Class of 2015: The World’s Best & The Brightest MBAs

Best MBA

unnamedKatie Benintende was accustomed to being in the minority. As an undergrad, she majored in engineering, a traditionally male-dominated field. And she spent six years climbing the ranks in the Fortune 500, a place where women comprise just 14% of senior executives. When she decided to get an MBA, she picked the University of California-Berkeley due to the program’s “strong culture of diversity and inclusion.”

Yet, when she arrived on the leafy Northern California campus in the summer of 2013, she soon learned something that shocked her. In her entering class, women comprised just 29% of the incoming students, a drop from 32% the previous year. It didn’t take long for Benintende, 30, to find a cause and her voice. She helped to launch an initiative that brought together students, faculty and alumni to increase female enrollment, a touchy issue on business school campuses where women typically comprise little more than a third of the MBA students.

Undaunted, Benintende’s initiative enlisted classmates as ambassadors to talk up the school’s MBA program to other women, sponsored events to prospective female students, and persuaded high-powered female alumni and faculty to “close” women admits to get them to enroll. “I think we made enough noise to send a message that Haas lives up to its reputation for inclusion,” she now says. “After all that work, we were hoping to have an impact. Still, we were all stunned to learn that the incoming Class of 2016 exceeded all our expectations, with a record 43% women!”


That unique accomplishment, helping to make Haas the business school with the highest percentage of women in a full-time, highly selective MBA program, is what catapulted Benintende onto Poets&Quants’ inaugural list of the 50 best and brightest MBA graduates this year. Like the other extraordinary MBAs on the list, Benintende distinguished herself by her demonstrated leadership, academic excellence, and personal qualities and contributions that resulted in real impact.

The best of the Class of 2015 is a rich and widely diverse group of talented young professionals who upend the stereotypes that MBAs are detached quants and sharp-elbowed climbers. They are former marines, athletes, actors, and lawyers. They have managed charities just as often as they’ve worked on Wall Street – and some have done both. And perhaps the biggest surprise of all is that women form a solid majority of the 50 graduates on the list, 27 women to the 23 men, at a time when males typically outnumber females two to one on business school campuses.

Which employers are getting the best grads? McKinsey & Co. and Deloitte Consulting are each employing four of the top 50. Amazon, Bain, Goldman Sachs, eBay, Google, and Citi are each hiring two. The upshot: 40% of the top 50 are going to one of only eight MBA employers. Yet, a surprising number of the best are launching their own firms or heading overseas to fight disease and poverty.

You’ll find these 50 MBAs hailing from locations as disparate as New Hampshire and the United Arab Emirates, with 15 students on the list born outside the United States. Although traditional powers like Harvard and Stanford are represented, you’ll find plenty of MBAs on the list who are graduating from public universities including Texas A&M, Purdue, Maryland, and Minnesota.


To compile this list, Poets&Quants surveyed 60 of the top-ranked full-time global MBA programs to find those 2015 graduates who “exemplify the best of your school” as evidenced by academic prowess, leadership in extracurricular activities, personal excellence, and striking personal narratives. Selected by administrators, faculty and fellow classmates, more than 100 forthcoming graduates were nominated. Each nominee was asked to complete an extensive questionnaire. We asked MBA students when they knew they wanted to go to business school and what they would be doing if they hadn’t gotten an MBA. We asked who would they most want to thank for their success and what they most enjoyed about their MBA experience (you can read their answers in the profiles).

The staff of Poets&Quants then carefully evaluated the submissions to come up with the best of the bunch. The resulting profiles of each of the 50 most exceptional MBAs in the Class of 2015 are filled with a wealth of valuable information and intelligent insight for prospective students, current MBA candidates, and anyone interested in graduate business education.

When it comes to careers, people often picture paths that are plotted straight up and logical. In reality, careers zig-and-zag, with false starts and digressions. And that’s true too of Top 50 MBAs, who often spend their twenties seeking their mission or sharpening skills that come in handy at business school later.

