Juan Toro 12FTMBA, Claudia Garcia 18MEMBA talk Goizueta experience

Grupo SURA’s offices in Medellin, Colombia, are located in El Poblado, the city’s financial and business corridor and an area popular with tourists because of its hotels, bars and restaurants. Grupo SURA, a Colombian multinational holding company with 2017 revenues of $7 billion and primary businesses in investment banking, asset management and insurance services, is the main tenant in One Plaza Business Center — a sleek modern high rise. On one side of the lobby, there’s a Starbucks. On the other, an outpost of the Colombian restaurant chain, Crepes & Waffles, complete with an outdoor patio. The sounds of motorcycles, car horns and buses from nearby Carrera 43 fill the air. On a warm, sunny day late last summer, Grupo SURA co-workers Claudia Garcia 18MEMBA and Juan Esteban Toro Valencia 12MBA sat on the patio and talked about their Goizueta experiences.

Toro, an investment manager with Grupo SURA, graduated more than five years ago, but Garcia, director of talent at Grupo SURA, is finishing up her final days of school. She graduates from the Modular MBA program this May. While their Goizueta experiences may be different, Toro and Garcia agree that Goizueta’s culture is an amazing fit for students who, like them, come to Goizueta from Latin and South America.

“In our culture, we’re used to having really close relationships,” Garcia said. “It would be a big shock for us to find out that the only interaction we could have with a professor is in the classroom.”

Being able to interact with faculty outside of the classroom helped create “an intimacy, a classroom environment where professors were accessible,” Toro added.

Goizueta’s ability to create community among fellow students also resonated with the two Colombians. Garcia believes the ability to create a strong sense of community begins with its core values — values that Goizueta shares with Grupo SURA.

“There’s a very strong linkage,” Garcia said.

This connection is something Garcia knows well. Prior to her current role, she was the executive director of Unidad de Conocimiento GEA, a business unit responsible for training executives from several companies, including Grupo SURA. One of her tasks was to identify and select candidates for studying abroad. It was only a matter of time before she found herself getting her MBA.

Garcia was encouraged, on her first day at Goizueta, when an entire session focused on the program’s core values, and she’s been amazed at Goizueta’s ability to have students identify with the school.

“After the first residency, I felt like I could get an Emory tattoo,” said Garcia, laughing. “They got me to feel identified [with the school], to say, ‘Yes, I’m a part of this.’”

That sense of identity is something she’s hoping to recreate at Grupo SURA. Because of her old role, Garcia knew about Goizueta and had heard good things about it. It’s one thing to think it’s a good choice, she said, but another to experience it firsthand.

“You get all the things you think you’ll experience plus all the other things you cannot see,” Garcia said.

Toro considers his Goizueta experience a game changer, both professionally and personally.

“[Goizueta] changes the perspective,” Toro said. “It enhances the toolkit. When I came back [to Colombia] I did a few years in investment banking. Together with that experience and everything I’d done before Goizueta made me a good candidate for the position I have now. I’ve always felt it was the right choice for me. I tell that to everyone who asks me. I carry the Emory brand around the world.”

Allison Shirreffs

Allison Shirreffs

A writer and photographer, Allison Shirreffs has worked with various organizations and publications, including The Coca-Cola Company, Fortune and the Atlanta Braves. She has a degree in economics from Tulane University and a graduate degree in creative writing from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

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