Accepted.com is continuing a blog series featuring interviews with current MBA students, offering readers a behind-the-scenes look at top MBA programs. We hope to offer you a candid picture of student life, and what you should consider as you prepare your MBA application.
Here’s a talk with Elisa Dobbins, a Cornell Johnson student who is passionate about marketing, brand management, and naturally curly hair. Thank you Elisa for sharing your thoughts with us!
Accepted: First, can you tell us a little about yourself – where are you from? What and where did you study as an undergraduate and when did you graduate?
Elisa: I am originally from Northern Virginia. I received my B.A. in Sociology from the University of Virginia and I have a M.A. in Communications, Culture, and Technology from Georgetown University. I have over 7 years of work experience, but most recently before business school I worked in business and finance operations at Ernst & Young and Blackboard, both in the DC area.
Accepted: Why did you decide to attend Johnson? Is the program meeting your expectations?
Elisa: There are a few reasons why I chose to attend Johnson: the familial, tight-knit community; the Strategic Marketing Immersion, The Roy H. Park Fellowship program, and the program’s commitment to diversity. Before I had even applied to Johnson, faculty, students and alumni, bent over backwards to answer my questions about the program. When I came to visit Ithaca (several times), students opened their homes to my fiancé and I. I felt incredibly welcomed and a part of the community before I was even accepted.
The Strategic Marketing Immersion gave me the opportunity to work on a project for a company, prior to my internship. So in essence, I had an internship before my summer internship. The rigor of course work plus the real-time project proved to be extremely beneficial in securing an offer this summer.
The Roy H. Park Leadership program is one of a kind and something that truly distinguishes Johnson. I was blessed by being selected for this program and I have truly grown personally and as a leader. This program again proves that Johnson values traits such as humility and integrity and values leaders all of types. I have become so confident in my leadership style and know my strengths and weaknesses, and for that I thank Clint Sidle, the Roy J. Park Leadership program director. And finally, attending a school that truly valued diversity was very important to me. I was a part of the first Consortium class at Johnson. While many top programs lack a significant number of women and minorities, Johnson is truly trying to change this and it has been great to be a part of this effort.
Accepted: Ithaca is a far cry from big city business centers. Are there any advantages to attending a b-school in a city that’s virtually off-the-map, business-wise? What steps does Cornell take to compensate for its location?
Elisa: The short answer is “YES”! At Johnson the first semester or the Core is extremely intense. You complete 95% of all the core classes: Marketing, Economics, Accounting, Strategy, Finance, and Statistics at one time. I couldn’t imagine dealing with the distractions associated with being in a big city while recruiting (securing an internship) and successfully completing the Core. Secondly, by being in a small town, you are surrounded by people who genuinely came to Ithaca to be a member of the Johnson community – people are there to learn first and foremost. In terms of recruiting, Johnson has great relationships with companies in a variety of industries and sectors that have been coming to campus for years. Also, many of our students take full advantage of the diversity conferences. Career Services and students provide prep sessions for those who are interested in attending, so all students are prepared. And in all honesty, Ithaca is only 3.5 hours from NYC. Cornell has a bus service called Campus-to-Campus that runs from Ithaca to NYC 7 days a week.
Accepted: What’s your favorite class so far?
Elisa: My favorite class so far has been Management Cases taught by Nate Peck. Each week we were given a case. We were expected to thoroughly analyze it, come up with a recommendation, and create a PowerPoint deck to convey our recommendation. You never knew when you were going to be called on to present, so it really forced me to put my best foot forward every week. This class truly prepared me for my internship. I was able to interpret my project brief and create a deck that concisely and effectively communicated my recommendation.
Accepted: Your LinkedIn profile indicates that you’ve got quite a passion for curly hair (from your numerous curly hair blogs and your position as a Suave Hair Brand Building Brand Management Intern). Then again, you also worked for Ernst and Young. So, do you see a future for yourself in the hair industry or in financial services — which will it be?
Elisa: Yes, I truly have a passion for naturally curly hair! I definitely see myself venturing in to the hair industry at some point in my career. I had a blast this summer at Unilever working on the Suave Hair brand. One thing I have realized is that my passion for hair isn’t going anywhere and there are many ways for me to explore that passion. Right now, I am most interested in getting great marketing training and becoming an excellent brand manager who can effectively market anything. My experience in different industries and functions has really made me well rounded and appreciative of all of these disciplines. As a brand manager, this will truly come in handy!
Accepted: Do you have a job lined up for next year? If so, what role did Johnson play in helping you secure that position?
Elisa: Yes, I do have a job lined up for next year at a company that currently doesn’t recruit at Cornell. I was able to make the initial contact with this company through one of my classmates and then from there the MLT (Management Leadership for Tomorrow) network played a major role in me securing an offer. In my case, the Johnson network played a major role in helping me secure my job. I cannot say this enough, the Johnson network is phenomenal and I experienced firsthand how great it truly is.
Accepted: What attracted you to the Consortium program? Can you tell us a bit about the role diversity has played in your life?
Elisa: The Consortium is a great organization that values leadership, community service, and diversity. The mission of the organization is to “enhance diversity in business education and leadership by helping to reduce the serious underrepresentation of African Americans, Hispanic Americans and Native Americans in both our member schools’ enrollments and the ranks of management.” So not only did the mission attract me, but the top MBA program members did as well. I wanted to be at a program that valued diversity. Not just diversity in terms of race and gender, but in terms of thought, experience, career goals, etc. This goal has been mine for a long time. The other schools I have attended valued diversity. My past employers valued diversity. And my future employer values diversity as well. It is important for me to be accepted but most importantly, I want to continue broadening my horizons and learning from people who are different from me in every way.
Accepted: Can you share some application tips for other students applying to business school through the Consortium?
Elisa: Be yourself and be confident! I can’t say this enough. Do not write what you think the Admissions Staff wants to read. Put your best foot forward and don’t doubt yourself about your past. You can’t change the grades in college, but you can change your GMAT score and your essays. Focus on the things that you can really change and make an impact on your application package. Also, the GMAT is just one part of your application. Do your best, but do not waste precious time stressing over your score.
Accepted: Do you have any advice for some of our applicants who will be applying to Cornell Johnson?
Elisa: Johnson truly looks at every facet of an applicant. Our community is unique, close, and different than other programs. If you have the opportunity, please visit campus or take the time to talk to some of the students and alumni. Johnson offers many opportunities to connect with the school, so take advantage.
Please visit our Cornell Johnson B-School Zone and Consortium Zone for more Johnson- and Consortium-specific advice. Still haven’t decided which b-school are best for you? Download our FREE special report, Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Choosing the Right One for You, to help you narrow down your choices and begin your application efforts out on the right foot.