NEXT GEN VOICES: Introducing CASE Scholar Rony Cepeda

Rony Cepeda

Every year the United States spends about $680 billion on education. However, we still get abysmal results, as our students of color and non-English speakers are significantly less likely to graduate from high school than their counterparts. As an immigrant who has personally navigated the U.S. education system, I am deeply committed to fight for more resource equity in the education and public sectors to ensure that those who need additional resources and help can obtain it and be successful.

My passion for fighting for resource equity is fueled by my own experiences. Growing up, I was always surrounded by loving, driven, and intelligent teachers and staff, but within a system that needed more resources. As a young adult, I wondered why neighboring schools always had the latest technology and facilities, while my school perpetually suffered from overcrowding and underfunding. I have seen firsthand that systems in the United States are inequitable – and have thus committed my career to social impact.

Over the past four years, I have worked as a consultant with an organization called Education Resource Strategies (ERS). Alongside an amazing team of passionate and smart individuals, I partnered with large school districts across the country to transform how they use resources. One of my projects involved helping a large southern school district develop a new school funding formula that would allocate $375 million to schools more equitably. The new funding formula gave more resources to schools with larger concentrations of high-need students, such as low-income students, transient students and English-language learners. I also worked with individual schools and principals to develop tailored strategic plans. As a result, principal satisfaction in one of the school districts significantly increased over the span of a couple of years.

In addition to my professional work, I also volunteer with education nonprofits in the Boston area. I served as a member of the Associate Board of Breakthrough Greater Boston, an organization that provides students with a six-year college access model and helps develop aspiring teachers. I also served as a mentor for Big Brothers Big Sisters of Eastern Massachusetts – supporting an incredible young adult who had recently emigrated from Latin America.

Why Fuqua?

In order to become a better organizational leader, I knew that I needed to find a place where I could learn new business skills while also applying them towards social impact. Fuqua and its Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) has the programming that would empower me to experience this growth. While at Fuqua, I plan on pursuing concentrations in social entrepreneurship, as well as financial analysis and accounting. In addition, I’m excited for the plethora of different programs Fuqua offers outside of the classroom that will allow me to gain firsthand experience and knowledge.

Yet, my decision to attend Fuqua goes beyond its wonderful programming. By speaking with various staff and students, I know that Fuqua is a values-driven school that I would be proud to call home. For example, I was impressed by how some Fuqua students served the local community by becoming non-voting board members of local nonprofits through Fuqua on Board. Fuqua and CASE, with all their great programming and values-driven community, is the right next step for me to grow as a leader.

What impact do you hope your Fuqua education will allow you to have on the world?

With everything that has happened in the world during the year 2020, it is now clearer than ever that we as a society cannot continue to do “business as usual.” Organizations can no longer solely focus on maximizing profit – if we are to truly be a responsible society, I believe that social impact and equity must be at the forefront of everything that an organization does. I hope that my Fuqua education will allow me to help build tomorrow’s novel organizations, structures, and policies that will genuinely focus on the triple bottom line. I envision myself being someone who stands up and speaks out in order to inspire organizations to build a better and more equitable system for all.

Share one of your 25 facts from your application essay.

I share a birthday with a famous fellow immigrant from the Caribbean: Alexander Hamilton. Though I don’t aim to be Secretary of the Treasury, I do share his interest in public-sector finance.