The Oppy is commemorating the last decade of NYU Stern with our new ‘The Graduate’ series. Each month, we’ll interview notable alum from each decade since the 1960s through the 2010s that have made an impact on their community and industry.
The Graduate, 1960s Edition: Joan Bloom
This month’s ‘The Graduate’ interview is with Joan Bloom, former PR director in the lifestyle and travel space. She graduated from the MBA program at NYU’s Graduate School of Business in 1966 (before it was named the Leonard N. Stern School of Business in 1988), and answered my questions via email and over the phone.
Bloom resides in Manhattan with her husband, Robert, and has two grown sons. During her colorful and adventurous career (in which she traveled the world working with clients in the travel and wine space), she held positions at M Booth & Associates, the Dilenschneider Group and Hill & Knowlton.
Her biggest piece of advice for Stern grads: “Do not lose touch with Stern.” Here are the rest of her answers.
Hi, Joan! Can you tell me about your roles in the PR and communications industry and how your MBA prepared you for your career?
“The path from receiving my MBA in 1966 to my eventual 30-year career in public relations was a circuitous one. I was single, just out of college, and working in the research division of the advertising agency, J.Walter Thompson. In 1960, I decided to pursue an MBA at NYU so that I could embark on a long-term career in business… I said to myself, ‘This is something I should do if I enjoy the business world,’ which I did.”
“After six years of nighttime classes, I had my MBA, but I was also married with two young children… Reluctantly, I put my MBA to rest, and indulged in my passion for food, wine and travel while raising my two boys. For the next fifteen years, I had a diverse local career: as a host of a feature on food and travel on a Long Island radio station, a teacher of adult cooking classes and as a consultant to a local travel agency.”
“Finally, in 1982, I was ready to resume full-time employment and the business career that I had put ‘on hold’… It was partly my MBA and partly contacts that I had made that helped me get back into the work world.”
“People would say ‘Oh, you have an MBA?’ And most women didn’t have the degree. It gave me a remarkable edge in landing my first position, promoting the castle hotels of Spain and Portugal at a specialized marketing agency. I was recruited two years later by a public relations agency with a variety of tourism clients, a cruise line with a Michelin star chef, and the magnificent wines of Bordeaux. Again, that MBA on my resume was the clincher. Later, I spent 15 years at the global public relations firm, Hill & Knowlton, and reached the level of co-director of the firm’s Travel and Leisure Communications division.”
You mentioned Stern looked a bit different when you were there. Can you tell me what’s changed the most and what has essentially stayed the same?
“Of course, there was no Stern back then; it was NYU Graduate School of Business, and it was located at 90 Trinity Place, in the heart of the financial district. It was very much a local school and most of us who took evening classes came from work or home by subway. We lived in the five boroughs or nearby suburbs.”
“We didn’t have to take GRE exams back then. All I did was apply, provide my college transcript and that was it… [My classes] were mostly with men, but there were a few women in my classes.”
“Today, Stern is an international school with students from all over the world, and a curriculum that encompasses global studies, international business, modern technology, and many of the industries that did not exist in the 1960s.”
Who/what was your favorite professor/class at Stern and why?
“I enjoyed most the classes I took in Economic History taught by Professor Herman Krooss. Only very few professors at Stern would remember him, but I just found his obituary in a 1975 edition of The New York Times. I knew that I would not be pursuing a career in accounting or finance, so I felt comfortable taking classes of more general interest such as economic history. My thesis was on the history of one of the leading labor unions. Professor Krooss was my advisor.”
You’ve stayed connected to Stern in many ways since graduating, as Affinity Group chair under the Office of Alumni Relations. Why did you decide to stay close to the Stern community?
“It was many years later that Stern located my business email and I saw an announcement of a Global Alumni Conference in Florence, Italy. There would be a seminar on the business of wine and luxury marketing, two of my public relations specialties. I was hesitant at first, since I would be the very most senior alumna in attendance, but it was too tempting to resist. It was at that conference and subsequent conferences in Barcelona and London that I met members of the administration and made the acquaintance of a diverse group of alumni. I spent one year as an ad hoc member of the Alumni Council promoting the global conferences, and began informal dinner dates with new alumni friends.”
“These informal dinner dates grew by word or mouth, and I enlisted a series of co-chairs to assist with restaurant recommendations, reservations and finances. When the Office of Alumni Relations learned of our dinners, they sent a photographer to one of them. From that point forward, we became the Food & Wine Affinity Group with a dedicated committee and events open to all Stern alumni.”
“We hold four international dinners per academic year (two in the Fall semester and two in the Spring semester), followed by Taste of Stern every June (except this one, of course), in which alumni who have entered the food or beverage industry are invited to offer their products for sampling at a walk-around tasting, to which all alumni are invited to register. The Office of Alumni Relations has been extraordinary in their support of this endeavor, which reaches alumni of all ages and disciplines.”
If you could give Stern’s current MBAs one piece of advice, what would it be?
“You are getting a degree from a world-class school in a world-class university. No matter how successful you are in the business world, do not lose touch with Stern. The school’s offerings to alumni are diverse and ongoing, and are every bit as enriching as the MBA degree you have secured.”