It gives me great pleasure to have for the first time on AST, Judi Byers, the Executive Director of Admissions & Financial Aid at Johnson School of Management at Cornell University. Judi earned her bachelors degree and masters degrees from American University in Washington DC. She also worked for American University’s Kogod School of Business for a little over 10 years before moving to beautiful Ithaca New York in 2015 to become the Executive Director of Admissions & Financial Aid at Johnson School of Management at Cornell University.
Can you give us an overview of Cornell Johnson’s two-year MBA program? [1:30]
It starts every August. The first semester is built around a core curriculum, to give students a strong foundation in the fundamentals of business. We find that students are either seeking career advancement or changing careers.
In the second semester, students have the opportunity to pursue an Immersion area – there are eight areas of focus – bundles of electives and experiences focused around a career path. We want to prepare them for summer internships with hands-on experience and casework.
Feedback has indicated the immersions are a real differentiator.
The second year is more of an open canvas – there’s more flexibility. There are concentrations for breadth and depth, and elective coursework or the opportunity for dual degree study in hotel, engineering, labor relations, law, and medicine.
There are also 30+ international partners, so students have the opportunity to study abroad. The second year provides the opportunity to customize.
There’s also a 1-year program in Ithaca and the Cornell Tech program. How are they different? [4:40]
For Cornell Tech, we’re looking for students with a strong background in tech – often science and engineering, and often with an entrepreneurial focus.
The one-year program in Ithaca is different – there’s less of a tech focus. It’s really designed for professionals with more work experience, or who have advanced degrees or certifications.
What’s new at Johnson? [6:15]
There are a lot of exciting developments! I’ve been blown away by the growth since I joined.
Cornell Johnson is now part of our College of Business – integration has led to positive developments. There are 3,200 students across the College of Business, and the teaching faculty is one of the largest in the country, with a large operating budget. Integrating three schools helps the alignment across our teaching and recruiting functions.
We’re looking at new opportunities for areas of focus for MBA students in terms of academic specializations.
Another exciting thing: the opening of the Breazzano Family Center for Business Education. It’s important for a couple of reasons – it optimizes our facilities and it’s an early gift from one of our alumni/trustees.
Going back to the Johnson Immersion program – can you give an example of how it works? [11:45]
As I mentioned, the Immersions are a combination of elective courses and a practical component (a hands-on project or case). It allows them to apply their learning in a practical sense Some also include company site visits.
This is in the second semester of the first year. They also take two courses in data and analytics.
Cornell Johnson is located in Ithaca New York. It’s magnificently beautiful, but somewhat remote. Some potential applicants may be concerned that Johnson’s location is a disadvantage when compared to other major business centers. Can you address that concern? [14:40]
It’s geographically located such that there are a lot of positives.
One is the new connectivity with the new Cornell Tech campus.
The residential community promotes close relationships – with each other, faculty, administrators. It facilitates longer-term collegiality and communication. People stay connected long term.
That said – students are excited about sharing some of their time with the Roosevelt Island campus – they have the chance to do short term courses there (on digital marketing and fin tech). So going forward we see greater opportunities to connect Ithaca and Manhattan.
Turning to the application – do you have any advice for Johnson’s essays? [17:50]
We have a few prompts. One is a short answer, fill-in-the-blank prompt about short and long-term goals. It’s the start of a conversation, not the end.
Then we have an essay about impact. I see it as a core value of the community. This essay prompt is designed to allow applicants to talk about how they foresee the opportunity to have impact in their careers. Another way to talk about impact is to talk about how an applicant plans to leverage their previous experience to have an impact on the MBA program.
Then we have a prompt that we’ve had for many years – our Table of Contents prompt, which is meant to be a creative opportunity for applicants to tell their story and help us get to know them. Share highlights – personal, professional, obstacles overcome. We’re a small program and who we admit matters to us. The TOC allows us to get to know applicants personally.
What if someone carries the TOC forward? [23:05]
Think about how Cornell ties into your story and helps you write the next chapter.
You get a lot more applicants than you have spots. How do you winnow it down? [24:20]
It’s a very holistic process. We look for students with a diversity of perspectives – geographic, academic, professional. A variety of backgrounds.
We look very carefully at the notion of fit. In a small community the notion of how an individual fits in is important. We look at values.
“Fit” has to do with an alignment of your values with the institution’s values and the experience they offer you.
For a candidate, assessing fit means getting to know the culture and environment – speaking to people in the community, visiting if you can, participating in recruiting events (including virtual events).
What makes fit challenging is that it is relative to your own priorities and decision criteria.
The criteria for fit may vary from candidate to candidate – what it looks like in terms of geography, areas of focus, etc, will vary based on what you need in a program. You need to know what’s important to you.
What can those invited to interview expect? [30:30]
A conversation with either a member of the admissions team of a trained student interviewer.
It’s a conversation about your experiences, your interest in the program, how you see yourself fitting into the program and community.
Do you have advice for applicants applying right now? [31:35]
Make certain you’re applying when you have your best application to put forward. We have four rounds – January tends to be the highest volume. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward.
Coming back to the essay prompts – there’s a big focus on fit and impact. I encourage applicants to engage with our events – it’ll help your understanding of the school. Get to know members of the community – know whether this is a community that aligns with what you’re looking for.
And do you have advice for someone planning to apply next year or later? [35:15]
With the advantage of time: if you haven’t taken the GMAT or GRE yet, do that – that’s one of the areas that often gives people anxiety, so address it early.
I would encourage doing visits or recruiting events. Participating in partner or affinity groups (eg Forte, Consortium, etc) – these groups provide great support.
Think about your short- and long-term goals, and what’s important to you.
The more applicants understand what’s important to them, the more it’ll reduce the stress.
Recruiting is changing. There are more recruiters, and more opportunities, but the hiring path is more diverse and splintered than it was ten years ago. How is Johnson adapting to those changes? [37:55]
Our team is working closely to maintain an understanding of what the opportunities are. We help facilitate opportunities for grads. We help train for new and emerging career paths – for example, we have a new focus on digital marketing. So our academic side is responding to shifts in the recruiting landscape.
What’s an example of something entrepreneurial and really cool that a Johnson student or alum is doing? [40:20]
Two grads who finished this year created Pure Spinach – hydroponic spinach grown here on campus. They wanted to provide access to fresh organic spinach to people who didn’t have as much access due to climate issues on the east coast. Their product is sold locally, and they’re talking to national chains.
Another cool experience, one of our students had experience working for the Tata Group, and he recently built Mumbai’s largest animal hospital.
What’s coming up at Johnson? [43:23]
The school’s been through a fair amount of growth. We’re looking ahead to more areas of academic focus capitalizing on the Roosevelt Island campus and the integration with the College of Business.
• Cornell Johnson Straight Out of College: A Young Entrepreneur’s Story
• The Consortium Can Help You Get Your MBA
• UCLA Anderson MBA Admissions According to Dean Alex Lawrence
• What’s New at NYU Stern? A Lot!
• Make a Difference at Michigan Ross: An Interview with Soojin Kwon