Nov 2016

Meet the LGBT MBA Fellows: Johnny Lai

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The Reaching Out LGBT MBA Fellowship is a scholarship and leadership development program for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and active ally MBAs in full-time programs. Each Fellows receives at least $10,000 funding per academic year (or $20,000 total for his/her/their two years) in addition free lifetime access to all Reaching Out programming (including the ROMBA Conference), LGBT mentors, and a leadership summit exclusively for the Fellows.

This fall Reaching Out welcomed the second class of the Reaching Out LGBT MBA Fellows. These 44 fellows come from 30 top business schools and over the next month we’ll introduce each of them to you.

35 MBA programs will be part of the Fellowship for the 2016-2017 application cycle. To learn about the Fellowship and let schools know of your interest here.

MEET JOHNNY LAI (Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management)

Originally hailing from Birmingham, Alabama, Johnny headed northwards towards Durham, North Carolina, to obtain his Bachelor’s degree in International Studies at Duke University. While an undergraduate, he began working within the public policy and public health fields, traveling abroad to both Haiti and China to further his studies. After graduating from Duke both magna cum laude and phi beta kappa, Johnny moved to Washington, DC, to work as a procurement official for the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Justice, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency. During his tenure at these agencies, he was responsible for awarding and administering a myriad of multi-million dollar defense and security contracts. After spending six years in the mid-Atlantic, Johnny finally decided to move to Nashville, Tennessee, where he is now a member of Vanderbilt Owen’s Class of 2018. Outside of his professional life, Johnny is an avid runner and outdoorsman, podcast enthusiast, and Game of Thrones junkie.

What made you consider business school?
It’s exceedingly rare to find a place as dynamic as business school; the students come from a diverse range of backgrounds and industries, and the classes are purposefully interactive and engaging. Business school is the best place to connect with others and explore my career options, and I’m thrilled to navigate through the challenge.

What are you most excited about in terms of your time in business school?
It’s exciting to be a student again, but with the extra bit of wisdom, maturity, and fiscal know-how that comes with having been a working professional for the past few years. Otherwise, I’m looking forward to business school because it’s the perfect opportunity to safely branch out and explore different industries and roles that I may not have otherwise had the chance to consider. And, I can’t wait to meet my classmates, who will not only challenge me professionally but also be friends for the years to come.

Who are some leaders (in business, in the LGBT community, in society) that most inspire you?
Elon Musk (CEO of SpaceX and Tesla Motors), Tim Cook (CEO of Apple), Barney Frank (Former Massachusetts State Representative), Annise Parker (Former Mayor of Houston), Laverne Cox (Actress).

What’s one thing everyone should know about you?
I’ve got a soft spot for big dogs and a weakness for deep fried foods.

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