Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2021

Imani Finn-Garland

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

“A healthcare nerd, podcast lover, dog mom, Army wife, and food enthusiast.”

Hometown: Warwick, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: My lifelong goal is to open a rescue shelter for Shih Tzus.

Undergraduate School and Major: Howard University, 2013 — BS Clinical Laboratory Science

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Kaiser Permanente, Medical Laboratory Scientist

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: The biggest accomplishment of my career was leading successful teams, which consisted of very diverse people. In my former lab of about 100 employees, I had coworkers ages 22 to 80+, from over 30 different countries, with 15 different languages spoken, observing every major religion in the world and covering every educational level from GED to MD/Ph.D. Sometimes it was challenging getting everyone on the same page, but those experiences taught me to celebrate everyone’s differences, find common ground, and make sure everyone feels they have a voice and opinion on matters.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Authentic. Everyone I have met so far is bringing his or her true selves to Johnson. That is what drew me to Ithaca in the first place. When I attended last year’s diversity conference, Johnson Means Business, every current and prospective student I met was so kind, friendly, and open. The current students were all more than willing to be a resource through our application process. I felt that everyone was being genuine in their willingness to help.

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 immersion program during the second semester! Coming from a nonbusiness background, I believed that it was imperative for me to have experiential opportunities incorporated in whatever program I attended. When I went through my undergraduate program, I had years of theoretical classwork, but once I completed my clinical rotations, I could apply the theory to help patients. Being able to apply business theories to fieldwork experiences before my internship will allow me to grow as a leader and hone the skills needed to excel over the summer.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? I am excited about a lot of what Johnson has to offer outside of the classroom. I’m looking forward to joining the Healthcare Club, working with the Consortium family, and of course, Sage Socials!

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “What is your greatest strength that could also be a weakness?” I appreciate a question like that because it really makes you dig deep about who you are, what you bring to the table, and how any attribute you possess could be an advantage or disadvantage depending on the situation. My answer is my honesty. Honesty is great, but sometimes the way I say something might not be well received by others. I learned that it is not just what you say but how you say it and I continue to work on improving that part of my communication.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I was at the point in my career where, on a technical level, there wasn’t much more for me to learn. Formal management opportunities were few-and-far-between. I already had plans to eventually leave the lab and head into industry. When I realized I was stagnant, I finally decided to apply to business school after years of debating about it.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Wharton, Fuqua, Kenan-Flagler

How did you determine your fit at various schools?  I had a few criteria that were non-negotiable for me. Mainly, having an experiential experience before internships and having access to healthcare electives. I also focused on having a school with a fantastic reputation (ranked in the top 20) because I felt that a well-ranked school would be beneficial to a nonbusiness person making a pivot into business for the first time. After those criteria were met, it all came down to my impressions once I arrived on campus. I visited every school I wanted to apply to and some schools came off my list after I visited if I did not feel comfortable on the campus. In addition to campus visits, I also spoke with several current students to gather their perspectives as well.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My father’s struggle with heart failure and his eventual transplant. From my senior year of high school in 2009 to his successful transplant in 2017, I experienced a very intimate view of the healthcare system. Witnessing his initial heart attack convinced me to pursue a healthcare career. In the following years, he was monitored via lab results, which led me to my current career in lab medicine. His heart failed in 2016 and the only thing that got him to my wedding was an LVAD (left ventricular assist device). Seeing the effect that the device had our lives convinced me that I could be affecting even more lives by transitioning to the business side of healthcare. Seeing his strength not only set my path professionally but also led me to deepen my relationships with those around me because tomorrow is not promised.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I see myself still in the healthcare space at a company where I can make a tangible impact on improving the quality of life for patients globally. The healthcare system in the United States has historically focused on reactive measures instead of proactive measures, meaning we would treat the problem after it manifested instead of investing in trying to prevent diseases from occurring in the first place. I hope that my work can help to move us in the direction of preventative care as the norm and improve the quality of life for everyone.

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