For Spring Break, I had the opportunity to travel to South Africa for a trek. My experience was nothing short of amazing although I am still recovering almost two weeks later. We started the trek by flying into Johannesburg and then traveling to Kruger National Park the next day. There we spent the next two days traveling in open vehicles through the safari, getting up close to elephants, zebras, and a few rhinos. We ended the Trek by spending four days in Cape Town, one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. Below are four reasons I think everyone should participate in a trek their first year.
Get to Know Your Classmates
Your first year, you probably won’t meet a lot of students outside of your assigned block. You spend the first semester taking classes, grabbing drinks, and working on group assignments (in that order) with people from your block. Treks are the perfect opportunity for you to mingle with people outside of your block. In addition to meeting other full time students, you also have the opportunity to mingle with Langone students. I met a lot of new people and we have already have a happy hour scheduled for our first mini reunion.Convenience
Planning an international trip is stressful. It’s hard to figure out where to stay, what to do, and what to eat. Signing up for a trek is simple and convenient. After signing up for the trek through a lottery process, I only had to do two things to prepare for the trip: Make a vaccination appointment and pack my suitcase. Step Outside Your Comfort Zone
Listen. I would never consider myself to be a “nature person”. There are people who plan vacations around hiking destinations and then there are people, like me, who plan their vacations around food and wine. The trek planners catered to both groups of people by making sure the agenda included activities that were a good mixture of adventure and recreation. As a result, I was automatically signed up for activities that I wouldn’t normally plan myself. For example, I never would have made time for a Safari if I planned the trip myself but it ended up being one of my favorite experiences.
Since a lot of students go on a trek during Spring Break, every conversation for the next two weeks will be about treks after your return. You don’t want to be the person sitting in the corner not able to contribute to the conversation because you decided to stay home and catch up on class assignments. You only get the Stern experience once. Take advantage of the many opportunities that will come your way. Besides, there’s always time to study on the flight.
As someone who is taking a non-traditional path with recruiting, a network is very important to me. When I was deciding between schools and deciding on what I wanted to do after business school, part of the decision included looking at a school’s alumni. Are these alumni at places I could see myself working at? Are they career changers like myself? Are they willing to take the time to speak with me as I search for my summer and full-time opportunities? With Stern, the answer to these questions was always yes.
Despite the disparate nature being at a school that doesn’t have a strong sports team and with students living in different boros of New York City, Sternies still develop great relationships. While in school, you develop relationships with your classmates (future alumni). While taking experiential classes, alumni come back to mentor you on projects, speak to your classes and impart the knowledge they learned while they were at Stern, and even as they progress in their careers. A LinkedIn message or an email also goes a long way with Stern alumni. I have spoken to alumni at least once a week since I started at Stern. The greatest thing about the network is the common bond – these people were in your shoes once. They assure you that they were successful, they did fine, and at the end of the day, they have amazing jobs. The alumni are here to help you, not hurt you, so it’s great to take advantage of such an important resource.
The Stern alumni not only speak with you, they connect you to others in their own personal network – Stern alumni from their year in business school or even contacts at the company you are interested in. That means your Stern network is endless. You have your class, the MBA2s, the incoming MBA1s and the additional Stern alumni. That’s a lot of people.
Now, you may be thinking – sure, every school has alumni.
So, makes the Stern network so great and why are they so important?:
Stern alumni exist across a variety of industries, which comes with the vast number of specializations our school offers. This is something that is unique to Stern. The diversity of alumni experiences is evident (in the form of specializations or even the countries they work in). I recently attended an event held by the Luxury and Retail Club featuring Madecasse, a chocolate company based out of New York, a product actually featured at Whole Foods – not something that I thought I would ever experience while at school. How cool!
