Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Nicole de Ovin-Berenguer, Cornell University (Johnson)

Nicole de Ovin-Berenguer

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

There are crazy cat people, then there is the crazy plant person and that is someone I can identify with!”

Hometown: Miami, FL

Fun Fact About Yourself: I like to travel to extreme locations like camping in the Arctic Circle in winter and venturing into the caldera of an active volcano.

Undergraduate School and Major: Florida International University, Bachelor of Science in Hospitality Management; Cornell University, School of Hotel Administration, Master of Management in Hospitality, Graduate Minor in Real Estate

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Next Step Design, Assistant Project Manager

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? The immersion program. Coming from a non-traditional pre-MBA career background, and wanting to pivot into Agri-tech, Johnson’s customizable immersion program allows me to tailor the program to effectively fill my knowledge and skill gaps to successfully pivot into a new industry.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Cornell? Johnson’s J-FAB (Food, Agribusiness, and Beverage) Club along with a course called Hydroponic Food Crop Production and Management are both things that I’m passionate about Cornell. Not only will I be able to network with students in similar and adjacent fields as a member of J-FAB, but I will also be able to take advantage of the university’s world-renowned agriculture school (CALS) to get a more in depth understanding of the growing side of the Agri-tech industry, where Johnson provides the business aspect.

What excites you the most about living in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region? Having already spent time living in Ithaca, I can’t wait to go back. Ithaca and the larger Finger Lakes region has endless festivals, farms, state parks, and not to mention great restaurants. What I look forward to the most is the camaraderie within Johnson and the greater Cornell community.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My biggest career accomplishment is taking the reins of a 6+ million-dollar kitchen buildout in a multi-story food hall concept with production kitchen in a landmarked New York City building. Coordinating with various stakeholders on managing a project of this size in tandem with other clients was a big step and turned out to be very rewarding. I was able to strengthen not only my project management skills, but also leadership, organization, and time management.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? The pandemic gave me the time to expand on personal pursuits, eventually allowing for more potential in achieving career goals. At the same time, I was able to reflect on what I really wanted out of my career, with the pandemic giving me the push to pursue Agri-tech.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? After finding career advancement in the foodservice design industry limited, I knew I needed to pivot industries. I reflected on where I wanted to see my career in both the short and long term. To achieve those goals, I felt I needed a formal business foundation to become an effective business leader and decided the best way to obtain these goals would be through an MBA program. After graduation, I hope to become a strategic growth manager within the Agri-tech industry.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Having decided to pursue an MBA late in the 2020-2021 application cycle, I chose to concentrate my efforts on the one school which would best fit my career goals— Cornell Johnson.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Cornell’s MBA program? Reflect on your career goals and determine if the school’s resources align. Network with current and former students to gain a deep understanding of the culture, rigor, and commitment of the school and program. Take the time to effectively communicate your goals and potential contributions not only to Johnson but also the larger Cornell community.