Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Alex Perez-Garcia, University of Michigan (Ross)

Alex Perez-Garcia

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

“Empathetic, idealistic, Latinx cat mother of two passionate about driving systemic change in mental healthcare.”

Hometown: Plano, Texas

Fun Fact About Yourself: During the pandemic, I became a backyard birdwatcher. My favorite bird is a tie between the Northern Cardinal and the American Goldfinch. The Northern Cardinal, in particular, holds a special meaning in my family – when you see one, it means a loved one is looking after you.

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Chicago, Psychology and Public Policy

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Disability Lead, Associate Director of Development and Communications

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? Hands-on networking, learning, and exposure. As a dual-degree candidate, I got the opportunity to take a couple of business classes while completing year one of my Master of Public Policy. The Washington DC Residential on Healthcare Policy and Politics course led by Tom Buchmueller stood out as a prime example of how Michigan Ross’s MBA programming would take my education to the next level. The course lets students spend one week immersed in DC, learning from healthcare leaders on the Hill and in industry. We dove deep into hot topics such as drug pricing and healthcare access and analyzed these issues through robust class discussion from an economic, policy, and political lens. To me, the course was the pinnacle of learning by doing. The course also showed the power of the Ross network – all the panelists had some connection to Michigan Ross. I knew that if I wanted to make a difference in the healthcare space, Michigan Ross was the place to gain that knowledge and experience.

What has been your first impression of the Ross MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Ross story so far. So helpful. Michigan Ross students and alumni want to see you win. While applying to the MBA/MPP dual-degree program, I reached out to folks in my network who could provide their perspective on how Michigan Ross helped them achieve their career goals and what I should consider as a prospective applicant. For one of my coffee chats, I met with another dual-degree candidate who was also interested in healthcare. After our quick 30-minute coffee, they followed up with contacts for five Michigan Ross alumni and a list of companies with recruiting leads that directly matched my career interest in mental health. It was more than I ever thought of asking, and I was stunned by the generosity. While I offered to return the favor, they declined – seeing me win was enough.

This same mentality has continued with every Ross MBA student I’ve met – whether it’s preparing for case interviews or sharing advice about what clubs to join or classes to take. There is an extended hand to guide you through whatever process you are going through and an expectation that you will be willing to reach back and pay it forward in the future. These have been positive signs that I’m in the right place to start my MBA with the social support I need to succeed.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at Michigan Ross? I was lucky to be named a Health Innovation Scholar at Michigan Ross because of my interest in healthcare, specifically mental healthcare. Because of this honor, I will get access to leading Ross faculty doing cutting-edge research in healthcare. I am most excited about taking another action-based course: Healthcare Startups: Understanding Needs and Creating Ventures in Healthcare. In this course, students get to develop a proposal for an innovative healthcare venture and learn ways to create startup value considering specific challenges and opportunities in healthcare. As someone interested in potentially launching a mental health startup in my career, this will be a foundational experience. In that same vein, I am also interested in joining the Social Venture Fund at Michigan Ross, the country’s first student-run social venture fund; specifically, I want to align with the health portfolio. I learn best in applied learning environments, so I am eager about the prospect of gaining deeper expertise in mental healthcare through both coursework and extracurricular opportunities.

When you think of the Michigan Ross MBA program, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why?  Ubiquitous. You feel the influence of the Michigan Ross MBA program right as you join. That’s true whether it’s alumni phone calls and emails when you are admitted or running through the airport trying to catch your flight when someone yells at you “Go Blue!” because they recognize your t-shirt. Michigan Ross is truly a universal program, which means there is something for everyone as long as you have the initiative and drive to seek it. The program is unbounded, so everyone who comes through can find their place and unlock their full potential. For me, that’s in healthcare, and I can’t wait to get started.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2018, I joined the inaugural Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps. During this six-month intensive leadership development program, I launched a mental health storytelling platform and realized there was immense power in people sharing their mental health journey. This vulnerability led to my selection as a featured speaker during the 2018 Obama Foundation Summit, sharing my story worldwide. I was amazed by the positive feedback I received – including close friends who decided to seek mental health treatment after hearing my story – which catalyzed my interest in mental health systems transformation.

This accomplishment led me to another proud moment: serving as a founding team member of the disability rights nonprofit Disability Lead. At Disability Lead, a startup nonprofit dedicated to increasing the civic leadership of people with disabilities, I helped scale the organization’s impact through strategic fundraising and community outreach. For example, I spearheaded the organization’s recruitment efforts that resulted in the largest and most racially diverse 2020 fellowship class—with many claiming their disability identity, which includes mental illness, for the first time. Getting the opportunity early in my career to see what it takes to build an initiative from the ground up is one I don’t take for granted.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? The Argument with Jane Coaston. It’s a podcast hosted by another Michigan alum (Go Blue!) and distributed through The New York Times. Coaston takes on an argument that our nation or herself is grappling with and brings together two different-minded people to debate a hot-button issue. The debates are mostly cordial and allow the experts to stay on topic and drive their opinion forward. Listening implicitly teaches you the art of persuasion, an essential skill for any prospective MBA. For me, it has also been helpful to stay connected to the bigger picture of thorny issues that will need cross-sector collaboration to address. There are many good ideas: how can we identify the most feasible ones (politically and economically) that will make the greatest impact?

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation?
My North Star is to become a cross-industry leader in the mental health field. The top two reasons people don’t seek mental health treatment are stigma and cost. While I’ve helped dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health issues by sharing my story of mental health and helping found a disability rights nonprofit, the systemic problem of cost remains.

Having spent the last five years in the nonprofit and philanthropic sector, I want to leverage my dual MBA/MPP degree to drive impact in the field of mental health innovation. An MBA will help me build on my quantitative policy analysis skills while understanding the business constraints and potential in U.S. healthcare markets. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, there is a significant need for private sector ventures to drive down the rising cost of mental healthcare delivery and improve patient access. After Michigan Ross, I hope to pivot to consulting, focusing on healthcare and public sector clients, or enter the healthcare industry directly post-MBA/MPP.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? None! I was all in for the Ross School of Business.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Michigan Ross’s MBA program? Identify your North Star, and don’t discount your story. Your vulnerability and passion will shine through if you take the time to reflect on what makes you truly you and, more importantly, what is your “why” (i.e., your reason to apply). Consider: What is a story that only you can tell? What is the unique perspective that you bring to your work? What keeps you curious, awake at night, or gets you up in the morning? Sometimes it helps to do this exercise alone or with a partner or coworker who can help draw those answers out. This intentional reflection early on will also be helpful when navigating the plethora of opportunities available at Michigan Ross and keep you grounded in the process. Once you have your North Star, it’s easier to flesh out a narrative of where you want to go and how the Michigan Ross MBA will help you get there. Also, it never hurts to start early! Creating a spreadsheet to track your application progress can be that first step.


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