In addition to the diversity of Stern alumni, our classes are also taught by clinical professors who are experts in their field and who have other jobs in addition to teaching at Stern. Some key clinical professors include Professor Thomai Serdari (Luxury Marketing) and Professor Scott Galloway (Brand Strategy). These professors either own their own companies (in the case of Professor Galloway with L2, Inc.) or work with many companies on a day-to-day basis (in the case of Professor Serdari). These professors are always willing to help.
Let’s not forget the additional alumni that full-time students tend to forget about. NYU Stern also has the Langone program (our part-time program). These part-time students are working whilst doing their MBA and work at companies that you could potentially work for. This is an untapped network, and a very important one.
Being a student at Stern will expand your horizons and introduce you to people you never thought you would meet before. This is the network that never sleeps!
One of the greatest aspects of Stern is the opportunity to travel with classmates on weekends, over the summer and during school breaks. Over winter break I had the opportunity to travel to Steamboat Springs on the Stern Ski Trip and to Las Vegas as part of the Operations in Vegas class. The ski trip was a fun vacation with friends to lay fresh tracks, eat good food and explore all Steamboat has to offer, but Ops in Vegas was really a once in a lifetime experience.
(View from the gondola headed up the mountain in Steamboat)
I arrived in Las Vegas on Saturday one day before the class officially started with a few other MBA2s so that we could watch the first round of the NFL playoffs in a sportsbook and hike in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The class kicked off on Sunday night with a nice welcome dinner and the warning that the next few days would be very intense. On Monday morning we had the opportunity to meet with a number of executives from Station Casinos including top executives in charge of the hotels, analytics, and marketing as well as the new COO of Ultimate Fighting Championship Lawrence Epstein. Most importantly, we had a lengthy conversation with Lorenzo Fertitta, a Stern alumni (1993) who recently sold the UFC to William Morris Endeavor, served as Commissioner on the Nevada State Athletic Commission, and also is the principal shareholder of Station Casinos with his brother Frank. To hear directly from Lorenzo about how he turned the UFC from a bankrupt company he purchased for $2 million into the massive media empire he just sold for $4.3 billion was an eye opening business lesson. Our day finished up with a cocktail party in one of the suites at Green Valley Ranch while Clemson stunned Alabama in the national championship game.
(Hiking Red Rock with fellow classmates Phil Bowman, Steve Seidel and Eric Goodman)
Tuesday continued with lectures including from the head of security for Station Casinos, and former Las Vegas Chief of Police, Bill Young at Green Valley Ranch before heading over to Light Nightclub at the Manadaly Bay hotel for a behind the scenes tour of what makes the club run. Our day finished with a bowling event in one of the private bowling rooms at Red Rock Casino.
(Massive video screen at Light welcoming us)
On Wednesday we went to downtown Las Vegas where we learned about the downtown revitalization project, got an inside look at Zappos, and toured the D Hotel. Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos from Zappos because they’re very secretive, but there were many pieces of amazing art downtown to try and draw more tourists to come off of the strip. Our night concluded with a trip to Light Nightclub to gather firsthand “research” and see Pusha T perform with Baauer.
(Some of the awesome art downtown)
Thursday was the coolest day of the whole trip for me as we got to go behind the scenes at the Bellagio where we saw everything from the inside of the security room (no pictures allowed), to underneath the famous fountain, to the high-roller suites where the only way to get a room is to gamble millions of dollars in a weekend. We visited the employee level on the 2nd floor of the hotel where 8,000 employees visit every single day to get laundry, eat in the cafeterias, relax, go to the bank, and do so much more inside their mini-city. Our class saw how the Cirque du Soleil show O is performed as we went backstage, underneath the floor to the pool area, and finally to great seats in the audience to watch the performance.
Friday focused on real estate as we saw Professor Chernoff’s commercial real estate development in Spanish Trails industrial park before heading back to the hotel for an afternoon lesson on poker from world-renowned poker professional Mike Sexton. For those who really love poker, it was truly a priceless experience to hear the keys to successful poker strategy from someone who has won millions of dollars and World Series of Poker titles. Our Friday finished with a goodbye dinner and drinks before everyone headed out.
