Inclusivity at Stern: An LGBTQ Perspective

Gage Kaefring is a current MBA2 and will be joining PwC Strategy& in their Healthcare Strategy and Operations practice upon graduation from the full-time, two-year program. At Stern, Gage serves as the co-president of OutClass, the LGBTQ student group on campus, and as the VP of Marketing for Stern Chats, the Stern podcast. He is specializing in Leadership, Strategy, and Analytics.


When I was applying to business schools nearly two years ago, I knew it was going to be nearly impossible not to be out in my application. I had served on the board of an LGBTQ advocacy group in Minneapolis for several years and at the time was one of the lead volunteer coordinators for an LGBTQ youth center in Seattle. I was also the head of my office’s LGBTQ Employee Resource Group and you really just had to take a cursory look at my Instagram to see a plethora of rainbow flags. Going back into the closet simply wasn’t an option.

It was because of this position that I thoroughly evaluated the prevalence of the LGBTQ student communities for each of my potential schools. Of all the schools I applied to, Stern’s was easily the most engaged. They called me before my on-campus interview and I was able to meet with a current student immediately after the interview concluded to get her perspective. The then-presidents of the organization fielded my questions and made it clear that they would be thrilled should I gain acceptance. 

Through a stroke of incredible fortune I did manage to gain admittance to Stern and the notion of a tight-knit, queer family turned out to be far more than I had ever hoped. In business school, recruiting starts early. Like, really early, almost as soon as you set foot on campus. For the LGBTQ students it starts even earlier. The national Reaching Out MBA (ROMBA) organization hosts a conference before most on-campus recruiting starts and queer students are tossed immediately overboard into the sea of corporate presentations, networking, and even interviews before their peers. Luckily, the second year MBAs (MBA 2s) at Stern are right beside you, treading water and helping you stay afloat. Their enthusiasm for your success is at the same time endearing and empowering. You feel like you have a genuine cheerleader, or, to beat this metaphor to death, a lifeguard.

This past year, it was my turn to shepherd the MBA 1s through their ROMBA experience. Having been thrown in just last year I knew how exciting, energizing and overwhelming the conference is. More than 30 schools are represented and nearly 100 companies, each bringing their best, most accomplished, most well-dressed queer representatives to network and hear lectures on different industries. This past year the conference took place in Atlanta and I approached my role as the facilitator MBA 1s with an enthusiasm that, looking back on it, probably unnerved them just a bit. Each year Stern turns out one of the largest contingents to this conference and this year was no different. A cadre of MBA2s helped our younger classmates network, get into the right events and, most importantly, truly enjoy the conference. Obviously in Atlanta, this last piece means visiting the Coca-Cola Museum (it was also Atlanta Pride, so I was sporting my best rainbow bandana).

While OutClass may be a powerful example of the communities Stern is capable of building, it is only one piece of the broader community. On the LGBTQ front I have seen some incredible support from my classmates, both straight and otherwise. Everyone on campus gives you license to truly be yourself and not fear any judgement. They celebrate your identities with you and are genuinely interested. There’s no better example of the ally community showing up for OutClass than our end-of-year party. Appropriately named School is Out and So Are We, it is the final celebration of the school year and an absolutely joyous occasion for the entire Stern community to come together. It also helps that there is a wildly entertaining student drag show midway through the evening.

The level of commitment that Stern students show to their community has been easily the best feature of business school for me and I am so grateful to be surrounded by such caring people, gay, straight, and otherwise.

Stepping Outside Your Comfort Zone in Business School

Sami Abdisubhan is an MBA2 who spent his summer internship at Anheuser-Busch. Sami serves as VP of Marketing & Operations for Stern in Africa (SiA), VP of Training for Stern FC, and Co-President of the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS). He is specializing in Marketing and Business Analytics.



One of the values of earning an MBA is exploration. Whether it’s exploring a new industry, function, city, or experience, there lies opportunity in an unusually supported manner when at business school. A subset of this value proposition is something NYU Stern’s Dean, Dean Raghu Sundaram, said to us on our first day of LAUNCH, Stern’s orientation: business school is the best time in your careers to fail. Despite the irony that I’m paraphrasing, this was a moment that I’ve cherished from orientation. There is no safer environment to professionally experiment than business school. The stakes will not be lower! This line from our Dean helped me get through an experiential learning class I took in my first year called Consulting Lab: Branding and Innovation.

