The Stereotype-Defying MBAs In The Class of 2018

IE Business School's María de Gregorio Verdejo

IE Business School’s María de Gregorio Verdejo

The 2018 class also comes with its share of big personalities who aren’t afraid to share their deepest fears or stare down death in some cases. IE Business School’s María de Gregorio Verdejo doesn’t shy away from admitting her biggest fear: dogs. “The smallest Chihuahua looks like Chewbacca to me,” she quips. Northwestern’s Daniel Flatley also keeps a secret. “I have got to be the only fighter pilot that is terrified of heights,” he says. Perhaps he could spend an afternoon with the University of Chicago’s Andrew Shigeo Janiszewski, a competitive skydiver and free-fall parachuting instructor in college. By the same token, New York University’s Ricardo Aldrey has rappelled down high rises over 100 times, while Cornell’s Alicia Jane Flanagan, a Coast Guard officer, has logged more than 100 open-water dives across three continents

Consistent with business students before them, the Class of 2018 is entering the classroom from channels outside of such traditional fields as consulting, finance, and marketing. Notably, many MBAs have developed a taste for politics and public service. At Northwestern, for example, you’ll find Justin Rosenthal, who formerly headed strategy and operations for the Obama Foundation. His classmate, Ladini Jayaratne, was a former special advisor to the Secretary of Labor and was responsible for an LGBT display that was picked up by the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. Across town, the University of Chicago’s Randy Paris worked in the White House personnel office, where he helped launched its Nation of Makers program. Beyond the Beltway, Duke’s Lloyd Grant Patterson is a Top Gun graduate and an F/A-18 pilot. Less splashy, but equally important: As a senior economist at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Notre Dame’s Bradley Egbert, an analytics wizard, reformed traffic forecasting models for an operation that generates billions in revenue annually.


University of Toronto's Daphne Hemily

University of Toronto’s Daphne Hemily

Others left their mark in the non-profit sector before entering business school. At Doctors Without Borders, the University of Toronto’s Daphne Hemily successfully orchestrated the handover of a hospital project in South Sudan that served nearly 50,000 patients. The process, in Hemily’s words, “included negotiations with four United Nations Organizations, nine NGOs, national, state and municipal government officials, community leaders and militia.” At a local level, Duke’s Hannah Rose Ford left a safe position at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to take over fundraising efforts at the D.C. Youth Orchestra Program, which was facing closure. The result? She led a 120% rise in giving, enabilng the organization to add new programs, and increas student enrollment.

In fact, the Class of 2018 tended to make an impact wherever they went. IE Business School’s María de Gregorio Verdejo spearheaded the development of a diagnostic tool for detecting and staging neuroendrocrine tumours. Not only did it improve patient lives, but the effort made her hospital a leader in oncology. Before entering Wharton, Adwoa Konadu Perbi founded AfroChic, Ghana’s first successful online clothing retailer. Despite inherent disadvantages, such as limited internet penetration and a lack of clothing sizing standards, she beat the odds —and did it “without cutting corners, paying bribes or evading taxes.” Perbi wasn’t the only successful entrepreneur. The University of Michigan’s Aaron Wolff co-founded Chalkfly in 2012, which quickly grew to a $10 million dollar firm that was named one of the 15 “Best Startups to Work for in America” by Business Insider a year later. Even more, the University of Toronto’s Haolin Zhang forged a charity partnership between Wal-Mart and Mars that both increased sales by 15% and resulted in over 280,000 meals being delivered to children in poor areas of China.

As a whole, you could also describe the 2018 class as pacesetters. At Gatorade, Northwestern’s Nicki Granadier was the driving force behind one of Major League Baseball’s first virtual reality games, where fans actually experienced taking 90 mph pitches in a packed stadium. The University of Toronto’s Rashi Kakkar was the first woman hired by Total Sports Asia, where her success in executing strategy and building partnerships broke down stereotypes and led to more women being hired by the organization. Along with their pioneering spirit, they were also risk-takers. Before he enrolled at Ross, Eric Hwang would slip around military checkpoints so he could bring North Korean refugees to the United States. At the same time, New York University’s Christopher Larsen was so committed to his mission that he returned to the U.S. Army to lead his company after spending two years in-and-out of hospitals from being wounded.


When it comes to the basic stats, many MBA programs are still finalizing their class profiles. However, two trends have carried over from the previous year. First, more women are attending the top business schools than ever before. At Harvard, for example, a record 43% of the 2018 class will consist of women. Wharton experienced a 1% increase to 44%, while the University of Chicago held steady at an impressive 42% rate. While the percentage of women in Northwestern’s 2018 class fell by two percentage points, the school’s 41% rate is still higher than nearly every other MBA program in the United States and beyond. At Cornell, the percentage of women rose an impressive five points, from 26% to 31%, as well. Early returns further show that GMAT scores could be leveling off. Harvard’s 2018 Class boasts the same 730 median GMAT as their second-year peers, with Booth gaining a point and Wharton losing a point (ending up at 731 and 726 respectively). Two noticeable differences: Kellogg’s average GMATs rose from 724 to 728, while NYU’s dropped from 720 to 710.

Yale's Nate Milcon

Yale’s Nate Micon


For students in the Class of 2018, school choice was both strategic and personal. It reflected their deepest values as much as their career aspirations. For Bradley Egbert, Notre Dame’s mission resonated with his desire to make a bigger difference as much as a higher salary. “At Mendoza,” he says, “they want to do more than just educate and gather people who are good at business – they want to help people use business to change the world and make a difference in communities. This isn’t something they simply talk about, it is evident in the people they recruit and in the classes they offer – it’s something they actually do.” Likewise, Nate Micon connected with Yale’s worldview and culture. “It was clear from SOM’s mission statement (“Educating leaders for business and society”) that the school focused broadly on cultivating leaders who understand the intersection of today’s issues and who think globally.”

The spirit of a school often manifested itself in its academics, an underrated criterion for incoming MBAs. That was the big draw of the University of Virginia for Kyle Collins, a trained engineer and former Deloitte consultant. “The school places an incredibly strong emphasis on teaching quality,” he explains, “which came out in every conversation I had with professors.” Despite initial skepticism about the case method, watching it live cemented Collins’ decision. “Sitting in on a class quickly made me realize that no other format mimics real world business scenarios as effectively and encourages such energetic in-class discussions.”

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