The spring semester is in full swing, and that means the Stern student body has new leadership with a new vision for enhancing the MBA experience for everyone.
Last week, The Oppy caught up with Allie Coffin, Mike Landivar, Steven Avila and Carmina Magnani (our incoming LSG and SGov leadership) to get a sense of who they are, what their plans are to impact the Stern experience, and what they would do if the university gave them an unlimited budget.
Anthony Russ: Thanks for agreeing to chat with us! First and foremost, can each of you give introduce yourselves to our readers?
Allie Coffin (LSG President): I am in my third year at Stern and will graduate in May 2019. Previously I rode horses professionally; I currently work as a Senior Planner for the footwear designer, Caleres, Inc., that I was familiar with through the equestrian industry. I came back to school to figure out how to best leverage my experience in the industry towards something I am a bit more passionate about. I am concentrating on strategy and sustainability, and I am most interested in the collision of corporate and social responsibility and how we can use capital wealth to solve major social issues.
Mike Landivar (LSG Executive Vice President): I went to Syracuse and earned a degree in music business before joining PepsiCo in a people analytics role, where I help guide our human capital strategy by utilizing people, data, and metrics to maximize workforce outcomes. Actually, I work right across from Stern’s Westchester campus. I came to Stern to step outside of people analytics and to understand business in a broad context, so I could better understand the various fields/functions I work with on a day-to-day and be more effective. PepsiCo has a number of sustainability initiatives focused on making its products better for people and the planet, and I may want to focus more in that direction going forward.
Steven Avila (SGov co-President): I am from Palmdale, CA but spent the last 5 years in D.C. working for the Obama administration, in the Office of Presidential Correspondence in the White House and then as a political appointee at the Department of the Interior. At the White House I was responsible for constituent engagement work where we would identify constituents to attend events with the President, and at the Department of the Interior I worked with many public stakeholders on issues such as national parks, off-shore drilling, renewable energy development and climate change. I knew I wanted to go back to school in New York to study business, and my appointment was going to expire in January regardless of the outcome of the election, so the timing worked out well. After graduating and working in the private sector, I do eventually want to return to a public service role in some capacity. There is a need for business perspectives in the Democratic party, which I hope to gain during my remaining time at Stern and in my first role out of school.
Carmina Magnani (SGov co-President): Before Stern I worked in program management consulting in D.C., with several different federal agencies. My longest program was with NASA; I was their financial lead for the first satellite to orbit the sun. I then focused more on technology, and worked with FEMA to reallocate their budget and update their website. I came to Stern because all my work was in the public sector and I wanted to transition into the private sector.
AR: We have a number of different types of student here at Stern—full-time, part-time, on and off the Washington Square campus. How do you see yourselves serving the entire MBA community across student types?
AC: Having spent this past year as VP of First Years for LSG, it has become apparent that the way people start their Stern career has a big impact on how they continue their experience at Stern. It is one of our big initiatives to increase collaboration between full & part-time students starting Day 1 because if you wait until Day 180 it is too late. At that point you are in your clubs, you make your friends; the will to put in the effort to meet new people isn’t really there. The biggest hurdle is figuring out where it makes the most sense to collaborate. Schedules are different, but programs are the same. So how can we line up the timeline and concentrate our effort on that overlap? The places I feel it makes the most sense is in clubs, and I am looking forward to working with the SGov team to improve the first semester interaction between everyone at Stern.
ML: It is definitely something Allie and I have talked about, having a bigger impact in the first semester. From Westchester, the question is how we create opportunities for folks to participate in the broader community, particularly on campus at Washington Square, so everyone has an opportunity to network. Our focus is working hard to understand what people want to get out of the experience, and to help coordinate that.
CM: I think our jobs will get more complex because we are adding more programs, but there is so much benefit to getting these new touch points and activities. The biggest hurdle is the planning process, because we don’t have as much overlap in schedules. There is definitely room for growth and it is important to us to integrate everyone (Langone, the one-year MBA students, and even partners) because it is a touch point that has been underutilized.
SA: For every priority, Langone has to be included. It shouldn’t even be a thought–our goal is to institutionalize that going forward. Another part of the student body we want to focus on are international students, which make up 30% of our student body. There are certain issues they face that the majority of the student population doesn’t think about but are hugely important to the international students–particularly in terms of getting settled in New York and finding jobs in the recruiting process.
AR: How do you plan to get the student body more involved in student government – either through direct outreach, new roles, more communication, etc.?
SA: A major concern I have is making SGov more visible to the student body. 70% voted, but nowhere near that participates. We need to do a visible, transparent job of getting people involved and work with clubs, the administration, Langone and other schools within NYU to figure out how Stern plays into the larger community. One thing we did this year was open up applications to the entire student body, and it has been great to get people involved and to hear their ideas. We also have an open forum scheduled once or twice a semester, and we want to have more regularly scheduled meetings with the Dean and the administration where we bring people from across the school to bring different perspectives–club perspectives, international students, etc. We want to meet with him at least once a month. Also, we want to get SGov involved in hosting more communal events during the week. A coffee break during the week, for example, that is sponsored to bring people together or community service projects. We have some discretion with the budget so we want to be creative with how we subsidize those types of events.
