A note from your SA Co-Presidents to kick off the year.
Welcome Class of 2024 and welcome back Class of 2023! We are excited to serve as your Student Association (SA) Co-Presidents this year! For those who are unfamiliar, the SA serves as the main interface between the student body and the faculty and administration. The SA is one piece of the student leadership puzzle which also includes the Senate, Section Leadership, and Club leaders. Our goal is to collaborate with the school to deliver the best possible HBS experience as defined by our classmates, all of you.
Covid-19 really impacted our RC experience. We learned in masks until spring break, had limited opportunities to bond with the class before us, and missed out on age-old HBS traditions. We look forward to using the coming months to reset. Our intention is not to return to how things were, but to create an even stronger community than ever before. The energy that we felt during RC START and EC Kickoff was powerful—we cannot wait to use that momentum to activate campus and drive change that will impact our lives for years to come.
Our mission is to champion your voices to create an inclusive business school experience that we will all cherish forever. We hope to:
- Foster connections between students through community events, social events, and mentorship programs;
- Support students by improving awareness of mental health and academic support resources; and
- Embed inclusivity and equity in the HBS experience through challenging the HBS status quo in academic and social domains.
We know that with your input, strong partnership with the administration, and the support of our amazing SA team, this is going to be an incredible year ahead!
To learn more about the 2022-23 Student Association Co-Presidents, read on for an interview by the Harbus:
Tell us more about your backgrounds and what inspired you to run for SA Co-President.
I was born in London, UK. When I was young, my family moved to Barbados for a few years before settling in Dallas, Texas. Growing up in Texas was difficult—I was distinctively an “other.” Attending Vanderbilt University for my undergraduate degree was a turning point. A lifetime of discomfort in my own skin as a young Black woman began to dissipate as I found belonging in the diverse student body. This unearthed a passion for expanding opportunities for people that looked like me. After graduation, I participated in Teach for America. I taught sixth-grade English and then became a middle school dean. Then, I transitioned from education to corporate America with a goal of driving sustainable change for systemically marginalized communities at a larger scale. I spent my time addressing root causes and interrelationships of systemic problems in large organizations as a diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultant.
At HBS, I decided to run for SA Co-President because I personally understand how important inclusion and intentionality are in a community. I also wanted to help continue the momentum that student leaders have been driving for the past few years. As a Black woman, it is important that my voice and the voices of people whose perspectives are often silenced are heard. I believe I can help build a stronger and more cohesive experience for the HBS community.
Born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico (PR), I am the eldest of five siblings. I had a wonderful life in PR growing up with friends and family. I attended the University of Pennsylvania for undergrad, majoring in finance and international studies with a minor in French through the Huntsman Program. After school I became a consultant, but quickly pivoted and moved back to PR to work with the team tasked with restructuring PR’s $125 billion debt. We also had an unbalanced budget to fix, hurricanes, earthquakes, and a constitutional crisis. I learned a lot and it was an amazing experience to work on behalf of the people of Puerto Rico.
However, during my time working in PR, I realized that the Island that I love so much needs transcendental change for its residents to really succeed and prosper. To achieve long-term sustainable economic growth, bold changes that put entrepreneurship and social innovation opportunities at center stage are needed. Ultimately, that is why I came to Harvard to pursue my JD/MBA.
At HBS, I joined the SA because I enjoy representing classmates and working with the administration. It is an opportunity to give back to the school and improve our experience as students. Moreover, last semester I had a difficult personal situation that required access to mental health resources. In full transparency, I had a hard time getting the help I needed, but fortunately I had a great support system behind me. As a student leader, I want to expand access to mental health resources at HBS and Harvard, because as future leaders we cannot lead on mental health if we are not mentally healthy.
How did you choose your running mate?
I wanted a partner with similar values and complementary differences. We were both section presidents and took a SIP together—Putting Purpose to Work and Unleashing Human Magic. We had a transparent conversation about our strengths and weaknesses, how we planned to support one another, and most importantly how we intended to lead and inspire those around us.
Like Zoe mentioned, we knew each other as section presidents. I knew and admired how Zoe conducted herself as a leader. We have similar approaches to problem solving and community building. When we outlined our vision together, we learned that we both wanted to create a strong team and give others the space to lead.
What is the most important issue to you for the 2022/23 academic year and why?
Diversity, equity, and inclusion—the school has taken several transformative steps forward in the past few years. For instance, in 2020, HBS created an anti-racism task force which authored a racial equity plan in the midst of the long overdue racial reckoning across America and around the world. Last year, the school added a new course on inclusion to the RC and started the Recognizing Individuals Seeking Equity (RISE) fellowship (I am a recipient!) for students who have demonstrated exemplary commitment to serving marginalized communities of color. Most recently, HBS hired a director of Diversity & Inclusion and announced they will be providing full-tuition scholarships for students with the greatest financial need.
While I appreciate the progress the administration has made, I believe we have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to DEI. For example, I am thrilled that there are more cases with protagonists who have underrepresented identities, however students from systemically marginalized communities are often required to carry the burden in sensitive case conversations. Additionally, some professors are not equipped to deftly navigate sensitive discussions.
In partnership with the administration, we’re exploring the following questions: What can HBS do to ensure we are talking about topics that are uncomfortable in a productive way and educating ourselves to become more inclusive leaders? How can we create a more inclusive environment? What can HBS do to be more socioeconomically inclusive?
As students, we are in a unique position. In less than two years, we will reenter the workforce. In order for us to become leaders who make a difference in the world, DEI must continue to be at the forefront. We are failing each other—and the world— if we don’t keep moving the needle forward.
