Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class Of 2021

MBA Students with Touchdown the Bear

Faure is sure to swap stories on the hospitality industry with Natalie Kirchhoff. She helped launch Disney’s first destination resort, Aulani, in Hawaii. Speaking of islands, Anshul Bakhda’s passions are social justice and environmental progress – ends she was able to achieve in the Maldives, an island nation southwest of India.

“Having noticed various gender inequities, I founded an initiative called Women in Soneva, which helped make the company a safer and more equitable workplace for women, as well as introducing sexual harassment policies and training,” he writes. “I also co-founded a social enterprise called VITRIC, which desalinated, filtered, mineralized, and bottled water for local people. The bottles are reusable and save thousands of plastic water bottles from being sent to landfill or incinerated. VITRIC also provides a constant supply of clean drinking water, which is much needed during the dry season.”

Johnson MBA Veterans Past, Present and Future


In the financial sector, Ciara Chen worked at both Goldman Sachs and Ernst & Young. Her biggest achievement, she says, was creating a custom net capital calculation model that resulted in fewer charges. As a vice president at Charles Schwab, David Nguyen probably could’ve given Alec Baldwin a few pointers for his “Coffee is for closers’ monologue in Glengarry Glen Ross.

“I led a team of novice financial advisers in developing their books of business and becoming proficient in financial advising. I learned a lot about leadership in that role and could see my efforts pay off as my team developed and flourished. Not only was I able to coach people to become experienced advisers, but I somehow managed to inspire a number of them to pursue leadership opportunities that landed them promotions.”

Then again, Pierre Demarquette probably displays a Manager of the Year Award in his trophy case. He turned around a factory that was teetering into bankruptcy without shedding jobs. If you think that sounds tough, try being Imani Finn-Garland, who’ll lend plenty of valuable insights in case discussions.

“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/PhD. 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.”


Silvia Zamora, an engineer and communications manager, prefers to go by the label of “trotamundo” – a globetrotter who has lived in six cities in four countries (along with traveling to another 23 nations). In turn, Pierre Demarquette speaks five languages – “which always makes it a challenge to be heard as a local,” he jokes. How much of a quant is Ciara Chen? She uses Excel to help her pick restaurants. Chen isn’t the only class member who relies on lists. Allyssa Ford, a government major at rival Dartmouth College, is busy running though the “1,001 Books to Read Before You Die” list. She has finished 168 so far!

Think that’s intense. Get a load of Romain Faure’s hobby.I ran the world’s toughest 24-hour nonstop obstacle race three times (top 1,000 obstacle racers in the world).”

Johnson Women in Business Symposium is a female student hosting event held on campus.

What could possibly connect such different people? Pierre Demarquette calls it a “sense of fellowship.” “The main difference here is that the environment that Johnson has built for its MBA program brings out the best side of truly driven and passionate individuals,” he explains. “And that describes my future classmates: a group of driven and passionate people who are ready to do everything they have in their power to make a positive impact on the world.”


In a down year for applications and inputs, Cornell Johnson held its own, receiving just 65 fewer applications along the way. Overall, the Class of 2021 is 282 members strong who boast a 697 average GMAT, down two points from the previous year. Along the same lines, the class’ average undergraduate GPA came to 3.42, up .01 of a point. Overall, the school accepted 38% of applicants, with one-in-two ultimately accepting the offer.

The big news, however, is the growing influence of women in Cornell Johnson’s program. Four years ago, women accounted for just 26% of the class. Fast forward to the Class of 2021 and that number has jumped to 35%, two points higher than last year’s class, no less. This growing diversity is also reflected in the percentage of international students, which climbed from 27% to 32% of the class this year. Overall, U.S. minorities represent 37% of the class, with traditionally underrepresented groups making up 14% of students.

Academically, the largest percentage of the class – 36% – majored in Business, followed by Engineering (16%), Economics (14%), Humanities (10%), Social Science (9%), and Science (7%). In terms of professional experience, Financial Services accounts for the largest segment of the class at 27%. At 16%, Consulting is the only other industry to break double digits. However, Technology (7%), Government (6%), Manufacturing (6%), and Energy (5%) also represent sizable shares of the class.

Sage Hall Atrium

It has been a relatively quiet year at Cornell Johnson, with the biggest news coming last fall when Kevin F. Hallock was promoted to be dean. This month, the school is also poised to release its annual employment report. Over the past two years, for example, graduate pay has risen by over $5,100 to $126,553. Alongside this, average bonus has also jumped to $33,503, a $2,600 improvement, over the same time. Translation: 2019 could be a very good year indeed!

Quiet doesn’t mean inactive by any means, as the school continues to beef up programming to address an ever-changing business landscape. What are some of the new developments at the school? What is the most underrated part of the Johnson MBA? How has the Cornell Tech captured the imaginations of students? We recently reached out to Drew Pascarella, assistant dean for MBA programs, to discuss these topics. Here were his thoughts…


P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments at your program?

Pascarella: “In addition to the experiential learning benefits of our highly innovative immersions and field project classes, this year students will benefit from even more depth in our technical and leadership offerings. Designing Data Products, Decision Models, Technology Management, Structured Query Language (SQL), FinTech, Digital Marketing, Blockchain, and Cryptocurrencies round out what we believe to be one of the strongest technical curricula of any top program. On the leadership side, we embed training and development into every aspect of our program, both inside the classroom and in the field. In addition, we partner with world leaders, such as retired four-star general and former Chief of Staff of the US Army, General George W. Casey, Jr. to teach unique and differentiated leadership courses including Leadership in a VUCA (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity) World. It’s the combination of these technical and leadership skills that make our students so desirable to recruiters across a range of industries and functions.”

* Go to Page 3 to access a dozen in-depth profiles of Class of 2021 members. 

* Go to Pages 3 to continue our Q&A with Assistant Dean Drew Pascarella.

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