Our Favorite MBAs Of 2015

UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian (far left) and second-year MBA student, Devon Dickau pose with the ally pledge banner at Anderson's Awareness Week. Courtesy photo

UCLA Anderson Dean Judy Olian (far left) and second-year MBA student, Devon Dickau pose with the ally pledge banner at Anderson’s Awareness Week. Courtesy photo

5. Devon Dickau, UCLA Anderson School of Management

Like Lee, Devon Dickau also makes our list for leading an important social conversation—the life of an LGBT student at a B-school. Since arriving on UCLA’s campus last year, Dickau has made it his personal vendetta to change stereotypes surrounding what it’s like to be a gay business leader.

And his leadership took hold this year. Alongside Anderson’s LGBTQ student group, Out@Anderson and UCLA’s LGBT Campus Resource Center, Dickau helped lead a week-long celebration of inclusiveness. All of Anderson’s columns were wrapped in different colors. Dean Judy Olian pledged to continue to improve Anderson’s inclusiveness and support of LGBTQ students, staff and faculty.

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Long-time friends, veterans (L-R) Brian Smith, Matt Beaudette, and Ben Allen

4. Brian Smith (Harvard Business School), Matt Beaudette (Harvard Business School) and Ben Allen (The Wharton School)

The trio lands on our list in the same position because since 2003, they’ve done quite a bit together. They met in 2003 at the Naval Academy and instantly became friends. Upon graduation in 2007, the trio—all now Navy lieutenants—were deployed around the globe.

Despite the distance, the three remained close through emails and phone calls. They made it a priority to see one another when home from deployment. Throughout the seven years before starting the application process for their MBAs, they discussed grad school options.

The three worked through the application process together—flexing the muscles of veteran student organizations at both Wharton and Harvard. All in their first year of B-school, the friends plan on using their relationship to forge networking opportunities between the two powerhouse schools they represent.

Haas MBA student Katie Benintende in front of school marketing posters - Ethan Baron photo

Haas MBA student Katie Benintende in front of school marketing posters – Ethan Baron photo

3. Katie Benintende, UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

When Katie Benintende arrived on the campus of UC-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business in 2013, she was surprised by the small percentage of women in her class. Women composed just 29% women of the incoming MBAs that year—a decline from the previous year when women represented 32% of the class. Berkeley is supposed to be progressive. This didn’t look like progress to Benintende. So she set out to do something about it.

Benintende formed a group with other women (and two men) concerned about Berkeley’s low percentage of women. They contacted influential women alums. They met with Dean Richard Lyons. They attended admissions events themselves to recruit top women applicants. The result? A turbocharged change to the school’s gender-parity. The class of 2016 had 43% women.

Benintende makes our list for being instrumental in an important shift at Berkeley Haas.

Addie Ogunwale , daughter of Nigerian immigrant, gave the student address at HBS Class Day

Addie Ogunwale , daughter of Nigerian immigrant, gave the student address at HBS Class Day

2. Addie Ogunwole, Harvard Business School

Adeola Ogunwole is a self-proclaimed “bohemian idealist.” She’s also “a woman of color, Southerner and lesbian.” And she was chosen to address Harvard Business School’s 908 graduating MBAs at the school’s Class Day last spring. Before arriving on the Boston campus, Ogunwole had pieced together a hodgepodge of dead-end professional experiences. She wasn’t the typical uber-successful Harvard MBA.

In fact, she didn’t even want to apply to HBS, she explains in her 13-minute speech. The reason she did so was because of the encouragement from a mentor. “Nothing about my background or ambitions spoke to a Harvard Business School pedigree,” the daughter of Nigerian immigrants said.

Ogunwole describes her Harvard experience and how different it was from what she expected and how the Harvard MBA will guide her future endeavors.

1) Kevin Bentley, Rice University Jones Graduate School of BusinessBentley Sitting in the Snow

Few stories are more inspirational than Kevin Bentley’s. He grew up being bussed 45 minutes from inner city Los Angeles to the predominately-white Ambler Magnet School. He spent all day in an atmosphere where he didn’t particularly fit in and went home where he also didn’t fit in, unable to “speak slang.” But he always pictured himself in a three-piece suit running the show at a huge business.

In high school, he tragically lost his brother in a gang-related murder. At the time, Bentley also learned he could excel both in a classroom and on a football field. Using football as the means to a college education, Bentley played at Northwestern University, where he made the Big 10’s All Academic Team four straight years.

After more than a decade in the NFL, which he describes as a detour from his MBA destiny, and a stint as a snowboard instructor at Vail, Colorado, Bentley applied to business school. He ultimately chose Rice over Columbia Business School and Chicago Booth and in August he began a career at Infosys.

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