Coming into Stern, I wanted to pivot my career into consumer marketing with a focus on brand management. While brand management is effectively a general management function, there is a responsibility to own how a brand is portrayed and understood and that has always been my interest and passion in marketing. When available, I jumped at the opportunity to register for Consulting Lab, knowing it was an experiential learning class; experiential learning, as it sounds, is a format of learning obtained through real-life projects and business challenges. I saw this class as a way to train myself before my summer internship, brand management at Anheuser-Busch, in that fail-safe environment that Dean Sundaram mentioned.

When I started the class, I was very excited to hear from the client about the challenge they brought to us. There was a thrill to it: a large financial services firm was coming to us, graduate students, to support a project with which they genuinely needed help! A slight problem arose: I didn’t understand the challenge. The prompt was clear to me and I understood the need for the project from the client’s side – I just didn’t know where to start. For the most part, my project team was in the same boat and as the solutions-oriented people we are, our minds immediately went to products/changes the client could implement to fix the problem. However, we were quickly reminded that we didn’t understand the problem fundamentally and hadn’t gone through the right analysis to get there.

This start was not what I had hoped. Not just because of the slight project-related hiccup, but also because this is my aspired career. I’ve planned for this since I started writing business school essays. Was I wrong? Will my summer internship be a nightmare? These thoughts and questions had me considering dropping the class as some others – not on my team – had done. However, one of my goals before starting at Stern was to create a different experience than my undergraduate experience. In college, I wasn’t really involved in extracurriculars and didn’t challenge myself, both of which I regretted. The 20-year-old me would’ve dropped this class after the second session for no other reason than to avoid difficulty. Not this time. Again, harkening back to the idea of a failing to learn, I made sure to embrace being out of the comfort zone.

This does have a happy ending: in one of our group project meetings, as my team members were brainstorming, all of it clicked. I literally let out a big “Ohhhhhhhhh. I got it. ” From then on, we went to do very well in the class, presented a viable solution to the client’s executives and, after impressing, earned a good mark overall. Coincidentally, my summer project at Anheuser-Busch was incredibly creative in nature, focusing on advertising. My experience doing branding-related work in Consulting Lab was by far the most influential to my success over the summer and converting my internship into a full-time offer of all the classes I had taken first year. For that, I’m thankful I was able to reflect in the moment to think back to my MBA goals prior to starting and we were reminded during orientation that there is no other time to try and fail and to not run away from failure than business school.

My Path to Business School: Reflections from an MBA1

 Lee Axelrod is an MBA1 who will be interning in brand management at Bazooka Candy Brands this summer. Lee serves as the co-president of Stern Cellar and the VP of Knowledge Management for the Gradate Marketing Association. She is specializing in Marketing and Strategy. 




As my first year at Stern is coming to a close, it feels like a good time to reflect on my experience and how I got here. During my initial weeks on campus, I would often pause in astonishment as I realized that I was actually in an MBA program. Until a few years ago, it had never occurred to me that I could go to business school, so occasionally I would be amazed that I’m really here. However, as the weeks passed and I got more accustomed to my new lifestyle, I acclimated to the experience of being an MBA student and started taking for granted all of the incredible opportunities that I have at Stern. So now I want to take a step back and focus on why I’m here and how grateful I am that I ended up in business school.

Growing up, I was always passionate about reading and art, so it’s not surprising that I chose to major in English and Studio Art in college. I went to Stanford for undergrad and while I valued the opportunity to take classes in a variety of disciplines, I mostly stuck to the arts and humanities during my time there. I became so enthralled with literature that I even decided to apply for a master’s program in English at Stanford, which I completed in one year after finishing my bachelor’s degree. At the time, I was considering getting a Ph.D and going into academia, so pursuing a master’s seemed like a good way to determine if a Ph.D would actually be the right fit for me. I quickly realized that academia was not where I belonged. While I still loved reading, analyzing texts, and writing papers, I hated sitting alone in my apartment all day. I craved human interaction and I really wanted to be part of something bigger than myself. After I finished my degree, I eagerly left academia and sought real-world employment.

