Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Rakiya Cunningham, Stanford GSB

Rakiya Cunningham

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“I’m an outspoken, independent thinker with a contagious energy (and laugh) that connects with others.”

Hometown: Mesquite, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a University of Texas cheerleader my freshman year of college. Hook ‘Em Horns!

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Texas at Austin, Finance

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Finance Advisor at Shell

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of Stanford GSB’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? GSB’s emphasis on cultivating self-aware and thoughtful leaders was paramount in my decision. Leading with purpose and understanding is equally important to me as achieving results. At GSB, I see unparalleled opportunities for self-discovery and practical application.

What has been the most important thing that you’ve learned at Stanford GSB so far? The entrepreneurial energy at GSB has taught me to have radical belief in myself and my ideas. I feel privileged to be in such a unique environment and compelled to leverage the exceptional resources available. Even outside of classes, the desire to create something is in the air. I can now apply this mentality in any of my endeavors and know that it’s not a matter of “if” I can do something but rather “how.” GSB has exponentially expanded my view of what is possible.

What course, club or activity have you enjoyed the most so far at Stanford GSB? I really enjoyed taking Lead Labs first quarter despite my initial skepticism. It not only confirmed my leadership strengths in a new context, but also empowered me to leverage them further. Witnessing diverse yet equally effective leadership styles among my classmates was incredibly valuable. Moreover, the course helped me identify both areas for opportunity and limiting beliefs I can overcome.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates you’ve met so far? Give an example why this is true. I would say my classmates are passionate and resolute. I feel like everyone here is running their own race. It’s rare to find two people interested in the same thing with the same goals. I don’t feel pressure to pursue one path. I feel inspired to do what I want at the highest level.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In my last role, I helped shape the retail fuel strategy in the west coast. It’s rare you get to work at the paradigm shift of an industry. I worked on projects bringing renewable diesel to California and rethinking the traditional fuel business as EVs become more prevalent across the US.

Describe your biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far? Through the Hacking for Climate course, a few classmates and I were selected to research entrepreneurial solutions for grid expansion through transmission. This experience has fast-tracked my expertise in the utility market and grid infrastructure. Regardless of the project’s final outcome, I believe our findings and efforts hold significant potential to make a positive impact.

What has been your best memory as an MBA so far? A few of my classmates hosted a Comedy Night where some people performed a 6-minute set. Hands down one of my favorite GSB events. My stomach still hurts from laughing.

What advice would you give to a prospective applicant looking to join the Stanford GSB Class of 2026? The best essays are the essays that feel authentically you. There is no magic formula. There is only you.

Instead of viewing the question “What matters most to you and why” as a requirement for the GSB application, consider it the start of lifelong self-discovery and reflection that will guide you at Stanford and beyond.


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