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Real Humans of Rochester Simon’s MBA Class of 2025

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Nonna Titulauri, Rochester Simon Business School MBA Class of 2025

Age: 30
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Undergraduate Institution and Major: San Francisco State University – BSc in Biochemistry; Marketing minor
Pre-MBA Work Experience (role, company, years): I worked as a Senior Web Analyst at Reprise Digital (IPG Mediabrands) for two years. Prior to that, I was an instructor at COOP Careers for two years. I also was a bartender at Hakkasan for several years.

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
I love going to school and truly believe in being a lifelong student. Getting my MBA seemed like the missing piece of the puzzle towards my career goal of becoming an inclusive leader at a global company. Having worked at a marketing agency before, I noticed that a lot of professionals at our client companies had MBA degrees. Additionally, several professionals I got to work with in the past and consider to be my mentors have MBAs as well, so it seemed like a definite item on my personal and professional growth to-do list. Since I was laid off from my bartending job when COVID started, I felt it was the right time to pivot careers. From there, my soul-searching and life-aspiration journey began. My MBA application journey took me about three years—everything I did was a strategic move to help me grow and develop my technical and analytical skills to go side-by-side with my interpersonal skills, which I developed through my service industry experience. 

Why did you choose Simon Business School? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
I give my love for photography credit for bringing me to Simon. I took a road trip from NYC to Niagara Falls in the fall of 2022 and stopped by Rochester, NY, to learn more about Kodak history. I liked the city and could see myself living there for some time and having heard about Simon from a Forté MBA prep peer, Corrin Carroll, MBA ’23, I dove deeper into the program research. I wanted to attend an MBA program with a diverse student body and perspectives, and Simon is a leading MBA program in the US when it comes to diversity. As part of the many recruitment initiatives like The Consortium, Forté, ROMBA, Prospanica, and more, Simon stood out to me as a school with a rich network of MBA graduates from different parts of the country and backgrounds, all willing to connect with you and help you find your “true North.” From the time I submitted my application to Simon to the day I accepted my offer, the Simon Admissions team invited me to five events that I gladly attended. I made new friends, some of which are my classmates now, and was inspired by the Simon alumni and their unique professional journeys.

I chose Simon because the Admissions team has a very personal approach to each application. Simon saw something in my non-traditional pre-MBA background that other schools didn’t, and offered me a generous scholarship to pursue my dreams and become a competitive candidate for post-MBA roles with the help of renowned faculty. Even during my transition to Rochester, NY, I could call and talk to the admissions team about places to live in the city, while some schools don’t provide recommendations beyond their student housing. The school truly cares about its students, and it is apparent even before you submit your admission acceptance, which gave me a lot of trust and confidence in my choice to get my MBA from Simon.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2025?
My ability to bring people together, understand where they are coming from, and mitigate conflict. Pre-pandemic, I had a lucrative bartending career that took me from Hawaii to the Netherlands and exposed me to a variety of experiences in hospitality and beyond. At the same time, I got to work in a fast-paced, high-pressure environment and learned to navigate tense situations professionally. I have a very high tolerance for stress and a high EQ, and as an immigrant who moved to the US as a teen and learned to acclimate to the American culture, I enjoy being a cultural bridge to many international students, understanding their viewpoints and helping them understand the American perspective, too.

 Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
When I was eight, I was invited to an episode of a kids’ storytelling show as a prize for winning a competition that involved sending a list of all the spell words in the Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone movie. 

Post-MBA career interests:
Investment banking, specifically healthcare and consumer packaged goods M&A and women’s healthcare-oriented venture capital. Growing up in San Francisco, I feel like the startup culture really rubbed off on me. As a scientist by education, I admire new ideas coming to fruition. I witnessed so many beverage products get acquired by big companies during my bartending career and always wanted to know how those new products get valuated and how deals are made. I also care deeply about advancements in healthcare research and would love for my MBA education to allow me to find a job that combines my interests and skills seamlessly.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Attend pre-MBA meetings, whether virtual or in-person, and interact with schools of interest and those in your preferred geographic region. Getting a feel for the school is important. You may end up discovering some schools are not for you, but you will also fall in love with schools that you didn’t consider in the past. 

What is one thing you would change or do differently?simon mba
I would be my own hype person. I feel like most of the time during my MBA journey, I tried to be someone else and fit this hypothetical mold that we imagine MBA schools are looking for. Any form of education is intended to make you a better, evolved version of yourself, and by trying to be someone else, you are not reflecting on what your direct needs and true wants are. From the questions asked in the school application, to interaction with the current students and alumni, I recognized Simon was interested in what makes me unique as an individual and how I can change the status quo. I think if I had that confidence in myself from the start of my application journey, I would have eliminated a lot of stress and imposter syndrome, but at least I recognize that now. 

What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
I would not focus my efforts on standardized tests. To me, it feels like standardized tests disadvantage underprivileged prospective students, and throughout COVID we saw more and more schools moving test optional, which I’d like to see continue. As an applicant, I would much rather focus my time, energy, and resources on researching careers and visiting campuses to get a better sense of what I am looking to gain from an MBA program.

What is your initial impression of the Simon students/culture/community?
Everyone wants you to succeed. This goes from being friendly and finding your community from your first visit to a Simon event, to moving to Rochester, NY, and interacting with the staff, second-year students, and the alumni. The second-year students are my favorite part about Simon, as they know what you’re going through and want to make it easy for you and make the experience exciting amidst the chaos of recruiting and networking. The wholesome approach to success that the Simon community has is impeccable—including everything from technical workshops to walks to a local farmer’s market to ensure you get the right nutrients for your brain to tackle those capital budgeting exams!

What is one thing you have learned about Simon that has surprised you?
Simon provides free counseling services to MBA students. Many MBA programs talk about mental wellness and have providers, but Simon takes the additional stress of finances out of the equation to make the students’ experience so much better. Simon also has representation in the university-wide Graduate Wellness Committee, which I am very excited and grateful to be a member of.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Making time for myself during the busy recruiting season. As a career switcher, I have an extra load of studying and prep outside of my classes that I need to help me stand out as a strong candidate for internships. As I mentioned, I love learning, but I want to make sure I eat my veggies and exercise when I am not studying, which thus far I’ve been able to maintain thanks to my schoolmates and student engagement clubs.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
The experiential learning class offered in the spring, which allows you to pick a topic and country you would like to travel to with your classmates. I want to do the Finance track that takes us to Switzerland to present our project and explore the country. I look forward to visiting a new place, building shared memories, and putting my French skills to the test. 

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.