Our Stories

Getting Beyond the Box

Accountant gains the tools for bigger role in business world

Brandon Valentine
Corporate Finance Associate, Ventas

Vanderbilt MBA 2023

Of his career accomplishments so far, Brandon Valentine is proudest of becoming a certified public accountant—particularly, as he is quick to add, one of among the only two percent of CPAs of African-American descent. He is proud, too, of being the youngest member of business development teams that secured wins for clients that included the Nashville Airport and the National Civil Rights Museum.

Brandon also recognized that, as an accountant, “I was being put into a box: accountants do this, accountants are known for that.” As he learned from working with many of them, the people not in a box were C-suite executives, who, Brandon says, generally “knew a little about a lot of things, encouraged new thoughts and ideas, were great delegators, and had a very strong network in various industries.” One other commonality he observed: Most of those executives had an MBA or a law degree.

That recognition helped Brandon identify his next step. “Elite MBAs,” he says, “expose people to opportunities and a network they were previously unaware of.” He also viewed this new career path as a sort of mission. “I wanted to better myself and to show other minorities that B-school is an option.”

Growing up in Atlanta and working in Memphis, Brandon recognized the prestige of the Vanderbilt name. “The other thing that drew me,” he says, “was the intimate nature of the program. With very small classes, I had the opportunity to get to know my professors, as well as my peers. Vanderbilt provided me with the backing of a large network and institution while also providing a very intimate learning environment.” After attending Owen’s online diversity weekend—“it was impressive to me because Vanderbilt did not have to do that, but they chose to take action”—his decision was made.

On campus, he immersed himself not only in his studies but in Owen’s many organizations, from student government to the Center for Entrepreneurship. “The clubs are a great equalizer for our peers in the Owen community,” Brandon says. “They help bridge the gaps between people who come from different parts of the world and have different socioeconomic backgrounds. They help build relationships and get people more involved in tearing down some of the walls and biases that we as humans naturally have.”

As he embarks on the next phase of his “out-of-the-box” career in corporate finance, one thing stands out to Brandon about his choice of Vanderbilt: “It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Fun Fact: The son of Jamaican immigrants, Brandon played both football and baseball in college and is an “avid obstacle-course-race junkie."

The clubs help bridge the gaps between people who come from different parts of the world and have different socioeconomic backgrounds.