Q&A with Your New Student Association Co-Presidents

Gaby Santana Goldstein, Contributor
Connor Cash, Contributor

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Gaby: I was born in the Dominican Republic and moved to the United States as a baby. I was raised in Jackson Heights, Queens, NY, an incredibly diverse neighborhood made up primarily of immigrant families from all over the world. My parents are both small business owners serving the local Latino communities in which they live. My parents taught me to keep kindness, generosity, and love for education as guiding principles for my life. It was through the generosity of public and private school teachers, mentors, and my community of family and friends that I was able to pursue numerous life-changing opportunities. It all started when my fifth grade teacher nominated me for Prep for Prep, a New York City student leadership program that provided me with the opportunity to attend the all-girls school, Nightingale, that would go on to become my second home, on a full scholarship. From there I went on to attend Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, an amazing city that everyone at HBS should add to their trek list immediately. I spent the past eight years in tech, most recently with Facebook in a Sales and Partnerships role. It was my mentor at Facebook (an HBS alum) who encouraged me to apply to Harvard Business School. I never really saw myself as the typical HBS applicant and am not sure that I would have had the courage to apply if not for the support of this manager. Like Connor, I feel incredibly grateful for the opportunity to be at HBS.

Connor: Before coming to HBS, I was in New York working for a renewable energy investment firm. There I worked on investments in solar farms for almost two years. Although key to my professional development, my path to HBS started much before then. I’m from a small town in Massachusetts, just north of Boston. A drive outside of the city, I rarely made my way down to this area. Although I was raised by a single parent, I was fortunate to find a reprieve in athletics while I slowly came around to finding a passion for academics. I was lucky to have mentors and coaches who looked after me and helped me find my way in to a private high school on a scholarship. It was there that I felt the immense support of my new community. This sense of community gave me the support I needed to grow and pursue academics beyond my expectations. I would go on to study Engineering Physics in college, where I learned a great deal about my own passion for knowledge. It was this interest that would lead me to apply for the 2+2 program while still in undergrad. I never would have guessed that I would be at Harvard Business School when I was younger, but I am incredibly grateful for this opportunity.

What surprised you most about your first semester at HBS?

Connor: The ability to build bonds with 100 people. The section experience can feel like a mini social experiment, which comes with negative connotations at times. However, I have found it to be a very positive part of my HBS experience. HBS is large, and the section serves to make it feel smaller. I felt overwhelmed when I first arrived on campus, and my section mates have made it feel much smaller than I ever expected. This has been incredibly rewarding and not quite something I anticipated.

Gaby: Like Connor, I was surprised by how immediately impactful the section experience has been. Prior to arriving at HBS, I was told that I’d make lifelong friendships here. I’ll admit, I was skeptical. However, within just a couple of weeks I found myself sharing deeply personal moments with my new classmates and quickly developing meaningful friendships. SecC has made this first year a truly unforgettable experience.

Why did you decide to run for SA Co-President?

Connor: The ability to leave a meaningful impact on the HBS community is a great opportunity. I have a great level of respect and admiration for the care that goes into crafting the HBS experience. There are so many incredible aspects that I have benefited from thus far, but I also believe that the students at HBS should have a voice in shaping the future of the experience. I hope to be a voice in that effort and work with both students and the administration to continue to enhance HBS in an ever evolving time.

Gaby: As SA Co-President I hope to be able to give back to this community that has already shown me so much support. I see the SA Co-Presidency as an opportunity to represent my classmates in helping them drive the change they want to see. In my role as SecC Women’s Rep I’ve been able to see firsthand how quickly students can make a positive impact on the HBS community as well as how open the administration is to listening to student feedback and enacting change. I hope to work with all of you to continue making HBS a truly inclusive community for all.

What is one achievement that you would be most proud of accomplishing during your time at HBS?

Connor: I would be most proud of creating a stronger interface between the students and the administration. We have an incredible team at the helm of HBS, but students should feel more comfortable being closer to them. A tighter feedback loop between students and the institution would be a great legacy to leave behind at HBS.

Gaby: True inclusivity is something I will be working for throughout my co-presidency here at HBS. This is an ever-evolving goal so I don’t really see a time where we can truly check it off the list. However, I’d love to see us move the needle on some tangible indicators such as satisfaction levels among the African-American (and other minority groups) community. As I mentioned in my video, I believe HBS is only as strong as the community we help to cultivate. I’d like for this to be a community where all students feel supported and that this is a place where they can thrive.

How can the broader HBS community get involved with the Student Association for this upcoming year?

Connor: Be candid with us and volunteer your thoughts and ideas. Reach out to both of us and discuss any particular topics you have a passion for and would like to be a lead facilitator for. There are formal committees and roles that we will need to fill, but we are also always looking to hear more from our fellow students.

Gaby: Please talk to us! We’re so eager to hear from you. We are your representatives and want to do everything we can to support you. We’ll be looking to many of you to join us as part of the Student Association. However, even if you are not looking to fill a formal role, please come speak with us and share your vision for the future of HBS.

Connor Cash (MBA ’20) is originally from Massachusetts and graduated from Cornell University in 2015 with a degree in Engineering Physics. Prior to HBS, he worked in private equity and investment banking in New York, where he spent most of his time sharpening his pencils and developing a fondness for belts and suspenders.

Gaby Santana Goldstein (MBA ’20) is originally from New York City and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 2010 with a degree in Sociology and Spanish. Prior to HBS, she worked in tech in New York, most recently at Facebook working in a Sales and Partnerships role. Outside of work, Gaby serves on the Political Committee of Planned Parenthood League of Massachusetts and is an involved alumna of Nightingale and Prep for Prep leading several alumni community and fundraising efforts. Gaby lives in Boston with her partner, Adam Goldstein, and ridiculously adorable goldendoodle, Gimli (yes, named after Lord of the Rings).