2020 Best & Brightest MBAs: Celi Khanyile-Lynch, MIT (Sloan)

Celi Khanyile-Lynch

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“South African, Irish, driven, creative, and committed to having a positive impact on the world.”

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Fun fact about yourself: I have run 7 half-marathons and 3 marathons.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Brown University, B.A., International Relations & Africana Studies

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Mayor’s Office of New York, Briefing Director to Mayor Bill de Blasio

Where did you intern during the summer of 2018? Manulife Investment Management, Boston, MA

Where will you be working after graduation? To Be Decided.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Student Body Co-President of MIT Sloan
  • Recipient of the Dean’s Fellowship, a merit-based scholarship awarded to 5% of MBA students
  • Founder of Green Source, a Cameroon-based start-up that provides smallholder palm oil producers in Central and West Africa with the resources to make a living wage from the production of sustainably made palm oil and byproducts.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of the work that I’ve done as Co-President of the Student Body, as I was able to partner with the administration to expand our school’s diversity and inclusion efforts, community service work, and STEM certification for MBAs.

With respect to diversity and inclusion, I, along with my Co-President Jarrod Pierce, in partnership with the Dean of Sloan David Schmittlein, launched a task force composed of faculty, staff, and students. We offered recommendations on how our institution can advance its diversity and inclusion efforts. These recommendations are in the process of being implemented by the school’s leadership.

In the fall of 2019, I also spearheaded a Community Service Thanksgiving Canned Food Drive. We rallied staff, students, and faculty to raise over 2,500 in canned food and cash donations for the Greater Boston Food Bank.

This past fall we also successfully partnered with the administration and various stakeholders to designate our MBA program as STEM, which will allow many of our international classmates to extend their stay in the United States following graduation.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I am most proud of the public service work I did as Briefing Director to Mayor Bill de Blasio and Operations Coordinator to former Governor of Massachusetts Deval Patrick. Each day I was able to have a positive social impact as I helped launch initiatives that benefited the underserved. I also prepared the Mayor and Governor for dozens of events, including the Mayor’s State of the City and budget announcements, and the Governor’s International Trade Missions. This work was deeply fulfilling because we were able to announce policies that improved health care, education, and economic development in both New York and Massachusetts.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? I enjoy our January Semester (IAP) when we are encouraged to explore new cultures and areas of personal and academic interests. During IAP this past January, I had the opportunity to go on a student-led trek to Argentina. It was an amazing experience as it allowed me to learn more about my classmates’ culture. I also was able to return to Cameroon to work on my start-up thanks to the funding I received from MIT Sandbox. It is opportunities like this one, which is both personally and professionally fulfilling, that distinguish Sloan from its peers.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose business school because I was interested in the intersection of public and private sector work. I knew that with an MBA, I could develop the business acumen necessary to engage in this work.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Do not doubt yourself. Test scores are not everything – MIT Sloan looks at the applicant as a whole.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth is that students don’t know how to socialize or have fun at MIT Sloan. We are very social, and I would describe us as having an equal balance of both qualitative and quantitative skills.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I admire Asia Stuerznickel because of all that she has done to help prospective students of color with their applications, as well as welcome admitted students. She has done so with grace and despite the prestigious internship she had and the heavy course load she took on last year, she remains deeply humble.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? It was my mentor Kristin Emy, who encouraged me to apply to MIT Sloan. She is an alum and I have always been inspired by her and her work.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The top two items on my professional bucket list are to start my own firm and possibly run for office. These goals are influenced by the experiences of my grandfather and father. My grandfather, who moved to the United States from Ireland, was able to successfully start a company, which has inspired me to start my own. My desire to run for office stems from my father’s experience. It is his memories of growing up in apartheid South Africa and escaping on a student VISA to the United States that has made me deeply passionate about furthering our democracy.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like them to remember me as someone who worked tirelessly to serve them as student body co-president and as someone who is kind and light-hearted as well.

Hobbies? Running, volunteering, arts and crafts, cooking for and spending time with friends.

What made Celi such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2020?

“Celi Lindiwe Khanyile-Lynch has had a significant impact on her MBA class and the MIT Sloan community over the last two years. As student body co-president, she put her pre-Sloan experience working for NYC Mayor Bill De Blasio to good use. She really listened to stakeholders and was thoughtful about building understanding and consensus to make meaningful change. She focused on lobbying for large, visible changes to policy and at the same time kept her eye on improving operational efficiency and building a student senate that better serves its constituents. Above all, Celi has been a leader committed to public service, always keeping her focus on people and impact.”

Maura Herson
Assistant Dean
MIT Sloan MBA Program


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