How Cornell Johnson Became A Model For MBA Diversity In 2023

How Cornell Johnson Became A Model For MBA Diversity In 2023

Cornell Johnson has released its MBA Class of 2025 profile, showing huge gains in both U.S. minorities (which includes Asian Americans) and under-represented minorities. File photo

It was only about a decade ago that women comprised one-quarter or less of the two-year, full-time MBA class at Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management — among the lowest total of any business school ranked in the top 25 in the United States.

From that group of MBAs to the one that started classes at Cornell this fall, a remarkable shift has occurred at the Johnson School. Women now comprise 43% of the Johnson MBA class, up 4 percentage points in a year and 12 points since 2020. For the first time in its history, Cornell has crossed the 40% threshold of enrolled MBA women.

But Cornell Johnson’s MBA diversity extends even further in 2023, truly a banner year for diversity at the Ithaca, New York B-school: In the percentage of both U.S. minorities (65%) and under-represented populations (35%), the Johnson School this year has made impressive gains and set school records — as well as benchmarks that will surely be the envy of its peers in both the Ivy League and across the leading institutions of graduate business education.


Stats Cornell Johnson 2-Year MBA Class of 2025 Cornell Johnson 2-Year MBA Class of 2024 Cornell Johnson 2-Year MBA Class of 2023 Cornell Johnson 2-Year MBA Class of 2022
Applications 2,554 2,555 2,105 1,872
Class Size 283 303 304 292
Median GMAT 710 710 710 700
Median GPA 3.35 3.30 3.34 3.42
Women 43% 39% 39% 31%
US Minorities 65% 43% 43% 39%
URM 35% 16% 18% 18%
Military 10% 13% 9% 10%
International 42% 43% 35% 34%
Countries Represented 39 43 30 29
Backgrounds NA Finance 30%, Consulting 15%, Tech 12%, Government/Nonprofit 11% Finance 28%, Consulting 11%, Tech 10% Finance 30%, Consulting 11%, Tech 11%, Government/Nonprofit 8%
Undergrad Major NA Business 54%, Engineering 18%, Sciences 5% Business 46%, Engineering 15%, Economics 14% Business/Commerce 33%, Engineering 15%, Economics 14%
Selectivity 30% 31.2% 29.5% 39.6%
Yield 37% 38.0% 49.0% 39.4%


When the U.S. Supreme Court struck down affirmative action in college admissions this summer, many saw it as a major obstacle to U.S. MBA programs’ commitment to diversity in their student ranks. But publicly and privately, leaders at the leading B-schools expressed determination to maintain and improve upon progress made in the diversification of MBAs. Many MBA class profiles this fall reflect that commitment — because while classes were largely assembled before the SCOTUS decision was handed down in late June, the writing was on the wall going back to oral arguments in October 2022 that affirmative action was unlikely to survive the attention of an activist conservative court, and schools had time to prepare.

While Black and Hispanic student numbers suffered at a number of places this year — falling at Yale School of Management, USC Marshall School of Business, Michigan Ross School of Business, and other places — they climbed at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, Duke Fuqua School of Business, Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, and Georgetown McDonough School of Business, among other schools, and held steady at UCLA Anderson School of Management.

No school that has so far reported its MBA Class of 2025 profile can boast the kind of diversity numbers Cornell has achieved. In one year, the Johnson School increased its MBA program’s under-represented population by 19 percentage points, from 16% last fall, and its U.S. minorities (which includes Asian Americans) by an astounding 22 points, from 43%.


Cornell’s Eddie Asbie: “Still a lot more work to be done to get to our goal of gender parity in the program”

“Johnson has a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion and making sure our students continue to be successful beyond the MBA,” Eddie Asbie, Cornell Johnson’s executive director of admissions and scholarship, tells Poets&Quants. “We went into the recruiting cycle for the Class of 2025 focused on growing the number of diverse students, including women and students of color, by showcasing our strengths through consistent outreach to candidates every step of the way in the admissions process and highlighting the many resources to support our under-represented students.

“We partner with our Office of Diversity and Inclusion, affinity groups, and alumni to host sessions focused on creating a sense of belonging for rising business leaders. Also, we continue to utilize our strong partnerships with organizations such as The Consortium, Management Leadership for Tomorrow, Forte, and more that have allowed us to grow the number of diverse students.”

That includes women, who have grown as a percentage of the Cornell Johnson MBA class by 12 percentage points in three years, and by 16 points since 2017.

“Getting to gender parity continues to be one of our priority goals and over the years we have taken steps to getting closer to achieving this,” Asbie says. “When they say ‘It takes a village,’ I truly believe this is why we have seen such an increase in women in this incoming class. The Johnson community has put in so much time and effort to making sure every candidate has multiple touchpoints throughout the admissions process. Much of this effort was led by organizations such as our Women’s Management Council who focused on a strategic plan to help increase women in our program. We also coordinated faculty outreach to prospective and admitted candidates.

“I am grateful for this community and know there is still a lot more work to be done to get to our goal of gender parity in the program.”


Another notable aspect of Cornell’s MBA Class of 2025 is that unlike many of its peers, the Johnson School — which last year was one of a handful of top-25 B-schools to report an actual increase in MBA applications from the previous year — once again avoided a major drop-off in apps, bucking the trend. In fact, Cornell did see a decline in apps in 2022-2023 — by exactly one application, reporting a total of 2,554, down from 2,555 in 2021-2022.

Cornell’s MBA application growth is a phenomenal success story. For the class that enrolled in fall 2019, the Johnson School received 1,535 total applications. In both the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 cycles, Cornell upped that by more than 1,000 apps — a more than two-thirds increase. The Johnson School did reduce its class size this year by 20 seats, bringing it more in line with pre-pandemic classes. Its acceptance rate correspondingly fell to 30% from just over 31% last year, while its yield continued a two-year decline.

International enrollment dipped to 42% from 43%, still well above the low- to mid-30% range Cornell reported for the classes of 2021, 2022, and 2023. In terms of test scores, Cornell’s median GMAT remains 710 in 2023, where it has been for three years now, while median undergraduate GPA increased to 3.35 from 3.30.


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