Meet Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA Class Of 2021

Kazuha Cortes

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“An earnest student becomes an inspired professional businesswoman, ready to make an impact in developing countries.”

Hometown: Tokyo, Japan

Fun Fact About Yourself: I believe that I belong to the toughest category of people: parents with a child in the terrible twos!

Undergraduate School and Major: Ritsumeikan University, Bachelor of International Relations

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: IHI Infrastructure Systems Co., Ltd. (IHI Corporation), Assistant Manager

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My task was to lead a team that was creating an insurance package for my employer’s first and largest infrastructure investment in Turkey. It was challenging because project insurance was totally outside my comfort zone at that time, but I had to lead everything from scratch without any direction. After analyzing the core structure of the project, I realized that I needed more input from specialists. I discussed with and won trust from engineering and financing experts both inside and outside the company, convinced them to support my study, analyzed and calculated our ROI, and developed a feasible risk management plan. That unique insurance package won approval of our board members and greatly contributed to effective negotiations with lenders. We achieved competitively structured financing, realizing over $2 Billion USD loans for the project.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Deeply self-reflective, ready for transformation, and supportive of others and the growth they seek. We were given an opportunity to talk about ourselves during the orientation program and many students took risks to share very personal feelings and experiences. People usually hesitate to disclose to strangers, but at Tuck people were sharing of themselves by the second day. I think that is amazing.

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 wanted a general management program that focused on human aspects. Tuck’s program develops your skills through experiential learning, allowing you to apply and execute your learnings in reality. Management choices are not always rational but also affected by human emotion. As I am targeting to launch a new business entity in developing countries after my MBA, Tuck’s team-based approach to learning and its tight-knit community made it the best environment for me to grapple with the management issues that I will face in real business.

What aspect of the school’s culture or values resonates most with you and why? Tuck students are truly aware. They are very smart, confident, and passionate. At the same time, they know that they do not know it all. I believe that is why Tuckies respect others and the community never stops improving. In such an environment, I feel confident and comfortable to be who I am, to take risks, and to challenge myself.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am most excited about the experiential learning opportunity of OnSite Global Consulting and facing real business challenges in developing countries. I also look forward to joining the Women in Business club. As one of few mother MBA candidates, I especially would like to motivate younger female professionals in their careers.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “Tell me about a time when you were nice.” The question was so simple that at first, I thought I had to share something very professional. However, I stopped my work-related story and simply shared something that had happened a few days prior to my travels. This question made me realize that in the Tuck admissions process I just needed to be myself.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Changes in my family affected me the most; my grandmother who raised me recently passed away and I also became a mother. We live only once and I deeply felt that I needed to step forward now for the next generation. I won the first scholarship from my employer for an MBA abroad – the infrastructure industry is changing dramatically and involving more financial and social aspects – and those are the areas I need to learn. 

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Berkley Haas, Yale, NYU Stern, Duke, Georgetown, Cornell, Carnegie Mellon, and UCI

How did you determine your fit at various schools? The factors I prioritized were: focus on general management, opportunities to execute skills in reality, and professional and personal development. The best way to confirm fit is interacting with the community (current students, alumni, admissions, and faculty) on and off-campus.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? When I was 21 years old, I took a leave of absence from my university and left for a six-month long internship with a nonprofit organization in Kenya. That was the turning point of my life. I saw the rich exploiting the poor, yet the young helping their elders. I learned that human beings can be cruel, yet venerable in helping each other. I ended my internship with the feeling that the world should be more inclusive, that everyone should be able to pursue goals based on their will. That experience made me choose my career path with international cooperation. I promised myself that I would mature as a professional and as a person and return to make a positive impact on the African continent.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? I hope to see myself running an infrastructure business entity in Africa, contributing to the economic and social development of the region. I wish for the world to become more inclusive and for my child (or children) to feel confident and unhindered in pursuing their dreams.

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