Ruth Cenat
Home Region

New York, NY

Undergrad Education

New York University, Economics, 2008

Previous Experience

Quids! Inc.; Toys 'R Us, Inc.

HBS Activities

Management Consulting Club, Social Enterprise Club (Board Fellows), African American Students Association, Africa Business Club, TechMedia Club

“To help strangers with no expectation of getting something in return, that’s the sincerest expression of humanity.”

What’s the one thing you’re most excited about learning at HBS?

Learning about history is exciting to me—how business, political, and social leaders were able to make tough decisions in uncertain situations that have made an impact for better or worse. The cases we read help to paint pictures of history that have shaped the world we live in. Through what I’ve learned so far, I understand not only what something is but why. That's further complemented by the who, which takes the form of various experiences my classmates have shared. The person who sits next to me is from Norway. When we discussed a case from his country, he talked about how multiculturalism is such a difficult issue in Norway. As a member of a minority group, he’s never felt sure of where he stands. Because of the uncertainty, his family owns a second home in the United States, just in case. His story showed me that other countries face the same issues as the U.S. in terms of immigration and the integration of different cultures in a society.

How do your HBS ambitions fit into the big picture of the world beyond?

My lifelong ambition is to be successful enough in business that I can become a philanthropist and let others know that anything is possible no matter your background. My parents emigrated from Haiti, and my father worked as a cab driver to provide us with better opportunities. When I was young, my parents passed away, and my second-grade teacher Delois White stepped in and helped my family significantly. At that point, college was a figment of my imagination, but through the kindness of my second-grade teacher and the help of a Bill Gates Millennium scholarship, I stood a chance. The idea that strangers gave me the opportunity to change my life—that, to me, is amazing. As a result, I was able to pay for my sister to attend college, which is rewarding. If I could do something similar to help strangers with no expectation of getting something in return, that’s the sincerest expression of humanity. While at HBS, I’ve been able to work in nonprofit consulting, research creating an independent project on Haiti’s economic development, and meet the philanthropist who sponsored my HBS fellowship.

How are you pushing yourself?

As the first person in my family to attend college and, better yet, business school, there has definitely been a lot of learning though the process on what next steps to take. I’ve benefited so much from the people who have invested in me along the way. At HBS, I constantly push myself into new experiences that may be uncomfortable, and I am excited to share these new experiences with my family, friends, and prospective students. Through leading presentations in the classroom, choosing a Field 2 country where I was not able communicate, and working with a nonprofit to use design thinking to help children create change, I’ve created great relationships and have overcome those initial butterflies. I found myself shifting from wondering whether I was taking the “right” steps to asking, 'What do I really want to do?' and knowing that’s okay.

What might people find surprising about you?

I had 14 jobs before I was 21. The number really grew during my summers in college when I took on two or three jobs. I’ve always been very driven, and I dreamed of being a businesswoman from early on. I think the moment that captures my attitude back when I was 13 was when I showed up at a McDonald’s booth at a job fair with a resume, briefcase, and business suit.