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Real Humans of the Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2025

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Shefe Garrett, Cornell Johnson MBA Class of 2025

Age: 26
Hometown: Long Island, New York
Undergraduate Institution and Major:  University of Georgia, management information systems
Pre-MBA Work Experience (role, company, years): Growth strategist and product manager at a business-to-business software-as-a-service (B2B SaaS) startup, two years; consultant at PwC, two years

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
This is the most optimal time to accelerate my career growth. I’ve had the privilege to work in very different roles and gain exposure to various industries. Returning to pursue an MBA means I can dedicate myself to developing as a professional and refining my managerial style. My most recent role as a product manager solidified that I love to design customer-centric solutions and be a creative cheerleader for growth. I was also able to see areas of my skillset that I want to develop to become a stronger and more well-rounded design thinker, as well as an inspiring, inclusive people leader.

Why did you choose Cornell Johnson? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Cornell Johnson checked each of the boxes I needed to grow professionally to achieve my post-MBA career goals, as well as my personal development. The caliber of academic excellence and a truly well-rounded, hands-on business education that still applied to my unique career interests was fundamental. I was also fortunate to be awarded the Roy H. Park Leadership Fellowship, which provides additional leadership development learning opportunities and challenges me to lead not only on campus but through a funded, independent service project to impact the Ithaca community as a servant leader.

To seal the deal, when I attended Destination Johnson, I was completely enamored by the Johnson community (students, faculty, and even alumni). Yes, that special feeling exists. Trust it!

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2025?
I’m very open-minded and can be a chameleon of sorts. I enjoy building camaraderie with many different people, so you’ll catch me floating around varying interest groups and involvements on campus. A large percentage of our MBA class this year is international students and underrepresented minorities, and I find that very exciting. There is so much to learn from those with different backgrounds and trajectories from our own. I genuinely think because there is so much diversity, our educational experience will be enhanced, as it’s very collaborative. That’s something I’ve also loved during my career thus far. I’ve worked with a lot of leaders and colleagues from and living in different countries around the world and hope to continue doing so.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself that didn’t get included on your application:
I can whistle an entire song. I’m a pretty good whistler and often start doing so unknowingly when I’m happily immersed in something. I blame all of the old Disney films I watched as a child.

Post-MBA career interests: I hope to use my experience in the technology and software space combined with my zeal for storytelling and dedication to diversity to impact how we discover, experience and share the content that brings us joy. Games and entertainment have brought people together in every culture since the beginning of time. Everyone deserves to feel energized, empowered and represented when immersed in the media and entertainment they love.

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
 –What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Applying via The Consortium! The reduced application fees and potential to receive a fully funded fellowship make applying to B-school extremely accessible for underrepresented minorities and help to ease a very heavy burden some may carry. The ultimate draw, however, was the community of incredibly intelligent individuals whose goal isn’t just to rise the ranks alone, but to lift one another as we climb — to extend the invitations to those tables we are working so hard to sit at. 

The Consortium family at Johnson is one-of-a-kind. The Class of 2024 and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion invested so much time in making sure our incoming class felt welcomed and prepared to hit the ground running with recruiting. After having the best time of our lives at the 57th Conference in New Orleans this past summer, stepping foot on campus for the first time this fall already felt like coming home. The bonds we formed were so effortless.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?cornell johnson mba students
I would have preferred to apply during Round 1 in September. I continued GMAT prep while caring for a family member and filling a new role at work. Ultimately, a later but stronger application is always the best strategy, so I applied for Round 2 in January and have no regrets. It would have made the housing search a lot easier though! A college town is great for focus and closeness with your peers, but the rental market is competitive, and the good rates go quickly during the fall.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Taking the GMAT. I know, big surprise there. The experience created a lot of uncertainty and self-doubt in my abilities and worth. It’s a standardized test. Don’t let it! It took me a while to find the prep materials that worked for me. If I had a redo, I’d really look harder at the GRE/GMAT to determine the better exam for my abilities very early on and stick with that one. I would also try to find someone studying too and hit the library together or hop on a silent Zoom together. It probably would have kept my studying schedule a bit more regular, and it’s always nice to have an accountability buddy.

What is your initial impression of the Cornell Johnson MBA students/culture/community?
The Johnson community is very warm and welcoming. Some of the brightest minds with incredibly impressive accomplishments from all over the world are gracing this campus — students and faculty alike — but it feels like a massive summer camp by the lake with way better ice cream (shout out to Cornell Dairy). I knew this would be my home for two years after coming to Destination Johnson. That decision felt effortless after attending the programming and meeting students and professors all weekend long. I have felt genuinely cared for by every connection I made during the application process and after admittance — even now.

What is one thing you have learned about Cornell Johnson that has surprised you?
The variety of opportunities to study unique interests. Johnson has a Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island in New York City, and even for first-year students, there are weekend classes on a variety of topics that we can attend. I chose the Two-year MBA versus the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA, so it’s cool to know that the other campus is available, and I can tailor my education further by taking advantage of the additional courses and curated spring intensives that are offered. 

I also plan to complete a trek abroad during one of our holiday breaks to learn more about an academic area. During my undergrad, I traveled to Austria and Germany to learn about risk management, so I’m excited to take my education global again. I’m most interested in the sustainability trek to Japan and South Korea or emerging technology in Israel.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Keeping up with self-care. The busier I get, the more likely I am to put the commitments I make to myself last. I want to prioritize remembering to include myself in the time management matrix. I want to keep showing up and working hard as my best self!

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Completing a customized immersion during the spring semester. I will be able to take advantage of courses targeting the skills I need for my professional interest, ensuring I hit the ground running during my summer internship. I’m looking forward to hands-on learning in courses such as Ethics in New Media, Consumer Analytics, Advanced Topics in Game Design, and the Digital Technology Practicum.

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.