Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Gabriella Del Río-Dávila, Cornell University (Johnson)

Gabriella Del Río-Dávila

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

“Magnetic, compassionate, zealous Boricuban, values-based leader committed to driving positive change and empowering others.”

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Fun Fact About Yourself: I started dancing ballet as an adult, only three years ago, and I’m already dancing on pointe. It was a childhood dream, and it fills me with pride that I didn’t give up and finally went for it!

Undergraduate School and Major: BA in Marketing Management from the University of Puerto Rico, Rio Piedras.

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: For the past two years, I was a Consulting Associate at Nielsen IQ, where I guided CPG manufacturers in measuring outcomes and driving business improvements through a deeper understanding of what consumers buy.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Cornell’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? First and foremost, I researched schools that valued Diversity and Inclusion. I decided to apply only to Consortium member schools, whose missions include promotion and the inclusion of African Americans, Hispanic Americans, and Native Americans in American business. I believe representation matters, and if I’m the only Latina in the room, I want to be in a place where I’m able to open the door for other minorities like me. Through the diversity of faces that I saw at the many virtual events sponsored by the school, such as Meet & Greets for Consortium and Latin American students and a Consortium Super Day, I was assured that Cornell’s MBA program embodies these important values.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Cornell? I learn best by doing, which is why I am excited about the school’s Immersion learning model. I plan to participate in the Strategic Product and Marketing immersion, where I hope to strengthen my skills in decoding consumer behavior and apply insights to develop relevant, effective marketing solutions.

What excites you the most about living in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region? So many things! Having lived in the Caribbean all my life, this will be my first time seeing the seasons change. I’m looking forward to all the activities that come with each season and trying local produce from the Ithaca Farmers Market. I am equally excited by the prospect of being surrounded by all the beauty the region has to offer from the State Parks to the more than 100 waterfalls within 10 miles of downtown, not to mention Cayuga Lake and the amazing Cornell campus.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It was driving successful brand activations and surpassing sales targets for Haagen-Dazs, Old El Paso, Cheerios, and other cereals in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, while being the youngest brand manager in General Mills LATAM team at the time.  If I had to choose just one moment, it would be the launch of Lucky Charms Frosted Flakes cereal which disrupted the largest segment of the category and brought a 2pp value share increase to General Mills!

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? The first few months during quarantine, I learned to savor slow weekend mornings where I could read novels and enjoy stress free time without the pressure of always having to do something or be somewhere.  Our society has taught us that being busy is good and that if you’re not, then you’re lazy and wasting time. The pandemic has taught me that there is beauty and value in resting and disconnecting.  I will carry this lesson with me as I begin my MBA journey. Career-wise, it confirmed that I need to work for a company that is flexible, empathetic, respectful, and understanding of their employees across all levels.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Ever since starting my undergraduate studies, I always envisioned myself taking this step. I am at a point in my career where I want to strengthen my marketing knowledge and skills and develop into a well-rounded and strong business leader. The MBA degree will lead me to the next step of my career by improving my leadership and strategic thinking skills, expanding my network, and providing opportunities to learn about other functional areas and industries.

Post-MBA, I want to help build brands and products that positively impact the world, are aligned with my values, and whose teams and communication are diverse and inclusive.  My passion is serving the customer and I strive to do it in a way that doesn’t bring suffering to animals, people, or the earth.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Michigan – Ann Arbor and Emory University, both members of the Consortium for Graduate Studies in Management.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Cornell’s MBA program? I was a re-applicant, having gone through the process for the first time in 2019. What I believe made the difference in my admission the second time around was having a better-defined story, improved GMAT scores, and more engagement with current students and alumni.

I would advise potential applicants to do the following:

1. Do some introspection and be sure of your story. Ask yourself: what has your journey been, how has it brought you here, where are you going, and how can Cornell Johnson help you get there?

2. Take the GMAT multiple times. This shows the admissions committee that you are perseverant and always strive to improve yourself.

3. Truly get to know the school, its people, and culture to understand if it’s the best fit for you and vice versa, as well as what you can contribute to the community if admitted. Take advantage of the many events Johnson offers for applicants to connect with students, professors, admissions personnel, and alumni.


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