Ithaca Programs, Johnson Experience, Students

Family expansion: From 3 to 300+ in less than a year

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By Carlos Alvites, Two-Year MBA ’19

If you are reading this, maybe you have already Googled “best MBA for families” or “best MBA cities for families.” Maybe you are deciding between two or more programs (congrats!) and what is best for your family or partner. Well, let me tell you my story and how my family grew from three to 300+ people.

We come from Peru. More than 6,000 km separate us from Abby’s grandparents, uncles, and aunts. Abby is my daughter and Cynthia her mom, my wife. We chose Johnson at Cornell, because of the great close-knit community, Ithaca, and the program. After applying I visited Ithaca in April for Destination Johnson (highly recommended)—one week after Abby was born. As you imagine, there were a lot of changes in less than three months. However, after six months in Ithaca, I can assure that these months have been a roller coaster of amazing adventures.

July 30 was the first day of the MBA program. Everyone was there, business formal, ready to take the first picture of the program; and yes, Abby, Cynthia, and other partners and kids were there as well. Your first reaction is: OK, let’s take the picture, meet new people, and, of course, take a picture with the family use the big #CornellMBA hashtag. However, it was amazing that since minute one, people just wanted to take that picture not only with me or another friend but with Abby and Cynthia, too. “Hey Carlos, come with Abby and Cynthia!” And so, it was the first sign that my family wasn’t a three-person family.

Dean Nelson, a bunny, and a community

Just when the activities seemed to be ending, and after I chatted with some people and introduced Abby, I was walking to the door when Dean Mark Nelson approached me. My first thought was: “OK, first day, and the dean is coming to me, what do I do?” He asked to meet Abby, and when we were getting ready to leave, he stopped us and said, “Don’t move and wait here.” He ran to his office (on the second floor!) and when he came back he gave us a book. “This is my favorite book, I Am A Bunny. Read to her every night.” Some Deans could give you advice about the MBA, others about recruiting, or even talk to you about the school, but I got something more valuable: my daughter’s first book.

Your first group of friends in the MBA program may be your core team. In my case, we decided to break the ice and have a dinner. Cynthia and I hosted that dinner. It was amazing how a future investment banker was singing Badanamu songs like “Brush, Brush, Brush” to engage with my four-month-old Abby. Minutes later, my friend, an asset manager, and his wife were doing almost everything to distract her or make her smile. I will never forget those moments. I can’t wait for my American marketing friend—and best-ever storyteller—to start telling Abby stories about living in Russia for three years or my friend from India—venture capitalist and cookie-lover—give Abby her first homemade cookies.

There are more moments like those in my mind; however, moments are made by great people. The people make Cornell what it is. It starts with your neighbors. Where I live, there are five families and other single friends with roommates. Two of the families have babies, like Abby, and all of us have at least one parent in the MBA either in the One-Year program or in the Two-Year program. As soon we see each other, we always ask one another how our families are. As long as we can, we give each other rides to or from Sage Hall.

Speaking of Sage Hall, one important part, besides classes, corporate briefings, and recruiting, is Sage Social held every Thursday. This might be Cynthia and Abby’s favorite part of the week. Sage Social gives you the opportunity to meet new people, relax, and eat with your friends. Abby just loves to be there when we have a regular Sage Social or a special themed one like the Latin Sage Social. It doesn’t matter if you are a student, staff member, or professor—you just enjoy the moment.

Making the most of your MBA experience

Sometimes students with children have in mind that they might miss events because of them. At Cornell, that’s up to you. Most events are open to all. We have participated in events such as tailgating, football games, fireworks on Inauguration Day, concerts (yes, Foster The People), Diwali, the winter formal (Yes, the party!) among others. Abby was part of most of them. Enjoying all the MBA experience had to offer was a goal for us and, therefore, we have tried to achieve it since day one.

Nevertheless, not everything is easy and happy. There will be hard times for a family, like recruiting preparation, recruiting itself, or just adjusting to a new town or routine. Time management and prioritization is the key to success. You might think that having everything in an organized agenda is sufficient, but sometimes you will have to choose between going for a celebratory beer after class or spending time with your family. Especially during recruiting, when you are stressed and traveling to New York City every Friday with ten interviews in a week. Traveling to NYC or other cities or countries for final rounds will be inevitable. In my case, the first weeks of recruiting were tough for Abby and Cynthia because not many members of the Joint Ventures (JV) program—a community group for students’ partners and families—were back from winter break. However, since they got back, they’ve spent a lot of time together while I was traveling.

From left to right: Abby with Auntie Lauren, from America; Uncle Santi, from Colombia; and Auntie Anjan, from Canada.

I must be honest, we as a family might not be able to do or have done a lot of things without the support of my classmates, JVs, and Cornell Staff. We always look for each other and try to help. We always try to be inclusive with all, with or without a stroller. We always think of something to make it work.

If you asked me, ‘would you choose Cornell again?’ I strongly say YES. I don’t know where Abby could meet 300+ aunts and uncles. I have never been in a such welcoming, friendly, and loving place like Cornell.

Abby dressed as Snow White for Halloween

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Headshot of Carlos AlbitesAbout Carlos Alvites, Two-Year MBA ’19

Carlos is from Arequipa, Peru, and has a Bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering and Master of Finance. He chose Johnson because he can find a balance between his professional and personal goals. He would describe Johnson in three words: family, collaboration, and excellence.


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