2021 MBAs To Watch: Santiago Vazquez, University of Chicago (Booth)

Santiago Vazquez

University of Chicago, Booth School of Business

“Passionate, creative and caring, fervent dad joke aficionado.”

Hometown: Guadalajara, Jalisco (Mexico)

Fun fact about yourself: My very first date with my husband was at a Subway restaurant, and all we bought was a cookie and a fountain drink.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  • ITESO (official name: Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Occidente, A.C.)
    • Degree: Bachelor of Laws
  • Georgetown University Law Center
    • Degree: Master of Laws in International Business and Economic Law

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Legal Counsel – Travelport

Where did you intern during the summer of 2020? HomeX, Chicago IL

Where will you be working after graduation? HomeX, Chicago IL, Strategy and Operations.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

Graduate Business Council (GBC) Executive Board – Executive Vice President: Elected alongside a slate by the entire student body to lead the Graduate Business Council for a one-year term. Was responsible for GBC operations including technology, cohort elections, managing the 2020-2021 budget in excess of $300K, community funds allocations, council meeting coordination and fostering community within the 70-member council. Provided support for my peers in multiple other projects, including the annual charity competition Boothgiving.

Harper Cohort Representative: Elected by 60 cohort members to represent Harper cohort for 2 years in the Graduate Business Council. Served in the International Committee and First Year / Second Year Committee.

OUTreach: Active member of the LGBT affinity club at Booth, assisted multiple applicants to prepare for interviews and navigate the waitlist. Participated in 2020 virtual Pink Party video.

AudioBooth: Active member of the music club at Booth as a vocalist, Collaborated with many Booth musicians to record and edit multiple songs and music videos, participated in virtual First Day activities.

Booth Follies: Active member, wrote and contributed to multiple comedic sketches, songs and other materials for schoolwide comedic entertainment.

Career Services: Participated in multiple panels for international and first year students, discussing my experience in summer internship recruiting and pivoting from non-business roles to business roles.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Each year at Booth during Thanksgiving, the cohorts compete in a fundraiser to see who can raise the most funds for a local Chicago charity. During my first year, as Cohort representative, I promised my cohort that if we won the fundraising competition, I would come to school dressed in a onesie, and kept reaching out to the various groups to motivate them constantly. We went on to win and raised more than $1,400 in less than a week and I proudly wore a onesie. During my second year, as EVP of student government, I led the fundraising charge once again, this time school-wide.  By constantly upping the ante with fun and creative ways such as meme wars and wagers (I bet that if every cohort met their goal, I would wear a “cone of shame” to a class) I ensured that not only would every single cohort meet their fundraising goal, but we beat the previous year’s overall fundraising by more than 22%. In total we raised more than $10,500 for the Greater Chicago Food Repository.

I feel especially proud of my contributions to Boothgiving because they allowed me to both be creative in motivating others and help those in need in these dire times. Boothgiving had a real impact in our community. In the years 2019 and 2020 combined we came together as a community to provide more than 58,000 meals to Chicago residents.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I remain especially proud of having passed the California bar exam as an international attorney. Of the applicants in my specific cohort, only 10% of us passed.  This achievement gave me the opportunity to launch my career in the US, work as in-house counsel and eventually become close enough to business units to convince myself to apply for an MBA.

Why did you choose this business school? My favorite part about Booth is the thriving pay-it-forward culture. From the moment I decided to apply, I felt welcome, supported, and cherished by students, alumni, and staff alike. That feeling has never been absent in my journey through Booth. During my first year, second year students were instrumental in helping me get my bearings in school and recruiting. Now, as a second year student, I have had the opportunity to prepare minority applicants for their interviews, just like others did for me. I have also had the opportunity to help first year students navigate specialized search recruiting, and incoming international students get situated at Booth.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Lisa Stefanac, who teaches Interpersonal Dynamics, is my favorite professor. Her class has challenged me beyond any other to dive deep into the realm of building meaningful, lasting relationships with others by practicing self-disclosure and receiving open, honest feedback from my peers. Lisa’s class has been the most impactful one of my MBA. More specifically, Prof. Stefanac’s class allowed me to connect and develop relationships with my 11 classmates, 2 moderators and my own emotions in ways that I didn’t think were possible. Throughout the class, we constantly supported each other in our learning objectives and built a strong community within the class.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? Random Walk has by far been the most impactful tradition at Booth for me. During my trip to China with my beloved second year leaders, I met some of my best and closest friends at Booth, including current class president Jena Stenger, with whom I serve in the student government executive board. The week-long trip with my peers, none of whom I knew at the time, was a transformational experience and worthy precursor of a culture of openness and connection at Booth. My leaders also continued to be trusted mentors and advisors after the trip and encouraged me to take risks outside of my comfort zone.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could start my MBA again, I would have spent more time attending events and programming organized by clubs that I had no obvious connection with. I would have done this to get to know more Boothies, expand my horizons, and enhance my learning experience beyond the classroom.

