Harvard | Mr. Food Tech Start Ups
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. The Builder
GMAT 740, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. International Oil
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Mr. Overrepresented Indian Engineer
GMAT 740, GPA 8.78/10
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Biz Human Rights
GRE 710, GPA 8/10
Darden | Mr. Program Manager
GRE 324, GPA 3.74
Harvard | Mr. Consulting To Emerging Markets Banking
GRE 130, GPA 3.6 equivalent
Harvard | Mr. Comeback Kid
GMAT 770, GPA 2.8
Stanford GSB | Mr. Greek Taverna
GMAT 730, GPA 7.03/10
Harvard | Ms. Biotech Ops
GMAT 770, GPA 3.53
NYU Stern | Mr. Development
GMAT 690, GPA 2.5
Chicago Booth | Mr. Energy Operations
GRE 330, GPA 3.85
Harvard | Mr. Big 4 To Healthcare Reformer
GRE 338, GPA 4.0 (1st Class Honours - UK - Deans List)
Wharton | Mr. Steelmaker To Consultant
GMAT 760, GPA 3.04/4.0
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Indian Quant
GMAT 745, GPA 9.6 out of 10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Food & Education Entrepreneur
GMAT 720, GPA 4.0
Harvard | Mr. Standard Military
GMAT 700, GPA 3.74
Harvard | Ms. Gay Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Lieutenant To Consultant
GMAT 760, GPA 3.7
Duke Fuqua | Mr. IB Back Office To Front Office/Consulting
GMAT 640, GPA 2.8
Tuck | Mr. Infantry Officer To MBA
GRE 314, GPA 3.4
Rice Business | Mr. Future Energy Consultant
GRE Received a GRE Waiver, GPA 3.3
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Campaigns To Business
GMAT 750, GPA 3.19
MIT Sloan | Mr. Special Forces
GMAT 720, GPA 3.82
Columbia | Mr. Fingers Crossed
GMAT 730, GPA 3.2
Harvard | Ms. Egyptian Heritage
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
Harvard | Mr. Investor & Operator (2+2)
GMAT 720, GPA 3.85

Meet the MBA Class of 2023: Christina Peña, MIT (Sloan)

Christina Peña

MIT, Sloan School of Management

“Educator and life-long learner committed to educational equity and innovation using technology.”

Hometown: Houston, TX

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m working towards hiking and photographing all the U.S. National Parks, most recently completing a road trip with my younger sister to visit Utah’s Mighty Five.

Undergraduate School and Major: Duke University, English; Relay Graduate School of Education, Childhood Education (1-6)

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Principal-in-Residence at Ascend Public Charter Schools

What word best describes the MIT Sloan MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Collaborative. I have just been awestruck by the collaborative and kind nature of every single student and alumni that I have met so far. Everyone has really embodied the spirit of “Sloanies helping Sloanies,” jumping in to answer questions or to provide support in the transition to b-school. Immediately upon accepting my seat at Sloan, I was added to WhatsApp and Slack groups, where second years and alumni have been so accommodating and have scheduled multiple calls to allow us to seek advice from them.

As a Latina, it was also important that I felt that there was a strong community of people of color, and I haven’t been disappointed. I’ve met so many wonderful Black and Latinx students and alumni who have already gone out of their way to make MIT feel like home and are accomplishing incredible things out in the world. It has also been exciting to see them take initiative to organize us to help applicants, which just speaks to how much this is a part of the Sloan culture.

I’ve also been completing a summer venture capital crash course called Blueprint Investor Track through the Dorm Room Fund, and I was lucky to get paired up with a recent MIT Sloan alum, Isabelle Phelps, as my mentor. She is doing such interesting work in venture capital and has been fantastic about walking me through the nuts-and-bolts of VC as I gain exposure to the industry and help me chart my own path at Sloan. It is clear there is such a wonderful community at MIT, and I can’t wait to get on campus!

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of MIT Sloan’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? I was really drawn to MIT because of the entrepreneurial spirit that just permeated in every interaction I had. There is a palpable sense of people trying to think outside of the box to tackle tough, important problems. I’ll be pursuing the Entrepreneurship & Innovation track, which will allow me to meet other similarly-minded individuals looking to innovate in different spaces. I’ll be focusing on trying to find ways to change the status quo in our education system using technology, potentially starting my own education technology venture. There is no better place than MIT with its wealth of resources available to students who want to pursue an idea such as the Martin Trust Center, the Sandbox Innovation Fund, the 100K competition, the delta v accelerator, and much more.

As an educator, it was also critical to me that the program I chose included multiple opportunities to roll up my sleeves and learn by doing. MIT’s motto, mens et manus, which is Latin for mind and hand really spoke to me. At the same time, Sloan’s curriculum is designed to be flexible with just one core semester and multiple opportunities to get that hands-on experience whether that is through action learning labs, the Independent Activities Period (IAP), or entrepreneurial resources to start something while in school. Coming from such a non-traditional background, I’m confident that MIT Sloan’s rigorous program is going to allow me to get the hard, technical skills that I need to be successful in the business world. It was also comforting to know that I’ll be tackling the core curriculum with a small core team, which speaks to MIT’s intentionality.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at MIT Sloan? I’m most excited about participating in MIT’s Hack for Inclusion, which is a weekend hackathon that takes place every year to build solutions to address challenges around bias, diversity, and inclusion. You get placed on teams and work to solve a real organization’s problem related to DEI.

