The Best & Brightest MBAs In The Class of 2016


P&Q Best and Brightest


To produce our list, Poets&Quants reached out to 62 leading full-time MBA programs worldwide. Each school was asked to submit up to four nominations for students “who exemplify the best of your program” – with P&Q asking administrators to take into account “academic prowess, extracurricular involvement, personal excellence, or…a striking personal narrative.” Schools received extensive questionnaires for nominees to outline their academic and professional accomplishments, extracurricular involvement, along with sharing their experiences such as their favorite classes, best advice, and where they’ll be working after graduation. Schools also were asked to include a faculty or staff recommendation to provide deeper insight into each student’s impact.

P&Q received 197 submissions in March and April, with P&Q staff evaluating each nomination, paying careful attention to such areas as demonstrated leadership, tangible achievements, and insightfulness.  Our objective was threefold. First, we wanted to recognize many of the top graduating MBAs for their excellence (along with those who helped them along the way). Second, we hoped to expose future MBAs to what it takes to become a stellar MBA student, along with sharing some of the big takeaways they gained (which will be covered in a series of articles over the summer). Finally, we wanted to humanize these graduates as they head out to become the next generation of C-suite players, startup founders, angel investors, and social entrepreneurs.


That exhaustive process led to an extraordinary and promising group of young professionals. It also showed that the 2016 class truly came into its own once they arrived on campus. At the height of  racial tensions, Duke’s Reggie Benbow stepped forward to organize a day of solidarity, along with dialogues between students on differences related to race, gender, and sexual orientation. The University of Virginia’s Jean-Marie Menga used his Project Einstein platform to donate educational supplies to his native Cameroon, including a 66-seat school bus. At the London Business School, Tarana Shivdasani founded LBS For London, which harnessed nearly 1,000 volunteer hours from the school that produced new playgrounds and gardens around London.

At the same time, Vikram Arumilli applied the leadership lessons he honed from being fantasy football league commissioner to successfully rejuvenate the Wharton India Economic Forum (WIEF) – with the added complication of events being held in two different countries. UCLA’s Maeghan Rouch quadrupled the attendance at Anderson’s Women’s Leadership Summit from 125 to 500 attendees in just one year. To help her female peers acclimate themselves to male-dominated conversations, the University of Maryland’s Allison Davern  introduced an entertaining “Get Confident Series,” which explored such activities as“golf, sports, gambling and spirits.”

The best and brightest also enjoyed more quietly satisfying victories. Oxford’s Halla Koppel, an actress who’ll join Goldman Sachs after graduation, gave birth to a girl during her first week of school (at a one-year program, no less). Alas, Koppel has already scaled four of the world’s seven highest mountains, so childbirth didn’t faze her a bit. Imogen Aelwen Roberts recruited Reese Witherspoon to speak at Vanderbilt, while Wyatt Batchelor leveraged his Columbia Business School ties to meet leaders like David Petraeus, Paul Volcker, Mike Krzyzewski and Tom Brokaw. Canadian Marie-Renée B-Lajoie, an emergency physician before entering INSEAD, published two research papers during her stay that served as “the basis of the new guidelines for the treatment of individuals with HIV for the World Health Organization.” Washington University’s Allison Campbell won a marketing job at Walmart after her internship project, an event execution playbook, was implemented across the company’s 4,500 stores. The University of Iowa’s Kyle Wehr earned the equivalent of an MBA-and-a-half credit-wise – and carried a perfect GPA to boot.


Not surprisingly, these celebrated graduates were in high demand in one of the hottest MBA markets ever. Overall, they landed with 55 different employers. McKinsey and Deloitte hold bragging rights here, with each snagging six graduates from the best and brightest. Another 15 graduates had yet not chosen an employer, while seven others planned to work at their own startups. In terms of internships, 45 graduates are heading back to the company where they spent their previous summer, compared to 25 who’ve chosen a different employer (Another 30 graduates were launching a startup, hadn’t completed an internship, or were still weighing their options). However, the hallmark of this group is their willingness to change. Among students who’d landed a job, 70% were switching careers.

However, there was one area where the best and brightest were actually average: Student debt. Among students who reported debt and financial aid data, the 2016 class racked up $4.15 million collectively, for an average $42,833 debt burden per student. In fact, 33 students graduated with no debt at all, though 13 reported debt over $100K – including one unlucky graduate topping out at $250K. That’s not to say business schools weren’t generous. The best and brightest amassed $3.75 million in financial aid, for an average two-year package of $39,049 (though 18 graduates actually paid full sticker price).

You won’t find many graduates complaining, though. Just 13 admitted that they would have taken a different career path if debt wasn’t a factor (with most choosing entrepreneurship as the alternative). More strikingly, when asked to assess their MBA experience on a scale of 1-10 (with 10 being “completely exceeded expectations”), this 2016 class gave their alma maters an average score of 9.15, with 44% of students awarding perfect scores.

Next Page: The biggest lessons from the Class of 2016

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