What is the biggest myth about your school? (and how was it the same or different than what you experienced) Booth is known as a quant heavy finance school. While our reputation in finance is no myth, what is certainly a myth is that it is the only, or even the main thing at Booth. The school offers so much more and is at the cutting edge in many other fields, including marketing, entrepreneurship, and behavioral science. As someone who is not pursuing a finance concentration, I certainly appreciate the huge variety and flexibility of the curriculum.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most is how collaborative the environment is. I certainly expected it to be a more collaborative environment than law school, but I have been blown away time and time again by the willingness of others to build things together.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? I am convinced that what gave me an edge was taking risks, staying true to myself and being open about what I was looking for in the MBA experience. This was especially important for me because I was under some illusion that Booth was a finance school and I was not sure I wanted to pursue finance.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? One of the most influential and important people at Booth for me is my good friend Theo Lim. Theo has been there from the beginning. From recruiting to GBC to OUTreach, travel, and music, we have connected on so many levels. What is more, Theo has always been there for Booth. I admire Theo’s tenacity and his willingness to be there for his peers whenever possible. More recently, Theo willingly took on the role of COVID Response committee lead, and guided other passionate classmates in tackling the challenges of the global pandemic head on. My husband and I have developed a deeply meaningful friendship with Theo and his wife Stephanie.

How disruptive was it to shift to an online or hybrid environment after COVID hit? Why? As a newly-elected member of student government, COVID was especially disruptive for me because when I decided to run, never in my wildest dreams would I have foreseen that life as we knew it before March of last year would essentially come to a halt. We would be faced with the unprecedented challenge of reimagining the entire MBA experience, while helping our peers navigate the uncertainty of the new reality. In a sense, serving in student government was a crash course in crisis management and empathy far beyond anything I had ever experienced.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? I want to travel around the US and visit all 50 states for work and I want to end up in a role where I can be a positive influence on others and help others to be better versions of themselves.

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

“Over my 20+ year career in higher education, it is always such a pleasure to have the opportunity to work and interact with amazing students.  Santiago (Santi) is truly one of those individuals who makes my day-to-day enjoyable and leaves me feeling hopeful about our leaders of the future.  Santi is smart, driven, thoughtful, caring and committed to leaving Booth and the world around him better than he found it. In a time when many students have struggled, Santi has worked to strengthen our community, provide mentorship, and tirelessly advocate for his peers.

Santi has dedicated countless hours to leading our Graduate Business Council as Executive Vice President. He works to ensure our international students feel supported and have a voice given the many challenges they continue to face. He provides insight and advice to first-year students as they work to navigate the internship recruiting process, and has strengthened diversity and inclusion efforts as many of his fellow students felt the pain of the past year.  His role on the Graduate Business Council has provided me the opportunity to work closely with Santi on a daily basis. I am consistently impressed with his willingness to work through any challenge – balancing the need for logic, fairness, and compassion.  There were many times Santiago could have taken an oppositional stance with the school and decisions that were made, but he always remained a dedicated and valuable partner.

This past year has been a challenge for everyone.  Santiago could have taken a step back, but instead stepped up in a time when so many needed his positivity and care. While I definitely feel Santi is truly one of the best and brightest, my greatest hope is that he stands proud of how much he has given to others and the legacy he will leave behind when he graduates from Chicago Booth.”

Jessica Jaggers
Associate Dean of Student Life and Dean of Students