The Best & Brightest MBAs In The Class of 2016

Some of our best & brightest MBA graduates of 2016

Some of our best & brightest MBA graduates of 2016

Best of 2016Business schools are known for “rock star” professors. But Professor Trip Davis of Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business never imagined he’d have a real rocker among his students. In his first class with Peter Mathias, Davis assumed he was dealing with a “harsh analyst,” due to Mathias’ serious manner and pointed questions. Little did he know that Mathias was actually the drummer for Filligar, a decorated alternative rock band that had opened for Counting Crows and traveled the globe as a cultural ambassador for the U.S. State Department.

Notwithstanding marathon tours and recording sessions, the past two years have been a wild journey for Mathias, who’ll graduate from Tuck this spring with his younger brother Johnny, Filligar’s lead singer and guitarist. In fact, Peter Mathias admits that he returned to Hanover with “virtually no business mechanics, only instincts.” “I saw the limits of venture building through trial and error, admits Mathias, who spent two years growing a record label before starting business school. “I wanted to learn business from the best and brightest faculty, the equivalent to training with a master musician rather than trying to teach myself.”

And his choice quickly paid dividends. Last summer, Mathias was tapped to dispense media strategy advice to CEOs at BMG and Penguin Random House. In the process, he developed an interactive music app (Heartstring), all while working toward a master’s degree in public administration from Harvard. For Mathias, the Tuck MBA was no different than musical bars that hold melodies together. “I have come to believe that the scarcest resource on Earth is someone else’s attention. Business school’s biggest lesson has been what to do with that attention once you have it.”


Grabbing attention won’t be an issue for Poets&Quants’ Best and Brightest MBAs. In fact, you could describe this year’s recipients as the rock stars of their own classes.  Amid never-ending demands, these second years were the ones who were always available to organize events, tutor peers, and recruit future students. They were leaders, volunteers and problem-solvers, who started conversations, challenged conventions, rallied peers, and inspired change. Lauded for their passion, ingenuity, and humility, they were tagged with labels like the “cream of the crop” and the “total package.” Lauding the University of Texas’ Stephen de Man, one of his professors said, “It is not a matter of whether he will reach his goals, as much as when he will reach them.” And that bold prediction could easily apply to the other graduates who comprise the Best and Brightest in the Class of 2016, our second annual roster of the year’s exceptional graduating MBAs.

By the numbers, this year’s class could be a case study in diversity. Some 57 of the 100 members were women – a milestone considering how women traditionally represent a third of their MBA classes. They hail from 53 different MBA programs globally, representing nearly every school in Poets&QuantsTop 25 American and Top 10 International business programs (only Harvard Business School and HEC Paris declined to participate). Nearly a third (32) of the best and brightest were born overseas, with graduates found everywhere from the blustery plains of Mitchell, South Dakota, to the coastal bustle of Dar es Salaam in Tanzania.


Not only that, but the best and brightest are nearly impossible to categorize. They embraced business school from every corner of life–not merely Wall Street, the global consulting firms or the Fortune 500. Some started in public service. Jessica Davlin returned to Duke after working in the White House on cybersecurity issues. The University of Wisconsin’s Angie Peltzer devoted seven years to fighting child labor and human trafficking at the U.S. Department of Labor. Two graduates – Wharton’s Steve Weiner, and MIT’s Brian Kirk – drove submarines before becoming MBAs. Cornell Tech’s Ian Folau earned a Bronze Star for his work as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. And UCLA’s Britney Sussman orchestrated more than a dozen meetings between business executives and senior Obama administration officials at the 2012 Democratic Convention.

Others made a difference through social enterprise. INSEAD’s Tan Wenyou cut prison recidivism in Singapore by training ex-offenders to become entrepreneurs. London Business School’s Tom Vanneste partnered with Vodafone to finance a new maternity hospital in Tanzania. Duke’s Libby McFarlane established a nonprofit to provide mental health care to survivors of the 2015 Nepal earthquake. At Teach For America, Wharton’s Ami Patel launched a charter school in New York City and authored its writing curriculum. And the UC-Berkeley’s Dan Fishman helped to raise more than $35 million for San Antonio schools.