When I left school, I was determined to work in an industry that I was passionate about. After searching for a while, I finally landed a job at a small publishing company in San Francisco as a sales and marketing assistant. The publishing world seemed like a great fit for me: it was full of smart, intellectual people who also loved books. I learned a lot in my first role and wanted to broaden my publishing experience, so after a year I moved to Wiley, a large academic publishing company. I started in their San Francisco office as a Sales Support Coordinator, working with our textbook sales reps. 

While I was at Wiley, I discovered that I enjoyed corporate life a lot more than I expected. I performed well in my first job, and within a year I was promoted to manage the team as a Sales Support Supervisor. I moved from the San Francisco office to the Hoboken, New Jersey headquarters for the position. Becoming a manager introduced many new challenges, but I loved being able to make important decisions and lead my team on key projects. In my first year as a manager, it occurred to me that I might appreciate having more senior roles in the future, and that one way to advance my career would be to get an MBA.

Although MBAs are common in many industries, they are quite rare in publishing. I only knew one or two colleagues who had gone to business school, so I had very few role models to look up to when considering this new career path. However, I did have several friends from Stanford who had since gone to business school, so I reached out to them to ask about their experience. I was concerned that an MBA program wouldn’t be a good fit for me; after all, I had avoided taking math and econ classes in college and I knew nothing about finance or accounting. I also didn’t know many people who had worked in banking or consulting and I felt that I might not fit in well with hundreds of students who had a vastly different professional experience from mine. I also thought that business students would be competitive, aggressive, elitist, or just bro-y. 

However, my Stanford friends assured me that their business school classmates did not fit the stereotype that I had envisioned. In fact, they told me that MBA students were a lot like Stanford students: smart, ambitious, and eager to work hard and play hard. Above all, they emphasized that MBA students weren’t elitist—they were just regular people hoping to advance their careers. And they said that business school wasn’t as competitive as I was imagining, and that business students did look out for each other and support one another. 

After thinking over all of this for a year or so, I finally decided to take the GMAT and apply to business school. I was still pretty hesitant about whether this plan would work out. For one thing, I wasn’t sure if I would get into any business schools—maybe they wouldn’t think I was a good fit. Once I started applying to business schools, I felt better about my prospects, but several early visits to MBA programs left me questioning my choice again as I wondered about the student community. Some schools still felt too competitive for me, and while I was eager to advance my career, I questioned whether I would make any friends in the process. However, the community at Stern felt different than my other on-campus visits—students seemed really supportive of each other, and I met other students from non-traditional backgrounds who were thriving. So when I got accepted to Stern and later decided to attend, I still had a few doubts but overall was fairly confident in my choice. 

I can now say that business school has been even better than I expected in all possible ways. First, the career opportunities and recruiting process have hugely exceeded my expectations. Stern provides so much support throughout the process, both from the Office of Career Development and from the professional clubs. I feel completely guided in my recruiting journey, rather than left to fend for myself. Second, the core classes in my first semester were more interesting and relevant than I’d anticipated, and I didn’t struggle with the quantitative courses as I had feared I would. The professors and TAs are really helpful, but beyond that, my fellow classmates are unbelievably supportive. When working on a group project or just a homework assignment, they have always helped me if I didn’t understand something—which happened less often than I thought it would.

Lastly and most importantly, the community at Stern is truly amazing. My classmates aren’t competitive—they’re really collaborative, both in the classroom and in the recruiting process. Best of all, I have met many incredible people at Stern and have made real friendships here. I never thought that I would connect deeply to so many people in a business school, but I do feel that I have meaningful relationships with many Stern classmates. There are a lot of other people here from non-traditional backgrounds, but even those coming from finance or consulting are friendly, caring, and fun to hang out with. Contrary to my expectations, they aren’t aggressive or elitist—they’re just regular people trying to advance their career and learn about business, like I am. Ultimately, I’ve realized that we all have a lot in common and we’re all working together to achieve our goals, which is what makes the Stern community so incredible. 

Club Spotlight: AHBBS

Mahssa Mostajabi is an MBA2, who spent her summer internship on the US Consumer Digital team at Citi. Mahssa serves as the VP of Admissions for AHBBS, President of InSITE, and a host of Stern Chats. She is specializing in Business Analytics, Luxury Marketing, and Sustainable Business and Innovation.


