

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Los Angeles Unified School District, High School Spanish Teacher

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Jacobs, Denver, CO

Where will you be working after graduation? PepsiCo, HR Representative

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • President, Krannert Graduate Student Association
  • President & Co-Founder, Krannert Out (LGBT+ club)
  • TELACU Scholar
  • Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) Student Panel Leader

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I reignited my business school’s LGBT+ club, Krannert Out, and established an institutional relationship with Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA). I am proud of these achievements because they will continue to benefit students long after I have graduated. These programs will enhance Krannert’s ability to recruit a diverse MBA class because they signal to both students and employers an institutional commitment to the inclusive educational and professional development of Krannert students.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I taught high school Spanish at a Los Angeles Unified School District High School. I mentored many students because I was one of the only teachers whose background with which they could identify. When I realized there was no institutional support for LGBT+ students, I helped start the high school’s first LGBT+ and ally club. I believe that children everywhere are all the same – high potential, inquiring minds – and it is the access to, or lack of access to, resources that brands them as high- or low-achieving. This achievement gap is even more stark for LGBT+ students of color who faces unique cultural and social challenges that are largely unaddressed by mainstream LGBT+ and access to education activism. I am most proud of my professional work that helps close this achievement gap.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Michael Campion is one of my favorite MBA professors because his passion for his work and research makes class exciting and fun and every lecture flies by. Professor Campion is also great at creating a learning environment where all students are encouraged to participate, which in turn causes the class to be a lot more engaging.

What was your favorite MBA Course  One of my favorite MBA course was Business Law because it merged my passion for business and my boyfriend’s passion for the law (he is a lawyer). He helped me grasp the course’s more challenging legal concepts. Through that process, I learned that business and the law are two sides of the same coin and that both require collaboration and cooperation–like that of my boyfriend and me–to succeed.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose Purdue Krannert because of the MBA program’s small size, analytically-focused curriculum, and its merit scholarships. Because of the program’s small size, students are able to make changes and contributions quickly. When I arrived, for example, the school did not have an institutional relationship with ROMBA. Within a year, however, I helped establish that relationship and Purdue will now sponsor students to attend the national and regional conferences.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? First, just do it, but take your time. You miss 100% of the opportunities you do not try for. It is cliché, but true. Take your time with the application, including studying for the GMAT. Look into the many scholarship programs that help students prepare for business school, like MLT and The Consortium. And make sure it is the right fit. Talk to current students, professors, etc. to learn more about the program.

What is the biggest myth about your school? Cornfields surround Purdue and there are not as many opportunities as other urban-based business schools. While it is true that cornfields surround Purdue, it is not true that students miss opportunities. In my experience, our small size and location are pluses. I have traveled, with school funding, to national case competitions and employment conferences, networked with c-suite alumni executives, and developed strong relationships with my classmates.

Think back two years ago. What is the one thing you wish you’d known before starting your MBA program? Everyone is in the same boat. We were all nervous about the rigorous curriculum and job search. You feel, often times, that you are the only one experiencing doubt and anxiety. That is not true. Some of us are better and masking it than others, but we all feel it. I wish that students, myself included, were more open about our feelings. We are in it together.

MBA Alumni often describe business school as transformative. Looking back over the past two years, how has business school been transformative for you? It has given me transformative confidence. I entered business school worried that I would not be able to keep up with my peers. Growing up I went to the “best” high school in the area, yet only a small percent of my classmates matriculated to college. I have been “the first” of many in my family and community—first to attend college and graduate school, first to work abroad, etc. My road is one followed by only a few in my community. Almost two years later, I am amazed at how I have grown. I am the student body president, I founded the school’s first LGBTQ club, and I have a job at PepsiCo—the parent company of my favorite snack growing up, Hot Cheetos!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate I most admire is Dina Alceste. She is from Venezuela, which has recently been through much uncertainty and conflict. I have seen the effects it has on all my Venezuelan friends — not being able to control issues while having to worry about their family’s safety. Through all this, I have seen Dina remain strong and dedicated. She supports both her family in Venezuela and friends at Purdue, including me. Dina has also taught me the value of integrity and friendship—taking questionable shortcuts is no bueno for her. She puts in the hard work, and people notice it. These lessons have helped me to become a better leader.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My father most influenced my decision to pursue business school. He had two philosophies by which he lived – first, “You receive so much more when you give,” and second, “Have a business of your own, even if it’s selling peanuts on a corner.” My father went from being an immigrant picking fruit in California fields to becoming the first in his family to own a small business and become a vibrant member of his community. I have tried to emulate my father’s vision and ambitions through my community service and leadership. I hope one day, I too, will own my own business and be a vibrant member of my community.

What is your favorite movie about business? My favorite movie about business is The Big Short because it shows the immense power and responsibility entrusted to business leaders. When greed motivates those leaders rather than integrity, it can have disastrous effects on their firms and the economy.

What was the goofiest MBA term or acronym you encountered – and what did it mean? SWOT – I still can’t help but think of the SWAT team

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…a “Merman!” I played water polo and swam in high school. My team and I were 3-time state champions. I learned so much about leadership, teamwork, and discipline from my coaches and teammates. If I had not gone to business school, I would have liked to be a coach.

What dollar value would you place on your MBA education? Was it worth what you paid for it – worth more or worth less?The dollar value I would place on my MBA education is the tuition price tag—market forces do not lie! Yes, it was worth it because of Purdue’s merit scholarships.

What are the top two items on your bucket list? I want to skydive and compete in an Ironman race.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Aarón took his work seriously without ever taking himself too seriously.

Hobbies? I eat A LOT of Hot Cheetos, & dance, and swim—I recently got back into swimming by joining the Purdue Swim Club— to make sure I those Cheetos don’t get to my hips.

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

“Aarón Ruvalcaba is a servant, a visionary, and a person who strives to do good things for all people. Aarón’s desire to pursue an MBA stemmed from his work as an educator. Prior to his journey into business school, Aarón taught high school Spanish in his home community of Los Angeles, as well as English, Art, History, and Physical Education in Vietnam and Hong Kong. Through these experiences, Aarón developed an inspiration to further his skill set so he could have a larger impact on K-12 education, particularly for populations of high-potential, but under-resourced, youth. He envisions a world grounded in the principles of equity and inclusion, with greater access to technology and education for all.

At Purdue, Aarón took the initiative to restore relevance to the Krannert School of Management’s LGBTQ student organization, KrannertOut. His leadership helped orchestrate a number of social and diversity-themed events for our student community. During his first year in the MBA program, Aarón’s peers elected him president of the Krannert Graduate School Association for 2018-2019. Aarón has maximized his time at Purdue, not only as a successful student but also as an active ambassador for our programs and a volunteer for community service opportunities. Aarón demonstrates a will to succeed. He is intellectually driven, a positive role model, an outstanding teammate, and a strong leader.

Aarón lives by the belief that a person receives much more when they give to others—a lesson and philosophy he learned from his father. Aarón has unquestionably demonstrated this philosophy during his time as an MBA student. It is not often when you meet an individual who so consistently and selflessly sees the world and the community as being something far greater than themselves. Aarón is this type of individual, and he exhibits this view every day. I am forever grateful that our paths crossed at Purdue University. Communities and individuals become better because of people like Aarón Ruvalcaba.”

Scott Nelson

Assistant Director of Recruiting, MBA and MS Programs

Advisor, KrannertOut

Krannert School of Management

Purdue University

Are you a friend of Aarón? Leave a comment to congratulate him.

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