2023 Best & Brightest MBA: Vernice Arahan, HEC Paris

Vernice Arahan

HEC Paris

“Proud Filipina American always willing to whip up a good meal and share stories together.”

Hometown: Sayreville, New Jersey, USA

Fun fact about yourself: While I grew up in the United States, I learned Tagalog (One of languages of the Philippines) by watching Filipino soap operas with my Lola (grandmother).

Undergraduate School and Degree: Cornell University, College of Architecture, Art and Planning, B.S. Urban and Regional Studies

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Program Officer at Inclusiv based in New York, NY, USA

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022? Not Applicable; I opted not to do an internship for the Summer 2022 to focus on and spend time with my family.

Where will you be working after graduation? I am still in the process of searching for my role after graduation. My aim is to work as a Corporate Social Responsibility manager for an international company.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:


President of MBA Impact Club

Advisor for Women in Leadership Club

MBA Ambassador

Academic Representative for Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation Specialization


MBA Leadership Award Recipient for Class of 2023

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? The achievement I am most proud of during my time at HEC Paris was being able to advocate as President of the MBA Impact Club for the increased inclusion of sustainability into the MBA curriculum. During my tenure, the MBA Impact Club team, as well as the undergraduate sustainability students, ran a survey to get students’ perspectives on sustainability within the curriculum and on campus. We shared the results with members of the senior leadership team at HEC Paris, as well as the MBA Program. Even more, we had critical discussions on how we can better prepare students to understand and work in the sustainability field. As a result of the discussions, the MBA program team instituted crash courses on key topics around sustainability, philanthropy, and CSR among others, which now have been taken up by hundreds of MBA students across different cohorts. Knowing that my team and I were able to help catalyze something long lasting that would impact future cohorts of MBA students was extremely gratifying.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In my six years at Inclusiv, I was most proud of being able to launch Pathways to Financial Empowerment, an innovative technology focused on capturing the impact of financial coaching in credit unions throughout the United States. From just a pilot group of five credit unions, I helped grow the program to over 20 credit unions serving 10,000 people to better their financial lives. It was incredibly gratifying to be able to catalyze and expand the impact of the credit unions as critical financial institutions in their communities. It meant a lot to me to be able to scale impact across the country through my work.

Why did you choose this business school? I chose HEC Paris as it offered the best combination of a traditional business curriculum with the opportunity to dive in deeper on sustainability and social impact. HEC Paris’s 16-month program is divided into two phases: Fundamental and Customized. This setup allows students to be able to get a strong foundation of best practices and strategies which then can be applied to the industry and function of their choice. I knew coming to HEC Paris that I wanted to build upon my experience in nonprofit community development and transition towards corporate social responsibility and impact. Going into the customized phase, I was able to commit to an MBA Project where I research on corporate social responsibility in French startups, take an Inclusive and Social Business Certificate, and take part in the Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation Specialization. I was able to take full advantage of HEC Paris’s program and make the MBA fully my own.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? Throughout the whole MBA experience, my favorite course was Operations Management with Professor Svenja Sommer. While I had handled a broad understanding of operations and logistics management, I was able to gain a lot from the course and apply much of the learning to my everyday life. In learning about operations strategy and the best practices to designing processes, I keenly became aware of what it really takes to make things happen not only on a business level, but also on a regional and global scale. The course set the tone for how I came to understand operations and sustainability; I discovered the major issues connected to supply chain and vital resources often start with inefficiencies in operations and among stakeholders. I’ll be taking all the lessons forward as I see the applications across different industries and companies.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why?

