Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Surbhi Vijay Bhavsar, Cornell University (Johnson)

Surbhi Vijay Bhavsar

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

“A development professional with a commitment to making the planet a better place.”

Hometown:  Pune, Maharashtra, India

Fun Fact About Yourself: My commitment to climate action started in high school when I completely transitioned to sustainable lifestyle choices including converting to vegetarianism.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Bachelor of Architecture from University of Pune and
Master of City Planning from Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Associate Consultant in the Infrastructure Advisory practice at Crisil

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? I was truly amazed by how much flexibility and customization the program offered. This ranged from the various immersions (and the ability to customize those as well) to specializing in one or more areas of focus to the ability of taking classes across the larger and vast Cornell University.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Cornell? The school offers so many exciting avenues for professional and personal growth, it’s almost overwhelming. But if I have to pick my top 3, they would be the following:

1) Sustainable Global Enterprise Immersion: This will allow me to learn in depth about the intersection of sustainability and business.

2) Cornell Impact Club: This will allow me to give back to the larger Ithaca community through its social impact initiatives and the

3) Johnson Board Fellowship: Here, I hope to have the opportunity to join the board of a non-profit and assist with making impactful decisions.

What excites you the most about living in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region? Coming from a tropical country, I am super excited, but also a bit wary of the infamous Ithaca winters. Within my first week in the city, I have already hiked to two beautiful waterfalls, and I am really looking forward to exploring more of the gorgeous gorges.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Strategic development of tourist destinations for a state development authority and enabling it to obtain multimillion dollar funding from a multilateral organization, while ensuring economic, environmental, and social sustainability for the region.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? I had only recently joined my last organization when the country went into lockdown. Working completely remotely and never having met my team members in person taught me the importance of adaptability and the value of personal interactions, especially since I was working with clients across geographies. I was able to utilize this time towards making an impact in a personal capacity, from helping a Member of Parliament to reform his state’s Climate Change Action Plan to improving the employability, accessibility to education and personal growth development of underprivileged students. These experiences strengthened my commitment to social impact and sustainability, and my conviction that we can and should do so much more.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation?
Having worked for over four years in the urban development sector in a consulting role, I realized I needed to build skills beyond just the technical, enhance my abilities of managing people and organizations, and learn more about how businesses function. With a demonstrated interest in sustainability, I was also inclined towards building my abilities at the intersection of business and sustainability and Johnson seemed like the right fit. Post-MBA, I hope to work in consulting, establishing a niche where I can leverage and build on these experiences and interests.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Yale, Ross, Fuqua, MIT and INSEAD

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Cornell’s MBA program? Doing your research is critical. Speak to as many current students and alumni as possible. I had such insightful conversations during the entire process with different groups and individuals. I was supported through each step of the way and continue to be, which I thought was truly heartening and incredible. You will personally experience how deeply ingrained the “pay-it-forward culture” is at Cornell Johnson. One suggestion is to identify professors teaching courses which interest you and potentially speak to them and understand more about the course, the program and the fit.