2021 Best & Brightest MBAs: Melanie Gonzalez, New York University (Stern)

Melanie Gonzalez

New York University, Stern School of Business

“Proud Cuban-American who embraces challenges, seeks collaboration, and champions others.”

Hometown: Miami, FL

Fun fact about yourself: I went to a performing arts high school similar to the one in the musical and movie Fame!

Undergraduate School and Degree: New York University, B.F.A in Dance with a double major in Economics

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Merrill Lynch, International Private Wealth Management – New York, NY

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020?: Bank of America, Investment Banking (Consumer & Retail Group) – New York, NY

Currently, I’m interning in venture capital at New York Angels and Delphi VC.

Where will you be working after graduation? Bank of America, Investment Banking (Consumer & Retail Group) – New York, NY

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

School Leadership Roles & Involvement:

  • Co-President, Arts Culture & Cuisine
  • Vice President of Admissions, Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students
  • Vice President of Flagship Events (March Women’s Month), Stern Woman in Business
  • Co-Host, Stern Chats Podcast
  • NYU Stern Forté Fellow Ambassador
  • Graduate Finance Association Small Group Mentor for MBA1s


  • Fellow, The Consortium for Graduate Study in Management
  • Fellow, Forté Foundation
  • Fellow, NYU Stern’s Board Fellows Program

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? On the academic side, I am proud of the work I am doing this school year as an NYU Stern Board Fellow. During the nine-month fellowship, fellows act as non-voting members on boards of New York City-based nonprofit organizations and complete a strategic governance project. I have the pleasure of working with two of my amazing classmates Ellen Knuti and Matthew Senter on advising a non-profit in the workforce development field. It’s been really fulfilling working with the organization and providing ideas and solutions, especially with workforce development being deeply affected by the pandemic.

On the extracurricular side, I am proud to serve as the VP of Admissions for the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students alongside Eric Jones and Jordan Pitts. It has been a heartening and fun experience helping prospective students navigate the application process. As VPs, we host pre-application webinars, pre-interview webinars, and connect with prospective students over the phone. We also spearhead Helping Hands, a student-run application review initiative and play an instrumental role in leading Discover Stern Weekend and Perspectives Interview Weekend. My favorite part is staying connected with prospective students going through the application process and hearing from them once they are accepted into the program!

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I had an unconventional start to my career post-college. After graduating from NYU Tisch School of the Arts with a B.F.A in Dance, I had surgery on my ankle that required removing my Os Trigonum (a small bone in the back of your ankle) and repairing parts of my FHL tendon that were torn. The recovery was physically and emotionally difficult. After five months post-surgery it became clear that I was left with nerve damage in my toes. My plans to move to Europe to dance professionally came to a halt. At the time only two things interested me: dance and the financial markets.

I decided to pursue a career in the financial markets, which I learned can be very difficult to do even with a double major in Economics when coming in with a non-traditional B.F.A degree. I began at Merrill Lynch in their International Private Wealth department in New York. At the firm, I was promoted three times in four years. One day I was working late and a manager who worked at Merrill for 50 years asked me, “Melanie, where do you get your work ethic from?” and I told him I was a dancer.  This achievement is much more important to me than the KPIs I surpassed, initiatives I started, and projects I led at the firm.

Why did you choose this business school? I was originally attracted to NYU Stern because I wanted to be in NYC, the learning opportunities (inside and outside of the classroom) and the strong brand name. Ultimately, I chose Stern because of the community. I interviewed during Stern Perspectives Interview Weekend and left knowing there was no other school for me. I witnessed a collegial tight-knit atmosphere not just amongst current students, but also the alumni who eagerly returned to conduct interviews. Stern’s MBA program is much smaller (my class has 350 students) in comparison to other programs, so it’s no surprise that alumni stay closely connected.

Being located in NYC for business school has provided me the opportunity to network more efficiently and visit the offices of employers. NYU also does a fantastic job connecting students to businesses in NYC through a variety of experiential learning opportunities that I have taken advantage of. I even connected with my two in-semester internships through the School’s resources.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite tradition is Stern Social. Pre-Covid, Stern would hold these events weekly at the School or at a local venue. Sternies always looked forward to Thursdays and catching up with classmates at the end of the week. It was a great opportunity to meet students not in your classes, in the class above or below you, and part-time students. My favorite part of my MBA experience has been meeting new (and truly incredible) people and this was one of the main ways I was able to do that.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I don’t think I would have necessarily done anything differently. I actually recruited for both consulting and investment banking and would probably even do that again. The advice I would give to my MBA1-self is to be kind to yourself. I’m definitely doing that now! Business school is extremely fast-paced with so much professional and social opportunity. It’s easy to want to do and be great at everything, but it’s impossible to do it all. Looking back, I would tell myself that it’s okay if things don’t go perfectly and it’s okay to say no. It’s even okay to put on a face mask and do absolutely nothing because you’re tired every once in a while!

