Mama’s Kitchen CEO Alberto Cortes says he still uses the lessons he learned from his SDSU Executive MBA program.
With his mother and maternal grandmother heavily involved in their local communities, the Mama’s Kitchen CEO and San Diego State University alumnus Alberto Cortes (’00, Executive MBA) said a life of service is “in my blood”.
His journey started at the age of 20 when he first came out. Shortly after, he left the University of Puerto Rico-Mayagüez and joined the United States Navy, which did not allow LGBTQ+ service members at the time. However, Cortes successfully served in the Navy aboard a nuclear-powered submarine and moved to San Diego in May 1983.
By then, AIDS had become a national health crisis, although its cause was not yet known. Follow in the footsteps of an SDSU student and another Navy veteran Jess Jessopwho is credited with leading the local gay rights movement in the 70s, Cortes began volunteering in 1983 with the San Diego AIDS Information Line.
“It was one of the first efforts to respond to the impending AIDS epidemic,” Cortes said. “At the time, there were only 22 reported AIDS cases in San Diego.”
It was the first time Cortes got involved in community service to support people living with AIDS, but it wouldn’t be the last. Since then he has been involved in health support services related to HIV and AIDS.
In 1998, while working as a Clinic Director/Director of HIV Services at Family Health Centers in San Diego, he chose to return to college to earn his MBA.
“I was compelled to pursue a master’s degree in business because I thought I would be able to use those skills effectively in the nonprofit community,” Cortes said. “SDSU’s Executive MBA program was perfect because I could both work full time and go to school full time.”
In 2000 – the same year he earned his Executive MBA from what was then the SDSU College of Business Administration – Cortes was invited to join the board of Mama’s Kitchen. In 2002, he was named executive director of the organization.
Cortes is now the CEO of Mama’s Kitchen, a San Diego nonprofit created in 1990 to deliver meals to people with AIDS. Since then, Mama’s Kitchen has expanded its reach to deliver meals to others with chronic conditions, including those with cancer, diabetes, congestive heart failure and COVID-19. In March 2021, the organization celebrated the delivery of its 10 millionth meal.
Cortes says he still uses the lessons he learned from his SDSU executive MBA program.
“I have applied many of the lessons learned in my graduate studies to my work, including the importance of collaboration and an invaluable set of communication skills from writing notes to staging a formal presentation. “, did he declare. “The business management and accounting courses provided me with essential and foundational knowledge that I still rely on to help me run a non-profit organization. »
His SDSU experience also affected him on a personal level. “To date, there are a number of day classmates at SDSU that I have stayed in touch with,” Cortes said. “Some of them are longtime supporters of Mama’s Kitchen.”
As Mama’s Kitchen reaches its 32nd year of serving meals to people living with AIDS and others in need, they will also be gearing up for the San Diego Pride celebration, as they have for many years. . “Mama’s Kitchen is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ community. We look forward to the opportunity to affirm our affiliation with the community and express our gratitude to those who have provided us with decades of support,” Cortes said.
For MBA students considering following Cortes’ example by pursuing a career in a community service organization, he said, “The rewards are many, and so are the challenges. And in the process of serving our communities, this field has provided the opportunity to work with some truly amazing people. I am a better person thanks to this experience.