In addition to the amazing speakers, behind the scenes look at some of Vegas’s most iconic landmarks, and company visits, we had a great time playing poker together, exploring everything Vegas has to offer and most importantly…. getting three credits closer to graduation!
Around this time last year, I was preparing essays for business school applications. I applied to three schools through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management and ranked NYU Stern as my top choice. There are clear benefits to applying through the Consortium such as the possibility of a full tuition scholarship and lower applications fees, but there are also less obvious benefits. Applying through the Consortium allowed me to earn an internship early and build strong relationships with some of my classmates prior to arriving on campus and also allowed me to extend my network to business schools beyond Stern.
The Obvious Benefits
Applying through the Consortium was the perfect opportunity for me. As a black woman, I have always served as an advocate for increasing diversity. The Consortium has a mission to increase the number of Black, Hispanic, and Native Americans in business schools and subsequently corporate management. Anyone who supports this mission can apply to NYU Stern through the Consortium. As mentioned earlier, benefits include a lower application fee and a chance to earn a full tuition fellowship. Additionally, the essays are typically shorter for the application (which admittedly could be an advantage or disadvantage).
Early Access to Recruiters and Job Opportunities
It is a requirement for everyone who applies through the Consortium to attend the Orientation Program. This 6-day event features students from all of the Consortium schools and recruiters from the companies who partner with the Consortium. The agenda is jammed pack with speaker events, panel discussions, interviews and happy hours.
During the Orientation Program, I interviewed with 7 companies (I don’t recommend this. Focus on 3 or 4 companies) and eventually accepted an Offer with Amazon in Seattle, WA. Accepting an offer before seeing all of the available opportunities may seem daunting to some people but for me it was a huge relief. Juggling recruiting, classes, and clubs is not an easy task. Accepting an offer allowed me to allocate more time towards clubs and classwork.
On Campus Family
During the required Orientation Program, I was able to meet a few of my future classmates. We helped each other prepare for interviews by conducting mock interviews and doing company research together. Attending the Orientation Program together allowed us to build a close relationship with each other before arriving on campus.
Now that we are on campus, we still spend a lot of time together. For example, this year, one of the Consortium fellows held a barbecue at her home in Harlem and another fellow hosted a game night in Brooklyn. The week before Thanksgiving, we met up for a mini Thanksgiving dinner.
The best example of our comradery occurred after the killing of Terence Crutcher. We all came together to figure out what we could do in response to the death of another unarmed black man. A simple text message turned into a schoolwide event after we invited the entire Stern community to come together to show solidarity for black lives. It was amazing to see our classmates come out and support an issue that is so important to so many of us.
The Consortium allowed me to connect with students from other business schools who I otherwise may have never met. Attending the Orientation Program allowed me to not only build relationships with other Sternies, but also fellows from other schools. It’s good to know students from other schools when you go to recruiting or networking events. These events can be awkward if you don’t know anyone so seeing a familiar face is always nice. I also already know two other consortium fellows who will be interning with me this summer in Seattle, WA.
When I first made the decision to apply to business school, I considered several factors—reputation, location, faculty, and level of focus on my profession of choice. The quality of the student body was certainly a consideration, but a slightly lesser one, as I generally felt that no matter where I ended up going, I would meet like-minded driven individuals, form relationships, and grow to call them my good friends. Now just over a year into the NYU Stern MBA program, I realize this last factor has the greatest impact on one’s experience in business school, and feel I personally could not have made a better choice.
Beginning with the first day of the LAUNCH orientation program, I have continually been blown away by my peers. Each of them comes from such a fascinating and diverse background, both professionally and personally, and challenges me in a way I never thought possible. I find myself working to be more knowledgeable and educated on an array of topics, so as to contribute to our discussions and their experience in a valuable way.
