MBA candidates settle into their seats prior to the start of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management Recognition Ceremony, May 26 in Newman Arena.

MBA grads urged to harness power to do good

Amanda Archila, MBA '18, addresses her classmates as a graduate of the Two-Year MBA program at Johnson. She told her classmates that "as leaders, we needn't be perfect, but we must be courageous."

Amanda Archila, MBA ’18, was making a difference as Washington, D.C.-based national account manager for Divine Chocolate, a fair-trade, farmer-owned company headquartered in Ghana and London.

But in order to make a bigger difference, to secure real power for the purpose of the greater good, Archila knew she needed to take another step.

Her story of sacrifice and perseverance is undoubtedly similar to the scores of others who were honored May 26 at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management Recognition Ceremony, held in Newman Arena.

“I think the impact that a small organization was able to have, like Divine, was something that really inspired me to say, ‘How can I scale that up?’” Archila said. “And in order to be able to effectively scale that up, I had to get the sort of credentials, the training, the expertise in really being a business leader.”

A graduate, one of many who crossed the stage holding young children, hugs her son during the Johnson Graduate Recognition Ceremony in Newman Arena.

Archila was chosen to speak on behalf of the 288 graduates of Cornell’s Two-Year MBA program. Additionally, five Ph.D. candidates, 62 candidates from the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA program, 70 students from the One-Year MBA program and 19 candidates from the inaugural class in the Master of Professional Studies in Management-Accounting Specialization earned degrees.

A total of 19 students earned dual degrees, combining an MBA with degrees in such disciplines as law, engineering and real estate.

Mark Nelson, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, welcomed the Class of 2018 into the ranks of Cornell’s thousands of Johnson graduates worldwide.

Mark Nelson, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of the Johnson School, addresses graduates at Johnson's Graduate Recognition Ceremony.

“You are now part of a broader community,” Nelson said. “You are joining an alumni community of more than 15,000 Johnson graduates, almost 40,000 [Cornell SC Johnson College of Business] graduates, and over 250,000 proud Cornellians, all bleeding Cornell red and all part of your extended family.

“You have probably heard me say that at Johnson we have each other’s backs and we propel each other forward,” he said. “That applies to this broader alumni community as well.”

Archila implored the newest members of the Johnson alumni community to do well – and do good.

“When I take a moment to look around, I am reminded of the power that I knew would be here,” said Archila, who graduated from New York University in 2008 and worked for seven years for two fair-trade businesses before deciding to return to school.

“There are moments when I remember that we are not just a group of people, but a group of leaders with tremendous power and potential for impact,” she said.

Winner of two class awards for leadership, Archila spoke of how complicated the word “power” can be.

“It can be inspiring or corrupting,” she said. “We shy away from it when we talk about ourselves, but we have no problem pointing it out in others. If I was to make one recommendation to my classmates today, I would say to embrace the word ‘power,’ and recognize the good and the bad that comes with seeking it out.”

After the ceremony, Archila called it an “honor” to speak on behalf of her classmates, many of whom crossed the stage carrying young children, reminding the thousands in attendance that going to school was just one of the challenges their daily lives presented. She also recognized the support and sacrifice of her own family.

Degree candidates applaud near the end of the recognition ceremony.

“My husband actually moved with me [from D.C.] to Ithaca full time,” she said, “and it was incredible that he was able to be here to back me up and support me.” Her parents and husband were in the audience for the ceremony.

James Groark III, MPS ’18, speaking for the MPS (accounting) graduates, reminded the Class of 2018 that while graduation marks the end of something, it’s also a beginning.

“Graduating, while no small feat, is not our end goal,” he said. “Let’s pat ourselves on the back if we must, but know that we are just getting started, and we have a lot more to accomplish.”

Ying Wu, MBA ’18, a member of the One-Year MBA graduating class, said her time at Cornell has given her strength to meet the challenges that lie ahead: “My key takeaway is, in this community, I truly feel empowered and supported, which has helped me remember who I am and why I am here: to challenge myself, and to learn and empathize … and to continue to contribute, and to make my loved ones proud.”

Nelson presented the Faculty Research Award to Justin Johnson, professor of economics and area coordinator for strategy and business economics. And the Class of 1992 Apple Teaching Award was given to William Schmidt, assistant professor of operations, technology and information management.

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Lindsey Knewstub