Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2021

Arcelia Gomez

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

“Aspiring sommelier with a passion for empowering others.”

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Fun Fact About Yourself: Growing up I always wanted a big birthday party with balloons, a piñata, and all my friends. I never got it; my parents kept insisting that it was too difficult to host a birthday party on Christmas Eve.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of California – Berkeley. B.A. History; B.A. Spanish and Portuguese

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: The Congressional Hunger Center, Washington, D.C., Innovation and Learning Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: As part of the Innovation and Learning Manager role, I led training and impact analysis for a social justice fellowship that bridges community-based efforts with national public policy. The fellowship focuses on issues of hunger and poverty, but some fellows from low-income backgrounds struggled to cover expenses. Just four weeks after being hired, I led a project to reassess fellowship pay. For the first time, I lead a team of senior managers and every moment felt like an opportunity to build or dismantle my credibility. By carefully navigating their different priorities, I developed a tool that uses market-based data to determine adequate payments and condensed the multi-hour process into a few minutes. With this tool, I persuaded management to increase the pay of 19 incoming fellows by 30%. Within six weeks, we adopted the tool. Already the organization has seen improved retention rates.

This experience gave me insight into the decision-making process of senior management. I learned that beyond identifying a need, driving change requires expertise and the ability to influence and work well within teams of diverse interests and backgrounds. With this project, I set a precedent for more collaborative and data-driven approaches to problem-solving at the organization. More importantly, the changes have made the program more accessible and will improve the experience of future fellowship classes.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Supportive. The classmates I have met are incredibly accomplished, but humble, and always available to help. They have helped me prepare to transition by sharing resources, tips, and connections.

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? As a career-switcher, I was looking for a program that offered a lot of opportunities to gain hands-on experience beyond the summer internship. Through Ross Experiences in Action Based Learning (REAL), you can start, invest in, lead, or advise real businesses while still in school, ensuring you have the experience you need to hit the ground running post-MBA. I am especially looking forward to the Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP) course. MAP places first-year MBAs on full-time, seven-week projects working to solve real business challenges faced by business partners across the globe. There will be plenty of opportunities to roll up my sleeves and I know I will leave fully prepared to tackle what comes next.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? One of the things I am most looking forward to is engaging with the Sanger Leadership Center. In particular, I am interested in Story Lab, a program that helps students develop executive presence and learn to deliver powerful messages both one-on-one and to full auditoriums. Before being admitted, I had the opportunity to sit in on Story Lab’s annual launch event and listened to a group of current students share stories in a quasi-TED Talk fashion. The way they connected with the audience was incredible.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “How would a coworker who did not like you, describe you?” This question really caught me off-guard. As I prepared for business school interviews, I spent a lot of time thinking about my strengths and weaknesses, but the way this question was phrased made it feel more personal. The question really stuck with me and I thought about it for a long time afterward.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I have always been drawn to organizations that are making a difference in the world. Throughout my career in the nonprofit sector, I have worked on projects that were making a positive impact on others, but I also learned of the limitations within the sector. I knew that if I wanted to make an impact at a much larger scale, I needed to strengthen my leadership acumen, deepen my business knowledge, and build a cross-industry network.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Wharton, Kellogg, Fuqua, Johnson

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I started with a lot of online research. I looked at academic strength, career placement, rankings, and teaching methods. Hands-on learning was very important to me so I made it a key factor in my selection criteria. I also spent a lot of time analyzing the marketing materials of each school to understand their brand and begin to differentiate between similar programs. Then I dug deeper, looking for programs with a collaborative culture, a bias for social good, and strong student involvement. These factors were more difficult to distill; collaborative culture, for example, means something completely different at different schools and the more I engaged with a program, the clearer that became.

What helped me the most was talking to people. I spoke to current students, recent alums, older alums, and people who chose other programs (these conversations were perhaps the most useful!). It was also important to me that I visit each school and observe the interactions between students, staff, and visitors.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My experience at nonprofit organizations working to end hunger and poverty has shaped how I approach my work and how I relate to others in my community and across the globe. I will never forget the experience of traveling through the hillsides of Iloilo, Philippines, with the Grameen Foundation to support the work of ASHI, a microfinance institution helping women in rural Philippines start small businesses. With the help of a translator, I interviewed women across the region and heard how their businesses had transformed their lives and the lives of others in their communities. The experience showed me how important it is to think innovatively and globally about social challenges. It gave me the opportunity to think at a global scale and reinforced my belief that there is potential in everyone.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I see myself leading within a global organization or starting my own business for social good. With the world changing at the pace that it is, it is difficult to know exactly where I will be in ten years but I know that my core values will guide me throughout my career. Regardless of where I end up, I know I will be investing in the next generation of leaders through mentorship.

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