One thing I would do differently about my MBA experience would be to take more time to learn French and be able to immerse myself more deeply in the French experience that HEC Paris naturally provides. True, the MBA is conducted fully in English and one does not necessarily need French throughout the 16 months. However, there is a huge gain to being able to communicate across and outside of campus as HEC Paris is the leading business school in France with an extensive alumni and company network. Knowing French up to the professional level would have helped open a lot more opportunities within France and Europe in general.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? What I loved most about Jouy-En-Josas was the opportunity to experience local French culture and food beyond the Paris. As more of a suburban town, Jouy-en-Josas had its own festivals and traditions that were great to attend all throughout the year. This provided a uniquely French experience over the cosmopolitan nature of Paris.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me most about business school was how much more of a personal development experience it was over an academic one. A huge part of my MBA experience was defining for myself what my career path could be and what skills and experiences I needed to have and form to get where I wanted to be. Beyond academics, a lot of what I learned was outside of the classroom, amidst discussions with friends and mentors as well as learning from professionals and practitioners themselves. The 16 months of the HEC Paris MBA allowed me to have breathing room to hone in on what impact I wanted to have and how I wanted to make change really happen through my work and career.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? One thing I focused on during my MBA application process to prove why HEC Paris needed someone like me in their cohort and as a future alumna. I believe part of being admitted to an MBA program is not only what you personally gain but also what you can give to your class and school, not only during the program but as alumni. In different essays, I spoke to the alumna I believed I could be and one that HEC Paris would be proud of. My focus is on being someone who can create a positive impact no matter the context and I believe this resonated throughout my MBA experience and will continue to do so throughout my career and life.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate I admire the most is Léa Bory. Léa was one of a handful of French MBA students and the only female. Léa often served as the unofficial French ambassador, helping fellow students understand different processes, translating for students who were not comfortable with French, and sharing a lot of food and culture throughout the 16-month MBA. Léa also served as Academic Representative for our class, advocating for student needs and communicating with professors. Even with all the responsibilities, Léa was always willing to lend a helping hand and go above and beyond to make sure everyone could enjoy their experience in France.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? The top two items on my professional bucket list are to head a large international philanthropic organization, as well as establishing a sustainable impact investing firm in the Philippines. For the first, I understand the opportunity to support and innovate critical solutions through philanthropy and want to be part of the conversations that shape strategy and thus impact. In terms of the second, I would like to support building local industries and businesses in the Philippines to combat “brain drain” wherein trained professionals are regularly leaving the country in search of better economic opportunities abroad. I believe boosting the local industries and economy can help support Filipino families in the long run.

What made Vernice such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Vernice Arahan is most definitely a Best and Brightest. Best? As Academic Representative for her cohort, over the course of the term, she was a major factor in the creation of a strong academic environment to everyone’s benefit. She helped create a real learning community that empowered her fellow classmates to go deeper and further on some of the most mind-boggling challenges related to a changing climate as well as transformational technological and social trends. She cared for her peers and for their experience. Brightest? She engaged in cutting-edge work and analysis within the Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation specialization of the HEC MBA Program, rethinking how a digital transformation leader does business in an everchanging business environment. This is what makes Vernice Arahan such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023, and one of the best and brightest.”

Jeremy Ghez
Associate Professor of Economics and International Affairs (Education Track) at HEC Paris
Coordinator of the Sustainable and Disruptive Innovation Specialization in the HEC MBA Program

“In my role as Marketing and Events Officer at HEC Paris, I have worked closely with Vernice through our Ambassador Program. Vernice embodies exactly the type of student and future alumni who we strive to admit and attract to come to the HEC Paris MBA program. Throughout hers 6-month tenure, Vernice went above and beyond in her dedication to his role as an MBA Ambassador, always willing to give her valuable time and energy to supporting future HEC MBA students. Vernice has a way of championing and encouraging everyone’s success, certainly of her classmates, but even of candidates. Vernice’s positive and warm personality is something that has touched every single person who she meets. One contribution that Vernice has gifted to her cohort has been her leadership of the MBA Impact Club and the Women in Leadership Club. Vernice not only embodies one of the most important Values of HEC Paris, diversity, but she also builds a foundation for others to learn more about and to pursue careers in social impact and sustainability. Through Vernice’s leadership, top executives and industry came on campus to talk with HEC MBA students about the role that corporations play in the state of the world through the investments they make, the jobs they create, the products and services they provide, and the supply chains upon which they depend. She also created lasting initiatives such as Women’s Wednesdays which aims to build a community among the women in the MBA program and has grown to 80 women members now.

Vernice has had a lasting impact on the Class of 2023 in so many ways. Hers is a presence that will truly be felt and missed among staff, faculty, and the cohorts who have had the pleasure of working with her. We will truly miss her infectious laugh and eager smile on our webinars and at our events. Vernice has truly been an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023 and I have no doubt that she will continue her contributions as a proud alumna of HEC Paris.”

Hannah Moser
Marketing and Events Officer, MBA Programs
HEC Paris


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