Alumni achievements

Executive leaves Fortune 500 C-suite to follow her passion

Whether gathering samples in the field or programming small robots, the young people in Heritage STEM Camps Foundation bootcamps gain hands-on experience and exposure to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, or STEM, and, yes, business too.

The driving force behind the Heritage STEM Camps Foundation and a host of other educational opportunities to engage and inspire youth, Tina Taylor left the high-level corporate world to follow her passion. Now she shares the joy of STEM with young people—particularly underrepresented girls—to nurture their interest and participation in STEM education and fields.

As the first African American female to sit in the C-suite, Taylor, then chief quality & information officer, had reached a milestone at GE Lighting. She joined GE with an undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, and after rising to a top leadership position, she was still interested in continuing to broaden her global perspective on business. Read more...

“Peers are important,” says Taylor, who decided to pursue a graduate business degree with an international focus for seasoned leaders. “I wanted to collaborate and learn from global thought-leaders outside my traditional work environment. I wanted a unique experience that would nurture my entrepreneurial curiosity.”

Taylor chose the TRIUM EMBA, a joint program between the London School of Economics, HEC Paris, and NYU Stern. There, she found a place to step back and reflect on what was next and how to leverage an enriching journey for the young generation with the support of her cohort.

Based on her own experiences, Taylor knew well the scarcity of women in STEM and the barriers to education and advancement that girls faced worldwide. When the program asked students to identify their capstone projects, Taylor had an idea to develop a unique educational initiative in South Africa that would introduce STEM to girls.

“I remember I made a pitch for the capstone when we were in New York,” she says. “I pitched it for 90 seconds and several people came to me and wanted to be part of that transformational change. That gave me the go-ahead that this was something needed and wanted.”

Soon she decided to devote 100 percent of her efforts to build a boarding school and STEM Business camps for girls in South Africa. Educating girls often results in a multiplier effect, especially in less invested and underdeveloped regions, she says. 

“Anytime you give women work and opportunities, that changes their communities. When they learn information, they share it. It’s an investment in the community that improves GDP.”

Since that start, Taylor has expanded the camps and other educational opportunities to the U.S., including a two-year STEM cohort for girls and a series of online master classes for all young leaders. The camps feature hands-on experiences and an emphasis on business skill-building, including working in teams and developing leadership abilities. 

Her success rate is high: Since 2016, 95 percent of participants enrolled in college and five percent started their own companies. Her work also has attracted funding from corporations, such as Smithfield Foods, Inc., and other donors.

She continues to reach more children worldwide and began offering STEM education in Spanish and will host several residential camps in Miami, Nepal, and the Philippines in 2023-2024.

Taylor also is changing global dynamics through the commercial and technology management firm, Core 3 Innovations, which she co-founded and is serving as co-CEO. The firm focuses on developing business solutions that drive economies of scale and support economic advancement in underdeveloped communities globally. 

In making a choice to apply her own business skills with the aim of increasing opportunities for female advancement in STEM and business, Taylor turned an EMBA educational experience into a successful and sustainable cause. “It gave me the opportunity to say yes to me and the things I am passionate about and create a path forward.”


EMBA student works to expand access to high-quality education

A non-profit executive and Executive MBA student, Jonathan Chaparro (’22) wants to make high-quality education and career success more attainable for first-generation college students and students from humble beginnings.

Chaparro grew up in a low-income community in Chicago, and he became one of the first members in his family to attend college. After graduating in 2008, Chaparro taught in Chicago’s Austin neighborhood as part of Teach for America.

Chaparro was amazed at how his students’ lives mirrored his own upbringing. It prompted him to reflect on an important question: How can society set up disadvantaged students for better success?


Now, Chaparro, an Executive MBA student at the Kellogg School of Management, serves as executive director at Braven, a nonprofit organization that works in five states to drive upward economic mobility for first-generation college students. In short, it seeks to help first-gen students graduate from college and find a successful career path.

“These students have technically done everything they’re supposed to do,” says Chaparro. “They’ve gone to college and received a degree, but they still have a tough time entering the workforce in a strong manner — to no fault of their own.”

Braven runs a semester-long leadership career accelerator that equips students with the skills, mindsets, experiences, and networks that are critical in finding a strong first job. Braven offers mock interviews and teaches students to tell their personal stories, craft an elevator pitch, and write cover letters. Students also learn how to give and receive difficult feedback.

“These are all things that you talk about at dinner if you’re growing up in middle-class or high-income households,” says Chaparro. “But if you’re growing up in a low-income community, they’re not familiar to you.”

Braven supports students six months after graduation. “Braven exists to help ensure that as many students as possible are putting their education to work and landing jobs that will put them on a path toward achieving the American promise.”

His EMBA experience will allow him to make the impact he hopes to make at Braven, says Chaparro.

“I still deeply believe in the power of education to fuel upward mobility,” he says. “Part of the reason why I’m in the Executive MBA Program is because I want to leverage my education to continue to grow professionally.” Less...

EMBA alums help military vets

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Michael Chan knew lifetime service members often struggled with transitioning to civilian life – some 80 percent of them leave their first post-military job within two years.

So, after joining the Executive MBA – Strategic Leadership Program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business in 2021, Chan and classmate Andrew Roberts, a recently retired U.S. Marines major, decided to join forces on a joint Organizational Action Project (OAP).

