From hometown to MBA, where communities meet

By Steven Martinez, Two-Year MBA ’18

Hispanic MBA Summit 2017 with members of HABLA and the board of the Hispanic Business Association at Columbia Business School

Hispanic MBA Summit 2017 with members of HABLA and the board of the Hispanic Business Association at Columbia Business School

One of the fondest memories I’ll take with me from Johnson was from the first semester of my first year. In September 2016, my classmates took part in a national dialogue, #MBAsOpenUp, with fellow business schools. We filled the Dyson Atrium at Sage Hall wearing black in solidarity with communities that have experienced the deaths of African Americans in encounters with law enforcement. Deans, professors, Cornell police, faculty, and staff joined us to take this photo and start a conversation with Johnson’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.

Johnson is a smaller school compared to some other business schools, but the turnout for that one event was just as large as any other business school’s similar function. Regardless of their political views, people came out to show love. This meant a lot to me. I sent a text to my entire class’ group chat, letting them know how touched I was… but I didn’t give them much context. I grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood and most of my best friends are black; therefore, these issues are close to me—this was a moment when my communities met.

Got “D&I” inside our DNA

This anecdote describes the way Johnson embraces what I perceive to be my culture. And this was not a unique circumstance. I have several other memories of professors, administrators, classmates, and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion (ODI) supporting diversity because it is part of Johnson’s and Cornell University’s DNA. When people ask me why I chose Johnson, I am always proud to say one of the reasons was Johnson’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. I found as I was researching MBA programs, Nicole Lindsay, author of MBAdvantage, wrote that Johnson was the only school with a dedicated Diversity and Inclusion team, while other MBA programs considered diversity initiatives a function of the admissions office. Johnson’s ODI provides all MBA students with support for any student-life issues, with a focus on diversity and inclusion (D&I). Aside from offering personal guidance on a regular basis, the office’s initiatives say a lot about the school and the investment it makes in D&I.

The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s welcome seminar
The Office of Diversity and Inclusion’s welcome seminar

With that new blue Yankee on, who but me?

One of the concerns I had coming to business school was if I would feel comfortable being myself. Prior to starting my MBA at Johnson, I worked in a conservative industry, and I was always cautious to be my complete self at work. But here, I decided to just be me and see what the response would be. I think everyone feels comfortable being themselves here. I can dabble in outfits ranging from a tailored aesthetic to Jordan’s and a Yankees snapback. At our last Investment Banking Immersion function, I “dapped”—an informal handshake when you lock thumbs and half hug with the other arm—the faculty head of our immersion. It was a nice moment because that is how I greet my friends when I’m back home. He might not know that’s what it’s called, but he responded well to it!

Steven Martinez at the Parker Center for Investment
Late night learning some financial modeling at the Parker Center for Investment
Dabbing with the Cornell Bear
Showing Touchdown how to dab after finals

Integrating culture with professional, social events

As president of the Hispanic American Business Leaders Association (HABLA) at Johnson, I try to ensure our members feel supported when it comes to coursework and recruiting. Business school is fun, but there are a lot of stressful moments; therefore, we try to host social functions to balance out those moments. One of my responsibilities as president is to not only support our members, but also to promote the culture to my classmates.

Our board finds creative ways to inject some culture into most functions. One of our first events of the 2017 spring semester was a Latino Leadership Conference, which HABLA co-sponsored with the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE) chapter at Cornell’s College of Engineering. We filled the atrium with student leaders and alumni from across Cornell to network, learn, and inspire each other. I closed the opening address by mentioning the entire event was planned #ForTheCulture, and it was much deeper than just the folks in each respective building across campus.

Me and Dean Nelson at the Homecoming tailgate
Me and Dean Nelson at the Homecoming tailgate

It’s a vibe… learn about it!

My advice to prospective students is always to come visit the school, speak to students, and check out our official hashtag, #CornellMBA, to get a sense of Johnson’s vibe. The more students you speak to, the more candid and personal responses you will be able to gather.

For any prospective student who is an underrepresented minority interested in learning more about Johnson, check out our Johnson Means Business event. Johnson Means Business is a two-day, on-campus event takes place every year in coordination with our Diversity Symposium.

Learn more about Johnson's Ithaca residential MBA programs in Ithaca

About Steven Martinez, Two-Year MBA ’18

Steven Martinez


Steven is from Jersey City, NJ. He earned a Bachelor’s of Science in finance from The College of New Jersey. Prior to business school he worked at Goldman Sachs in London in DCM Syndicate and in the CFO office of the Investment Banking Division. At Johnson, he is the president of HABLA, a career workgroup leader, a Consortium fellow, and one of the co-chairs of Johnson Means Business. Upon graduation he will be working in technology investment banking at RBC Capital Markets.

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