2021 Best & Brightest EMBAs: Tracey Volz, Cornell University (Johnson)

Tracey Volz

Cornell EMBA/MS Healthcare in Leadership program, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

Age: 41

Research Scientist turned Finance Administrator, EMBA student & new parent during the pandemic.”

Hometown: Spring, Texas

Family Members: Kevin (husband), Parker (son), Virginia (mom); Sisters and In-Laws: Marie & Jason, Theresa & Eric, Katherine, Kelly & Doug, Jen, Deb and Bob.

Fun fact about yourself: Before Yelp and social media were a way of life, I turned my love for food and finding good deals into a “foodie blog” – living out my childhood dreams of writing restaurant and bar reviews. This turned into a couple of freelance “gig” editorial deals and published foodie guides for those looking for good food and drink on the cheap!

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Texas, Austin, BA Psychology & Spanish

Where are you currently working? NYU Langone Health, Finance – Research Enterprise

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:

  • Sponsor/Champion – Culture and Inclusion Committee Workgroups, NYU Langone Health
  • Mentorship Program
  • Communities of Belonging & Cultural and Heritage Recognition

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? There is a shining example of team achievement that I am proud to be a part. It is the creation and existence of the Culture & Inclusion workgroups on Mentorship and Communities of Belonging & Cultural and Heritage Recognition within the office of Workplace Culture and Inclusion at NYU Langone Health (NYULH).

Pre-COVID, I remember having lunch (in a restaurant!) with one of my colleagues, Brittany Leach, and talking about the importance of social awareness and discussing topics like unconscious bias with our teams. This launched into a larger discussion on the need for our institution to address cultural awareness, heritage, and diversity on a larger scale. Brittany had such conviction in her vision and desire for the need to create something real and meaningful to fill this gap for NYULH. Fast forward to the events of 2020 (and even recently in 2021) and we now have established workgroups and forums (with growing participation. These provide both an outlet and forum to connect employees across the NYULH Enterprise on similarities in culture, ethnicity, interests in growth, professional development and human connection. This is a perfect example, of “If you build it, they will come.” It is also the amazing result of a grassroots approach of a group of committed, incredible individuals coming together with a common goal to improve and better connect our community for the greater good. I am proud to act as sponsor and champion for these groups and honored to be a part of such an important change.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? I would have to say completing a dual degree program in the midst of starting a new role and having our first child in the midst of a global pandemic. The past 22 months were full of academic, professional and extracurricular achievements, all of which I would have to share with my teams at work, Executive MBA classmates and family. I also consider myself fortunate to be part of the team that I work with every day in Finance and the Research Mission Enterprise at NYU Langone Health. While we are not patient-facing, we provide the administrative infrastructure needed to support our ever-growing Research Mission. I am honored to be part of a high performing team, which focuses on alleviating administrative burden, workflow improvements and providing high levels of quality customer service. I am also proud to work with thoughtful team members who focus on the importance of people, process and efficiency, and effectiveness.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? I would say Professor Beta Mannix. Her ability to facilitate tough conversations and also challenge the way we think in terms of management versus leadership was one of my favorite parts of the program. I often took activities from her class and tried to facilitate with my teams at work. Beta’s level of engagement and thought-provoking approach to problem-solving and self-awareness has been key in my education and development in leadership. I only hope that we can all take what we learned and apply to our everyday – imagine the possibilities!

