Real Humans of the Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2019
Maya Wolf, Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2019
Hometown: Arcata, California
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Reed College, religion
Pre-MBA Work Experience: I spent four years working in nonprofit development: I raised money to keep pollution out of San Francisco Bay and, previously, promoted fossil fuel divestment in the business community. For the first couple years out of college, I was an environmental educator.
Why business school? Why now? I saw myself eventually becoming a leader in sustainability in the for-profit sector, but I needed a bridge to get there, and that was business school. I applied when I did because I finally had what I felt was a strong foundation of work experience that I could reference and build on in school. It was also at a time when advancing my career either meant committing to working in nonprofit development long term or switching gears to go back to school.
Why Cornell Johnson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
My four filters in evaluating schools were sustainability, leadership development, academic excellence, and community. I was fortunate to be offered a Roy H. Park Fellowship at Johnson, which provides an unparalleled leadership program with a small cohort of impact-oriented students. Even apart from the Park Fellowship, it was clear to me that structured leadership development was woven into the fabric of the Johnson MBA curriculum.
There are more sustainable global enterprise (SGE) initiatives at Johnson than I have space to list here. From the semester-long real-world consulting project I’ll be doing as part of the SGE Immersion, to the Leaders in Sustainable Global Enterprise lecture series, to the SGE professional club and career work group that both meet weekly to support recruiting efforts, Johnson attracted me with the myriad ways I could prepare for a career at the intersection of sustainability and business.
The quality education from professors at the tops of their fields, medium-sized class, and palpable warmth of the community also all fed into my final decision to enroll at Cornell.
What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? I am wholeheartedly committed to making a positive impact through my career, and I like to think that I help show my classmates that doing well and doing good can be one in the same. One of my goals while in school is to support current and incoming students in developing the necessary expertise to successfully pursue such careers.
Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? One of my post-MBA goals is to compete in an Ironman race.
Post-MBA career interests? I want to help transition our society over to an economy in which the energy we use does not pollute the air or threaten the livelihoods of marginalized communities. To this end, I’m interested in working in the cleantech sector—on utilities, solar and wind development, or battery storage.
Advice to current prospective applicants: Embrace who you are and what you’ve done so far in life, and don’t try to filter yourself according to a narrow image of what you think schools are looking for. Even more important than what exactly you’ve done in your career so far is how you handled vulnerability and failure; how self-aware and driven you are. If I could have, I would have spent less time wondering and worrying about how I sized up to other applicants. This is easier said than done, but this kind of negative thinking is simply not useful. Do your research, study hard for the GMAT, be yourself, edit your application materials 10 times over, and then feel proud about your accomplishment of applying.
Greatest highlight so far at Cornell Johnson? Over Labor Day Weekend this fall, I went on an Adirondacks Canoe Trip organized by the school’s Leadership Programs department in partnership with the Outdoor Ventures Club. On top of the natural beauty and great company of classmates, the leadership programming helped me synthesize the classroom work I had done so far in the year with the Park Fellowship and Leading Teams core class. My highlight of the weekend was leading our group through the water in the rain and fog: a reminder that the challenging parts of life are so often the richest.
One thing about Cornell Johnson that you didn’t expect before arriving? Despite hearing frequently as an applicant about the strong community at Johnson, I still wasn’t expecting to connect with my classmates and form such strong bonds. Now I understand what people mean when they say that business school is all about the people. I also had low expectations for school support in an off-campus job search, and I’ve been happily surprised by all the resources I’ve found at Johnson—from second-year students in my career work group to the Cornell Energy Club and beyond.
Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? Balancing internship recruitment with a heavy course load, club leadership, and a healthy lifestyle. There is never a dull moment here.
Thing you are most excited about in your first year? As a lifelong learner, I am having a lot of fun watching how much new knowledge I come away with every day. I have more clarity on what I want to do now compared to when I arrived at Cornell in July, and I have learned everything from stock valuation to how electric utilities work, to frameworks for strategic thinking and problem solving. I’m also excited about going outside of my comfort zone at Johnson and letting the theme of Taking Risks guide some of my best learning so far this year.