As an MBA2, or second year, many students are heavily involved on campus in various professional, affinity, and social clubs and organizations. Personally, I have chosen to divvy up my time amongst: (1) Stern Chats, Stern’s podcast, in which I’m a host, (2) InSITE, an unofficial club that pairs graduate students across NYC with semester-long, startup consulting projects, in which I’m a president, and (3) Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS), an affinity club for hispanic and black students at Stern, in which I’m a VP of Admissions and ally. 

All of these organizations have been important to me and my time at Stern. InSITE has been important professionally. Many of the organization’s alumni went onto jobs and careers that mirror my own interests and have served as a great support, sounding board, and network as I try to recruit for product management roles at startups this year. I’ve also made valuable connections with founders and VCs through our consulting work with startups that I hope will be helpful to me during my recruiting process in the spring. 

The most impactful experience, however, has undoubtedly been my involvement with and role on the board of AHBBS. I applied to Stern through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, an organization that promotes the advancement of hispanic, black, and native students in business. In addition, I attended Stern’s annual Discover Stern Fall Diversity Weekend, which provides a preview of Stern’s culture and curriculum, and Stern Perspectives Day, which presents prospective students with an opportunity to do your admissions interview with an AHBBS alum. All of these experiences were incredibly important during my application process. They gave me a chance to get to know Stern’s student body, determine if their values aligned with my own, and get a feel for what the next two years may be like for me. Consistently, I found incredible community from AHBBS’ members. One student in particular went out of her way to help me with the admissions process, answer my questions, and quell my fears. Ultimately, I decided that this was the differentiating factor for me and I chose to attend Stern as a result.

Coming onto campus, I knew that I wanted to pay back all that was given to me by AHBBS. As a first year student, I applied to AVP roles with both AHBBS and numerous other clubs and, while I received interviews, was ultimately not chosen for the roles. I decided to move forward with my involvement nonetheless and volunteered at the AHBBS events from which I had benefited greatly and continued to be an active member of the community. As a second year, there was an opportunity to become a VP of Admissions for AHBBS and I eagerly accepted the role. I’ve now had the honor of helping to plan the very same events I enjoyed and valued so much. I’m also further involved in admissions as a Graduate Ambassador within Stern’s MBA Admissions office and I’m incredibly thankful that I have the opportunity to give back so directly to the organizations and events that helped me get to Stern. 

Coming into Stern and an MBA in general can be overwhelming and there is always a scramble for the multitude of opportunities. However, in my experience, the right opportunities come to you if you stay engaged and pursue the things you value. All of my roles on campus are incredibly important to me and have been critical to my time at Stern. I am now thankful for the lesson that, while it may initially seem like an opportunity hasn’t worked out in the way you imagined, time has the ability to change your perspective and even reality. 

Course Spotlight: Stern Consulting Corps

Eric Bauer is an MBA2, who spent his summer internship at at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC). Eric holds leadership roles on the European Business Society, the Luxury and Retail Club and the Stern Student Government. He is specializing in Business Analytics, Finance, and Management.


When I started the process of choosing a business school to attend, location became a crucial part of the decision for me. Being that I had lived in Oklahoma for many years, I knew that if I was going to move away from home, I wanted to move somewhere that would provide me with the most professional opportunities and exposure to potential employers. Thus, NYU Stern became the obvious choice due to its unparalleled location.

Stern’s positioning in the heart of Manhattan has not only allowed me to network with countless potential employers, but it has also given me the option to round-out my curriculum with real world, hands on consulting experiences through the Stern Consulting Corps (SCC) and Stern Solutions courses/programs. Stern’s relationships with potential employers in the city, coupled with the fact that so many company headquarters are just a short subway ride away from campus, made these things possible. Since I had decided to make a career switch and recruit for a consulting role, the opportunities provided through these two experiential learning programs have become extremely vital parts of my course load and have been instrumental in my success with securing a full-time consulting offer.

 In the Spring semester of my first year at Stern, I took part in the Stern Consulting Corps program. As part of this 3-credit course, I had the opportunity to work with a luxury gym headquartered here in NYC to help strategize their expansion across Europe. The semester involved bi-monthly meetings with the client at their offices here in NYC and concluded with a presentation and hand off of our recommendations to senior executives and C-suite members of the company. During our weekly scheduled class time, we received feedback and pointers from our professors, one of which was a former consultant herself, which provided for a no pressure environment in which to ask for help, coaching, and guidance. The Stern Consulting Corps was a great way to gain consulting experience before heading into my summer internship, and I truly feel as though it gave me a leg up when I arrived on day one and was expected to hit the ground running.

