Helping Others Succeed
For years, Harvey Beker (BS '74, MBA '75) has been providing scholarship funds for MBA students with a moral clause to give back. The scholarship application asks applicants to explain how their contributions help others succeed, as well as how they intend to contribute to Stern as an alumnus/a and how they will enable future students to excel at Stern.
Beker Scholar Nicholas Ducey-Gallina takes those aspirations to heart. Upon arrival at Stern for the two-year Full-Time MBA Program, Ducey-Gallina, who has been afflicted with complex medical issues since birth, was impressed by the many student clubs and affinity groups but was surprised by one gap. “There was a huge, missed opportunity to create a peer group around the shared identity of disabilities, whether physical or social,” he said. “Not just for purposes of support during the school experience, but also support for obtaining recruiting opportunities and in your career.”
Ducey-Gallina explained that he chose Stern over competitor schools because its curriculum includes courses on how to drive corporate information technology not just as a cost center, but also as a revenue generator. “Now here I am entering my last semester, and my reasoning has been validated in terms of the classes I’ve been able to take and what I’ve been able to learn.” After graduation, he will join Chicago-based Kearney, a global management consultant.
Disability is personal for Ducey-Gallina. His medical challenges, while not visible like some physical disabilities, have presented considerable social and financial obstacles to navigate, in school, work, and relationships.
He hopes that his campaign to make things easier for others with disabilities will be his legacy at Stern. His own experience, backed up by research showing that a smaller proportion of students with disabilities attend MBA programs than other graduate programs—a fact mirrored by their underrepresentation in the corporate world—encouraged him and another student to create EnableStern, a club that was approved to launch last fall. In addition to peer support, EnableStern will feature events and speakers.
“EnableStern is officially an affinity group for students with disabilities, but it’s not disability in the way you may imagine. It’s based on the social model of disability, which has two premises: one, that we are all temporarily able or disabled—that is, a fully able person could break a leg skiing and find it hard to navigate school or work for a period of time; and two, the designation ‘disabled’ doesn’t require a formal medical diagnosis.’”
Ducey-Gallina said that his organization has resonated with many students. “People have really been experiencing an increase in anxiety, especially during and after COVID, and maybe that's not a level of anxiety that warrants clinical intervention with doctors or medication. But that anxiety impacts their ability to go to events or class or complete assignments to the best of their ability. So the social disability model applies to that community, who deserve the same support as someone temporarily using crutches, or a person in a wheelchair, or a person who is deaf.”
Ducey-Gallina pointed out that the Beker Scholarship made his attendance at Stern possible. With that funding as inspiration, he is looking to develop a scholarship fund specifically for students in similar situations.