Cristian Leiva MBA’20 on Perseverance, Optimism, and Action

Cristian Leiva poses outside Olin Hall

Cristian Leiva MBA’20 radiates positivity, no matter the circumstances. His classmates experienced the impact of his outlook firsthand.

For Leiva, whose dream to attend Babson College was delayed by a life-threatening illness, his classmates became his family and helped him through his moments of struggle. He wanted to return the favor and quickly became the go-to friend for classmates managing a rigorous class load far from home. He used his personal story to motivate others and lift them up. He even invited classmates into his home to meet his wife, Natalia Guenchor, and have dinner.

Then, the pandemic hit, and he and his classmates had to pivot and lean on one another in new ways. Leiva was the glue who kept his friends together during those trying times. None of them left, and all of the classmates who connected with Leiva completed their MBAs.

“If I can reach out to people when they are struggling and I can be here for them,” Leiva said, “that will be my greatest accomplishment.”

Leiva will share his experiences, his journey, and his love for Babson as the graduate student speaker at the Class of 2020 Commencement celebration May 8.

The Road to Babson

Leiva was chosen as the Commencement speaker over a year ago, but he’s no stranger to waiting to realize his dream and savor moments of triumph.

Leiva grew up in Santiago, Chile, and was working as a statistical engineer there when he first learned about Babson from his brother, Guillermo Leiva MBA’11. Since he first visited his brother on campus, he knew Babson was the place for him. He and his sister, Carola Leiva MBA’18, applied together to become part of the 2018 MBA class.

But, Leiva’s dream was delayed when a medical exam revealed several tumors on his pancreas, requiring life-saving surgery in Chile. He spent more than a year in recovery, determined to get better as soon as possible, even completing extra rounds of physical therapy each day.

“At that moment, I had a vision: me talking at our graduation ceremony, and while I was doing my MBA, it was something that came to my head frequently.”
Cristian Leiva MBA’20

As he was lying in his hospital bed, his motivation was to realize his dream of attending Babson and earning his MBA. During his recovery in 2017, he says, he even envisioned addressing his classmates at Commencement one day.

“At that moment, I had a vision: me talking at our graduation ceremony,” he said, “and while I was doing my MBA, it was something that came to my head frequently.”

By the time he was fully recovered and enrolled as part of the Babson Class of 2020, he set about making that happen with a renewed determination to make the most of every moment on campus.

Formula for Success

Leiva quickly displayed his dedication, not only to his friends but also to his studies.

He and his wife lived off campus, so Leiva would wake up at 5 a.m. in order to get to campus by 6:30 a.m. to start his day. His magic formula was to split his day into three equally important parts: class and studying in the morning, followed by doing something he enjoyed, and topped off with developing a new skill or learning something from a classmate.

Cristian Leiva and wife Natalia with their dog Maya
Cristian Leiva and his wife, Natalia Guenchor, with their dog, Maya

Leiva became friends with people from all over the globe and seized the opportunity to learn from people from different cultures and backgrounds. He even learned some Hindi from his peers along the way.

Leiva always scheduled at least an hour of his day at the Babson Recreation and Athletics Complex (BRAC) to give his brain a chance to switch off and have some mental downtime. During his second year, he also had a part-time job from his summer internship at General Insulation Company Inc., so some days he would work three to four hours after class before returning to campus to study.

Babson and Beyond

Last year, when Leiva was selected as the Class of 2020 Commencement speaker, he was elated to realize yet another Babson dream. And, although the pandemic would postpone Commencement a full year, the delay didn’t get him down because he knew he had a story to share that would lift up his classmates during this difficult time.

Watch Babson’s virtual Commencement ceremonies at

Since graduating from Babson in 2020, Leiva remains surrounded by the Babson alumni network. He was offered a full-time position with General Insulation Company, an insulation distributor based in Boston. His boss, Frank Granara MBA’16, and his colleague, Parth Patel MBA’20, are using the entrepreneurial mindset they learned at Babson to explore opportunities for innovation in the commercial construction supply chain.

“My boss knows I don’t sleep too much because I’m always thinking ‘today could be the last day I could live,’ so I don’t want to sleep a lot,” Leiva said. “I want to get everything from my life, and I want to do everything that I could do every day.”

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