Cornell’s Executive MBA Metro NY program, Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University
“Aim high; Leave nothing in the tank; Take it as it comes; Enjoy the ride.”
Hometown: Las Vegas, NV
Family Members: My family members include my father Gary, my mother Chunman, and my brother Josh.
Fun fact about yourself: I competed in mixed martial arts (MMA) growing up and hold an undefeated amateur record.
Undergraduate School and Degree: Babson College, B.S. in Business Administration & Management
Where are you currently working? Director of Commercial Strategy, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits (SGWS) – Atlantic Division
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:
- Mentor – AT&L Mentorship Program – Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits
- Member – Johnson Cannabusiness Club – Cornell University Campus Group
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? For the culmination of our Supply Chain Strategy course, our class participated in the Global Supply Chain Management Simulation, an exercise hosted by Harvard Business Publishing. My classmates Gregory Schwartz, Caryn Eaton, Kevin Nunez, and I were placed on the same team, given the roles of directors in a clothing company, and charged with maximizing a product line’s profits over the course of one year. We were tasked with analyzing base forecasts from our sales teams, creating a consensus forecast, placing initial orders to fill our product pipeline, and managing on-going purchase orders to meet demand throughout the year. Each member of our team brought their unique talents to bear, enabling us to achieve the highest profit results in the class and some of the highest our professor had seen in his many years running the exercise.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Suffering from professional ennui a year into my first post-college job, I saved up six months of living expenses, left my job, and walked into the Navy recruitment office to pursue a childhood dream of serving in the military. An incomplete medical history blocked my enlistment, and I spent the next five years supporting myself with piecemeal consultant work while training full-time and awaiting a waiver so that I could enlist. With no waiver by age 28, the upper limit for the position I was pursuing, I was forced to drop my naval pursuit and find my way back into the workforce. I worried that potential employers and schools would view this job gap negatively; however, I have learned to frame what I considered at the time to be my biggest setback as one of my greatest strengths – I possessed the tenacity, resilience, and wherewithal to support myself for five years while taking a shot at my dream. The trials over that time galvanized many of the professional strengths I have today, and I am most proud of my experience through those tribulations.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I first began looking at EMBA programs while working for Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits in Las Vegas. Given my location, very few top-tier programs were available. So when I was offered a job to work for SGWS of New York state, I viewed it as an opportunity to gain access to a much broader selection of EMBA offerings. What really narrowed my choice down to Cornell was the broad alumni network across a large national and global footprint. Many of the other programs in New York had a large alumni network within New York City, but lacked a stronger presence outside of that metropolitan area. Now, couple this with the principles of equity espoused in Cornell’s motto by its founder Ezra Cornell who said, “I would found an institution where any person can find instruction in any study.” I knew that I had found the university most closely aligned with my own core tenants and beliefs.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? Just as the second year of our program began, I received a work promotion that would require me to move from New York to Florida. I had to scramble to list and sell my home in New York, find a place to stay in Florida, and coordinate a move along the east coast – all while maintaining my performance at work and in school. I found myself commuting back and forth for months, living out of temporary housing, and trying to settle my affairs in New York before the final move. At long last, my girlfriend, Katie, and I loaded up a car and trailer with the dog and the rest of our belongings – on one of the few weekends without classes – to make the 1,300-mile drive in just under two days. Unpacking, however, is a different story: perhaps I can finally finish unpacking all the boxes when I have completed the program.
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that you will have very little free time. While free time certainly comes at a premium while participating in an EMBA program, it does not mean it is non-existent. Through careful time management and prioritization, you can make some time for yourself when needed (however scarce it may be).
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Each of the many talented people in our program contribute incredible and unique expertise and skills to the classroom. If I must choose a single person among them whom I admire most, it is Claudia Generaux. Claudia entered our MBA program already having achieved a PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences at UNC. Throughout our program, she not only worked full-time as director at Bristol Myers Squibb, but she also ran her own business, Becko Books, which provides parents raising children in bilingual homes with authentic books in Spanish at all reading levels. Claudia is ambitious, intelligent, and possesses an emotional quotient that allows her to drive optimal outcomes in group settings. A caring mother, hard-working professional, and an all-around amazing individual, Claudia is the teammate everyone wishes they had (and could be) in their organization.
What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? At the end of the day, I wanted to ensure that my graduate education (from coursework to diploma) was the same caliber as that of my counterparts in full-time programs. The EMBA allowed access to the same classes, professors, and accreditation without requiring me to take time away from my career. I also understood that a large portion of a graduate program’s value would come from the relationships that I would build with classmates. The rigorous curriculum with the same student cohort throughout the program was another reason I chose an EMBA over part-time or online alternatives.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term professional goal is to grow as a leader within my current organization, Southern Glazer’s Wine & Spirits. My work experience spans multiple industries in unique markets across B2B and consumer platforms in both union and non-union environments, and this diverse knowledge base enables me to bring a multifaceted approach to any leadership role I may assume. My education in the Cornell EMBA Metro NY Program has helped expose me to areas of business which I am not regularly immersed, and I intend to leverage all this newfound knowledge to supplement my current experience and drive growth for the business.
What made Sam such an invaluable addition to the class of 2022?
“Sam is an exceptional student in the Cornell EMBA Metro NY Class of 2022. In addition to performing strong academically, his curiosity, dedication and sense of community was infectious within the Cornell EMBA Metro NY program. Sam was often seen supporting and cheering on classmates and finding unique ways to expand upon his learning in the program. He maintained a positive attitude and dedicated approach to his studies. We look forward to seeing what Sam continues to achieve!”
Sara Lynn Ianni
Cornell Executive MBA Metro NY
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