Meet The MBA Class Of 2023: Gabriela Alvarez-Estades, University Of Michigan (Ross)

Gabriela Alvarez-Estades

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Proud Puerto Rican, passionate nonprofit professional, and advocate for inclusive growth and social impact.”

Hometown: San Juan, Puerto Rico

Fun Fact About Yourself: I am an avid explorer of my island’s sights, culture, and food, and love sharing them with others.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Puerto Rico – Río Piedras Campus, BBA (Finance & Accounting)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Grupo Guayacán, Strategic Development Manager

What word best describes the Michigan Ross students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Supportive; every single person I have met throughout this process has shown a selfless willingness to help and encourage others. From the very beginning of my interactions with Ross, I was amazed by the students and alumni who graciously gave their time, helping me get to know the school, offering advice, and preparing for interviews. Their support has only grown as I began the challenging and competitive process of early recruiting. Even before I stepped foot on campus, the Ross network has showed up for me – making introductions, conducting mock interviews, and guiding me through every high and low.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Michigan Ross’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? For me, it was the fact that Ross truly lives by its mission of building a better world through business and developing purpose-driven leaders who can make a positive difference. Through my research and exploration, I learned there are 100+ ways to make an impact while at Ross. As someone coming from a social impact background, this alignment in purpose and values signaled a strong cultural fit and ended up being one of my top reasons for choosing the school.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Michigan Ross? One of the clubs I’m really excited about is the Detroit Revitalization & Business Initiative (R&B, for short). Through a series of events, conferences, impact projects, and mentoring opportunities, R&B connects Michigan students with the city’s vibrant revitalization efforts, collaborating with communities, small businesses, and local nonprofit organizations. Detroit’s history and challenges have multiple parallels with Puerto Rico’s experience. From government bankruptcy to economic crisis, both places share a legacy of hardships as well as a strong resilient spirit. Given my passion for being part of Puerto Rico’s long-term sustainable recovery, I can’t wait to learn more and engage with the community, nonprofit, and business leaders who are making a difference in driving Detroit forward. I am hopeful that through shared lessons and collaborations, we can find common paths to inclusive growth, economic opportunity, and social progress.

When you think of Michigan Ross, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Action! From the hands-on learning opportunities, such as MAP, to the wide variety of clubs, centers, and student-led investment funds, Michigan Ross motivates and supports its students to not only dream, but do. Whether you’re interested in starting your own entrepreneurial or social impact venture, managing millions of dollars in investment capital, or offering strategic consulting to real-world companies and organizations, Ross will offer a platform to start doing that from day one. Back in my college days, I discovered that I learn best by doing, and the school’s bias towards action is just another one of the many reasons I knew it would be the right fit for me.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I think of my greatest achievement is a collection of moments over the past several years in my career. Until recently, I was strategic development manager at Grupo Guayacán, Puerto Rico’s leading entrepreneurship development and small business support nonprofit organization. During my tenure, the island experienced a series of back-to-back crises and natural disasters, including hurricanes, to earthquakes, bankruptcy, political upheaval, and (of course) COVID-19. These experiences tested me, both professionally and personally, but also taught me to be resilient and to maintain a sense of hopeful optimism for the future, even when things seem bleak.

In my role, I was able to raise millions of dollars in private investment, grants, sponsorships, and donations – from the island and beyond – to respond to each of these situations rapidly and effectively. These resources allowed the organization to deploy emergency cash relief and technical assistance for our small business community, helping them survive and thrive through immense obstacles. Knowing, and witnessing, the real impact this had on the lives of our entrepreneurs, their families, employees, and communities, is what I’m most proud of.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge influence on my personal and professional perspective. First, it helped bring to life the somewhat abstract notion of a global collective. Sometimes, we get so laser-focused on our own lives and those of our immediate circle, that we lose sight of the fact that we as individuals are part of something much bigger than ourselves. The pandemic put that in stark contrast; no one community, country, or region can overcome it until the whole world does. In that way, it emphasized the need for empathy, collaboration, and the strength of our shared humanity.

It has also deepened and revealed the profound inequalities that many communities face, be it in access to healthcare, technology for virtual education, economic opportunities, or food security. Altogether, this experience has reinforced my desire to dedicate my career to helping create positive impact through purpose-based business leadership and stewardship. It also underscores my passion for catalyzing business as a strong force for good in our world.

Lastly, on a personal level, COVID-19 has shown me that there is no use in waiting for a perfect moment to come along, and that there’s no better day than today to start working towards your dreams and aspirations.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? After nearly 10 years working within Puerto Rico’s social impact sector, I was ready to take my career to the next level by building my leadership abilities and skills for long-term success at the intersection of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors. I knew that the tools and networks acquired through the MBA would enable me to access opportunities where I could make change at a greater scale, while leveraging the power of business as a force for the greater good. After graduation, I hope to continue blending my passions for business and social impact through opportunities in consulting, philanthropy, or corporate social responsibility.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? University of Virginia, University of Texas – Austin, University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, and Indiana University – Bloomington.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Michigan Ross’s MBA program? My most important advice is to be authentic and believe in yourself, don’t let a nontraditional background, imposter syndrome, or other perceived limitations become obstacles in your journey towards growth. I truly believe the admissions committee is looking for individuals who live and breathe the school’s mission and values. As an applicant, it’s important to understand those guiding principles, and make sure to relate your story, accomplishments, and goals back to that purpose.

For me, it was also critical to talk to current students and alumni to get a good feel for the Ross culture, particularly given the fact that, due to COVID-19, I couldn’t visit the school in person. In fact, one of the best pieces of advice I received was to seek out not only students who share your background and interests, but those who may be vastly different – you never know what you will discover from engaging with a new perspective.


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