Our Stories

Building His American Dream Career

Filipino student credits Vanderbilt for believing in him

Jonathan Coronel
Business Analyst—Private Equity Practice, McKinsey & Co., New York City

Vanderbilt MS Finance 2021

In the spring of 2020, Jonathan Coronel felt “lost” about his next steps in life. He had not expected to feel that way.

After all, Jonathan had taken extraordinary measures to arrange those next steps. After leaving the Philippines for a semester abroad at Fordham University in New York, he found a way to finish his undergraduate career there, managing the enormous expense by working three jobs while taking night classes and eventually graduating summa cum laude. His hard work landed him a job as an investment banking analyst with Evercore—a result, he says, that would have been “unthinkable back in the Philippines.”

At Evercore, Jonathan felt “a sense of fulfillment for the journey I’ve traveled thus far.” All that changed with COVID-19. After his H1B visa petition was not selected in the lottery, and the global pandemic foreclosed any opportunities to transfer to an international office within his company, he faced deportation.

Maybe his undergraduate career advisor had been right that he should pursue opportunities in his home country or elsewhere in Southeast Asia. But he refused to give up on his dream of building a finance career in America. Vanderbilt, which awarded Jonathan a merit-based scholarship, helped him do just that.

“I’ll always remember the first call I had with [Program Director] Cherrie [Wilkinson],” Jonathan says. “She was more than receptive to hearing about my story and supported me throughout my process with Vanderbilt. And right off the bat, [Career Management Center coach] Megan [Nichols] sat down with me, and the conversation turned into how I could best position myself for opportunities here in the US. I owe it to her and the team for believing that I, too, can make it here.”

Now, with a job at McKinsey back in New York, Jonathan is making it. “I wouldn’t have gotten that opportunity,” he reflects, “if it weren’t for the Vandy community that wholeheartedly supported me throughout the whole process. I’ve been humbled by how much support I’ve gotten.”

Fun Fact: Jonathan’s favorite dining spot in Nashville is a Japanese hot pot and BBQ restaurant near the Vandy campus called Shabu Shabu, where a robot leads you to your table.

I’ve been humbled by how much support I’ve gotten.