Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Raquel Aurelia Rodriguez, New York University (Stern)

Raquel Aurelia Rodriguez

New York University, Stern School of Business

“NYC native with a passion for the interdisciplinary through product, policy, and social justice.”

Hometown: New York City, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: I had the pleasure of balancing my life between two islands: bustling Manhattan and rural Puerto Rico, where my family is from.

Undergraduate School and Major: Columbia University, BA in Sociocultural Anthropology

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Product Designer and Experience Strategy Consultant at Code and Theory

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Stern offers unique experiential learning opportunities which expose students to the vast array of business and social challenges being tackled by NYC’s companies. One of these is Tech and the City, where students work with founders and investors at different New York City-based tech startups to understand business models, impact, growth, and funding. As a person interested in social entrepreneurship and product, I know this is a must for my MBA experience.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at NYU Stern? What makes you most nervous? I am excited not merely by the professional opportunities that NYC offers, but more importantly the incredible social, economic, racial and religious diversity of this city. This connection to culture and exchange is essential to my MBA pursuit and to building a more equitable and just society through social entrepreneurship.

I am most nervous about making the deep connections I wish to make within the phase of some remote academics due to the COVID pandemic. Safety comes first, and we will all have to be open-minded and patient as we adapt and exchange digitally.

What club or activity excites you most at this school? I am excited about Stern’s debut of the Change:Studio, a co-curricular program designed to help MBAs become adept at understanding, impacting and driving change. The only constant is change, and the stakes are becoming higher socially and environmentally – building a skillset to be able to respond rather than react to it is critical.

What word best describes the NYU Stern classmates you’ve met so far? Why? Charismatic. In Stern’s core value of IQ + EQ, the latter is described as self-awareness, empathy and communication. Charisma, as I have experienced it among Stern students, comes with a large dose of exchange and engagement (even from the introverts – you don’t have to be the loudest in the room to carry that ability to interact authentically and impactfully!).

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest accomplishment in my career has been curating my own professional toolkit through an unconventional path across nonprofits, research institutions, design consulting, and tech startups. Seemingly disconnected roles and companies have provided me with a solid understanding of quantitative data and decision-making within a spectrum of business and social challenges.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Currently, my career has prioritized a fluency in qualitative data for problem-solving. An MBA degree offers opportunities to understand and exercise quantitative analysis in decision-making, and solidifying the organizational behavioral skills needed to execute and lead at a people-first company. It offers a union of access and exposure I need to be successful in my entrepreneurial endeavors merging technology strategy, product operations, and inclusion.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to interdisciplinary and impact driven programs like MIT and Yale, as well as USC Marshall, Georgetown, and Harvard.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process?

For people with unconventional backgrounds, it is critical to have your story told in a way that will make sense to an MBA admissions officer. It was important that I create a very cohesive narrative around how my diverse career experiences built on each other, and ultimately led me directly into what I would like to pursue after my MBA.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? There were three main areas I used to determine school fit. First, I wanted a program in a major international city. Second, and most importantly, I wanted a school culture where I did not have to act as a pioneer for the value of social change, the humanities, or interdisciplinary collaboration within business – this was a non-negotiable. Third, I weighed heavily how interactions with students and staff made me feel, focusing on that intuitive gut feeling you experience when you are in a space where you can be yourself and take risks, where diversity and inclusivity are important not only in marketing material, but in action.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? In preparation for business school, I have been focusing on three areas. First, I have been taking online classes and creating a recruiting strategy for myself within agriculture and food technology, which is the space I hope to work in after Stern. Second, I have been formally learning the history of Puerto Rico, since much of the work I wish to do is within the island and its diaspora. Third, I have been focusing on getting very clear about my “whys” and “hows”, in order to come from a grounded place as I walk into what so many MBAs describe as “drinking water from a fire hose”.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? My defining moment came in 2014, when I pivoted from health education research at Mount Sinai Hospital (without the slightest idea of what a bond was) to Financial Product and Analytics Sales at Bloomberg LP within a matter of months. Through this experience, I learned the difference between technical skills, which can be learned with determination and a few all-nighters, and “softer” yet more valuable skills of storytelling, writing, empathy, and negotiation. Garnering these adaptable skills will allow you to move within seemingly different arenas and challenges and have impact.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? My favorite company right now is Gotham Greens. They maintain a connection to providing to the communities they work within while continuing to expand across the country, bringing fresh, healthy food to very different cities. They have a solid and exciting brand voice and narrative that inspires trust.


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