Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2021

Ashani Peterkin 

Simon Business School at the University of Rochester

Intensely Dramatique, quietly confident, charismatic, unique & challenger to the status quo.”

Hometown: Falmouth (Cape Cod), Massachusetts

Fun Fact About Yourself: I Lived in Copenhagen Denmark for a year and had the opportunity to travel to every country in Western Europe.

Undergraduate School and Major: Brandeis University, Health Science Society & Policy (HSSP) & Women, Gender & Sexuality Studies (WGS)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Centers for Diseases Control & Prevention (CDC)Public Health Advisor

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My most impactful accomplishment is enhancing the vector-borne diseases surveillance system infrastructure in Southern Nevada to protect over 2.2 million residents and over 40 million Las Vegas visitors from disease transmission. As a Federal employee, I was on the frontlines of investigating vector-borne disease activity and coordinating with local, tribal, and state agencies to create strategic response activities in vulnerable communities through education outreach, disease investigation and influencing health policy. I learned how to use data to make precise decisions. More importantly, I collected data that will support the continuous protection of the continental United States from disease outbreaks.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Curious and brave are words that best describe my class. The typical Simon student is naturally curious about applying concepts from class in order to drive impactful change not only on campus but throughout their respective industries. We are brave because we ask the hard questions but challenge each other to do better and be better. I am constantly impressed at how we genuinely strive to learn about each other in order to create support systems and paying it forward. I learned quickly that Simon Strong wasn’t just a catchy phrase,  but a way of being that makes our community uniquely familial.

Rochester Simon is known for being “unabashedly analytical.” Why does the program’s focus on quantitative analysis and decision-making appeal to you? How do you intend to leverage this approach as a student and professional? The program’s focus on quantitative analysis is one of the main reasons why I choose Simon. In my last role, data analytics was essential in the decision-making process which meant any errors in the data could impact human lives severely. I wanted to improve my skills with data. So far, Simon has been forcing me to think as a data analyst. Unabashedly analytical for me means I’m going to be challenged in ways that will force me to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Post-MBA, the value of data is being intertwined across industries thus when I leave Simon, I know I’ll be able to leverage these skills to be an effective decision-maker within the Healthcare industry.

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 inclusion. For me, diversity is nothing without inclusion and Simon is the most diverse institution I’ve ever been privileged enough to be a part. Being granted membership to the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management (CGSM) and Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) through Simon provided the inclusivity and support I needed to navigate my MBA experience. Furthermore, the conversations I had with current students, staff, and alumni always left me feeling empowered and appreciated in ways I’ve never experienced. I felt Simon wanted me and I certainly wanted Simon.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? The Simon Marketing Association (SMA) focuses on empowering students to be the most innovative and effective marketers in the industry. From interview preparation to case competitions, I am excited to be part of this rigorous yet collaborative organization. Secondly, Vision Consulting is an organization that will provide the client-facing and problem-solving skills I need in my career moving forward.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was asked what I did for fun in the admissions process. I found it challenging because I thought it was one of those gotcha questions where I had to admit all the weird things I enjoyed.  Instead, it was one of those questions that forced me to reveal the more relatable aspects of myself to the admissions committee.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Gaining exposure to healthcare technology marketers and developers in my role at the CDC inspired me to pivot from the public health aspect of the industry. As someone who measures success by the impact, I knew healthcare technology had a tangible impact in vulnerable communities I want to achieve. Hence, an MBA would provide the development skills I need to create the impactful pathway I desired in my career.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UCLA, UC Berkeley, Emory University and University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I was very intentional about ensuring that each school had a combination of culture fit, academic rigor, and a strong alumni network. Speaking with current students and alumni provided a glimpse of the culture and how the program has grown or changed with each class. Opportunities to visit campus and sit in on classes offered insights on how rigorous the courses were and how experiential learning paradigms operated in the programs. Finally, evaluating alumni engagement was key in terms of career progression post-MBA. Simon checked all the boxes for my best fit model.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Having the courage to come out as a gay man changed the course of my life. I realized the boldest thing we can do in this world is be ourselves. I know from experience that pretending to be something you’re not is a heavy burden to bear. Coming out brought me closer to my faith, family, friends and gave me new-found confidence to face challenges that arise in every aspect of my life.  I know who I am and this gives me immense power to determine where I want to be.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Married with twins in a multicultural city as a marketing consultant to mission-driven organizations within the healthcare technology space.

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