What surprised you the most about business school? There is a notion that the environment in business school is really competitive. I was most surprised to find that my classmates are actually extremely collegial and supportive. Professors encourage collaboration and Sternies go out of their way to help each other. This was definitely apparent during investment banking recruiting. We had a Microsoft Teams group where we would share our coffee chat questions and experiences. On the actual interview day, Sternies would go back to “the room” and write down the questions they were given on a white board. The alumni who interview us are aware of this tradition and even ask if it’s something we still do!

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I don’t think many business schools have many individuals with a B.F.A in Dance applying to their program. I wouldn’t call that “an edge”, but it is different! Stern really values “IQ + EQ.” In a cliché way, I was my true authentic self at Stern’s interview. I remember speaking about attending a performing arts high school, dancing competitively, pursuing my B.F.A in college, my injury, and how that has all shaped who I am today. That wasn’t really something I felt other schools cared about learning.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It’s difficult to choose! There are so many unbelievable Sternies in my class. One Sternie I truly admire is Cortne Edmonds. Cortne doesn’t hesitate to help others. She organizes study groups and shares her resources. During the first semester of our first year, when recruiting stress was high, she even offered the class her study sheet for an upcoming exam. She is also incredibly committed. Cortne is the Co-President of the Management Consulting Association, on the board for the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students, a Teaching Fellow, and a Graduate Career Mentor. In addition, she volunteers her time to co-lead Consortium Consulting Corps, a student-led effort to increase the representation of underrepresented minorities in consulting.  She really embodies the collaborative environment Stern promotes. It’s to no surprise that she’ll be starting her post-MBA career at McKinsey in their New York office!

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? I didn’t find the shift disruptive. NYU Stern quickly adjusted to an online environment immediately after Covid hit in March. Professors were extremely empathetic to the situation then and still are. At the time, I was most surprised by how quickly students came together to keep the community of Stern alive. Clubs immediately shifted to online formats for both professional and social events. Even Stern Speaks, a safe space where students share their life personal stories, continued virtually.

In the Fall, we shifted to a hybrid model with some classes online and some in person. It’s been great being back on campus for a few classes and seeing the faces of classmates in person. Stern has done a great job creating a safe in-person environment. COVID testing is also required and easily accessible.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? As a child and grandchild of Cuban immigrants, my parents always emphasized the importance of an education. My father specifically always encouraged me to get a master’s degree. I became interested in the financial markets because of him. I think I was in the fifth grade when he taught me the concept of “making your money work for you.”  At the same time, he always encouraged me to follow my passion, which at the time was dance. Most parents freak out when their child says they want to pursue an arts degree, but he didn’t. He influenced me to double major in economics, pursue wealth management, and get my MBA.

During my MBA application journey, it was truly my mother and significant other who helped me overcome my imposter syndrome and stay positive throughout the process. I wouldn’t be here without their incredible support.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Live and work internationally, preferably in a Spanish-speaking country.
  2. Serve on a nonprofit board and dedicate my time and expertise in shaping the future of the organization.

What made Melanie such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2021?

“Melanie is a student who hasn’t allowed this year’s extenuating circumstances to prevent her from taking advantage of all Stern has to offer, particularly in regards to experiential learning via Stern Solutions courses.  Even though she will be moving into investment banking, Melanie has taken courses that will round out her financial skillset with classes that focus on problem-solving and working with clients and teams.  Building on the way she challenged herself with business school coming from an arts background, she has challenged herself and put in the time to work on these skills so that she emerges as an MBA who can work exceptionally well through ambiguity and with people of all backgrounds and skillsets.

Last spring, Melanie assisted a major corporation with a challenging strategic question.  She worked with them through the transition of the School and company to remote work.  Melanie worked with her team to ensure a successful project transition, and the end result was an excellent client experience and strong representation of Stern.

Additionally, Melanie has spent a year working on a board governance project for a local nonprofit as part of the Stern Board Fellows program.  Melanie was selected for this highly competitive program based on her commitment to using her background, skillsets and intended career path to give back to the nonprofit space.   As a member of this team, Melanie is working on a project intended to help solidify the board governance of a nonprofit assisting with workforce development. Her team’s work will help the organization move its mission forward and grow to help those who need their services now more than ever.

It has been a pleasure to watch Melanie grow throughout the past two years, and she is an excellent example of an MBA who will emerge from this remote experience with many skills that she had to work even harder to achieve.”

Kate Scarbrough
Associate Director
MBA Experiential Learning



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