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Class of 2016

Saint Mbakop

Adjusting to college was certainly a challenge for Saint Mbakop, but his hard work at Hostos paved the way for his career success. He discovered his passion and aptitude for leadership while coaching fellow students to help them develop their strengths though the Student Leadership Academy (SLA). Saint also served as president of the Student Government Association (SGA). He is currently continuing his education at Harvard University, pursuing a joint undergraduate and master’s degree in business analytics. However, he is not delaying his career while he advances his education. As a student, Saint has published eight books and has established his own consulting company, Life by Design Coaching and Consulting. In addition, he is the director of sales and marketing at New York City Books and an operations training specialist at AmerisourceBergen.

The following is an excerpt of an interview with Mr. Mbakop conducted by Alumni Relations Manager Félix Sánchez. Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Q & A

Félix

What makes you feel proud to be a Hostos graduate?

Saint

It’s the culture; Hostos has the best culture I have ever seen. Hostos feels like my family. Anytime I go back to Hostos, it is always the same atmosphere of cooperation, and I know that an environment like this does not just happen. Most people go to work because it is their job, but when you go to Hostos, you see that the people who work there have a shared motivation ­– they really care about what they are doing. Even though I graduated several years ago, I always know that if I need a reference or recommendation letter, I can depend on Jason Libfeld, the Student Leadership Academy Coordinator. I am very thankful to have him as a resource. The Leadership Academy has been so important to my success that I have continued to coach and mentor students since I finished my degree. I am so proud to be a Hostos alumnus.

Félix

What challenges did you experience while studying at Hostos and how did you overcome them? How were you empowered by those experiences?

Saint

My first and biggest challenge when I moved to the United States from Cameroon was the language barrier – I spoke French. When I enrolled at Hostos, I started taking English 90 and 91. As an English language learner in those classes, it is easy to be afraid of speaking and expressing yourself. That was a big obstacle for me, but thanks to the many supportive staff members and great professors at Hostos, success was attainable. Because of this experience, I started to gain confidence in my English, and now, I can proudly say that I have authored eight books. It was a long, difficult journey to get to this point, but Hostos and its amazing faculty were very helpful in getting me to where I am today.

Félix

What experiences at Hostos helped prepare you to be successful?

Saint

I'm very thankful to Hostos because it has, indeed, shaped my career. Through the Student Government Association (SGA), I served as a senator in 2014 and was elected president in 2015. In those roles, I gave presentations, reviewed policies and participated in a lot of meetings. I still use the principles of accountability and diligence that I gained from those experiences.

 

I also served as a student ambassador in the Student Leadership Academy (SLA). For two years, I participated in leadership trainings every Friday. One of my most formative experiences in the SLA was attending a Model United Nations competition. As a Hostos student, I shared space with students from the likes of Harvard and Yale and other schools all over the country. Attending that conference helped me to overcome the inferiority complex that I harbored. It made me see that everybody is just human. I placed third in a competition against those Harvard and Yale students. Harvard students are not more special than Hostos students. That experience motivated me and opened my eyes to big possibilities.

Félix

Félix

What is your career now, and how did you end up in your current position?

Saint

I'm going to credit the SLA again. My whole career – everything that I'm doing now – is because of that program. From writing books to my role with AmerisourceBergen and everything that I have done in between, it is all thanks to the skills that I honed at Hostos.

I started at Hostos as a nursing student. I wanted to pursue nursing because everybody told me that was where you could make money. “If you want to have a stable career, go for nursing.” That is what the people guiding me at the time were saying. So, I entered the program, but I had no strong desire to be a nurse. After joining the SLA and seeing the professionalism that Jason would show when advising us about our future careers, I realized that that was what I wanted to do. I always wanted to train. I could look at problems, strategize and find solutions.

The professors in the business department helped me to figure out that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and run my own business. From the training that I received in the SLA, I understood that you just don't open a business; you need to first learn about the field by working with other companies. I am also fortunate that serving as president of the SGA involved giving a speech every two weeks to the entire Hostos faculty, because I now lead trainings with AmerisourceBergen, one of the largest companies in the United States.

Félix

Félix

Who are you inspired by?

Saint

My mother has been my pillar. She has had a tough life since my father passed away. When my father was alive, he believed that he was the man of the house. He thought it was his role to take care of everything. After she finished school, she never had to work, but then my father died. Suddenly, she had to take care of the whole family, and with no work experience. She had to take care of all of her children and put us through school, all while living in a country that was experiencing political unrest and violence. She is the toughest person that I know, and I am inspired by her. I hope to keep that strength of character and integrity to push me through all of my challenges in life.

Félix

Félix

What advice would you give a current student to help them be successful?

Saint

Enjoy every single thing you do and do it in the best way possible. Take care of your future career, but don’t forget to take care of your current life. A lot of people ask me, “You have a busy career and you have so many things going on. How do you find the time to do all that?”  I simply don't do them all at the same time. I prioritize, that is the key. Focus on your goals and success will follow.

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