The completion of my summer internship validated that consulting is what I want to do upon graduating, and so, after having accepted a full-time offer, I knew I wanted to keep working on real projects with real clients once classes started back up in the fall. This is what led me to enroll in Stern’s Fashion & Luxury Solutions course. With this experiential class, I am working with a Fortune 500 beauty products company to help craft a growth strategy for one of their prestige skincare brands. Similar to the Consulting Corps, we meet with the client at their headquarters and via conference calls as we craft our deliverables, and have our professor to bounce ideas off of and discuss uncertainties with during the weekly scheduled class time. This current project has proven to be a valuable learning experience and is helping me to continue to sharpen my capabilities as a consultant.

 While there are many classes to choose from here at Stern, for me, the ability to ‘learn by doing’ is such a great option and a real differentiating factor of the Stern program. In one short year, I’ve gone from having no consulting experience, to now having three projects under my belt, and I’m not sure this would have been as accessible of an option at many other schools. I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had here at Stern, and the experiential classes are just one of the many reasons why I’m glad I came to NYU to earn my MBA.

Change: Celebrate It

Tiffaine Stephens is a current MBA2 who spent her summer internship at PepsiCo. Tiffaine serves as the Co-President of Stern Women in Business (SWiB). She is specializing in Marketing, Entertainment/Media/Technology, and Entrepreneurship.




This semester has been my favorite thus far! I am constantly thanking the Spring 2019 Tiffaine for choosing classes that genuinely spark my interest and passion. My favorite class this semester is “Branding + Innovation: Consulting Lab” taught by Fran Gormley. I thought I understood branding before this class, but I was wrong. Our class has the opportunity to consult for Spotify (how crazy is this!). The same company I longed for last year is the same company I now have access to. Fran’s teaching style is unique and supportive. She is a reminder that to be successful you have to own who you are. Every Wednesday at 6 pm, I feel like I’m getting two lessons: one on branding and one on how to be fearless in my entrepreneurial endeavors.

While Branding feels more like home to me, I’m taking one stretch course that has definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone,  “Corporate Finance” with Anthony Marciano. Long term, I know I want to be an entrepreneur so taking Corp Fin was an intentional decision. I knew that I would not leave as a finance expert, but with enough information to be “dangerous.” This class highlights the power of collaboration at Stern. Before our midterm, which we were all worried about, we got together for a half day and worked through problem sets together, taught each other, and celebrated once we finished.

The class that has been the most eye-opening is “Sustainable Food Business” with Hans Taparia, which is cross-listed with Steinhardt’s Food Studies program. Taking a class with students outside of Stern is an interesting experience – we tend to get caught up with a maniacal focus on the bottom line, whereas my classmates think of this lastly. Instead, they prioritize the societal impact of a business, which has pushed me to be more critical of my career plan.

Outside of class, my role as Co-President of Stern Women in Business (SWIB) has been keeping me quite busy. Everyday there’s a new set of challenges that have trained me to be agile but thoughtful in the way that I approach problem solving. I’m constantly learning how to flex my leadership + management style. The co-president structure at Stern gives you an immediate accountability partner and it’s helpful when trying to balance school, extra-curricular activities and life outside of Stern. Although we have a few months left in our term, I’ve gotten the most satisfaction from the small, but meaningful changes we’ve made to change the way our community thinks about gender equity in higher education. 

Another leadership opportunity presented itself in the form of Co-VP of Marketing for a new special interest club on campus – CannaBusiness. I’ve been able to get back in touch with my creative and entrepreneurial side while learning about a growing industry that’s been stigmatized and riddled with injustice.

As the semester comes to a close, I’m getting ready to take it easy, connect with family and friends, and reflect on this semester and what I want the rest of the year to be like. At the start of January, I’ll be heading to DBi New Zealand with about 10 other Sternies for two weeks. Afterwards, I’ll be joining a group in Bali for a week to take advantage of the much needed time off!