With the murder of George Floyd and the subsequent protests, many who were not aware of the racial injustice that still exists in our country suddenly had to confront the country’s historical and systemic racism. We have seen that now some of that activism on the part of companies and individuals has died down. As someone who has been doing this for years through my work in schools, I’m excited to meet and work with others to make a tangible impact for an organization around issues of diversity, equity, inclusion, and anti-racism with others who know we have a long way to go.

Action Learning Labs are one of MIT Sloan’s biggest attractions. Which lab interests you most? How does it fit with your interests? There are so many amazing labs to choose from, but I’m most interested in participating in the Global Entrepreneurship Lab or G-Lab. In G-Lab, you’re assigned to work with a startup in an emerging market on solving a real business problem.

It is a unique opportunity to step outside of the classroom and work with a team to make a difference for a host company. It seems like an incredible opportunity to put all the knowledge and problem-solving frameworks we’ve learned up to that point to practice as we work to understand the complexities of an organization’s problem.

When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How have your experiences with the Sloan program thus far reinforced or upended these early impressions? The first things that come to mind are problem solvers and do-ers. Obviously, MIT attracts incredibly intelligent people, but what has struck me the most is that people at MIT aren’t just sitting around talking or reading about a problem; they’re getting out there and tackling those problems head-on, and they’re not doing it alone because they understand the power of having a strong team to do good work. My experiences with the program have only reinforced that. I attended the 100K competition virtually and was so inspired by all the pitches made by student teams addressing issues from climate change to developmental disorders.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I began my career as a Teach for America corps member in the South Bronx; I have served marginalized communities for 9 years as a teacher, coach, EdTech operator, and school leader. During that time, I’ve been a part of turning around two elementary schools, but absolutely none of that compared to the last year-and-a-half of running a remote elementary school. I don’t think any of us imagined how long this would play out. I remember running to the copier to make packets thinking we would be in lockdown for maybe a week, not realizing that I would never get a chance to say goodbye to my graduating fourth graders in person.

As a school leader those first few months were the hardest. I was lucky to be a part of a network of schools that provided us a strong structure, but the reality was that most of our students did not have computers at home — or in some cases internet. As a result, they had to log in from their parents’ phones to finish out the year, with many kids not having any access to technology. We were scrambling to get in contact with families who had fallen out of contact during the lockdown. There was a lot of anxiety and loss. As educators, we had to provide that comfort and support for our students and families at a time where we were also experiencing those same emotions. But together we were able to rise up.

This last year, through generous donations, we were fortunate to get our students 1:1 technology. I was proud of my team and how they came together to give our students the very best education we could from the other side of a computer screen during an all-remote school year. Our teachers demonstrated such creativity and resilience working with all kinds of different technology. Despite growing pains and tech challenges, they provided our students with the structure and safety of school every single day. They built warm and loving communities, where kids felt excited to come to school to show off their talents, learn multiplication and fractions, and become better readers. I was also able to open a learning pod out of our campus to bring in students who needed extra support to learn from the safety of our building.

I think the world really woke up to realize the critical role that schools and teachers play in our society, and the many racial and economic injustices that still exist. I am hopeful that we will be able to carry through these lessons and make the much-needed changes to our education system, especially since gaps widened even further for low-income and communities of color.

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? If there is anything this pandemic has taught me is that life is too short not to pursue your dreams. I had thought about pursuing business school many years ago. However, I had felt intimidated by the application process as “just a teacher,” and ultimately ended up pursuing other opportunities.

This past year-and-a-half, like many, I took some time to reflect on what I was most passionate about. I had spent the last three years training to become a school principal, but this pandemic reawakened my passion for technology and the critical role I think it has in preparing our children to be 21st century citizens and closing the opportunity gap. I’m excited to push myself out of my comfort zone and meet people from many backgrounds who will challenge me to think in a different way so that I can innovate in the education space.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Prior to going into school leadership, I was a part of a wonderful EdTech start-up called LightSail Education. We had an award-winning literacy app that featured the unique combination of engaging books, in-text assessments, and powerful data analytics. I had the privilege of working with K-12 schools across the country and some internationally in Mexico, China, and South Africa to see first-hand the impact EdTech can have in the classroom. At the same time, I also saw the stark differences that exist across schools around the world.

I’m excited to get back into EdTech and find ways to reimagine the way we do school here in the United States and beyond. I’m still exploring whether that will be as an operator, investor, or even as a founder, but I’m committed to eliminating the racial and economic inequities that exist in our country through education and technology.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Haas, Harvard, Ross, UCLA, Yale SOM

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into MIT Sloan’s MBA program? The biggest piece of advice I have is to be your authentic self. It can be easy to get caught up on trying to present this persona or profile that you think a business school is looking for. However, you ultimately do yourself a disservice because each school has its own unique personality and they’re looking for individuals that they believe will align with their mission and methodology. Rather than being focused on the brand name or prestige of a program, I recommend applicants really do their research and focus on fit to find schools that match their interests and have programs that will help them achieve their goals.