Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Lauren LaBelle, Cornell University (Johnson)

Lauren LaBelle

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

“Military Officer working with the commercial maritime industry; beach bum; wife; mom-to-be.”

Hometown: Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m a huge Dallas Cowboys fan. As a lifelong fan, I figured having a Cowboys front license plate was not letting people know how much of a super fan I am, so I named my dog Dak after the quarterback Dak Prescott.

Undergraduate School and Major: Elizabeth City State University, accounting

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: U.S. Coast Guard, Marine Investigator

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? When choosing a school, I was interested in programs that incorporated more leadership into the curriculum. Johnson indisputably places a great emphasis on leadership compared to other MBA programs. As a military member, the need for leadership skills is prominent in my day-to-day job. I wanted an MBA program that would holistically benefit my future career. I was also fortunate to be selected for the Johnson Roy H. Park Fellowship, which will allow for increased opportunities to develop my leadership style while pursuing an MBA.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Cornell? I’m excited to get involved with the Community Impact Club. Community service has always given me the opportunity to engage with people who I otherwise might not have. I have enjoyed being active in year-round community service projects, and I intend to do the same while at Johnson. Having organized and facilitated several large-scale environmental cleanups, I am confident in my ability to bring passion and experience to an already robust club.

What excites you the most about living in Ithaca and the Finger Lakes region? Growing up in the country but living in a big city for the past three years, I am excited to get back to my roots and enjoy the small-town feel of Ithaca. The Finger Lakes region offers new experiences and outdoor adventures. While I was stationed near the Napa Valley in California, I gained an increased appreciation for wine, and I look forward to visiting the Finger Lakes wineries. Ithaca is a beautiful area with great hikes and picturesque waterfalls that I can’t wait to explore.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I am most proud of my work overseeing new construction on a variety of commercial vessels. In addition to inspecting actively used domestic boats, I ensured compliance with federal regulations as the vessels were being constructed. Seeing the projects come to life from the ground up was very gratifying. Notably, when a New York high-speed ferry was still being built, I was able to identify a critical absence of fire insulation in time to add it, which will protect the future passengers.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched or listened to that you enjoyed and would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I recently read The Big Short by Michael Lewis. Although it might be a bit cliché to suggest a book that goes through the financial crisis to prospective MBA candidates, I thought the book did a great job highlighting individuals who were able to see irregularities in the housing market and mortgage bonds. Very few people wanted to believe an economic crisis was impending. It is important to focus on the facts and not solely follow popular sentiment.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point, and what do you hope to do after graduation?

I am at a point in my military career where I have the opportunity to switch paths from marine safety into the finance community of the Coast Guard. Pursuing an MBA now will offer me skills and knowledge needed to excel in my future job. The Coast Guard is allowing me to pursue my MBA while remaining an active-duty service member, and I will be required to complete a follow-on assignment in its financial division upon graduation. Although the specifics of my assignment are still to be determined based on the needs of the service, this job will be financially intensive and related to the overall budget, and I hope to make a greater impact on the service as a whole.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School (University of North Carolina); Questrom School of Business (Boston University)

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Cornell’s MBA program? Be honest and open. Be professional but not scripted. Johnson wants authentic people to attend the school, so it is important to be yourself throughout the application and interview process. The interview is conversational, and being comfortable with the image of yourself that you are presenting is key. In addition to academic accomplishments, don’t forget to include ways that you have enhanced your community and the people around you.

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