So much has changed since the start of this program. I am proud of the personal growth that I’ve experienced. I am more self-aware, more solution-oriented, and more vulnerable than I’ve been in a while. Change can be made out to be this scary moment in your life, but Stern creates an atmosphere that encourages change. To describe my MBA experience, I would say “Change. CELEBRATE IT.” I’m looking forward to more celebrations, more growth, and more friendship in Spring 2020. Cheers!

How Sternies “Pay It Forward”

Jeff Battipaglia is a current MBA2 who spent his summer internship working on the Strategy team at BNY Mellon. Jeff is a Co-President of Stern’s Military Veterans Club and VP of Community Services within Student Government. He is specializing in finance and strategy.




In the spring of 2017, I first stepped foot on NYU Stern’s Washington Square Park campus. My close friend’s cousin, Joe Deane (Stern ‘17), had been communicating with me for several months about the program and his career ambitions after graduation. I am pretty good friends with Joe, and so I was not in the least bit surprised to hear him speak highly of Stern and emphasize how much of a great learning (and fun) experience he was having while at school. At the time, I was transitioning out of the Marine Corps, and so Joe was quick to introduce me to a few military veteran friends of his on campus. My fortuitous connection to Joe, and subsequently  Ian Merry (‘17) and Kris Kesting (‘17), were major factors in my decision to attend business school here and join the collegial, supportive and community-focused student body at NYU Stern. 

When I arrived for my visit, I was immediately struck by how friendly classmates were to each other and to visitors as they shuffled about KMC during their busy days of classes and recruiting. I soon realized that this excitement about Stern exhibited by Joe, Ian and Kris was ubiquitous all over campus, and it resonated with me in terms of a school fit. Joe was extremely knowledgeable and helpful in explaining the recruiting process, particularly in the finance/banking arena, and its role in selecting an MBA program to attend. Ian and Kris provided great insight and personal lessons learned during their respective transitions out of the military and how the Military Veterans Club at Stern is unique compared to other schools’ veterans clubs. Their unsolicited friendship and enthusiasm for Stern was not lost on me, and after that visit, I knew that 44 W. 4th St. was where I wanted to be for the next two years. 

After matriculating in the summer of 2018, I knew that my responsibilities as a Sternie would extend beyond the classroom and career corporate presentations. I desired to be an ambassador for the school and an advocate for applicants, much like the gentlemen described above were to me. The notion of “paying it forward” was never explicitly mentioned to me, but rather became a sort of innate feeling once enrolled at Stern. Although much of my first year was focused on academics and internship/career opportunities, those prioritized efforts have afforded me time and resources during my second year to pursue activities that support Stern and the greater community. I currently serve as a co-president for the Military Veterans Club, and also as a Student Government vice president with the Community Service team. Additionally, I work in the admissions office as a “graduate ambassador,” connecting with prospective students and helping describe Stern, its mission, and the application process.

Attending NYU Stern has afforded me the opportunity to earn a world-class business school education, to make new life-long friendships, and to pursue my career ambitions with conviction and confidence. Like Joe, Ian and Kris, paying it forward to future Sternies is easy to me. Promoting and supporting this school is simple when one’s passion and purpose are aligned into the bigger picture of what Stern is all about. 


Summer Internship Series: EY

Gage Kaefring is a rising MBA2 and is spending the summer with the Project Portfolio Management consulting team at EY (formerly Ernst & Young). At Stern, Gage serves as the co-president of OutClass, the LGBTQ student group on campus, and as the VP of Marketing for Stern Chats, the Stern podcast. He is specializing in Leadership, Strategy, and Analytics.

NYU Stern’s “Summer Internship Series” sheds light into Sternies’ internship experiences. Posts are written by rising MBA2s who are currently working at their summer internship.

The first thing I think about when I reflect back on my summer internship experience was just how quickly the time passed.  My internship as a consultant in the New York office at EY was initially full of the ups and downs one would expect from starting any new job. The conclusion however, would be a dramatic demonstration of the trials consultants are often forced to confront.

As part of their summer internship, EY includes an industry research component in which teams present to senior partners on the best strategy for EY to maintain and grow a specific client relationship. My team selected a media company from the Technology, Media, and Telecomm (TMT) space and got to work — researching the industry and building a solid presentation — on top of our required client work. The presentation would be given to a group of partners at an all-day event in Chicago at the conclusion of the internship.

