Business 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.”
THIS YEAR’S CROP OF THE BEST GRADUATING MBAS INCLUDE 57 WOMEN
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&Quants’ Top 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.
WHITE HOUSE STAFFERS, SUBMARINE COMMANDERS AND PEACE CORPS VOLUNTEERS
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)