CM: To expand on the community service aspect, there is a lot of interest in boosting that. So we would like to scale that to more clubs and get more collaboration between clubs. Also, if we host more events towards the end of the day, it offers an opportunity to involve Langone students, as well.
AC: We have two initiatives we’ve been discussing this year that we hope to continue. First, once or twice a semester, we plan to hold forums with LSG and the administration where students can come and ask questions about what we are doing behind the scenes. We did a survey, and one of the interesting pieces of feedback was that our student body wasn’t 100% sure what LSG was doing for them. It hurt to read a little bit, but it was good that we got the feedback, and we want our students to know we are a student run government and we are working for them. On the communication side we just started a new Slack channel in an effort to get everyone to coordinate a little more. It was actually a Fall 2017 student who pushed us to start this and he led the charge, so we are going to try to give that a go and see if that helps everybody coordinate, have a voice, and have different channels for certain discussions – academic, social, announcements, etc.
AR: Not only is our student leadership changing at Stern, but we also have a new Dean. How do you think this will impact our daily life as students and how do you think it impacts your roles in student government?
AC: Our goal is to get facetime ASAP with Dean Raghu; we as Langone students can’t stop advocating for ourselves. Because of our schedules and location differences, we really have to make ourselves visible to make an impact. We were also challenged to collaborate with SGov consistently this year, and we want to continue to be in contact weekly, if not daily, and improve on that relationship. Last year was a great start to the relationship, so we don’t want that to fall flat, or lose that momentum.
ML: We have to realize the possibility for changes that are coming, and we have to work closely with the administration to make sure we move the program into the future based on the new administration’s as well as new student’s priorities.
CM: I think the fact that we have a new dean presents the opportunity to come in with a clean slate and present what our needs are. It will help to establish a relationship from the beginning and help to set the course.
SA: It is a great opportunity to develop a partnership between the Dean and the student body. I love Dean Henry but I didn’t see much of him outside of LAUNCH. I don’t know what the Deans role is in engaging the student body, but we want both SGov and the Dean to be more visible. We want to ensure we have a seat at the table and be an active stakeholder in decisions, and not just be told ‘this is what we are doing.’ It is important that our voices are heard—not because the administration has to listen to us, but because they are interested in what we have to say.
Also, diversity is very important to us personally, but also to many at the school. We want to make sure Stern is living that and committed to continuing to live that with the new administration.
AR: If you had an unlimited budget, what club/class/activity would you create at Stern?
AC: One of my favorite events that I wish we could do more frequently would be the retreat we do each fall for incoming students. We had about 130-150 people this year, Friday to Sunday, and it is such a good crash course in ‘here are all your peers.’ You get so comfortable meeting and talking to new people, and I wish we could do a follow up event in the spring if there were no budget concerns. There are also probably people that don’t go to these type of events because they can’t afford it, so if we had no budget we could just pay for everyone to go, which would eliminate a major hurdle and drive more engagement.
ML: I think it is one of those things that I probably will have better ideas the longer I am here at Stern, but for now, my Westchester experience is impacting my answer. One thing that I, and my classmates, believe is particularly important to Westchester is the number of informal dinners we have as a block prior to classes. If there were certain block funds that enabled blocks to have dinners or other types of informal events, it could provide more opportunity to network with classmates. It also doesn’t have to be limited to this, but a lot of the networking/social events have that affordability constraint where if that could be eliminated it would spur involvement & engagement.
SA: I would use it for 2 main things. First, I would make more outdoor space or better utilize our current outdoor space. There aren’t really tables or chairs for us to gather outside organically. Obviously, we have Washington Square park but that isn’t a Stern space. Second, I would love a fund to help subsidize Stern or club programs. For instance, the Gala was a great experience, but it was expensive. That expense can be prohibitive, particularly if you want to bring a date. Having a fund to subsidize some of the costs would help get people involved and it would go a long way towards helping people participate in things and generally be more involved.
CM: This may not be specific to having an unlimited budget, but having a changing or locker room for recruiting season inside KMC. If my budget was unlimited, it would be nice to have like a small gym-style room in the building with ellipticals, treadmills, etc. Also, free coffee for those days when we are on campus for hours on end. I’d feel a lot better about spending all day here if there was a treadmill and free coffee.
Overall, our new student leadership seems to be on the same page with what they want to accomplish during their terms. “We want to bring something to students that they don’t realize they want or need yet,” Coffin said, by providing more integration between the part-time and full-time programs, more transparency with what student government and the administration are working on for students, and increased student engagement across the board. All four new student leaders left the Oppy with the same closing message for the student body – they are here to advocate on our behalf, and they want us to be involved as possible in the process.