When the time to present arrived, I was set to travel from my client in New Jersey to Chicago the day before, and would meet the rest of my team in-person for the first time to run through our presentation. The weather had other plans. Severe thunderstorms struck the New York area in the early afternoon and, at the urging of my team, I proactively switched my flight to depart at 6 AM the next morning, the same flight booked by one of my other team members. The two of us would still arrive with plenty of time to rehearse with the rest of the team that afternoon. It turned out to be the right move as the thunderstorms only grew worse and my original flight ended up being cancelled hours after I made the switch.

I awoke at 4 AM the next morning feeling confident in my maneuvering to secure a perfectly timed flight despite the inclement weather. This confidence was dashed around 4:50 AM when I received an email from the teammate traveling with me and another from the airline shortly after, informing me that this flight too had been cancelled with no specified reason. I arrived at the airport shortly after my coworker finished speaking with a gate agent. Apparently all flights out of the New York area airports had been cancelled until Sunday.

We were at a loss trying to determine how we were going to make the presentation. Thinking fast, I realized the only way was to book a flight from Philadelphia. There happened to be one that would put us in Chicago without any time to spare so, lacking options, we booked it. After a three hour Lyft ride and a hurried airport breakfast, we boarded and landed in Chicago a mere hour before we were scheduled to present. We hurried through O’Hare and secured another Lyft. Our team was frantically texting us both and preparing for the possibility that we wouldn’t make it in time.

We very nearly didn’t. It was a race against time from the airport to the event space EY had rented for the day. We arrived with seconds to spare and were ushered with our team on-stage. The only review we had done was on the airplane and in the Lyft. But standing on stage, in front of four, stern-faced partners, it all seemed to click. Our presentation flowed and each team member fielded the judges’ questions with poise.

At the end of our presentation we sat down, sharing congratulations at successfully getting through a presentation we were thrown into without any preparation. Much to the surprise of each and every member of our team, our presentation was recognized as one of the best-in-class. The whole experience served as a perfect parable for the entire consulting experience: a group of dedicated people battling fate and the elements to deliver for their clients.

Summer Internship Series: Mars

Emily Barry is a rising MBA2 and just completed her summer internship on the brand management team at Mars. Emily is Co-President of Stern’s Graduate Marketing Association, VP of Communications for Stern Student Government, and VP of International Treks for the Arts, Culture, and Cuisine Club. She is specializing in marketing and strategy. 

NYU Stern’s “Summer Internship Series” sheds light into Sternies’ internship experiences. Posts are written by rising MBA2s who are currently working at their summer internship.

It’s hard to believe how quickly the summer has flown by; I just wrapped up a great internship on the brand management team at Mars. Being a total career switcher (my previous role was in residential real estate sales here in NYC), I admit that I was somewhat apprehensive about my foray into marketing, but I’m happy to report that my time at Mars was an incredible learning experience from start to finish. 

I was very excited about the possibility of working at Mars ever since they first came to campus last fall; they have such an incredible portfolio of brands, and the tight-knit community really appealed to me. I had a great time getting to know several Mars associates throughout the recruitment process, and I was so excited to be invited to join the team for the summer. My internship began in early June with an email welcoming me to the Twix team; I remember being thrilled by the prospect of working on one of my favorite bars, and couldn’t wait to see what projects I’d be tackling over the next few months. We had a quick orientation, and then we were off!

My first project involved working with Mars’s advertising agency to redesign the website; the site was a bit outdated and confusing, so the goal was the streamline the platform to ensure an easy and consistent user experience. I researched what best-in-class CPG websites look and function like, and briefed the agency on how Twix’s site should be revised. Over the next few weeks, the agency and I went back and forth on design drafts, eventually aligning with the broader Twix team on a site that should be up and running in the next few weeks.

My second project was a competitive analysis of Butterfinger’s recent reformulation and relaunch of their original bar. The filled bar team at Mars wanted to know why Butterfinger decided to relaunch the bar, what steps they took to execute the launch, and what the results were. To answer those questions, I analyzed Nielsen data on Butterfinger’s performance pre- and post-relaunch, and synthesized those learnings into a presentation for the filled bar team. 

