2023 MBA To Watch: Jorge Daniel Atuesta Pizano, University of San Diego (Knauss)

Jorge Daniel Atuesta Pizano

University of San Diego, Knauss School of Business

“A passionate, hardworking leader with a strong ethical compass who’s committed to positive impact and adventure.”

Hometown: Bogota, Colombia

Fun fact about yourself: I am an adventurous spirit who loves taking risks to pursue meaningful causes. At the age of 27, I left behind everything I knew to work with foreign-born survivors of human trafficking across the United States. This was a difficult decision that required a lot of courage and faith, but it has also been the most rewarding experience of my life. It has opened my eyes to the struggles and resilience of human trafficking survivors and it has given me the opportunity to make a positive impact in their lives. This experience has also taught me to be grateful for the simple things in life and to always look for ways to give back to society.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

  1. A) Universidad de La Sabana, Colombia – Bachelors of Arts in Psychology
  2. B) Universidad de La Sabana, Colombia – Specialization in Clinical Psychology of Childhood and Adolescence

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Heartland Alliance Human Care Services – Freedom From Trafficking: Case Manager

Where did you intern during the summer of 2022?  Illumina, San Diego, California

Where will you be working after graduation?  I am working on job applications right now focusing on business intelligence or business analyst positions in Big Tech, biotech and consulting.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: Community service and leadership have always been a fundamental part of my life. During my MBA program, I continued to pursue these passions by serving as an MBA Leadership Fellow, VP of Finance for USD’s Graduate Business Student Association, and a member of Net Impact. In these roles, I organized beach clean-ups for my MBA peers to preserve the environment and our local San Diego community. I also led a successful fundraiser to support local causes, in which over 70% of the MBA class participated. One of my most meaningful experiences at the Knauss School of Business was doing a pro bono consulting project for a non-profit client that seeks to empower girls and young women to join STEM careers. I had the opportunity to apply my business skills to help this organization achieve its mission and create a positive impact in the community.


Dean’s Merit Scholarship, University of San Diego, 2021 and 2022

Fowler Business Concept Challenge Top 5, University of San Diego, 2021

Graduate Business Student Ambassador Runner Up, University of San Diego, 2021

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of being accepted into the highly competitive summer internship program at Illumina. This opportunity was the culmination of my hard work, passion, and perseverance throughout my academic and professional career. The CEO of the company even mentioned in his welcoming speech that it was statistically easier to get into the medical program at Stanford University than to secure a summer internship at Illumina in 2022.

The experience at Illumina was extremely valuable as I had the opportunity to work alongside brilliant minds and learn from some of the most talented professionals in the industry. I was able to apply the skills and knowledge I had acquired in my MBA program, and contribute to meaningful projects that had a real impact on the company’s success. Overall, this experience has been the highlight of my time at the Knauss School of Business as it showed me that through hard work and dedication, I can open new doors.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? One of my proudest professional achievements happened when I was promoted to serve as a supervisor and mentor for undergraduate students doing their internships. I started as an intern at a company in 2017 and by 2019 I was already part of the leading staff, with professor status and supervisor status. But what truly made this experience special was the success of the group of six students I supervised. It was inspiring to see how they embraced challenges, learned from their mistakes, and improved their skills. Seeing their growth and witnessing their success was incredibly fulfilling, as they all went on to pursue graduate degrees in their area of study and became successful professionals. Knowing that I had played a role in helping shape their future careers was an amazing feeling; it motivated me to continue seeking opportunities to mentor and guide others in their own professional journeys.

Why did you choose this business school? It was important for me to choose a business school that aligned with my personal values and beliefs. The changemaker philosophy at the University of San Diego’s Knauss School of Business was a driving force in my decision to attend. It stood out to me because it focuses on developing ethical and moral leaders who are committed to making a positive difference in the world. This philosophy emphasizes the importance of using business for good and emphasizes the importance of social responsibility.

At the University of San Diego, I have had the opportunity to participate in various community service projects and leadership roles that have allowed me to make a positive impact in my community. These opportunities have allowed me to develop as a leader and learn how to use business as a tool for creating positive change in society. The Knauss School academic community and network has also connected me with like-minded individuals, students who are committed to making a positive impact in the world.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? My favorite MBA professor is Professor of Management Phil Hunsaker. He had a profound impact on my personal and professional development. Dr. Hunsaker has a passion for his work that is contagious and inspired us to think outside the box and challenge ourselves. He always brought relevant real-life experiences to our conversations, which helped shape our critical thinking abilities. What I appreciated the most is that he would insist he’s not the only smart person in the room and encouraged students to contribute their own unique perspectives.

