What I Learned at…Cornell, Part 2

In our “What I Learned at…” series, MBAs discuss the tools and skills their business schools provided as they launched their careers.

Sandra Persing is the founder and farmer of Persing Woods LLC, a holistic wellness company that includes a working goat farm and apiary and that provides business development support for local farmers and other wellness professionals. Sandra believes that wellness is fundamental in living a good life. In this four-part series, Sandra reflects on how her business acumen and MBA education from the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University helped her turn this belief into a solution that future MBAs can embrace as part of their own life journey.

True entrepreneurs—however that is appropriate to define—follow the mantra of “do” instead of “talk.” There is a bit of irony in systematically applying to and enrolling in a structured and carefully orchestrated two-year MBA program to study and pursue entrepreneurship. Earning an MBA is supposed to be a safe investment, especially at an Ivy League institution—and entrepreneurship is not safe.

To be honest, I never approached the MBA with an entrepreneur’s heart or spirit. I wanted to climb the corporate ladder with a beautiful printed sheepskin that served as my career trampoline. The program at the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell is a carefully calibrated program, and that’s what an MBA candidate pays for: organization, structure and support. For those of us who either couldn’t make up our minds or simply wanted some time and space to think about it all, the school offered the option of being independent with guidance. The Johnson School’s customized immersion program allows students to practice being an entrepreneur in many ways—taking initiative, assessing the benefits and risks of tailoring a semester with specific classes, being the true architect of one’s career and life. Instead of allowing others to dictate the educational investment strategy for a potentially positive future payout, customization satisfies every entrepreneur’s desire to take more control of their current happiness and future payout.

An adjunct to the Career Development Office at Johnson exists with the purpose of connecting students with live projects and internship programs, offering another structured platform to garner access to campus and regional resources. I personally worked with Candace Maxian at the adjunct office to consider my options for taking projects beyond traditional internships, or even to find interesting projects to participate in. I also became connected with the Tech Center as well as the Cooperative Extension. By talking about my needs out loud to anyone in the area, I found connections at Cornell’s Hotel School and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences to jump-start my quirky plans to start a business that left the traditional MBA route completely.

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