Of course, many also bring colorful tales to the table. Southern Methodist’s Jean Perez, who interned at JP Morgan, went into the seminary after his undergraduate years. Vanderbilt’s Dustin Rohrer, a future Bain consultant, once ran a recording studio and played drums for four American Idol contestants. The University of Washington’s Emily Claire Palmer relied on Kickstarter to fund her band’s final album. And her classmate, Becky See, bounced from being a Peace Corps volunteer to improv comic to food stamp recipient to investment fund manager…in Kyrgyzstan.

Next Page: Top employers and average student debt and financial aid for the Best and Brightest (100 student profiles to follow)

  • Dealied86

    MBA is a very good for students, these students receive higher salary, it has many better career opportunities for the students, these students can get networking opportunities, it is new skill and knowledge acquisition. it is best education for future students.

  • Ameng

    MBA is a very good for students, these students receive higher salary, it has many better career opportunities for the students, these students can get networking opportunities, it is new skill and knowledge acquisition. it is best education for future students.

  • Question

    Does this list reflect those students complete their business studies/graduate off-cycle (such as in December)? If so, when are those people nominated by their administrators?

  • Tim Akin

    UC Davis is happy to participate, however I do not believe we were contacted, though our UC b-school brethren were included. We have many outstanding grads who are going to top firms, and our placement rate outshines several peers.

  • Glad this article got the fact that women are in majority when it comes to top performers at top MBA programs. Good read!

  • A lot of these folks were contacted a few months ago. So many of them at this point are most likely committed to jobs.

  • R2D2

    Really.. Very different experience for me. Two of them just graduated with me, and they had many offers. Those two and many others

  • M7unimpressed

    Knowing two of these people personally, that is NOT the case for either of them.

  • R2D2

    If you are on this list, you are trying to decide what offer to take. They are literally “deciding”.

  • Marie Smith

    Definitely interested to hear this, I can think of some exceptional MBAs in those schools. There are quality UK schools missing that rank higher than the U.S. ones globally, so I hope they had a chance to participate.

  • Sheryle Dirks

    M7 unimpressed, I should have referenced that I work at Duke’s Fuqua School in the career center, which provides context for my remark.

  • Sheryle Dirks

    From a career perspective, there are industries broadly and organizations specifically that hire on a just-in-time basis, and many of these types of employers are experiencing growing interest among MBAs. Examples include start-ups across sectors, media, sports, entertainment, private equity, and social impact among others. While on-campus recruiting still serves as a primary and early channel for many MBAs to secure their first post-graduation position, it is not the only path to a great MBA job.

  • MBA-Watch

    C. Taylor,

    Good day. I would like to have your view on IMD MBA program with the changes in the last two years. The school will be led by new president next year, an INSEAD professor, do you think he will increase the class size? what impact will he bring to the school? will it be smooth for the german IMD MBA director to easily get along with him? 🙂

  • C. Taylor

    Did IMD, AGSM, CEIBS, HK-UST, and/or Manchester participate?

  • Jeff Schmitt

    To the contrary:..Many are confident enough in their abilities to wait for the right opportunity. Also, some graduates in the “To Be Decided” category were still weighing their options as of our cut off date of March 25th. Thanks for weighing in. I wondered the same thing initially.

  • M7unimpressed

    Quite a few “To be decided” here. Must really be the best and brightest to graduate without a job.

  • JohnAByrne

    Yes, the story makes clear that only two schools declined to participate ans HBS was one of them. There was not merely an email request but significant follow-up. Like every school, it does award outstanding graduates at commencement and didn’t want to take away from that. We certainly tried and are disappointed in their refusal to help.

  • Question

    I assume, perhaps incorrectly, that HBS did not respond to the request email for this story.