Consider University of Southern California’s Jenny Dare Paulin. She started out as an actor, nabbing bit parts in shows like Dawson’s Creek before enjoying a stint on Broadway. Eventually, she found herself working 16-hour days in a gourmet burger joint she had opened in Nicaragua. After returning to school, where she was dubbed a “Renaissance Woman” by her peers, this artist-turned-consultant eventually led 12 MBA students on a 10-month international consulting project. Here, the team’s research helped one Malaysian leader secure an additional $30 million for educational funding. Heading to Ernst & Young after graduation, Dare Paulin has advice relevant to any poet fearing statistical models and finance. “Hard skills are important and useful, but perishable. The most important skills you can acquire in business school are the abilities to adapt, interpret and learn.”


Of course, poet types aren’t the only students making an impact at business school. MIT’s Elena Mendez-Escobar, who holds a Ph.D. in Theoretical Physics, helped to develop “Breaking the Mold,” a series of events designed to spark conversations about unconscious bias and arm students with tools to overcome it. UCLA’s Jacob Call has channeled his unforgiving Navy SEAL training to excel in both the classroom and his extracurricular activities, eventually landing a coveted position in investment banking. And Michael Martin, a Carleton College graduate from Rockport, Indiana, has emerged as one of Harvard Business School’s most decorated entrepreneurs. His RapidSOS solution, a wireless app that communicates location information to emergency response teams, recently earned first place at the Harvard Business School New Venture Competition and could potentially revolutionize 911 calls.

Next Page: MBAs who reinvented themselves or overcame adversity (Individual profiles of the Best & Brightest MBAs to follow)

  • Laurence Almand

    That does not mean that incompetent females should be allowed to steal jobs from competent males.

  • AnthroGuy

    Anthropology has an answer to why feminism is given preference over competence. After WWII, Roosevelt’s new deal incorporated Keynesianism – calling for the complete elimination of a class of people that lived off other people’s debts such homemakers. This was much less radical than it first appeared.

    When this ideology was put into effect, a small portion of the world population was offered its slice on the deal. Later on everyone from national liberators in Algeria to feminists in the US started demanding political equality with some level of economic security. Soon it came to the realisation of the pundits then that capitalism cannot extend such benefits to everyone. It led to an inclusion crisis. So during Reagan’s time, all deals were put off. People got political rights, alright but without economic security. This is now ingrained in the mass psyche of every US citizen. Women’s rights are not rights for women per se, but rights to zero the gap between political equality and economic equality. Therefore, has become a question of morality rather than competence to provide a certain quota for females.

  • Jake fester

    Sonny I just saw this and did not read any of your drivel. When you start with implied philosophical discussion on “what is journalism in the 21st century?” (blogs break big stories now and are well written in many cases)…people stop reading. For example you are likely the only person that came upon this who is still reading…which is why I feel confident in writing that I read nothing of what you wrote, and that for the sake of humanity you should go back down to the bus stop you came from and return to your profession of opening your mouth everytime you hear a zipper go down from your spot in that dark corner of the restroom. Mic dropped….

    * I’m sure I made autocomplete mistakes above that do not block communication/diminish my comments

  • Laurence Almand

    So what is to prevent a pregnant female from studying at home? There are many women who are mothers who have achieved college degrees.

  • Laurence Almand

    All this talk about sex and “diversity” is nonsense – a type of categorization and classification of people. Human beings are individuals, not breeds or categories. In regard to education, MBA or whatever, there should be no criteria except competence. If a female is smart enough to get an MBA, good for her.
    But the idea of having “goals” for more females is nothing but favoritism.

  • NannaDesha

    The selection process is not transparent. My EMBA class unaware until it was announced that one of ours was selected as the “Best”. Realization dawned that all the secret whispering and private meeting that our Career Management head was having with this student was related to this. I am not saying that the person selected did not deserve it but come on, what chance did the rest of the class have? Who in the school decides to nominate the student? what is the criteria? Where is the transparency? The peers definitely need to have a say in nomination. The idea is good but it is a lopsided selection process.

  • Jake fester

    You referred to me as a “baby” and a (your case sensitivity) “Negative Nancy” and then finished your verbal diarrhea and feigned (I hope for humanity’s sake) indignation by referring to me as “petty and rude”.
    Nice work. You are legit crazy.

