2023 Best & Brightest Executive MBA: Corey R. Bailey, Cornell University (Johnson)

Corey R. Bailey

Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University

Age: 49

“I strive to be an empathetic leader, creative strategist, and a devoted family man to elevate the potential of those around me.”

Hometown: Austin, TX

Family Members: Trina Bailey (Wife), Cole Bailey (son, 16), Maddox Bailey (son, 16), Sheridan Bailey (daughter, 14)

Fun fact about yourself: I share a birthday with the original Karate Kid, Ralph Macchio. Wax on, wax off.

Undergraduate School and Degree: Baylor University – Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance

Where are you currently working? Comerica Bank, EVP – Head of Middle Market and Business Banking

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles: I serve as Comerica’s United Way Leadership Giving Chair and share my professional expertise both formally and informally mentoring young bankers to accelerate their success in the industry.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud to have led the Dallas boardroom in a venture capital project specifically designed to provide women and minority owned businesses with access to equity capital. This project was gratifying as it accomplished key objectives of generating excellent financial returns. I’m equally proud to have completed a demanding educational program while balancing quality family time and professional excellence.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? My proudest professional achievement is being promoted to my current role before completing the MBA program. This position presents a remarkable opportunity to lead two of Comerica’s largest and most profitable lines of business within one of our country’s most prominent banks. I take equal pride in my 26-year servant leadership journey with a single financial institution.

Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I selected the Cornell Executive MBA Americas program because there is simply no other program like it. The flexible synchronous learning and immersive residential sessions at an elite Ivy League and prestigious Canadian university is unparalleled. More importantly, the dual degree program caters to today’s high-achieving professionals who want to continue in their career uninterrupted while simultaneously pursuing a life-changing educational experience.

Furthermore, the dual degree program emphasizes collaborative learning, reflecting real-world best business practices. As a result, I partnered with diverse professionals from various industries, backgrounds, and countries. This experience offered invaluable perspectives and fostered connections beyond the classroom. In hindsight, I know I made the right choice. The Cornell Executive MBA Americas program offers a unique blend of academic rigor, flexibility, global exposure to world-class professors, and networking opportunities.

What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? In today’s increasingly interconnected world, leaders must possess strong financial acumen, sharp analytical skills, a deep understanding of cultural nuances, and the ability to empathize with others. Pursuing my MBA gave me a unique opportunity to focus on my emotional intelligence. I grew as an empathic leader and strengthened my global perspective. While in the program, I engaged with an international pool of peers and enhanced my knowledge of the complexities of a multicultural business landscape. In so doing, I have been enriched both in my career and personal life.

The truth is that exposure to international classmates, case studies on global companies, world-renowned professors, and a consulting project with a European company as part of a capstone project broadened my understanding of the world and how we do business today.

I strongly believe that empathetic leadership fosters innovation and engagement. Furthermore, it cultivates an environment where my colleagues feel respected and valued. Professionally, my broadened worldview will help me better understand new markets and develop partnerships that capitalize on global opportunities.

Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family, and education? During an in-person residential session in Canada only weeks before Christmas, there were nightly social opportunities for students in the program. There were happy hours, tickets to a Toronto Raptors game, and more. While I would have enjoyed socializing with my classmates, the risk of contracting COVID would have meant being unable to leave Canada until after Christmas, and that was a risk I wasn’t willing to take. Moreover, it afforded me the time to respond to work emails and pressing issues that arose in my absence.

When members of my cohort began to fall ill, I doubled down on my precautions by limiting my interactions and exposure to large groups. For her part, my wife started researching options to get me out of Canada if I tested positive and couldn’t fly home. I remember her saying: “If you have to ride home in the back of a U-haul, we’re spending Christmas as a family.”

Ultimately, I prioritized the well-being of myself and my family by making the difficult decision to forgo some social opportunities. As a result, I ensured my family’s togetherness during Christmas and remained responsive to my work obligations. The experience highlights the importance of the need to stay flexible and adaptive in an ever-changing world.

What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? My advice for someone considering an MBA is to start with why. Why do you want one? Knowing the answer to this simple question will provide you with clarity of purpose. Moreover, it provides you with a clear sense of direction, helping you establish goals, make decisions, and allocate your resources in a strategic way. Finally, knowing your why allows you to prioritize what truly matters, ensuring that your actions are aligned with your core beliefs. Second, do not undervalue work experience. Learning on the job offers an opportunity to learn alongside professionals who possess a wealth of real-world knowledge and industry expertise. Finally, I strongly recommend pursuing an Executive MBA to enhance your existing leadership skills as EMBA’s are designed to emphasize practical, hands-on learning that can be readily applied to your current role, helping to solve current business challenges.

