2018 Best & Brightest: Daniel Abaraoha, Cornell University (Dyson)

Daniel Abaraoha

Cornell University (Dyson)

Aspiring Inspirer. Sneaker artist. Entrepreneur. Lover of sports. Community servant. Student.”

Fun fact about yourself: “I once met the guy who played Barney the Dinosaur when I was 2 years old at my uncle’s wedding only because I pointed out he was wearing a watch with Barney on it.”

Hometown: Arlington, TX

High School: James Bowie HS

Major: Applied Economics and Management

Minor: N/A

Favorite Business Course: Business Ethics, Spreadsheet Modeling, Intermediate Accounting, Introductory Statistics, Financial Statement Analysis – sorry I couldn’t just say one  

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:

Founder & CEO – Vita Shoes Company LLC

President – Cornell Accounting Association

Sector Analyst – Cornell Finance Club

Cornell Tradition Fellow

Teaching Assistant for Financial Accounting, Managerial Accounting, and Introductory Statistics

Dyson Societal Scholars Award

Managerial Accounting TA of the Year

Volunteer with Tompkins County Public Library (Ithaca, NY) and The Holding Institute (Laredo, TX)

Where have you interned during your college career?

EY (Ernst & Young) – New York, NY – FSO Assurance Intern

Northrup Grumman Corporation – Irving, TX – Finance & Accounting Intern

Salmon Sims Thomas PLLC – Dallas, TX – Administrative Accounting Intern

Where will you be working after graduation? Assurance Audit Staff at EY (Ernst & Young) in New York, NY

What did you enjoy most about your business school? It’s the familial, community aspect you get at Dyson that’s made it so fun to attend. As a freshman, the incoming class takes most classes together and works on various group projects. This style continues throughout the rest of our time at the school, even as the class size gets larger and people start to specialize in their own studies. On one hand, it’s given me a glimpse into how the real world operates. More importantly, though, it has provided me the opportunity to learn how to collaborate with people of different working styles and who may see the world differently than I do.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field? Money is good, but personal growth is better. I realize that may sound cliché, but it’s something that I’ve had to deal with myself. You’ve got to come in thinking about how studying in business will affect you as a person – do you find joy and fulfillment with it? At the same time, the business major isn’t an ultimatum. You’re still more than able to do amazing things in other fields, you just have a business background in your repertoire.       

“If I didn’t major in business, I would be majoring in or studying…American history. For as long as I could remember, I’ve been fascinated with the events that have led us to be where we are today. In fact, I remember back in first grade when my class was supposed to write a short story, I wrote one on all of the wars in U.S. History.”

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? At Dyson, I’ve been surprised most about how early we’re encouraged to take classes outside of the major. Of course, I was expecting it from Cornell in general but for that message to come from the Dyson School really shocked me because of how practical the classes were. I would think that the major would be set up to get a good load of what we needed to know first and leave some space for electives in our senior year, but there are many of my peers who have been able to take a wide breadth of subjects throughout their time here.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? I would nail it down to three people: my guidance counselor, my accounting teacher, and my macroeconomics professor. By the beginning of my junior year of high school, I didn’t really know what I was going to study in college. I was still sort of wanting to start a shoe brand, so my counselor suggested I consider business. Then she pointed out that, if I was interested enough, I should definitely take the accounting course at our school. I did, and I instantly enjoyed it. It was the first class that ever made sense to me in a way that would take way too long to explain here. Then I took and really enjoyed macroeconomics the following semester. Things really started coming together when I had multiple conversations with my accounting and economics teachers. They showed me how practical and essential having a business pedigree is while noticing how my skills in their classes translated well to a career somewhere in the business world. Their words stuck with me and by the time senior year rolled around, I was only applying to business schools. The rest is history.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of? Creating my own sneaker startup, Vita Shoes Company. Not only did I bring my childhood dream into fruition, but I truly couldn’t be prouder of what it’s become. Vita has sold nearly 400 pairs of sneakers in the last year and a half while raising over $1700 for service projects and donations made to homeless shelters. The journey to get to that modest of a milestone has been far from easy and even discouraging at times, yet I wouldn’t trade it for the world. One thing I’ve loved is how running Vita has helped me with things I never thought it could whether it’s being a better professional or a genuine person. It’s truly the best learning experience I could ever ask for. And the best part? I’m only getting started.

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the business school? Make all the water fountains in the business building dispense Kool-Aid throughout the entire day.      

Which classmate do you most admire? This one’s tough, but I’m going to go with Madeline Roglich. Aside from the fact that she’s an excellent student, it’s her personality that sets her apart from most. Maddie is one of those people you can have an instant connection with after a brief conversation. She’s someone who’s going to brighten your day with a weird story and a smile. Then, at the same time, she has an infectious, hard-work ethic and a compassionate way of leading when she’s in a group. Honestly, I could go on about her, but she’s great and I’m lucky to consider her a friend of mine.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My parents. They never pushed us into doing anything other than being successful in whatever we were passionate about. They’re the hardest-working, most compassionate people I know and who I’ll always aspire to be.

What would your theme song be? “Dynasty Intro” – JAY-Z. Other than the fact that this is one of the greatest intros to a rap album, Jay brilliantly lays out his life story through a series of double entendres and metaphors that are so vivid when listened to closely. Through the lyrics, he shows how hard it’s been to get where he is and how he’s not willing to give it up, which is how I like to say I approach various points in my life. Besides, that beat by Just Blaze is legendary… 

What are the top two items on your bucket list? Travel to Antarctica and serve a homeless shelter with my shoe brand in every state

Favorite book: To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee

Favorite movie: The Godfather

Favorite vacation spot: Switzerland and/or Austria – My family didn’t get the chance to go on vacations growing up, or at least one that I considered my favorite. However, when I first watched the Sound of Music, I knew I wanted to go to Austria. My dad went to Switzerland once and brought back some phenomenal chocolate. I’ve never had the opportunity to go to either place, but the more I read the more I’m excited to get out there someday.

What are your hobbies? Drawing sneakers, reading random articles, watching (and playing) way too much basketball and football, rapping along/singing offkey to the many songs I listen to throughout the day, and having aimless discussions with friends or anyone whose willing to chat

What made Daniel such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2018?

“Daniel Abaraoha has been an inspiration to many of us in the Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management. As a teaching assistant for both accounting and statistics classes, his calm and precise delivery of complicated material has facilitated the learning of many students in our program. Daniel cares about their success and it shows in the energy and diligence he brings to his teaching. As a student, he is a role model for others by balancing academic success with strong community involvement. While president of the accounting club, his interest in the subject motivated other students to explore this career path.  He has even been an inspiration to the faculty. While in high school Daniel started his own shoe company (Vita Shoes) with the goal of not only making affordable shoes, but also the social mission of using the proceeds to help homeless shelters in his hometown. Daniel Abaraoha’s legacy is his inspiration for all of us to go at life and work with humility and passion.

Cindy van Es, Ph.D.
Professor of Practice
Director of Undergraduate Studies
Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Cornell University


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