Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class of 2018

Members of the Class of 2018 at MIT's Sloan School of Management

Members of the Class of 2018 at MIT’s Sloan School of Management

The MIT community lives by a motto: Mens et Manus. Translated, it means “mind and hand.” This ideal is the guiding force behind the Sloan School of Management. Here, knowledge isn’t the end. It is the means to make a larger contribution. It is a call to engage, create, expand, and refine. Perhaps the school seal represents it best: the anvil forges the book as much as the book perfects the anvil.

This philosophy was particularly appealing to Sloan’s incoming first years, a class of risk-takers with a penchant for creating something from nothing. Ben Funk, who focused on social impact as a senior consultant at Deloitte, personifies this spirit in the 2018 Class. His personal motto — “I dream; I build. I think; I do.” —is an extension of Mens et Manus. At Sloan, he hopes to take his career to the next level through the program’s emphasis on thinking and doing.

“I wanted to bring it outside the classroom and into the real world, where I could test ideas under the guidance and support of smart and experienced professors and peers,” he explains. “Sloan provides its students with the technical skills and deep functional knowledge necessary to bring breakthrough ideas to light, while simultaneously encouraging them to experiment and put their knowledge to the test. I don’t think any other program is as geared towards action, and I came looking to do something special.”

At Sloan, Funk will certainly get this shot to turn ideas into action and theory into practice. Case in point: Action Learning Labs, where students team up with leading organizations like PepsiCo, Amazon, Nike, and Oracle. Working in multidisciplinary teams, Sloan students often spend 1-3 weeks on site with company leaders to develop strategies, innovate processes, and commercialize solutions. Overall, students can pick from 15 labs, including ones dedicated to analytics, global entrepreneurship, sustainable businesses, healthcare, and operations (along with labs focused on doing business in nations like China, Israel, and India). Students can even take more than one lab, which act as added internships to help them translate classroom learning, develop hands-on experience, and build networks.

“THE WORLD IS MOVING TOWARDS TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION AND SLOAN EXCELS IN BOTH AREAS”

This action-based philosophy, which pervades every corner of the Sloan curriculum, sealed the deal for Camila Zacharias, an engineer-turned-consultant. “At Sloan, you are able to engage with for-profit and non-profit organizations around the world, and help tackle real-life business problems.” she says.

MIT Sloan School of Management professor of tech innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic management Benjamin Roin teaching class - Ethan Baron photo

MIT Sloan School of Management professor of tech innovation, entrepreneurship, and strategic management Benjamin Roin teaching class – Ethan Baron photo

Zacharias also adds that program mirrors the global and collaborative nature of business. “I have lived and worked my entire life in Chile. I wanted to be part of a program that really fostered cross communication and collaboration among students. Through the entire Sloan curriculum, you work in team projects, constantly engaging with students from all over the world and with the most diverse experiences. Working in multidisciplinary teams is something I seek through the MBA, because diversity invites different perspectives and uncovers blind spots.”

Such sentiments may be a surprise coming from students arriving at the prototype engineering school. If you look deeper, Sloan weaves the very best aspects of MIT’s engineering roots, which prize rigorous analysis, experimentation, and pushing boundaries, into a powerhouse curriculum driven by experiential, team-based learning. That pitch resonated with Juan Ignacio Bazet, an Argentine who worked in engineering, project management, and logistics before hitting the States.

“A Sloan alumni told me what I needed to hear to be convinced of my decision: “The world is moving towards technology and innovation and Sloan excels in both areas,” he shares. “I love the fact that MIT and Sloan are so well connected and involved with each other, pushing frontiers on science and technology. Tackling the most difficult problems out there is not an easy task. Solutions come to life when you can convert science and technology into a feasible business, and MIT Sloan enhances a culture driven by this passion.”

FIRST YEAR GETS A CALL FROM THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION

MIT’s engineering stereotype certainly doesn’t apply to the Class of 2018, however. Forget dour and detached and think sprite and stirring. Kasmira Pawa, for one, takes pride in her heritage as a “proud Canadian with a passion for inspiring concrete change.” Kate Hanford, who collects sugar packets from around the world, fits the Sloan ethos as an “extroverted introvert obsessed with finding ways to make big ideas happen.” At the same time, Anum Hussain channels her inner Harry Potter in describing herself: “I’m the not-as-brilliant but just as annoying, Ravenclaw version of Hermione. Beyoncé is my patronus.”