What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that if you’re already well-established in your career, as I was, you don’t need a graduate degree to advance professionally. Pursuing the Cornell Executive MBA was a gratifying experience that provides numerous professional and personal growth benefits even better than I expected at the onset. Although a graduate degree may not guarantee a higher salary or a better job, it impacts your career trajectory in a number of critical ways such as the following:

Expand Your Professional Network: One of the most significant benefits of an MBA program is connecting with a diverse group of professionals, including classmates, faculty, alumni, and guest speakers. These connections can help you broaden your perspective, gain industry insights, and form partnerships, which can be invaluable as you advance in your career.

Provides New Opportunities: The Cornell MBA program helped me pivot into a new organizational role. This experience signaled my dedication to learning and professional development, making me an attractive candidate for the promotion I received. Additionally, the program exposed me to innovative ideas and concepts that will ripple throughout my organization.

Personal Growth and Transformation: An MBA program challenges you to think critically, adapt quickly to new situations, and develop a deeper understanding of your strengths and weaknesses. This self-awareness leads to personal growth and transformation, making me a better leader and a more well-rounded individual.

Enhanced Credibility and Personal Brand: Possessing an MBA from two highly respected institutions bolsters my credibility and personal brand in the business world. These credentials give me a competitive edge and demonstrate my commitment to excellence.

While an EMBA may not provide the immediate return on investment in the form of a higher salary or better job, the long-term benefits of enhanced skills, an expanded professional network, and new learning opportunities make it a valuable asset for professionals seeking career growth.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret from my time in business school is not taking full advantage of the opportunity to get to know my cohort colleagues sooner. Although I’m confident I’ve built a life-long bond with the Americas class of 2023, the opportunity for broader and deeper personal connections was available. The Cornell Executive MBA Americas program brought together a highly talented group from North and South America, and it’s unlikely I’ll experience such a unique opportunity again.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? It is challenging to choose just one, as my cohort had so many talented colleagues with diverse backgrounds from North and South America. However, if I had to choose just one, it would be Chad Gassaway from the Dallas boardroom. He was the ultimate team player, never complained, was brilliant, and was willing to do whatever it took to accomplish the goal.

What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? I chose the Cornell Executive MBA Americas program over alternative options because other formats did not meet my needs as an executive. I wanted to advance my career while fulfilling my professional commitments. The MBA Americas program offered an intensive curriculum, networking opportunities with high-caliber peers, and real-world learning experiences surpassing those offered by other elite business schools. This choice was perfect for me as a seasoned professional seeking a fast-paced, immersive, and comprehensive educational experience prioritizing leadership development, networking, and practical applicability.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? As I look towards my long-term goals, one aspiration that stands out is serving on the board of directors for a public corporation. The reason behind this ambition is the striking need for more diversity in the boards of publicly traded U.S. companies. The disparity between the composition of these boards and the overall population is quite glaring.

For example, the representation of the Hispanic community on corporate boards. Hispanics make up a meager 2.7% of directors, but to accurately reflect the U.S. population, this number would need to skyrocket to 18.5%. According to a survey by executive data firm Equilar, only 6.2 percent of directors are Black, versus 13.4 percent of the country. There is a significant need for improvement and this cause is being championed by Carla Harris, Ursula Burns, and other trailblazers.

In striving to become a board member of a public corporation, I want to contribute to bridge this gap and create a more inclusive and equitable corporate environment while utilizing my professional experience in a meaningful way.

What made Corey such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?

“Corey is an exemplary member of the Cornell Executive MBA Americas Class of 2023. Thinking back to his admissions interview, I vividly remember leaving that conversation concluding that Corey didn’t need an MBA…rather he wanted it! It’s an important distinction. There is no doubt the credential will propel him even further.

Corey is the type of person that when he speaks, everyone listens. His contributions are thoughtful, articulate, relevant, and valuable. Observing and engaging with him throughout the program, it’s easy to understand why he has enjoyed the success he’s had. Corey has spent his career with one company and he intends to stay there indefinitely. He is proof that earning an MBA can lead to even greater opportunity within one’s organization and that there is always value in investing in oneself.

We are highly confident that Corey will continue to make a very positive impact not only at Comerica but wherever he directs his energy and focus. We are honored and very proud that he chose the EMBA Americas program and that we can call him a Cornellian for life.”

Verne Thalheimer
Executive Director
Cornell EMBA Americas Program


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