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? While Cornell had always been one of my “dream” schools for undergrad, choosing this Executive MBA program specifically was more serendipitous. In 2015, my mentor enrolled me in The Academy for Healthcare Leadership Advancement program, which is a partnership with the Healthcare Association for New York State (HANYS) and the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. It was my chance participation in the HANYS program,which then prompted my specific interest in healthcare leadership complemented with an Executive MBA. This provided the perfect marriage of what I was looking for in a graduate program, which was immediate applicability to my current role and career in academic healthcare administration.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? We learned that we were expecting our first child just weeks after completing the program’s first residency. While we knew it was a possibility, I certainly did not plan to start our family in the midst of an intensive Executive MBA program, let alone giving birth at the onset of a historic pandemic! As the world around us shut down and we adjusted to parenthood and quarantine life with a newborn, I was also submitting finals for business strategy and starting new coursework in Healthcare Research and Managerial Finance. As our second year began and I returned to the office, I realized that juggling school and work while pregnant was actually much easier than doing so with a child! In all honesty, any ability of mine to juggle and even attempt to balance life as a professional, EMBA student and new parent are directly correlated to my ability to lean on my classmates, family and particularly my husband, Kevin for his unmatched support. I share this experience and accomplishment with both him and Parker.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? Ask yourself what you are looking to gain from this type of program and what type of environment you thrive in. It is similar to the advice that I would say for looking for a job as well because it is such a huge commitment of your time and of yourself. You want to ensure that the value of an EMBA exists to keep you motivated and allows you to persevere. When reviewing different programs, talk to other prospective students and also speak with current students. It helps when you are surrounded by the type of individuals and environment that you will thrive in.

What was your biggest regret in business school? I definitely regret not being able to spend more time in-person with my teammates and fellow classmates. While the pandemic resulted in more time with my family, it also took away “the weekend family” that I had just found within my cohort and class. The in-person format definitely allowed for a greater level of spontaneity and interaction. I feel so privileged to be a part of such a class and program of such high caliber and talent. I have gained and learned so much from my teammates and cohorts and I truly hope and believe that the connections we have made will continue on for years to come!

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? If I had to choose just one, without a doubt I would have to say Dr. Lorna Breen. We met at a prospective student mixer and from that moment I was struck by her charisma and vitality. Lorna was the kind of person who was sincerely committed and engaged in the moment, deeply focused on those around her, especially those under her care. Her style, commitment to excellence and learning, and her compassion were truly amazing. Lorna is the epitome of leading by example,  and I feel privileged to have known her, even if for just a short time.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I’ve always been more of a visual and hands-on student, so online alternatives were not as appealing. I also think the design of this executive program was a better fit for me. The alternating weekend schedule over the course of 22 months, while intense, fully immersed us into the academic environment that allowed us to focus more directly on our classes and networking. I think the location of the program at the Cornell Tech campus in New York City was also a plus, as the location on Roosevelt Island truly provides a welcome “academic escape” for students. I also loved the residence session in Ithaca as a nice reminder of traditional college life and the natural beauty of the campus and surroundings.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? I want to help those around me learn from my mistakes and have a better and hopefully easier professional environment in which to thrive and focus on progress. We don’t all have to learn the “hard way”, though there is value in those harder earned lessons. Becoming a manager and leader are more than big titles, it’s about doing what is best for the team instead of the individual. Having humility and feeling comfortable showing your weaknesses is a key part of what makes successful leaders and teams. It is understanding the needs of the greater picture and thoughtfully putting together an organized plan of action to improve and build upon. If I can achieve that goal with my team, unit, organization and even larger community, then I will consider that our greatest accomplishment.

What made Tracey Volz such an invaluable addition to the class of 2021?

“Tracey is a valuable member of the Cornell community, and as a dedicated student and collaborative classmate, she is committed to improving the healthcare industry. Throughout her time in the program, she has been an active volunteer in supporting cohort led efforts including fundraisers and social events and has collaborated on a capstone project focused on commercialization strategy and pricing for a digital therapeutics company’s evolving digital product. While balancing the demands of her professional responsibilities and the rigor of academics, Tracey also became a new mom and provided mentorship to other expectant mothers in the program. Tracey has been an outstanding student and collaborative teammate during her time in the Cornell EMBA/MS Healthcare in Leadership program.”

Elisabeth Brodbeck
Interim Program Director with staff colleagues Allie Krech and Sara Lynn Ianni
Cornell Executive MBA/MS Healthcare in Leadership program



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