Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management, SC Johnson College of Business, Cornell University
“Hard-working and creative individual seeking out solutions where others might see problems.”
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Family Members: My family includes my wife, Caitlin, and my two sons Caleb (3) and Wyatt (1).
Fun fact about yourself: In college, I participated in a RoadTrip Nation documentary series to develop a documentary on inspiring stories within the music industry. This experience allowed me to interview musicians while traveling with The Fray on their summer tour across the southwest United States.
Undergraduate School and Degree:
Pennsylvania State University, BS in Actuarial Science
Blekinge Institute of Technology, Karlskrona, Sweden, MS in Sustainability
Where are you currently working? Hersha Hospitality Management, Senior Director, Finance & Sustainability
Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles:
- LEED Green Associate with the U.S. Green Building Council
- United Way – Funding and Review Volunteer Committee
- Social Venture Circle
- Sustainable and Impact Investment member with US SIF
Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? One of the most exciting classes in Cornell’s executive MBA program is the Innovation and New Venture Creation course. Throughout the semester, our team worked through the process of developing a startup company idea, completing customer development, obtaining mentorship from entrepreneurs, and ultimately pitching our startup idea to venture capital investors. The experience of working through the challenges of building a startup from conception was an amazing achievement and gave me the confidence that I could start my own company.
What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? In 2021, I was honored to be named one of Philadelphia Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” awardees. This commendation came after a very chaotic and stressful year working in hospitality during which I spearheaded the creation of a health and safety program across our hotels in response to the pandemic. To be acknowledged for my role in the Philadelphia business sector after the turmoil of that year was a definite bright spot in my career.
Who was your favorite MBA professor? One of the most impactful faculty members was Drew Pascarella who taught investment banking. As a practitioner, Pascarella brought current-day deals and strategy directly into the classroom and made what could have been a mundane topic relevant and interesting. He also led a class trip to Germany as part of the international immersion class, which was an incredible experience.
Why did you choose this school’s executive MBA program? I had the privilege to have a few mentors in my life who had a Cornell connection. Through these connections, I had engaged with Cornell and a few of the professors throughout my career, before even considering going back to school. Once I decided to pursue an MBA, it was an easy choice. Cornell also structures their executive MBA curriculum with the dual applications of finance and entrepreneurship, which is what I was looking for to enhance my skillset. I also appreciated the format of the weekends in New York City and week-intensive courses in Ithaca.
What is the biggest lesson you gained during your MBA and how did you apply it at work? Having a more analytical background, one of the biggest lessons I took from my MBA experience was the importance of leadership and creating company culture to the success of an organization. I knew I had technical expertise and knowledge, but Cornell’s leadership courses helped hone my mentorship and guidance skills.
Give us a story during your time as an executive MBA on how you were able to juggle work, family and education? In March of 2022, towards the end of the spring term, my wife gave birth to our second child, Wyatt. This milestone added much joy. The day before she went into labor, I was able to join class through videoconferencing from home. As our final essays were due that following week, I ended up taking my laptop to the hospital and (with permission of course!) finalized my essays in time to spend the important time with my wife and newborn son. Thankfully I also had an amazing study team at Cornell who helped me during this time. After everything was handed in, Wyatt proved to be a great reading companion as I prepared for the next classes.
What advice would you give to a student looking to enter an executive MBA program? My advice to students looking to enter an EMBA program is to create a list of priorities and objectives for your next two years. Then work with your family and employer to create a plan that works best for everyone. Since you are taking the time to go back to school and invest in yourself, go all-in. Take the time to do the readings, attend supplementary presentations, meet with professors, and connect with your classmates in and outside of class. In addition to gaining a skillset, you are gaining a network for life, so make the most of it by sticking to your priorities.
What is the biggest myth about going back to school? The biggest myth about going back to school is that it is going to completely usurp your time. While there is certainly a significant time commitment required, you can still find time for other important things in your life. Although every week will be filled with different requirements, you can (and should) continue to prioritize the people and activities that energize you.
What was your biggest regret in business school? Being from Philadelphia and traveling to New York City for class weekends was an exciting opportunity to grow my familiarity and network within New York. I wish I had taken the time to explore New York City’s various neighborhoods and restaurants more while in the program.
Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’ve been fortunate to get to know many amazing classmates throughout my Executive MBA program across several graduating classes. I believe that Cornell attracts some of the highest-quality people who not only have impressive academic and professional accomplishments, but also are driven to make a positive impact in the world.
If I had to pick only one person, someone I really admire is Marianne Boak, SVP of Enterprise Products at Major League Baseball. Along with raising two kids and paving the way for women in executive positions, she is an amazingly accomplished yet humble person. Marianne and I were on the same study team during the second year of the program and I had the opportunity to collaborate with, learn from, and be inspired by her passion and leadership.
What was the main reason you chose an executive MBA program over part-time or online alternatives? Having completed a prior master’s degree in Sweden many years ago, I recognized the added value of an in-person experience. Therefore, I knew that when I went back to get an MBA, I wanted an in-person, intensive program. The structure of the Cornell EMBA program allowed everyone in our cohort to get to know one another, learn from each other, and build a life-long network of professionals and friends. Cornell’s program was also a great option because I wanted a top-tier program, and the location of the tech campus provided an easy commute for the weekend classes.
What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? My long-term career goal is to utilize my elevated business skillset and background in sustainability to help companies grow in a way that creates business value while having a positive environmental and social impact.
What made Matthew such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023?
“Matthew is a business leader who values economic and social impact equally. As the Senior Director of Finance and Sustainability at a real estate firm in the hospitality sector, Matthew not only strives to increase revenues and profits for the hotels that the company owns and operates, but also tries to do so in a sustainable and ethical way. In class, Matthew has a penchant for asking thought-provoking questions about paradoxical human behaviors. For example, in one of the Cornell Executive MBA classes, he wrote an essay on why people tend to spend money on buying coffee even when it is available conveniently and for free at work. He explained this paradoxical behavior using the principle of behavioral contagion. Matthew’s knowledge of finance and his interest in humanistic aspects of business make him an invaluable addition to the 2023 cohort of MBAs at SC Johnson College of Business at Cornell.”
Senior Director of Cornell EMBA & MSBA Programs and Nakashimato Professor & Professor of Marketing
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