Their goal? Bridge the gap between what traditional veteran service organizations (VSOs) provide and what potential employers need, helping former service members land and keep well-paying corporate jobs. The OAP served as the starting point for Veterans to Volunteers, a non-profit in the formative stages that would tackle the problem of veteran attrition in civilian jobs.


Roadblocks include lack of hard skills or skills that don’t translate well into the corporate world. Even when companies want to hire veterans, challenges exist with the chasm between military and civilian cultures. Veterans’ indelible sense of identification with their military service can make it hard to find purpose and meaning in civilian jobs. Most employers don’t know how best to help them.

To bridge the disconnect, the duo worked both sides of the employer-employee equation to distinguish Veterans to Volunteers as a unique service, one that would help companies minimize turnover and hire the skills they value most.

Roberts took on the veteran-side planning, mapping the network of existing VSOs in Tennessee, ensuring Veterans to Volunteers wouldn’t duplicate services. Based on his research, he found three key ways to assist veterans – provide transition coaches for personalized support; connect veterans to the VSOs most closely matching their needs; and pair veterans’ specific talents with known needs in the business community, possibly in partnership with the Tennessee Department of Labor.

On the employer side, Chan collected data on businesses’ needs and identified potential capacity to meet demand. He also began developing a program to help businesses become “veteran proficient” – not just “veteran friendly” – along with recommendations for training, mentorship, and coordination to better match veteran talent with corporate needs.

Chan and Roberts now work as strategy and business consultants, but they received so much positive feedback on Veterans to Volunteers that they’re taking the next steps toward launching as a non-profit.

In a major boost toward their goal, current EMBA-SL student Jay Land, who also is a retired army veteran, is using their project as the foundation for his OAP. He plans to build relationships with companies, VSOs, and the Tennessee Department of Labor as he develops pilot programs for Veterans to Volunteers, while Roberts and Chan continue work on budgeting and marketing. They plan to test the first pilot programs with a small number of veterans later this year and are excited that the project could eventually be a full-time responsibility.

“Especially because Andy and I are fresh off our transition to civilian life, this is our passion, this is our core,” Chan says. “This is our ‘why.’ ”


EMBA students rally to expand mental health services

Alumni of the EMBA/MS in Healthcare Leadership Program at Cornell University recently led an initiative to support expanding mental health services in the community.

Cornell offers four EMBA Programs that are tailored for specific needs of executives in various fields, with the EMBA/MS in Healthcare Leadership Program targeted for leaders of the healthcare industry. The only healthcare leadership program in the country that offers an Ivy League Executive MBA along with an MS from a world-renown medical school – the Weill Cornell Graduate School of Medical Sciences – it draws leading faculty from both schools. Class cohorts typically include a mix of clinicians and non-clinicians in the healthcare field.

The pandemic presented innumerable challenges for the healthcare community, taking a painful toll on the physical and mental health of many. In spring 2020, the EMBA/MS Class of 2021 lost a beloved member with the passing of Dr. Lorna Breen, M.D., a talented physician who served as the emergency department director at New York-Presbyterian Allen Hospital. 


Spurred by this tragic loss, members of the Class of 2021 developed the Dr. Lorna Breen Healthcare Legacy Fund, which seeks to make an impact on the complex issue of mental health and has led to the creation of the Dr. Lorna Breen Healthcare Legacy Fellowship.

This collaborative effort between the EMBA/MS Program and the Class of 2021 alumni provides students a platform to apply the leadership skills they have learned in the program and contribute to the expansion of mental health services and support to healthcare workers, students, or their community. 


Many faces: Alumna advocates for others and a better world

Fabiana Bentes has seen the many faces of diversity throughout her career as a journalist and through her leadership roles in government, business, and non-profit organizations.

Her work takes her to one of Rio de Janeiro’s most violent favelas, a place of extreme poverty where people stay because they cannot afford proper housing in the city. “There are significant risks to work there,” she says. “I understand that I am there on a mission.”

Bentes’ background covers much ground: She’s contributed to projects that help refugees and help prevent violence against women, indigenous people, children, and the elderly. She was state secretary of social development and human rights, as well as public security counselor, for the state of Rio de Janeiro. In addition, she served as consultant and director of the Interamerican Bank of Development – the largest source of development financing for Latin American and the Caribbean – and vice president of the Public Safety Counsel.


She currently leads Sou do Esporte, a Brazilian-based non-profit association that promotes a network of relationships between athletes, sports entities, public authorities, and the private sector and in 2021 was elected tourism ambassador of Rio de Janeiro. She received her MBA as a graduate of the Fundação Dom Cabral Executive MBA.

“I have always taken the responsibility to act in favor of the vulnerable population, regardless of where I am or the position I hold,” says Bentes. Her commitment and actions help inspire others to act.

“Everything I do has to have a purpose. Because I believe what I do has a positive impact – engaging more people in charitable or social responsibility actions. It’s necessary to realize that many people want to get involved, but do not know where to start or which path to go down. When are actions are well-developed, when you persuade people to work with you, it’s a sign that you’re a force and your actions are helping and are having the desired effect.”

Her EMBA education helped her spread the word and offered her important perspectives on business.

As the only student in her EMBA class from the service sector of the economy, Bentes helped her fellow students better understand why companies need a stronger relationship with social impact. She also learned more about how business operates. “It has improved my knowledge in managing resources of companies and in dealing with the expectation of social impact.” Less...