Mental health—while there are a lot of resources at Harvard and HBS, there are even more students and members of our community in desperate need of help. Harvard is very bureaucratic (more than you think), however this summer I learned how HBS is tackling this extremely important priority. For example, HBS is increasing the number of outside therapists it refers students to and will be visiting every RC section this month to provide an overview of our mental health and wellness resources.
I look forward to continuing to work with the HBS team to implement improvements that benefit current students and develop long-term solutions that impact classes for years to come. Some of the questions we need to answer include: how can HBS continue to assess the demand for mental health resources and hire therapists that reflect our student body? How do we destigmatize issues related to mental health? We—our entire community—need to make it culturally acceptable for students to feel comfortable taking advantage of these resources.
Technology is one area of opportunity. We can leverage companies, partnerships, and our own student body. HBS has an opportunity to lead in terms of how business schools manage the mental health crisis.
I went through this issue myself, hitting rock bottom last semester, and I feel comfortable talking about the benefits of using mental health resources. It is tough, but we do not have to be perfect all the time. I want to communicate broadly that it is ok to be human.
I know you asked me for my most important priority, however as I previously mentioned, Zoe and I chose to be running mates because we are aligned in our vision for the year. DEI is also incredibly important to me. As a man, I recognize that I have not had the same lived experience as Zoe. That said, focusing on DEI is a task for us all. As future business leaders, HBS students must walk the walk and lead by example.
What is your favorite aspect of the HBS experience so far?
Relationships that I have built with the people here—I look around each day and see my closest friends and future colleagues surrounding me. Being separated over the summer made me appreciate the bonds I built last year even more! I am looking forward to reconnecting, building new relationships, and traveling with the people that have made this experience one of the most memorable of my life.
The answer changes by phase—HBS has pushed me to try things I would not have done otherwise. For example, this summer, I moved to Mexico City and worked at a fintech startup. This was a unique experience in which I worked in a different country for the first time. The friends and relationships I have made thanks to taking that leap have changed my life and forced me to leave my comfort zone.
What was your favorite RC class?
It is a tie between LEAD and LCA— if I have to choose one, I would pick LEAD, but LCA is right behind. We are not going to be immersed in the minutia of developing discounted cash flows 20 years from now—the soft skills of leadership are what matters most.
BGIE for the topics. LEAD for the lifelong lessons.
What did you do this summer?
I interned at PIMCO (Pacific Investment Management Company) in New York in a finance role. If you ask my sectionmates, they will tell you that my confidence deflated in our quantitative RC courses. However, I came to HBS to take risks and leap outside of my comfort zone, so I leaned into my discomfort and made the decision to pursue an internship in an industry that scared me. When I recruited, I focused on finding a team that had a strong culture and prioritized positivity, inclusion, and psychological safety so I could grow and make mistakes in a safe environment. I had a great experience at PIMCO!
I worked on the strategy team at a fintech start-up called Minu, which is a salary on-demand and employee benefits company that was founded by an HBS alumni. They are at a crossroads. Currently, they are the industry leader in Mexico; however, they are navigating a changing market. I received a masterclass on decision making from the management team. It was a fascinating time to be there.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
My vision is less about the industry. I want to be known in the workplace and in my community for how I make people feel. As a leader, I want to create a culture of trust where people know I will advocate for them, approach them with warmth, and drive change to improve their experiences. Two words come to mind—llistening and action.
I have no idea! I want to solve problems that impact people’s lives and transform businesses. I do not know if it will be at a start-up or a big company, but I know at some point I want to go back to PR and impact its long-term outlook.
If you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be and why?
Oprah. She paved the way for Black women to use their voices in critical spaces that ultimately make a difference. I would fangirl over the opportunity to have a conversation with her about how she leaned into the power of positive thinking to inspire millions and found the strength to continuously leap over barriers, including overcoming her childhood trauma and systemic inequity.
Luis Munoz Marin. He was the governor of PR that collaborated with the US to develop our own constitution. I do not necessarily agree with his politics, but he was a statesman and a Harvard commencement speaker from a little Island in the Caribbean in the 1950s. I would love to pick his brain on potential next steps for PR.
Matthew and Negron-Reichard:
Come talk to us! We’ve had a really unique experience being at HBS during the pandemic. This next year is going to look a lot different—we want YOU to be a part of helping us shape the changes. If there is something that is bothering you, we won’t know unless you tell us. Our door is always open—we want to amplify your voice. Look us up on classcards or email us at SA@hbs.edu.
Zoe Matthew (MBA ’23) is originally from London, UK and grew up in Dallas, Texas. She graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2011 with a degree in Political Science. After undergrad, she joined Teach for America and worked in public education in Dallas for four years first as a sixth-grade teacher and then as a dean. Prior to HBS, she worked in consulting, where she helped organizations unlock value, promote belonging, and create more equitable futures for their employees. Zoe enjoys taking group fitness classes, traveling, and spending time with her family.
Sebastian ‘Seba’ Negron-Reichard (JD/MBA ’24) is originally from San Juan, Puerto Rico and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business. He has prior experience in public finance and debt restructuring, serving as Chief of Staff to Puerto Rico’s Financial Oversight and Management Board before starting his JD/MBA. Prior to working with Puerto Rico, he spent a year at Accenture Strategy in New York City. At Penn, Seba was selected as Wharton Graduation Speaker and awarded the Spade Senior Honor Award. Outside of work, Seba serves on the Board of Directors of The Harvard-MIT Coop and as a member of the Young Professionals of the Americas. Seba enjoys running, traveling, debating about Puerto Rico’s political future, and spending time with his four siblings.