Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Nkozi Stewart, Wharton School

Nkozi Stewart

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Avid traveler, empathetic listener and dynamic leader who uses equitable resources to empower underserved communities.”

Hometown: Queens, NY

Fun Fact About Yourself: Experiencing customs/cultures in different parts of the world is a priority for me when I have downtime; I am hoping to add to my list of 25 countries that I’ve travelled to and visit my 7th continent (Antarctica) while at Wharton.

Undergraduate School and Major: The United States Air Force Academy; B.S. in Management

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: United States Air Force; Logistics Readiness Officer

What has been your first impression of the Wharton MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best Wharton story so far. I am impressed by the diversity of everyone’s backgrounds. I come from a gang-plagued, low-income area and was the first in my family born in America, the first to go to college, and the first to join the military. During my first few weeks at Wharton, I have met people from all over the world – individuals who owned their own companies prior to Wharton, not to mention people in finance, consulting, and nonprofit sectors. I also met a cardiac surgeon who is currently in their residency while at Wharton – a profession I did not expect to be represented in our class. I am excited about being surrounded by such a wealth of experience, as I know it will be an incubator for dynamic discussions and growth.

My best Wharton story so far is working with my learning team during our Learning Team Experience Day. I did not expect us to go from being strangers to tight knit within only a few days of meeting one another. We also finished first in both of our learning team competitions against the rest of our cohort. We work together very well and they are all awesome! I’m excited for us to continue to grow closer over these two years. Shout out to Ansh, Ife, Natalie, Simran and Sydney!

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the Wharton School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Wharton’s curriculum really intrigued me. It is a flexible curriculum that allows students to tailor their studies to match their individual career goals and interests. The wide range of elective courses and concentrations provides the opportunity to delve into specific areas of business. Wharton also has dual degree and semester exchange options, both of which I am currently looking into.

What course, club, or activity excites you the most at the Wharton School? The course I am looking forward to is MGMT 8110: Entrepreneurship through Acquisition (ETA). I aspire to have a career in ETA post-MBA. The thought of buying and growing an already established business excites me and will provide freedom from the typical workforce hierarchy and bureaucracy. I can create something that is truly my own and will have the ability to shape the direction of the business and to make decisions that align with my personal values and goals.

On another note, the club I am most excited to join is Wharton’s Youth Mentors Club (WYM-C). WYM-C partners with Philadelphia youth organizations to mentor the city’s underserved youth. Impact activities include tutoring and SAT prep, college inspiration and planning, and entrepreneurial, financial, and personal mentorship. This hits close to home, as I grew up in an under-resourced and gang-infested urban area. By giving the “little Nkozi’s” in the world resources, knowledge and exposure that I was not able to receive growing up, I can help them realize better opportunities for themselves. I wholeheartedly believe that a child cannot aspire to be something if they do not know it exists.

When you think of the Wharton School, what is the first word that comes to mind? Why? Opportunity. Wharton offers a multitude of opportunities for students to engage in internships, projects, leadership development, research, experiential learning, and more. These opportunities help students apply their pre-MBA experience and classroom knowledge to real-world situations. Anything you want to do and/or accomplish, you can do from Wharton and Wharton will ensure you are prepared for a successful and impactful career in the world of business.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2021, I had the opportunity to volunteer for a stateside deployment to New Jersey. This was weeks after the United States pulled out of Afghanistan and the country fell to the Taliban Regime. Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst became the transition location for over 16,000 Afghans after they were evacuated. I managed an expeditionary logistics squadron of over 180 troops that supported the bed-down and eventual relocation of Afghan families. I was awarded the Air Force Achievement Medal for my time there. During the same period, I won the annual Junior Military Officer Award for my squadron. These two accomplishments coupled together allowed me to be ranked as the #1 Lieutenant in the 635th Supply Chain Operations Wing—my biggest accomplishment to date.

This #1 ranking serves as my biggest accomplishment not because I was viewed as “the best” in comparison to my peers. Instead, it was because, as a freshman at the Air Force Academy, I initially struggled adjusting to military life and the challenging academics. Numerous senior cadets encouraged me to voluntarily disenroll from the school because they believed I wasn’t a “good fit” for the program and the Air Force as a whole. This made being recognized for my leadership and accomplishments by a Wing Commander especially rewarding. This is just a friendly reminder to never give up, keep hurdling the obstacles that pop up on your path and if you do fail, always fail forward.

What do you hope to do after graduation (at this point)? I am looking at consulting or being a product manager at a large tech company.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? I would recommend watching Casey Gerald’s 2014 student address at Harvard Business School. You can find it on YouTube titled “Class Day 2014: Casey Gerald,” posted by the Harvard Business School account.

This speech inspired me to persevere while studying for my GRE and helped me confirm internally that business school was my next professional goal. Casey Gerald quotes a lawyer who spoke to him at Yale Law School and said, “If you wanted to change the world in the 20th century, you had to go to law school. But in the 21st century, if you want to change the world, go to business school.” Additionally, he later states that we are currently in a “dream depression,” which is “a time of uncertainty when folks are stashing their dreams, hopes, and aspirations in various places, never to see the light of day.”

The process of applying to business school can be stressful and grueling at times. This video can serve as great motivation when you’re feeling a bit defeated and can remind you why you’re working so hard to gain acceptance into a top school. We can all be agents of change in our own ways and let our past experiences drive us to turn our dreams into reality.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Booth, Columbia, Kellogg, Ross and Sloan

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into the Wharton School’s MBA program? Be authentic to who you truly are and let that come out naturally in your application. I often see many applicants try to mold themselves into who they believe Wharton wants, and I believe this actually hurts them. Wharton wants you because you’re different; the program is not looking to admit cookie cutter students. Simply put, Wharton wants you for you and the unique experiences you bring to the table.

Also, all aspects of your application are important. I see many people put most of their energy toward essays and test scores when there are other critical parts of your application, such as your letters of recommendation and your resume. Each piece of your application is critical to presenting who you are as an applicant and you can strategically use different areas to reemphasize a point or present other aspects of yourself that may not fit into other areas of the application.

DON’T MISS: MEET WHARTON’S MBA CLASS OF 2025

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