  • Sonny Tai

    You know this is a blog right? You accuse the author of “lazy journalism”, but on a blog, the author is free to write about any material that he sees fit. If you’re looking for journalism, go read the New York Times. In this case, it is pretty much an editorial profile about 25 highly accomplished MBA Candidates at the various business schools. Are they necessarily the Top 25? That’s subjective. If you want to be such a baby and a Negative Nancy about it, go build a model quantitatively analyzing the achievements of all the students, start your own blog, and create your own “best and brightest” line.

    In the meantime, you downplaying/disparaging the accomplishments of students nominated in this article is incredibly petty and rude. Go away.

  • Sonny Tai

    Take your whining and tears somewhere else and quit being such a baby. I’m sure everyone on this list deserved to be there in their own right.

  • Beavis_Bunghole

    Way to put it, but flawed. I come from a background that is exceptionally dependant upon sycophancy to choose its leaders (The Army, thanks to top-down only evaluations and promotion by committee)…..and it can cut both ways. Just as with professors some are going to select who they like the best while others are achieved in their fields and have a strong eye for brilliance.

  • Jake fester

    I’d check your logic before coming after someone and accusing them of being “jealous”. It’s incredibly dismissive and in this case illogical. It also demonstrates a certain sensitivity or underlying inferiority complex on your end.
    Your kid is a doctor,researcher, and clearly accomplished before he step foot at Wharton. If anything his is one of the least prestigious awards he received. Maybe take a look at the whole list before commenting….there are people who aren’t even going to a top tier firm in their industry…..
    I graduated last year and know many of these students through undergrad/grad school, work, friends, classmates of classmates etc.
    Soap box getting sorta flimsy over here in Cambridge-have a good one sir

  • Jake fester

    Also-congrats on your son winning the award – I’m assuming it took into account graduating with honors etc (quality brag though and much congrats). I’m not commenting about the Wharton award, I’m commenting on this list. Just because your son won another award does not in a way contradict what I wrote previously. Nor am I saying these are not accomplished folks -that’s obvious-just saying I know of at least 15 people on this list (personally) that are nowhere close to the “best and brightest” MBAs at their school.
    This is a faculty or “student leader” (very weird to be 28 and want to be student body president at your professional school) nominated award. It’s like in grade school when the teacher really liked hat straight laced kid who tried hard and seemed perfect….that’s not best and brightest. (Again also doesn’t mean your son is not, just that the list criteria and selection is a joke – sounds like your kid would have been on any list though).
    Congrats to you

  • Jake fester

    Soooo, I’m not sure if you are familiar with academia, but the members of senior leadership tend to also be members of the faculty. The registrars office, for instance did not come up with this list. Thanks for playing

  • Jake fester

    Nah man. Actually have a much better job. Makes much more sense to be writing given that case not a case where this individual had achieved more. That common sense. But thanks for playing

  • D Fajgenbaum

    Sound as though you are last in your class and you can’t get a job- jealousy is a terrible thing.
    My son is actually one of the top students and you need to read all of their achievements before you spout off.
    The Wharton Award was based on the students vote and had nothing to do with the faculty-

  • JohnAByrne

    In most cases, the nominees did not come from the faculty–but from the school’s senior leadership and/or decisions by the student leaders of the class. Each person had to submit a fairly detailed nomination form–only a fraction of which is presented here–along with a recommendation to be chosen. Than those were evaluated and brought down to just 50 grads. Hardly lazy.

  • Jake fester

    Everyone who went there which is literally tens of thousands of people. Also anyone who cares about journalism and thinks articles should be edited and checked for errors

  • Jake fester

    This is dumb. Poet and quants just asked professors. Hate to break it to you professors are still biased in business school and pick their favorite students not necessarily those with most potential.
    I go to one of these schools and the people you chose are not exceptional unless being the biggest sycophant at the school is exceptional -maybe it is. You sure as ever did not ask the students to pick an individual when compiling this list. What lazy journalism.

  • Rich Eagleton

    coveted position in investment banking–wow–he made to be bid time–lol

  • Rich Eagleton

    who cares

  • Virginia Scanlan

    Unfortunately, most women are ready for an MBA at the same time that they have to get serious about having a family, if they want one. You cannot delay pregnancy forever, or you are asking for trouble. That may affect enrollment in MBA programs.

  • Bro

    By the way it’s The University of Notre Dame………not Notre Dame University.