Meet Northwestern Kellogg’s MBA Class Of 2021

Jenieri Cyrus      

Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University

“Extroverted introvert who loves playing devil’s advocate. Always searching for new ways to be creative.”

Hometown: Goldsboro, NC

Fun Fact About Yourself: The first time I dunked a basketball was at 12 years old (7th grade).

Undergraduate School and Major: Dartmouth College; History Major

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: AEW Capital Management; Acquisitions Associate

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment of my career so far has been successfully reactivating the New England Chapter of the African American Real Estate Professionals (AAREP) alongside a few of my professional colleagues in Boston. Taking on a leadership role in an organization with very little structure was much more challenging than I expected, but we were able to build a solid infrastructure for the organization and quickly build a solid membership while working alongside other organizations. My passion for AAREP’s mission to increase the population, influence, and stature of professionals of color within Greater Boston Commercial Real Estate made the work worth undertaking.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?  I would describe my MBA classmates thus far as very genuine. I was able to have very meaningful conversations with a few of my classmates during Admitted Students Weekend (Day at Kellogg) and I found it very easy to be vulnerable and venture beyond the traditional small talk that I found all too familiar in my interactions with students at other MBA programs. My classmates are truly interested in what makes people tick and are always looking for ways to be helpful.

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? The key factor for me was being selected as an F.C. Austin Scholar. The amount of support that is offered by the faculty and students of the organization was unmatched by other programs I was interested in. I truly feel that being a part of this program will be a key factor in my growth as a leader.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am very much looking forward to joining the Real Estate Club at Kellogg. I am very interested in exploring solutions to the housing crises that have plagued cities across the globe. I am also excited to explore the emerging world of Real estate technology.

Kellogg is often described as “team-driven.” In your experience, what is the most important quality of a team member? How do you intend to bring that in a culture where “students run everything.” In my opinion, the most important quality of a team member is humbleness. Everyone at Kellogg is obviously very bright and very accomplished. When it comes to working in a team, it helps if the members are confident enough in themselves to admit when they have weak spots and humble enough to let someone else lend a helping hand. I intend to bring this mentality to the culture of Kellogg by being open about the strengths and weaknesses of my skill set and encouraging my teammates to do the same. That way, we can leverage each other’s talents in a way that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? In a video essay, I was asked how I was able to handle working with or for someone I didn’t like or agree with. I found it to be a tough question because I could not point to many disagreeable colleagues. However, I was able to point to moments when I had to respectfully disagree with one of my former bosses and I described how I navigated the situation early in my business career. I realized that Kellogg was seeking to understand how I would interact in contentious team environments, as we all will eventually come across peers and superiors in the business world who we will need to collaborate with despite the occasional bumping of heads.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I came to a point in my career where I felt that I was very strong in my primary role of sourcing commercial real estate assets and leading teams through the process of conducting due diligence and closing on properties. Although I enjoyed the work, my aspirations within commercial real estate had always been entrepreneurial. I wanted to round out my skillset so that I could be a successful business leader in the real estate space. Even more, I wanted to do so in an environment where I’d be surrounded by business leaders from a variety of industries and disciplines. An MBA also seemed like the perfect opportunity to explore areas that have always interested me such as Growth Equity and Venture Capital in the Consumer/Retail space as well as emerging technologies in the real estate industry.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS; Stanford; Wharton; Tuck; Ross; Haas

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I determined fit as a school where I would feel comfortable with my classmates and (at the same time) be challenged academically to the point where I would be a bit uncomfortable. I also prioritized schools by the number of alumni who are successful in careers that interest me. I went about researching school cultures and fit by tapping into my Management Leadership for Tomorrow network [a program that equips high-achieving women and men from underrepresented communities to reach their potential] to chat with current students and recent alumni about their experiences. I also paid very close attention to the websites of each program to see if the way they described themselves aligned with what I was looking for.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was when I decided to quit the basketball team during my sophomore year at Dartmouth. Up until that point, my life was driven by dreams of playing in the NBA or professionally overseas. Upon my arrival at Dartmouth, the coach who recruited me was fired and my collegiate basketball career did not pan out as expected. After deciding to quit the team, I had to literally redefine myself and I decided to learn more about commercial real estate out of pure interest. That interest quickly developed into a passion and now I am constantly thinking of ways to get better at my craft and be creative just like I did with basketball when I was younger.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I see myself running my own commercial real estate firm and partnering with the friends and family who have shared this dream with me since I first became interested in owning and operating properties. I see myself feeling proud of my work and helping to provide affordable rental options for families and small businesses who want to live, work, and play in the communities they have always called home. I also see myself involved in the entrepreneurial ecosystem as an investor, helping people who are building amazing technologies create a better world for people of all races and economic backgrounds.

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