2023 Best & Brightest Business Major: Dana Birke, Cornell University (Nolan School of Hotel Administration)

Dana Birke

Peter and Stephanie Nolan School of Hotel Administration, Cornell SC Johnson College of Business

“Culinary, pop music, and yoga enthusiast with a knack for Excel(lence) and a zeal for kindness.”

Fun fact about yourself: I love social dancing! My favorite types of dances are hustle, salsa, and bachata.

Hometown: Closter, NJ

High School: Northern Valley Regional High School at Demarest, NJ

Major: Hotel Administration

Favorite Business Course: Service Operations Management challenged my quantitative analysis skills by applying them to real-world problems. Creating models that optimize processes feels impactful and inspires me to pursue a career in this direction.

Extracurricular Activities, Community Work and Leadership Roles During College:


  • Nolan School of Hotel Administration, Student Assistant to Nolan School Dean Kate Walsh
  • Hotel Ezra Cornell, Programs Director
  • Women Leadership in Hospitality, President
  • National Society of Minorities in Hospitality, Vice President


  • Nolan School of Hotel Administration, Ambassador
  • Teaching Assistant for Service Operations Management, Quantitative Analysis, Human Resources Management, Restaurant Management, Foodservice Management, Experiential Networking, and Dean’s Distinguished Lecture Series
  • Alpha Phi Omega (Community Service Fraternity), Brother


  • Nolan School of Hotel Administration, Dean’s List
  • Nolan School of Hotel Administration, Ye Hosts Honorary Society

Where have you interned during your college career?
2021 Supply Chain Intern at World Finer Foods – Bloomfield, NJ
2022 Business Analyst Intern at Cisco Systems – Remote

Where will you be working after graduation?
Delivery Assurance Analyst at McKinsey & Company

Who is your favorite business professor? Professor Simone Tang is one of my favorite professors because she inspires greatness. She introduces innovative ways to motivate students to think critically and learn proactively. Outside the classroom, Professor Tang has been incredibly helpful and generous with her time, sharing insightful advice on all aspects of life.

What is the biggest lesson you gained from studying business? Business success needs an expanded definition. Our motivations are best extended beyond profit margins no matter the product or service. Business decisions must acknowledge the impact of our business decisions on the health of users and consumers, give back to the communities we operate in, and replenish the resources of the environments we tap.

What advice would you give to a student looking to major in a business-related field?
Talk to as many students and alumni of the schools that you’re considering. While most business school curricula cover similar ground, the culture fostered by its leadership and professors make all the difference in your success after graduation.  Find out what initiatives the school makes to bring in real world experts and leaders in various fields, voices of experience who can share best practices and insights with your generation. I knew the Nolan School was the place for me because the students and alumni network I connected with welcomed me so warmly. I hope that you find a business school that helps you thrive!

What has surprised you most about majoring in business? At Nolan Hotel School, which is a school that looks at business through the lens of hospitality, I started out certain that my future would be about running a chain of bakeries. I was surprised to find that I had an affinity for numbers, that my strength in quantitative analysis can apply to a wider range of industries, not just kitchens. This discovery opened my eyes to new possibilities that I will continue to explore when I join McKinsey & Company.

Looking back over your experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently in business school and why? If I were to go back in time, I would be more open-minded about my career possibilities. Since high school, I thought I had a clear plan of exactly how I wanted my future to be. The college electives I chose initially focused on what I considered most relevant to this vision. As a sophomore and junior, I challenged myself with computer coding and business psychology that I had not thought I’d enjoy as much as I did. Only then did I expand my reach, exploring what else was possible.

What business leader do you admire most? I admire Melanie Perkins because she is a prime example of achieving success through grit. As a young female entrepreneur, Ms. Perkins was rejected by over a hundred investors, yet she continued to persevere and ultimately built her company (Canva) into a billion-dollar technology platform. Regardless of which direction my career takes me, I intend to channel Ms. Perkins’ traits of self-determination, perseverance, and grace under pressure.

Which academic, extracurricular or personal achievement are you most proud of?
Being the Student Assistant to Nolan Hotel School Dean Kate Walsh has been the most incredible experience of my time at Cornell. I love welcoming and mentoring younger students, while also serving as key liaison for the school with its VIP guests, industry leaders, and world class executives.

Which classmate do you most admire? I admire Ben Nelson the most because he embodies the mantra of the Hotel School: Life is service. Ben is always ready to lend a hand and strives to make everyone feel heard and included. He does all this and more with humility and a smile. Ben continues to spread happiness beyond Cornell as he applies what he learned in business school to enhance guest experience through his work at Accenture.

Who would you most want to thank for your success?  I would like to thank my mom for her constant (sometimes tough) love and support. She inspires me to be the strong and independent woman that I am. She has always encouraged me to trust my instincts, embrace my vulnerabilities, and pursue what makes me happy. I am eternally grateful and thankful for her.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  1. Mentoring fellow women in business: I want to create more seats at the table and elevate the next generation of women leaders.
  2. Work and live abroad: I would love to spend time immersed in different cultures and meet people of all backgrounds.

What are your hobbies? I love hosting potlucks, cooking/baking, social dancing, playing guitar, and reading.

What made Dana such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2023? “Simply put, Dana Birke is the finest student that I have ever known. From an academic perspective, her quantitative skills exceed what could reasonably be asked for from an undergraduate business major, yet her soft skills are even more impressive – an exceedingly rare combination. While I first came to know Dana as a promising student in my class, she truly differentiated herself while acting as my teaching assistant. In this role, she seamlessly managed a disparate team of assistant TAs with positivity, enthusiasm, and thoughtfulness, pushing her team to a level of performance that would not have been possible without Dana’s efforts. That she could manage people so well at twenty-one was impressive. That she could manage them so well at twenty-one with complete autonomy and no intervention from me was astonishing. Some people are natural leaders, but few are naturally capable of driving others to excellence through positivity. Dana is such a person, and everyone who comes into her orbit is better for it. In summary, Dana is a driven young woman, who humbly leads her peers by example, while perfectly embodying the ethos that life is service.”

Jacob P. Chestnut
Assistant Professor of Service Operations (OTIM)
Nolan School of Hotel Administration
Cornell SC Johnson College of Business
Cornell University



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