MBAs join with Cornell Elves to spread holiday cheer in Tompkins County

By: Jolly Shi, Residential MBA Events Coordinator
People standing with receipts and shopping carts at Target

MBAs and their families shop at Target after sponsoring 33 children for Christmas—a 120 percent increase from last year! From left to right: Sherilyn Hunter, MBA ’20; Liliana Kozisek; Jolly Shi; Hunter Kozisek, MBA ’21; Stephanie Kozisek, MBA ’21; Virginia Van Amberg, MBA ’21; Michael Callendar, MBA ’21; Allyssa Ford, MBA ’21; Gaurav Chaudhari, MBA ’20; and Victor Chan, MBA ’21.

Raised in New York City as a first generation college student, I have experienced the struggles and adversities that come with growing up as part of a poor immigrant family. On numerous occasions, I was teased in elementary school due to my parents not having the financial resources to buy new school supplies, toys, or clothing around the holiday season. These experiences fueled my drive to become an active leader in my community with a strong focus on philanthropy.

After I started working at Cornell, I shortly became a volunteer with the Cornell Elves program, which organizes summer backpack and winter holiday programs to support children and families in Tompkins County. With no overhead costs, the Cornell Elves’ mission perfectly aligned with my goal to help needy children and families feel loved and supported, especially during trying times of the holiday season.

“I was not proud of the fact that my husband and I had to ask for help…Christmas magic seemed beyond our reach. Thanks to you wonderful Elves, our children are sure there’s a Santa. And so are we. They may not have been delivered on a big sleigh by a man in a big red suit, but we all got our Christmas wish this year and it would not have been possible without you. Thank you so much.”

—Cornell Elves recipient

A drive for impact and commitment to philanthropy

Shortly after starting in my role at Johnson, I quickly realized that my MBA students here make up an amazing and generous community. After talking about the Cornell Elves winter holiday program to several MBA students, they eagerly jumped on board to help despite their busy recruiting schedules, overloaded extracurricular activities, and heavy academic demands.

I asked Sheri Hunter, MBA ’20, chair of the Community Impact Auction, if she would be interested in working with the Cornell Elves. “Coming from the nonprofit sector, I wanted to continue to give back to the community during my MBA experience and demonstrate how easy—and fun—it can be to my classmates,” she said. “We are not only part of the Johnson community, but also the Tompkins County community; sometimes it can be difficult to see beyond the four walls of Sage, but there are endless opportunities to give back and support those in need.”

Gaurav checks his shopping list
Gaurav Chaudhari, MBA ’20, shopping for the Elves program with profiles of each child

We collaborated seamlessly in gathering club sponsorships, tabling in Sage Hall, and throwing a large celebration with beloved Johnson professors as guest bartenders to support this cause. In 2018, our inaugural fundraiser and participation in the Elves program sponsored 15 children.

This year, we raised more than $4,500 to support 33 children between individual donations and club sponsorships. This was a 120 percent increase from last year!

Cornell Elves unites 19 Johnson MBA clubs

The Elves fundraiser would not have been successful without the compassionate support of our Johnson clubs listed below. Each club sponsored between one and three students.

– Alternative, Private, & Hedged Assets Club

– Association of Veterans

Jorge Morales, MBA ’20, treasurer, on behalf of the Association of Veterans:

“We feel fortunate to be at Cornell and happy to contribute to the local community. Giving back is essential to us since it aligns with our beliefs of helping out and lending a hand wherever we can.”

– Black Graduate Business Association

James Brammah, MBA ’20, president, on behalf of the Black Graduate Business Association:

“The concept of ‘it takes a village’ is a strong value in the Black community. One that we believe is essential to grow and thrive as we care for those around us.”

– Consulting Club

– Energy Club

Russ Grandin, MBA ’20, treasurer, on behalf of the Energy Club:

“Cornell Energy Club members are interested in how renewable energy can bring positive economic and environmental changes to communities. Cornell Elves is another way to help with that.”

– Healthcare Club

– High Tech Club

Alina Everett, MBA ’20, president, on behalf of the High Tech Club:

“Ithaca is an incredibly special place—a warm community that has embraced generations of diverse Johnson students striving for big goals, often far from home. This community is our home base and has welcomed and incubated us, which is why, as family, it’s imperative that we support and cherish that community in kind, and help others achieve their dreams as we have been given the opportunity to pursue ours.”

– High Yield & Restructuring Club

– Hispanic American Business Leaders Association

Cesar Alvarez, MBA ’20, president, on behalf of the Hispanic American Business Leaders Association:

“Many of us come from humble beginnings and see this as a great way to assist those who are in need.”

– Investment Management Club

– Johnson Africa Business Society

Yewande Salau, MBA ’20, president, on behalf of the Johnson Africa Business Society:

“As members of the Ithaca community JABS is happy to sponsor a child. As Nelson Mandela said: ‘There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’”

– Johnson on Tap

– Korean Business Association

– Latin American Business Association

Federico Taboada MBA ’20, VP of community, on behalf of the Latin American Business Association:

“Not only because we believe as a whole in the Law of Attraction, but also because in Latin American we have embedded this culture of behaving as a big family and, therefore, give back in various ways. It means a lot because we feel proud of our Latino spirit of camaraderie.”

– Old Ezra Finance Club

Stephanie Jordan, MBA ’20, co-president, on behalf of the Old Ezra Finance Club:

“As one of the oldest and largest professional clubs on campus, Old Ezra bears great responsibility to the Johnson community and to the greater Cornell and Ithaca community at large. The success of our students is built upon shared values of collaboration, support, and perseverance, and is the result of help from many students, staff, faculty, and alumni. As such, it is important for the club and its students to be strong proponents of Johnson, contributors to the community, and to give back and support the rest of our program and Cornell as a whole.”

– Roy H. Park Leadership Park Fellows

Katie Colton, MBA ’20, on behalf of the Park Fellows:

“Giving back is critical to ensuring that we are leaving a positive impact on our local community. As students continue to come and go through the program, maintaining the schools relationship with the Ithaca community is important.”

– Sustainable Global Enterprise

Jolly holds a blue stuffed unicorn toy
Jolly Shi, residential MBA events coordinator, picking out a fluffy unicorn for a five-year-old girl who requested this on her wish list

– Wine Club

– Women’s Management Council


Through this extraordinary community, it is very heartwarming to see that there are many Cornell MBAs willing to sponsor a child for the holiday season and leave a legacy behind on building continuous positive impact.

Jolly Shi

Jolly Shi, Residential MBA Events Coordinator

Jolly Shi is the residential MBA events coordinator at Johnson with an annual portfolio of 70+ key events for 630 MBA students. Before Johnson, Jolly worked in admissions at the School of Hotel Administration. She established key admissions and scholarship processes for two inaugural MPS programs and maintained ongoing degree compliancy for dual-degree students. Prior to Cornell, Jolly graduated early with honors from Lafayette College, and completed an honors thesis—The Sociology of Smell in the Fragrance Industry—which has received a prestigious award. Jolly holds a BA in American studies and anthropology and sociology. In her free time, she volunteers and gives back to the community: Jolly is board member for the Paul Schreurs Memorial Program, a mentor in the College Discovery Program, and an application reader in the APIA Scholarship Program.

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