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Tales in Possible

Expose Possible

First-year MBA Lourdes Zapata wanted a business school experience that would introduce her to a variety of people, ideas and opportunities. By the end of her Launch orientation, she knew she had found it at NYU Stern.

Launch 2014 Lourdes Zapata

The teaching moments were a great way to explain why collaboration and crowdsourcing ideas from different perspectives are the key to our success here and in our careers. - MBA student Lourdes Zapata

“My a-ha moment for applying to business school came when I was preparing budgets for the Chamber of Commerce in Charlotte, North Carolina, where I worked,” said first-year MBA student Lourdes Zapata. Prior to applying to NYU Stern, Lourdes developed a strong foundation in business principles as a partner in her family’s design-build practice and as a member of the institutional sales team at Sanford Bernstein. But her most recent role as the director of public policy for the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce introduced her to the complexity of balancing community needs and values with those of business and governance. “I knew I needed something more.”

“As an immigrant and a woman in a competitive environment, diversity of thought is very important to me,” Lourdes said. She sought a business school experience that would introduce her to a variety of people, ideas and opportunities, and by the end of her Launch orientation experience, she knew she had found it. “I wanted to be immersed in a learning environment that would encourage me to experiment with challenges and extract business solutions versus simply telling me what would be the best solutions,” she explained, “and Launch made it clear that NYU Stern walks the walk.”

Bestselling author and fellow immigrant Malcolm Gladwell opened this year’s Launch program by encouraging students to reject false certainty and consider how business can solve problems in a complex and uncertain modern world. “Most institutions are designed to solve puzzles, the simplest form of a problem,” he said. “You don’t live in a puzzle world anymore. You live in a mystery world.”

NYU Stern professors – including Batia Wiesenfeld, Pankaj Ghemawat, Arun Sundararajan and Luke Williams – echoed Gladwell’s sentiment in a series of teaching moments, designed to encourage students to challenge the status quo and expand their mindsets about the possibilities to create value in the world through business.

“The teaching moments were a great way to explain why collaboration and crowdsourcing ideas from different perspectives are the key to our success here and in our careers,” Lourdes said. “Each talk was a confirmation that NYU wouldn’t push us in a certain direction but instead would offer resources for our success, and the TED-style stories of transformation from students, alumni, academics and industry leaders were really a testament to that.”

Looking back on her Launch experience, Lourdes recalls that she didn’t expect to be so inspired and to have that inspiration so immediately followed by action through LaunchPad, an opportunity for the students to work in teams to apply their diverse skills to real problems facing New York City communities.

“I expected an overview of the MBA program, but what I got was a deep dive into the innovation process, project-based learning and the value of building our personal and professional networks,” Lourdes said, noting that these skills have also been critical components of her classes thus far. Developing our ability to integrate these three areas and relying on the fundamentals of business practice ensures there can be no wrong path in our careers, she noted.

Lourdes has already established a strong network of diverse thinkers here at Stern as a member of the Association of Hispanic and Black Business Students (AHBBS), Stern Women in Business (SWIB), the Social Enterprise Society, Entrepreneurs Exchange (EEX) and the European Business Society (EBS) and is eager to swap experiences and ideas with more of her peers.

If Launch served as an inspiration to hit the ground running, the start of the academic year has provided continuous momentum for Lourdes to achieve the goals she set for herself. After a packed schedule of presentations and conversations on her first day at Stern, Lourdes and her classmates headed to historic Ellis Island for dinner. “Being with my classmates in such a monumental place as Ellis Island, it really hit me. I’ve started my own journey. Like the immigrants before me, I’m transitioning to a more fulfilling life.”