Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Natalia Rovira Rodrigues, Cornell University (Johnson)

Natalia Rovira Rodrigues

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

“Combine equal parts conversationalist and perpetual student. Cross-cultural enthusiast who loves bringing people together over a home-cooked meal.”

Hometown: Princeton, New Jersey

Fun Fact About Yourself: I guessed the exact number (210!) of M&Ms in a jar when I was in kindergarten.

Undergraduate School and Major: Northwestern University, Double Major in History and International Studies

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Princeton in Asia, Director of Alumni Relations & Program Director

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? Johnson’s leadership curriculum and myriad opportunities to practice leading were key factors in my decision to attend. Each Johnson student takes a turn leading their core team during the first semester; second year students can serve as Johnson Leadership Fellows, who mentor and coach these first-year core teams. You can also put yourself to the real test during a Leadership Expedition to the Adirondacks or even Patagonia at the southern-most tip of South America!

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Cornell? I am incredibly excited to take leadership courses with Professors Michelle Duguid, Risa Mish, and Ya-Ru Chen. They are not only exceptional scholars, but have successfully navigated the male-dominated spheres of academia and business. I can only imagine how valuable their advice will be as I embark on my own business career. Outside of academics, I look forward to joining the Ski & Snowboard Club. Having lived in the tropics for the years between undergrad and business school, I have had limited opportunities to hit the slopes. I can’t wait to ski more regularly this winter and bond with classmates on the chairlifts.

What excites you the most about living in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region? Growing up in Central New Jersey (The Garden State!), I developed a strong appreciation for seasonal produce. Farms make up almost half of the land area in the Finger Lakes region, so I know I will be eating well here. I’m looking forward to becoming a regular at the Ithaca Farmers Market and/or joining a CSA to support the local network of sustainable farmers. I’m also excited to bond with other Cornellians who love to cook.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I spearheaded the relaunch of Princeton in Asia’s fellowships in India after a five-year hiatus. During my time at Princeton in Asia, we were able to support two cohorts of talented graduates to support impactful Indian NGOs and have a rich cross-cultural work experience in India. It took a ton of networking, salesmanship, and persistence to make these fellowships possible, but the mutual benefit gained by both our Indian partner organizations and the PiA Fellows made it all worth it.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? Among many important takeaways from the pandemic, I was grateful that I had taken the opportunity to live and work internationally after graduating from college, even though it did not lead me down the most straightforward career path. Had I waited several years to spend time outside the U.S., the pandemic may have foiled these plans. I’m thankful that I have a strong network of friends and colleagues across the world and varied experiences to draw on during my MBA.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? My ultimate goal is to increase opportunities for cross-cultural learning and collaboration in the workplace. While facilitating international opportunities for young people through Princeton in Asia was deeply fulfilling, a Johnson MBA will position me to become a leader within a global organization and increase the scale and scope of my work. Directly after graduation, I hope to work as a human capital consultant with a particular interest in tackling the organizational culture questions that arise during mergers and acquisitions.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Darden, McCombs, Foster, and Owen

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Cornell’s MBA program? MBA programs want students who will actively participate in the school community. Think about the ways in which you have contributed to your current communities (work, extracurriculars, family, friends) and be thoughtful about how you will leverage those experiences to effectively serve the Johnson community. Don’t be shy about sharing personal or seemingly-trivial experiences in your application — I wrote my “Back of the Resume” essay about baking sourdough bread for my friends!


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