My capstone strategic project, which took up the majority of the summer, was developing a growth strategy for Twix & Snickers future consumption products (the large bags of fun-size candy that you buy in-aisle, as opposed to the standard bars at the front of the store). I met with Mars associates, analyzed Nielsen data, and worked with various cross-functional partners (packaging, consumer insights, R&D, social media, etc.), to come up with a few key recommendations for growing FC sales, and presented my findings to the Mars marketing leadership team at the end of the summer. 

What stood out to me throughout the entire process was how engaged everyone was with the work I was doing; it was very clear to me that I was looking at real, substantive business issues as opposed to just doing busy work. The community of associates was so helpful, and incredibly generous with their time and insights. I am so thankful to have had such a great internship experience, and am excited to see how everything I’ve learned ties into my second year of school. To any MBA1s reading this who may have questions about Mars, brand management, or anything at all, please don’t hesitate to reach out — I look forward to meeting many of you in just a few weeks!


Summer Internship Series: PepsiCo

 Tiffaine Stephens is a rising MBA2 and a summer intern at PepsiCo. Tiffaine serves as the Co-President of Stern Women in Business (SWiB). She is specializing in Marketing, Entertainment/Media/Technology, and Entrepreneurship.

NYU Stern’s “Summer Internship Series” sheds light into Sternies’ internship experiences. Posts are written by rising MBA2s who are currently working at their summer internship.

I’m writing this as I anxiously wait for the call that lets me know if I’m going to receive a full-time offer from PepsiCo. It’s funny how 10 weeks can feel like 10 days, but the week where I find out my post-MBA fate seems to be dragging by. I wrapped up my internship about a week ago, and I now understand the advice of every MBA2 last year: “Everything will be ok.”

At the beginning of the summer, I didn’t know what to expect from PepsiCo. Would I be forced to drink soda all day? Would I run into Cardi B as she exclaimed her joy about Pepsi being more than ok? What brand team would I be on? And most importantly, would I love it?

To be candid, you feel a lot of pressure during recruiting. You want to forego the anxiety of re-recruiting in your second year, and you want a job that you love more than the one you left right before taking on business school (because ROI is real). That pressure stayed with me throughout the first half of my internship, during which I was constantly asking, “Can I see myself working here?”

By the fifth week, I had a better handle on my team’s expectations and the story I wanted to tell in my final presentation. As far as community goes, the PepsiCo team worked hard to emphasize the importance of our intern class — consisting of both undergrad and MBA students –being close. We had a number of events, check-ins, and a special project we had to work on as a unit. We were able to share ideas with each other, help each other practice, vent, and finally celebrate once we all made it past the finish line. This community experience was in alignment with my time at Stern thus far.  From day one, you’ll be placed in team structures that help you grow personally and professionally. You’ll learn how to be open to new possibilities and perspectives, which will allow you to flex as a team player. 

In addition to new friends, I gained a new perspective on what it means to be a marketer. I started my recruitment process with the expectation that I would have a traditional Brand Manager role, but I landed on the Media team instead. My project for the summer was to develop a media strategy to reach and engage multicultural consumers. I was excited to tackle something meaningful to the organization and to my personal life, but I was also anxious about the breadth of the ask.

I had to tap into my creativity, past experiences, and even into the essence of our LAUNCH Challenge: behavioral observations. There were elements within Stern that helped prepare me for my project, including the following:

  1. Knowledge Management sessions hosted by professional clubs to help MBA1s prep for the recruitment season. The GMA + STA KM sessions were extremely beneficial when thinking about how to structure a strategic framework for an ambiguous ask. 
  2. Experiential Courses like Tech in the City, a class that places you in a group to tackle a consulting project for a tech start up in NYC. Through this project, I got better at testing hypotheses and developing a story that can be substantiated by quantitative and qualitative data. Which brings me to my favorite topic, data.
  3. Coming to business school, I knew that I wanted to improve my quant skills. Data Driven Decision Making was highly recommended, and though 6-9 pm was rough, it allowed me to grow comfortable with copious amounts of data to tell a story and uncover business opportunities.

My advice would be this: keep an open mind to what your internship will teach you, be intentional about your curriculum and extracurriculars (at Stern or outside of Stern) so that you can devise a plan when the project gets tough, and have fun! 10-12 weeks can go by so quickly, and you will be working hard. Don’t forget to celebrate the small wins when you can. Take advantage of the city that you’re living in, and find Sternies. We’re everywhere and always ready to help!