Dr. Hunsaker also emphasized the power of good leadership, which was incredibly empowering. He helped us see the importance of interpersonal dynamics and how we can better interact with others and ourselves. His wisdom and expertise allowed all students to transcend and become not only better professionals but better individuals. I am forever grateful for the space Dr. Hunsaker created and his guidance in helping me shape myself as a leader and person.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course was Interpersonal and Group Dynamics. This course was essential in helping me develop interpersonal competencies and team leadership skills. It explored how interpersonal behaviors and group processes can affect productive relationships and team effectiveness, which is a crucial aspect of leadership in any organization. The class offered a unique opportunity to apply new interpersonal skills, experiment with different relationship strategies, and experience the consequences of those strategies in a laboratory setting.

I appreciated that the course was based on theories and research, which provided a solid foundation for learning. Additionally, the class allowed for individual feedback and learning about the effectiveness of our own behaviors and how they affect specific relationships and team functioning. The course was both practical and theoretical and it offered insights into my own leadership style and how to improve it, skills that I will use throughout my career.

What was your favorite MBA event or tradition at your business school? My favorite MBA event at the Knauss School of Business was the student award ceremony hosted by the board of the Graduate Business Student Association. This ceremony recognized graduate students at the Knauss School for their achievements and brought the graduate community closer together. The event reminded us of the importance of striving for excellence in everything we do and showed how the Knauss School values not only academic success but also personal growth and development. By taking the time to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of each student, the school creates a sense of community and fosters a culture of support and encouragement.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? If I could do one thing differently, it would have been to have taken a more active role in building a sense of community among all graduate students at USD, not just those at the Knauss School. While I did participate in various events and activities hosted by the Knauss School, I now realize the value of engaging with students from other programs as well. By working together and sharing ideas with students from different disciplines, we could have gained a more well-rounded understanding of the interconnectedness of various fields and professions. This would have helped me to recognize and appreciate the importance of different roles and to better understand how we can work together to achieve common goals, ultimately contributing to my growth as a leader and a person.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The University of San Diego is a private Catholic university. One myth is that students are forced to participate in religious activities or adhere to certain beliefs. However, this is not the case. While USD has a strong commitment to its Catholic heritage and values, students of all backgrounds and beliefs are welcomed and respected. The university values diversity and inclusivity, and offers a variety of religious and non-religious activities and events to cater to the needs and interests of its diverse student population.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was surprised by the Knauss School’s ability to innovate and remain relevant, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the challenges, USD was able to provide a high-quality education that made it feel like the pandemic did not affect my journey. The faculty’s efforts to maintain the same level of experience and discuss topics relevant to the world in real time impressed me.

What is one thing you did during the application process that gave you an edge at the school you chose? One thing that gave me an edge during the application process for the school I chose was my unique and non-traditional path to business school. Additionally, my passion for change and involvement in the communities I belong to helped them see the person and professional I am and will become after the program. Being able to bring a new perspective to the table rich in culture, other professional fields, mental health, and corporate social responsibility (including environmental social governance) helped me stand out.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I have great admiration for all of my MBA classmates, but Joseph Heisley stands out to me. As he pursues his MBA/JD dual degree, he has taught me the importance of enjoying the learning process and maintaining a positive life perspective while still being a hard worker. Joseph’s selflessness and willingness to help others, even as he strives for success, has truly inspired me to see the value in helping others and being of service. His intellectual curiosity has sparked many engaging conversations in our classes, and I am grateful to have him as a classmate and friend.

 What are the top two items on your professional bucket list:

1. Launching a sustainable and socially responsible startup: I believe that businesses have a responsibility to create positive change in the world. One of my goals is to launch a startup that not only delivers innovative solutions to the market, but also takes into consideration environmental and social factors. I plan to use my business acumen and entrepreneurial spirit to launch a startup that makes a difference in people’s lives and contributes to the greater good.

2. Mentoring and empowering future generations: I am passionate about giving back to my community and helping others achieve their goals. One way I plan to do this is by mentoring and empowering future generations of professionals. I believe that everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed and by sharing my knowledge and experience, I can help others reach their full potential.

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

“Daniel is the most proactive and driven student I have ever met. He led his team to complete a challenging international consulting project this year. His data visualization project utilizes techniques from his self-learning. He demonstrated great leadership, passion for learning and persistence. When Daniel began his program in Fall 2021, he immediately reached out to the Net Impact student organization on campus to get involved. There was an open leadership position which he volunteered to cover. Then, he was nominated by his MBA cohort to be the cohort representative and took on this leadership opportunity for the duration of his degree. Daniel was also nominated to be VP of Finance for the Graduate Business Student Association where he implemented a transparent budget system and inclusive professional development funding awards. He is one of the most engaged students at USD and deserves to be recognized for his achievements and willingness to give back, all while trying to pursue summer internship opportunities, work as a Graduate Assistant, and adapt from his move from Colombia. In 2022, Daniel was nominated by staff, faculty and his peers to be a finalist for the Graduate Student Ambassador of the Year Award. Daniel Atuesta is a gem!”

Daniel Lin
Department Chair of Supply Chain, Operations, and Information Systems
Professor of Operations and Business Analytics


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