Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Gissell Castellón, Dartmouth College (Tuck)

Gissell Castellón

Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College

“I am a change agent and lifelong learner who enjoys paying it forward.”

Hometown: Miami, FL

Fun Fact About Yourself: I can speak a form of Spanish pig Latin (vowel-only p variation). I learned it from my grandma and have not met others who can… maybe it is a Nicaraguan thing?

Undergraduate School and Major: Wellesley College, Mathematics and French Double Major

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Target Corporation, Senior Merchandise Planner for Cameras and Smart Home

What aspect of the school’s culture or values resonates most with you and why? It’s a tie with tight-knit community and Tuck nice. Over the years I realized that I learn best in an environment where I can share my thoughts and be challenged without being afraid of failure. I think this is a key feature of tight-knit communities and something that I wanted. As for Tuck nice—after attending DivCo (Tuck’s Diversity Conference), I was pretty much sold on Tuck. My host was so awesome and accommodating—she was connecting me with classmates that had similar career interests. The whole community came out to showcase Tuck’s strengths.

Aside from your classmates and culture, 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? I love the core classes and the emphasis on getting a general management degree. I know I have an atypical background and I want to further strengthen my business foundation.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? Flexible. We all chose to come to Tuck in the middle of a pandemic and it has been awesome to see how we have all been navigating the extra things thrown at us this year. From waiting on visas to adjusting to zoom classes and socially distant interactions, we have done it all with amazing flexibility. Imagine what we can do when we are all on campus and in-person full time!

What club or activity excites you most at this school? For the first time ever, I am allowing myself to explore other interests that I might not have known I had—meaning attending different club events, participating in Tuck-only activities such as Tuck Follies or Winter Carnival. I feel that Tuck has so much to offer, I cannot wait to uncover what will resonate most with me.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Honestly, it was creating Blank Canvas at Target. It was the first time where, early on in my career, I was able to push back on leadership D&I goals. At the same time, I was partnering with them to create an inclusion-based organization that facilitated team engagement, individual empowerment, and communication. Blank Canvas is still thriving reaching 600+ members, up from the 20 that we started with back in 2016. The beautiful part of the experience was cheering on others in the company who took over this platform and supporting their successes while serving as a mentor.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I had been contemplating an MBA for over five years and it was not until I felt like I hit a glass ceiling at my previous job that really gave me the reason to apply this past year.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? HBS, Stanford GBS, Kellogg. Consortium: Tuck, Yale SOM, and Ross

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? “What legacy did I plan to leave during my time at business school and why?” I was not prepared for this question and had to think deeply about what my legacy and impact would be. What do I want my classmates to remember me by? What footprint do I want to leave?

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I took a page out of what I did for college and let the school visit decide if the school would be a good fit or not. I did enough research to know why I wanted to go to the school, and what I would learn from their particular program. For fit—I left that for interview day—to truly get a sensation of what would it feel like if I attended this school. It’s a feeling that once you get it, you know that is the school for you.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? In July 2017, I was selected by the Latinas in the Youth In Action (YA!) program to give a presentation on confidence. This first retreat was about women empowerment. This moment was so pivotal for me. Although I exude a ton of confidence, I can also struggle with it myself. The confidence presentation was something that I hold so dear because I was able to teach some of my learnings about confidence and practice power poses to these amazing Latinas. For business school, it can be daunting meeting so many accomplished classmates and it can be easy to lose confidence in yourself. I always remind myself of that retreat to bump up my confidence levels when they need a boost…or when I get cold called in class!

*The goal of YA!, which is sponsored by CLUES the largest Latino non-profit in the twin cities, it to help underserved Latino students get into college to combat Minnesota’s achievement gap.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Is this a planted question?! I will always say the bullseye! Target Corporation hands down is my favorite company. Target went through a lot of changes during this last decade and one thing that I think business school students can learn from them is their sound multi-year strategy (invest in operations, launch new brands, etc). They announced it a few years ago and have delivered, if not exceeded, on almost every metric.