Want to know who’ll suffer the worst case of FOMO at Sloan? Put your money on Diego Grove, the embodiment of a multitasker. “As one of the best men said as he was giving a speech at my wedding,” he jokes, “no one even noticed that while I was getting married, sharing the day with my wife, family and friends I was also writing, giving a speech, working and probably even spending time at another wedding.” Will Sripakdeevong is undoubtedly the risk taker, after quitting her job to open a restaurant…without knowing how to cook.

MIT Sloan School of Management - Ethan Baron photo

MIT Sloan School of Management – Ethan Baron photo

Looking for the best story from the class? How about this from Pawa: “I once led a project organizing an LED light display visible from space, and received a call on my cellphone from an astronaut on the International Space Station right before the flyover.” That said, you’d be hard-pressed to top the foibles of Estefanía de Sosa Cadete, a Coca-Cola media manager whose already suffered through her 15 minutes of fame. By her third trip to the World Cap, she had caught the soccer bug. To avoid being recognized by her soccer “fanatic” friends, she donned a “mask and a white and light blue wig.” As luck would have it, several photographers snapped her picture and she became an overnight sensation including being featured in a TV ad and the official FIFA app. To add insult to injury, her friends figured out that she was behind the mask too.

REORGANIZING MULTINATIONALS AND LAUNCHING ACCELERATORS IN KENYA

The Sloan class of 2018 is also as accomplished as it is entertaining. As an attorney, Eugenio González De Peña was part of Chilean history, helping to navigate the daunting regulatory barriers involved in a Chilean financial acquiring an American bank — the first deal of its kind. Zacharias once re-designed the organizational model for a 6,000-person multinational, a job that required her to become an expert in every aspect of the operation. Her work was so impressive that she was chosen to present the new model to the company CEO, despite her relative inexperience. It was a good choice too, as the CEO went along with her recommendations. At the same time, Grove oversaw a portfolio that outperformed his Latin American peers in nearly every measure — all while developing two startups, planning a wedding, and applying to MBA programs (His best man was right!).

Others followed the “hand” portion of Sloan’s motto in their careers. In Uganda, Hanford launched a business accelerator from scratch — one that has grown to include 21 companies over the past two years. “All but one of the companies are still in operation, and have collectively raised over USD $5 million dollars in funding,” she proudly notes. Husain joined a startup in 2014, which required her to build a content marketing operation with “exactly zero examples within the tech industry.” Six months later, she had built a “content presence” that generated 1,000 new users per week, eventually building a five member team to scale her efforts.

The class also boasts plenty of stories of persistence.  Sripakdeevong, for example, spent her savings on a food cart, an investment that initially faltered. “We didn’t even have enough to pay for rent and were on the verge of closing down. Yet, I promised myself to push on until the very last day…and literally on the very last day of our lease, we secured a deal with Whole Foods!” This cart has since evolved into a restaurant serving authentic Thai food, with her desserts being sold at Whole Foods and Roche Bros supermarkets.  de Sosa Cadete also made a major transition, going from finance to marketing? How? She paid her dues, learning what she could from intranet modules and volunteering for marketing projects. Eventually, she was given her shot, which culminated in overseeing all Coca-Cola media campaigns in Argentina, one of the company’s most lucrative markets.

APPLICATIONS JUMP 25% (AS GMATs RISE 8 POINTS)

Impressed? Potential applicants sure are! Applications to Sloan jumped from 4,254 in 2014-2015 to 5,707 in 2015-2016, a whopping 25.5% increase. What does this mean? For one, it is harder to get admitted into Sloan than ever!  Just do the math: With 1,450 more applications and just 7 more students, Sloan may now be as difficult to being accepted into as Harvard School this year!

In a June interview with Poets&Quants, Dawna Levenson, the school’s admissions director, attributed this increase to shortening the essay portion to one question, extending its application deadline, and beefing up its social media presence. No doubt, the school’s outcomes played a part, with the school reporting that average starting pay had climbed to $146,201 with the 2015 Class — higher than contemporaries like Stanford, Booth, and Kellogg.

Pay isn’t the only number rising at Sloan. There is a saying at the school that ‘past performance is a predictor for future success.’ By that measure, the Class of 2018 is destined to be historic in nature. For one, average GMAT scores rose from 716 to 724. To put that number in context, the average score was 711 five years ago, meaning the caliber of classmates is rising as acceptance rates are falling — a tell-tale sign of a healthy program. That said, average GPAs did slip from 3.6 to 3.5 in the past year, as did the percentage of women (41% vs. 40%). By the same token, the percentage of international students went up a point to 39%, while the number of underrepresented American minorities rose four points to 15%.

Go to second page to see 12 profiles of incoming MIT students.