Current Position: President, Equal Pay Group
Previous University: Emmanuel College
Undergraduate Major: Neuroscience
Q: What was your background before you joined the Part-Time MBA program?
A: I originally studied neuroscience to become a pediatric neurosurgeon, but I eventually realized that my desire to help people was calling me in a different direction. I'm now the president of Equal Pay Group, a pay equity and DEI strategy consulting firm. I'm passionate about addressing the wage gap and the workplace discrimination experienced by women and individuals of various intersectional identities. I help companies build the right infrastructure, strategy, and implementation plan so they can enact positive change.
Q: How did you discover your passion for social justice?
A: In my hometown, which is predominantly Latino, we're very community-oriented and very supportive of each other. It first dawned on me that I was a person of color in the sixth grade when I transferred to a predominantly white institution (PWI). By the time I was in high school, many of my classmates were white students from neighboring towns that were wealthier, and that's when I started to notice the race and class differences that separated students—and I wondered if I could help make a change. I started doing advocacy work in college, organizing protests and raising awareness about diversity, equity, and inclusion with various initiatives. No one wanted to hear that message then, but fast forward to 2021, and it's front and center for everybody.
I also bring a unique perspective to social justice as the first Black Miss Massachusetts. I competed in the Miss America program in 2018 to earn money to pay off my undergraduate loans; I actually worked four jobs while I was in high school to afford my education because my mother couldn't pay for it alone. I ended the competition as an interview winner, STEM award recipient, People's Choice winner, and Top 5 finisher, which totalled around $35,000 in scholarships. Despite those accomplishments, and despite the fact that 2018 was a historic year for Black representation in the Miss America competition, I still experienced racism during my year of service. That only strengthened my commitment to justice.
Q: Why did you decide to get your MBA?
A: After college and my year as Miss Massachusetts, I ended up at an e-commerce startup, where I was working at building out their operations, handling customer service, and refining processes. Because of the impact of my work, the owner said to me, “You're really good at business. I think you should consider getting an MBA.” After reflecting on that advice, I agreed that an MBA would be the best way to pursue a career in DEI-related consulting because it would expose me to the knowledge I needed for my entrepreneurship journey and prepare me for the unpredictable situations my clients would face.
I decided to apply to Northeastern because it had been my dream school when I was first applying to colleges. I couldn't afford to attend as an undergraduate, but this was my second chance. The minute I was accepted to the Part-Time MBA program, I called my high school guidance counselor and said, “I may have been delayed, but I was not denied!” I really am grateful to be at Northeastern—it has a reputation for being on the cutting edge and always looking to improve.
Q: What concentration are you pursuing?
A: I'm studying Corporate Renewal. My goal in the work that I do is to help companies and people heal, and that's what that concentration is all about! If we can learn to acknowledge and accept our faults, we can find a way to do better in life and business.
Q: Are you applying what you learn on the job?
A: All the time. I took a diversity and leadership course that was amazing—it changed me as a person. It helped me acknowledge my own biases and privileges as a woman of color, which just goes to show that we all have biases, and it's okay, but we have to be honest about them. I think that class should be a requirement for all MBA students!
Q: What are your future goals, and how will your MBA degree help you reach them?
A: I still plan to help companies on their accountability journey—showing them that equity is possible, it's accessible, and it doesn't have to be daunting. I know that the network I've built at Northeastern will give me a much broader reach as I pursue this work. My experience here has also helped me understand other perspectives, including the way different industries and different countries look at equity issues. By being exposed to diverse systems and strategies, I'll be better equipped to handle complex problems for my clients.
Five years from now, I see myself working with politicians and legislators to introduce equal pay amendments to federal law that require pay equity analysis. In ten years, I hope the wage gap ceases to exist, and I've worked myself out of a job!
“Academics have always worked best for me when I can apply what I learn immediately. The day after a class, I can almost always apply what I've learned to something I'm doing at work.”
“I have to give Northeastern credit for allowing me to balance all sides of myself… When I go to class, I apply everything I'm doing professionally and personally…I'm always leaning into my personal growth.” says Nico Nava, Part-Time MBA'21
“You're making an investment in yourself, and you'll see the results of that investment probably even sooner than you think.”