Aside from their intellect though, my peers here are truly warm and generous individuals. Throughout the business school research process, I often heard at each program I visited, that its students regularly put others before themselves, and that they go to great lengths to help one another to be successful. Though at the time I assumed this was something quite generic all schools simply say, I have now had the opportunity to see this actually manifest itself here at Stern.
About a week into the start of my first semester, I was casually chatting with a new friend about plans for recruiting. Immediately upon expressing my interest, he stopped me to tell me he knew someone at a company I might want to learn more about and asked if I wanted him to make a connection. I was floored in that moment that someone I had met so recently was already so eager to help me.
More recently, I was working on a job application for my top choice company. I must have drafted my cover letter five separate times, but my nerves continued to get the best of me. I frantically texted another friend, who promptly calmed me down and instructed me to send my completed cover letter her way for a final once-over. This is something we all frequently do for one another of course, but to have a friend say she could drop everything she was doing on a couple hours notice meant so much in that moment of stress and panic.
These are just a few of the countless instances when I have felt supported by my friends in the Stern community. Being within the walls that make up NYU Stern has frequently pushed me outside of my comfort zone. However, I am finding that this is a place I now quite enjoy being, as I know I can count on the inspiring individuals I have met here to be right there with me.
I had a wild realization this morning on my subway ride to school: I only have two full weeks of classes remaining here at NYU Stern. Wow…..
As I sit here beginning to type my latest, and probably last, blog post, I thought I would use this opportunity to reflect back on quite possibly the best two years of my life. Business school has been a whirlwind of a journey, filled with a mixed bag of intellectual exploration, professional development, career advancement, network building, and yes, even the occasional academic stress. My time at Stern has truly opened my eyes to so many different possibilities, and knowing everything I know about the school and the experience now, I undoubtedly would do it all over again!
Furthermore, now that I have gone through this process, below is my Top 5 words of wisdom to potential b-school students and Sternie-hopefuls:
It’s ok to not be 100% clear on what exactly you want do with your life post-business school before you hit submit on your application or fork over your enrollment deposit. You will not be alone! However, come the first day of orientation (or even the summer before) the onus is on you to place some serious thought, due diligence, and effort into learning how to transfer your passion into a career opportunity. The resources are out there for you – current students, alumni, professors, industry professionals, career services – but it is up to you to leverage them in finding the perfect opportunity.
Don’t discount the intangibles of this experience. Obviously, your top priority should be on securing an opportunity that advances your career, but building close friendships and a strong network along the way is equally important. As you explore different schools, try to imagine yourself fitting in with the particular culture of that school. You will be surprised by how much time you spend at school, and amongst your peers, so the fit truly has to be there.
Location, location, location! Choose a school that gives you increased networking opportunities because of its specific location. There are a number of fantastic business schools out there, but because of their location, students are limited more to the employers who come to them, as opposed to students being able to go to the employers. Specifically at Stern, for example, it is so easy for a student to take a 10 min cab ride or subway for three stops to visit a connection at a New York office during a lunch break. However, students in more remote locations either have to pay considerable amounts of money consistently to travel for networking, or rely on the standard on-campus corporate presentation and interview routine.
Challenge yourself in areas where you are weak. See my previous post about my hesitations with taking finance courses!
Have fun! A lot of business school students refer to these two years as “fun-cation”, myself included! Yes, times will get stressful with recruiting; yes, you will have to pull a late (or all)-nighter every now and then; yes, you may even question your decision once or twice. But at the end of the day, this will hopefully be an opportunity to expand your network with awesome people, get some traveling in, and attend a happy hour or two with new lifelong friends!
One of the main reasons that I decided to matriculate at Stern, and a factor that really sets Stern apart, is just how diverse our student body is and more importantly how we embrace that diversity.
But first, I should really start with a little background about myself.
I was born in Virginia (hence the name), but had left the country and moved abroad to Asia at a mere 6 months of age. My family moved frequently, and I as a result I spent 6 years of my childhood in China (where we are originally from), 11 in the Philippines, and the last one divided amongst several Central Asia countries, with a base in Uzbekistan.
