Meet The Duke Fuqua MBA Class of 2017

Members of the Class of 2017 at Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

Members of the Class of 2017 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

You could call it the ranking heard ‘round the world. Last November, Bloomberg Businessweek released its business school rankings. And they left the traditional powers speechless. Buoyed by second place scores in the employer survey and intellectual capital, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business climbed five spots to rank as the top full-time MBA program.

Indeed, Fuqua had arrived on the big stage. But it was hardly a surprise. Fuqua had long been a darling among candidates, set apart by a value-based curriculum that prizes team, diversity, and leadership above all else. While applicants choose Fuqua for this culture, they don’t truly appreciate the difference until they arrive for class. That was the case with Juan Mangiarotti, an Argentine who was most recently a senior brand executive at Philip Morris International. He came to Fuqua in August to be both “a better professional and a better person.”  For him, the class composition has been an eye-opener.

“It’s only been a few weeks, but my life’s already been changed significantly. I’m meeting people from all over the world. My study group has a Japanese girl who was a TV correspondent, a Bosnian refugee who did business consulting, an accountant from Kazakhstan, a US Marine Veteran who worked in tech, and a Canadian musical theater producer. My ultimate goal before graduation is to learn from their stories (and from my other classmates), and to have a broader perspective on life so I can become a better citizen of the world.”


Fuqua’s mission is to graduate “leaders of consequence.” And this starts with an admissions process that peels back the layers to discover the real applicant – their character and foibles as much as their intellectual horsepower and purpose. That was the impetus behind the school’s famed 25 fun facts essay question. According to Liz Riley Hargrove, Fuqua’s associate dean for admissions, building a class that fits with the school’s traditionally close-knit, collaborative spirit requires both design and extra effort.

Liz Riley Hargrove

Liz Riley Hargrove

“The incoming Duke MBA – Daytime class represents one of the most selective classes in Fuqua’s history,” she tells Poets&Quants. “Over the past year, the admissions team conducted more than 250 recruiting events, in 78 cities around the globe, hosted more than 5,000 visitors on campus and conducted more than 2,500 admissions interviews!  While we received approximately the same number of applications to the Daytime MBA program, we saw a significant improvement in the overall quality of our applicants.”

Hargrove acknowledges that such improvement required “painful” decisions. However, she was pleased with the end result. “This year’s admissions cycle improved all of the quality indicators we define as important to our culture (diversity, yield, work experience, leadership potential, selectivity and average GMAT). The first year class has fantastic energy, and we are thoroughly enjoying the process of getting to know them.”


This year, Fuqua received 3,454 applications, a nearly identical total to the previous class. This yielded a 450 member class (up 10 students from the 2016 class), with a 23% acceptance rate (down 2% from the previous year). “The yield on offers extended increased 5 percentage points over 2014,” adds Hargrove. “Our selectivity also improved by two percentage points (to 23% from 25%).”

The incoming class also averaged a 696 GMAT (up six points from the previous class) and a 3.4 average GPA (down slightly from 3.43 last year). Scores in middle 80% percentile ranged from 640-750 for the GMAT to 3.0-3.8 for the undergraduate GPA.

However, the numbers are only part of the story. “In regards to our average GMAT,” adds Hargrove, “we made the choice years ago to look at a candidate more holistically than a test score alone. We are looking for people who will fit within our culture and have demonstrated a passion that business can be a positive force in the world and individual lives. Thus, we more heavily weigh those types of leadership qualities than a test score alone. We believe this strategy has paid off and has made us the school we are today: Building the kind of leader who can bring people who are very different together to work for a common purpose. There is no doubt our students have high intellectual capabilities and competencies, but we don’t believe those skills alone guarantee the impact we expect our graduates to exert in their companies and the world.”

The 2017 Class also includes a higher percentage of women, 36% compared to 34% in 2016. Fuqua also points out that it saw a 10 point increase in average GMATs among female applicants, with women receiving 30% more in scholarships this year. International students, who hail from 48 different countries, account for 38% of the class. Another 19% of the class consists of American minorities, with the percentage of underrepresented minorities climbing from 7% to 11%. Academically, nearly a third of the class (32%) earned undergraduate degrees in engineering and natural sciences. Business and accounting majors represent another 27% of the class, followed by liberal arts (22%), economics (14%), and other (5%). The class also averages five years of work experience.

Go to next page to access student profiles of this year’s incoming class.

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