Four Harvard MBAs Win 2012 Dean’s Award

Four members of the Harvard Business School MBA Class of 2012 have been named winners of the School’s prestigious Dean’s Award. The recipients, who will be formally recognized by HBS Dean Nitin Nohria at Commencement ceremonies on the HBS campus on Thursday, are Jessica Bloomgarden, Tiffany Niver, Andrew Rosenthal, and Daniel Rumennik.

Established in 1997, this annual award celebrates the extraordinary achievements of graduating students who have made a positive impact on Harvard, Harvard Business School, and/or broader communities. True to the MBA Program’s mission, they have also contributed to the well-being of society through exceptional acts of leadership. Nominations come from the HBS community. A selection committee comprising faculty, administrators, and students then makes recommendations to the Dean, who selects the recipients.

Bloomgarden, Rosenthal, and Rumennik were cofounders of Startup Tribe, an ad hoc group of HBS students who met weekly to brainstorm ideas, offer support, and learn from local venture capitalists, serial entrepreneurs, and others about the tactical aspects of starting a business. They also kept in constant touch with one another via Twitter, sharing information and observations. As co-president of the active and influential HBS Women’s Students Association, Niver fostered an energetic and engaged community of women at the School and amplified the sense of excitement these women have for their roles as future business leaders.

Bloomgarden also helped strengthen and communicate the advantages that HBS presents to women interested in pursuing high-growth entrepreneurship, while Rosenthal was an influential catalyst, connector, and advocate for the robust entrepreneurial communities at Harvard and in Greater Boston and beyond. Rumennik was also lauded for working closely with HBS faculty and staff to create and launch the Minimum Viable Product (MVP) Award, a competition for funding HBS students’ early-stage entrepreneurial ventures.

“These students represent the remarkable energy, talent, and initiative of the young men and women at Harvard Business School,” said Dean Nitin Nohria in a statement. “As they embark on the next stage of their lives, they have already shown exemplary leadership skills, from strengthening the role of women at HBS and reaffirming its importance in the business community writ large to contributing immeasurably to the community and camaraderie of the multitude of entrepreneurially-minded students on this campus and throughout the University.”

Jessica Bloomgarden
Photo: Klaus Enrique
Jessica Bloomgarden: Enriching the Entrepreneurial Experience

A font of entrepreneurial knowledge and a recognized leader among her classmates, Jessica Bloomgarden helped change the way entrepreneurship is viewed at Harvard Business School.

Along with fellow students Dan Rumennik and Andrew Rosenthal, she was one of the founding members of Startup Tribe, a community of entrepreneurially-minded students focused on starting or building new ventures while in school or immediately upon graduation. “The leaders of Startup Tribe focused on making a student’s two years at HBS as effective in entrepreneurship as possible,” said a faculty member who interacted with Bloomgarden frequently.

Among her many other contributions to the entrepreneurial ethos at HBS, Bloomgarden helped bring successful entrepreneurs to campus and organized “pitch days” that paired HBS students with venture capitalists. She also worked with the Arthur Rock Center for Entrepreneurship to increase the startup presence on campus and organize a funding program for student ventures. And she was instrumental in promoting HBS among entrepreneurially-minded individuals beyond the Business School. In addition, she met regularly with fellow students to answer questions, dispense advice, make introductions, and provide actionable feedback on their startup ideas.

A major significant accomplishment of Bloomgarden and her Startup Tribe cofounders was the creation of the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) Award. Funded by the Rock Center, the award is based on the premise of the Lean Startup methodology (popularized by Eric Ries), which focuses on rapid prototyping. Now in its second year, the award recognizes and rewards student startup ideas each semester.

Bloomgarden clearly knows whereof she speaks. She founded AfterSteps, an online end-of-life planning platform that offers advice and secure storage for legal, financial, personal, and funeral documents.

“By helping to launch programs that further entrepreneurship on campus, Jess directly impacted all current and future HBS students who can take advantage of these new opportunities and make a positive impact on broader communities through their new ventures,” wrote a fellow student who nominated her for the Dean’s Award.

Bloomgarden was also recognized on campus as a champion for women entrepreneurs. During her internship last summer in New York City, for instance, she created a forum for HBS alumnae and current female students to share ideas about women in entrepreneurship. To further promote this initiative, she assisted Senior Lecturer Janet Kraus, a serial entrepreneur in her own right, in creating the Women’s Founders Forums, which went beyond HBS to include entrepreneurial women from across Harvard University. The participants, all students at HBS, Harvard College, Harvard Kennedy School, the Graduate School of Education, and the Medical School, are at different stages of the business development process. They meet regularly to share knowledge and help one another navigate challenges.

“Jess Bloomgarden is absolutely deserving of the 2012 Dean’s Award,” wrote another nominator. “Her on-campus leadership was widely appreciated, and her quiet, impactful guidance and mentorship were the glue that held together the burgeoning HBS entrepreneurial community. Jess truly exemplifies the exceptional MBA who makes a positive impact and exhibits impressive leadership.”