Being a Third Cultural Kid, one of the main things that drew me to Stern was in fact how international our Full-Time MBA student population is, a fact that is evident both inside and out of the classroom. One particular event that really lets everyone celebrate their culture, background, and heritage is the annual Passport Day organized by the Stern Student Government (SGov). The event allows students to sign up to represent their country and showcase traditional cuisine, costumes, music and/or performances.
This year, 47 of the 63 countries had participated in Passport Day. We had amazing performances from a variety of countries, including dances from India, Azerbaijan, and Morocco. All the dances were choreographed and performed by students (here’s a performance of the India dance!).
Personally, a couple friends and I had decided to collaborate and do a combined South East Asia booth for the event. We represented three countries in the region, and had local delicacies from each, including Tea Leaf Salad from Burma/Myanmar, Lumpia from the Philippines, egg tarts from Singapore, and a combined mango coconut sticky rice dessert. The last in particular we all made as a group and was a huge hit!
It was an impressive event and reminded me of why I chose to come to Stern, a place that is brimming with culture and collaboration and what amazing international people I get to have as my fellow classmates.
Diversity is a difficult topic, whether it’s a matter of race, gender, or sexual preference. Though organizations like Friendfactor have ranked Stern first in LGBTQ support out of all MBA programs, we know that there is still so much we can do to make sure that we are continuously building an inclusive community where everyone can feel safe learning and being who he/she/they are.
As a testament to that effort, this past week my hardworking classmates organized and hosted Stern’s second-ever Ally Week, which ran in conjunction with the sixth year of university-wide Ally Week programming and helped to spread awareness about diversity and allyship through the Stern community. Though I’ve always believed in equal rights for all, even I had a bit of an awakening learning about the difficulties my classmates have endured in their lives and how they have still felt marginalized in their interactions with others. As someone who tends to be a bit of a free agent when it comes to showing her support for things, the past week proved to me that there is a difference between believing in what is right and supporting what is right. For me, I learned that it is not enough to be open-minded and kind, but rather that I must stand up for my peers and help them achieve the same quality of life that every human should be able to enjoy.
The university defines allyship as “an active and consistent practice of unlearning and re-evaluating beliefs and actions, in which a person seeks to work in solidarity with a marginalized individual or group of people.” Kicking off the week by asking the student body to “Pledge Your Allegiance,” the Stern Ally Week team put on a full week of programming:
On Monday, Google representatives joined us for lunch to host “Being Google-y: An Education in Allyship,” a presentation about the firm’s diversity and inclusion efforts, followed by an interactive workshop co-led by Stern MBA1s. In an abbreviated version of the day-long discussions Google facilitates with its employees and outside organizations, we broke out into groups to brainstorm answers to questions such as what mindset allies have and how allyship manifests itself in actions. Each group then presented their answers to the room and answered questions from the “Naysayers,” who were tasked with voicing difficult but common objections to allyship that marginalized people often face. Personally, I was able to walk out of the workshop feeling more confident about how to recognize offenses against allyship and more determined to tactfully address them.
On Tuesday, the Asian Business Society (ABS), Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS), Jewish Students Association (JSA), OutClass, Stern Women in Business (SWIB), Military Veterans Club (MVC), and Stern in Africa (SIA) each hosted Lunch Circles, small lunches led by student club leaders and each featuring a different topic of discussion around various diversity issues. In the evening, ABS co-presented with the Asian American Federation “From Yellow Peril to Islamophobia: How Asian Stereotypes Impact Our Lives Today,” a panel moderated by Arun Venugopal, reporter and host of WNYC’s Micropolis, and featuring Deepa Iyer, racial justice activist, lawyer, and author of We Too Sing America; Kermit Roosevelt, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Allegiance; and Chris Kwok, civil rights activist and mediation supervisor at the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Focusing on the internment of Japanese-Americans in the 1940s, the panel related the prejudice and fear the Japanese-Americans faced then to what Muslim-Americans are facing today. The panel also spoke about how the lack of attention to these issues, as well as the continued lack of knowledge about a group of people overall, can continue to propagate these prejudices until addressed.
On Wednesday, during lunch we gathered for a screening of Academy Award-winning short film “Trevor,” the story of a 13-year-old boy whose discovery of his sexuality leads him to contemplate suicide. In the following Q&A, the film’s director (and NYU Tisch professor) Peggy Rajski explained why she decided to make the film, stating that as a straight female she still resonated with the alienation and mortification faced by the titular gay male protagonist (who first appeared in a one-man show created by the film’s writer James Lecense). The success of the film alerted Peggy to the unaddressed needs of LGBTQ youth across the country, and consequently, in the three short months preceding the HBO premiere of her film, she and her producing partners set up the Trevor Lifeline, the nation’s first crisis intervention and suicide prevention hotline for young LGBTQ people. The hotline has since evolved into The Trevor Project, a nonprofit offering numerous intervention and prevention services to young LGBTQ youth, and Peggy cites the importance of the nonprofit in letting kids know that “someone is there for me” so that they can “get through and choose life.” Afterwards, Jason Daniel Fair of The Trevor Project’s New York office took the stage to reiterate Peggy’s point and highlight the importance of allyship, citing the fact that for many LGBTQ youth, getting in touch with people who can help them can be exceptionally hard when their community acts in a way that prevents them from doing so.
On Thursday, the Ally Week team organized an “Ask Anything” Forum where everyone in the room had a safe space to ask any questions they had to representatives designated by AHBBS, Outclass, and SWIB to represent the black, gay, and female communities. While I had to sit this one out for a class, a friend told me afterwards that although the purpose of the session was to remove judgment from the conversation, she could not help but notice how inherently hurtful some of the questions were, even though she knew that the people asking them had no intent of upsetting their fellow classmates.
Ally Week wrapped up with its Days of Service. On Friday, a group of us did some weeding and planting for the Riverside Conservancy Park on the Upper West Side, and on Saturday, a group of Sternies met up for the New York Cares Spring Day of Service, joining thousands of other volunteers to clean up the city’s public outdoor spaces.
Again, we know there is still so much we can do to support diversity and allyship, but I can promise you that we at Stern are dedicated to seeing this effort through.
During perhaps the most insightful of his lectures this semester, Professor Scott Galloway highlighted the importance of finding the characteristics that make us unique, and using them to our advantage.
Rephrasing his words, once we have found the reasons that differentiate us, we must cultivate them, find our “niche” and build our own brand. Now that my first semester of graduate school is coming to an end, I believe I have found one of Stern’s main sources of uniqueness.
Having grown up in a foreign country, I spent my younger years trying to do exactly the opposite of what the Professor suggested. I anguished over adjusting to norms and customs different from mine, in an effort to be just like everyone else around me. But the more I tried to blend in, the more I stood out.
I eventually gave up and decided to embrace the traits that made me different, even though my behavior, my beliefs and even my appearance made me an easy target for bullying, to which I grew accustomed.
But I never expected to find a place where I felt that I belonged, without sacrificing my uniqueness. However from the first time I visited Stern, I noticed the positive and welcoming attitude of the entire community towards diversity.
The students I had the opportunity to meet on that first occasion made me realize that at NYU, things such as coming from diverse backgrounds or having a different ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation, are not seen as disadvantages. Rather they are welcomed and embraced.
My experiences here have reinforced that notion. Getting to know the amazingly talented people that make up my class and attending an array of extracurricular activities has shown me that one of Stern’s strongest traits is this openness to diversity and desire for inclusion.
The academics and student life at Stern are not just about learning to see the world from different perspectives, but about enriching everyone’s overall MBA experience.