Meet Cornell Johnson’s MBA Class of 2018

Members of Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management Class of 2018

Members of Cornell’s Johnson Graduate School of Management Class of 2018

Few business schools have undertaken a facelift like the Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University. In the past three years alone, it has folded three schools into the College of Business, launched a new campus in New York City; and rolled out a new curriculum. While this transformation may have created discomfort in some circles, it has also positioned the program to make a run at the Top 10 business schools.


The Cornell Tech campus is a testament to the school’s lofty ambitions. Currently housed in Google’s Chelsea office, the program will move to a two million square foot facility on Roosevelt Island (aka “Silicon Island”) in 2017. Just three years old, Cornell Tech features a one-year tech-driven, studio-structured curriculum. Here, MBAs operate in cross-functional teams with engineering, law, and computer science students to develop solutions for nearby tech giants. In addition, they are given the resources to commercialize their own solutions. It is the centerpiece of Johnson’s plan to gain a foothold in America’s largest market, while offering a one-year degree that prepares students to enter its fastest-growing industry.

“Our strategy is to have a major business school presence in New York,” explains Dean Soumitra Dutta in an interview with Poets&Quants. “I want the world to say that New York City has three major business schools, not two. Yet our positioning has to be different than Columbia or NYU. One differentiating feature is our integration with engineering and the other is healthcare by combining with Weill Cornell Medicine.”

Artist's rendering of Cornell Tech

Artist’s rendering of Cornell Tech, a $2 billion dollar investment between Cornell University and New York City

The program will unfold over time, with New York MBA faculty expected to grow from five to 25 faculty members over the next decade according to Dutta. In the process, the Cornell Tech and Ithaca programs will become increasingly intertwined. “On Roosevelt Island in the Bridge Building, we will use the space to give students the choice to spend a semester in New York so we will have a dual campus in the same way that INSEAD has both Fontainebleau and Singapore for its MBA program,” Dutta adds. “We cannot leave the Ithaca programs in Ithaca alone. This will make the programs stronger. And the Cornell campus in New York will reshape the skyline of the city on the east side. Cornell will get noticed.”


Getting noticed hasn’t been an issue for Johnson. Earlier this year, it made headlines for merging the Johnson Graduate School with the Dyson School of Applied Economics and the School of Hotel Administration. The move enabled the school to open channels, pool resources, and increase choices.  “The goal really is to do things that other schools would not be able to do easily,” Dutta points out in a recent interview with P&Q. “Each of the three schools bring some unique strengths. The silos inside universities are pretty high and pretty strong. Faculty don’t come together naturally, but now that they are part of the same college, there will be a natural tendency to become stronger. I am seeing that happen as faculty come together and discover things they can do that they could not do individually.”

All that doesn’t even count the revamped two-year MBA curriculum that Johnson rolled out in 2014, the result of intensive benchmarking of peer schools and candid interviews with over four dozen corporate executives and over 1,000 students and alumni. Taking their advice to heart, the program infused the core and elective courses with stronger elements of leadership, data analytics and modeling, and critical thinking — the technical, strategic, and interpersonal skills that the market demands. “What has changed is the way we are doing things,” explains Vishal Gaur, associate dean for MBA programs in a 2015 P&Q interview. “In the finance core, students were solving problems using intensive tools. Now they are actually learning how to do things in practice, how to build and use the models they will use in practice.”


Judi Byers

Judi Byers

Such progress has also made an impression on potential MBA applicants. The number of applications for the Class of 2018, for example, jumped from 1,704 to 1,960, a 13.1% increase over the previous year. Overall, the program enrolled 284 students, up from 274 for the 2017 Class. Despite this increase, the program is actually harder to get into, with the acceptance rate dropping from 32.4% to 27.3%.

The 2018 Class also scored well academically. Average GMATs climbed from 697 to 700, with average GPA remaining relatively steady (3.36 vs. 3.35 last year). The percentage of woman also went from 26% to 31% for 2018. The presence of underrepresented U.S. minorities took a similar step forward, going from 10% to 16%.

“We’re very pleased with our Class of 2018 and the diverse perspectives they bring, representing 31 countries across the globe,” says Judy Byers, the school’s executive director of admissions and financial aid. “Two-thirds of this year’s class were undergraduate majors in business, as well as the humanities and we’ve experienced a 5 percent increase in the representation women as well as students from underrepresented populations.”

Beyond business and liberal arts majors, 17% of the class studied engineering as undergrads. Economics and international studies (10%) and science (6%) majors round out the remainder of the class. Professionally, the class is extremely diverse. Like many business schools, 25% of the class come to Ithaca after working in finance. However, consultants represent less than 10% of the class, behind both tech and government and non-profit (11%). “This year’s class also includes strong increases in students with backgrounds in technology (12%), consulting experience (9%) and sports and entertainment (4%),” adds Byers. “The range of specialties reflects the varied interests of this class and aligns well with the curricular flexibility to be offered by the newly launched Cornell College of Business. Through the CCB, MBA candidates will benefit from enhanced opportunities to integrate coursework offered in other academic programs at Cornell.”


Numbers only tell a small part of the story. Based on early returns, “driven” may be the best term to describe the incoming class. Emma Etheridge, a former pole vaulter, points to“fearlessness, grit and fortitude” being central to her DNA. Germany’s Kristina Köpke is also fearless —in the best way possible. “I would say I’m not afraid to share an idea and never afraid to listen to others.” Jeff Hughes, a Missouri engineer who re-located to London, considers his curiosity to be his biggest strength. “[I’m] committed to ending each day wiser than the last,” he shares. He’ll find a soulmate in Gianne Middleton, another Londoner, who is also devoted to daily self-improvement. “I’m happily a work in progress, under consistent personal, social, academic and professional construction!”

In this year’s class, you’ll find Goldman Sachs bankers sitting next to Navy SEALs and students from Ghana studying alongside natives of Montana. Each has plenty of tasty stories to digest. William Payne was an AAU and USATF Junior Olympian. Perhaps he should take a run with Bright Botchway, a natural athlete who was able to do a half marathon without any training. Brady Reece went from being a guy who was dropped from the Cub Scouts “for failing to make a proper kite” to graduating from sniper school. Whatever you do, hide your barbecue sauce from Michele Sandidge. “From pizza to French fries to chicken fingers, I put it on everything!”

Go to next page to read 12 in-depth profiles of Class of 2018 members.

  • WizK

    This is a very strong class. Cornell is on the right path to be solid top 5 school worldwide. It has the resources, brand, and people to achieve it.

  • Fortune-500-CTO

    This is great class. Well done Cornell.

  • duckduckgoose

    I love these comments – it’s like reading College Confidential except 50% more hilarious

  • YeahTotalFraud

    Lol, I totally agree. Total fraud and who I’m convinced hasn’t attended any MBA program whatsoever. Just does these weird random semi-troll posts seemingly every article I read on here. Same thing with M7–no matter how many times you point out that it’s specific schools (H/S/W/CBS/MIT/Booth/NW) and not some arbitrary rotating group, he/she still refers to it as such. Just a sad, clueless weirdo unfortunately.

  • AgreeOrSomething

    I agree with Let’sAgreetoDisagree (lol). Also a recent grad. The #35 student satisfaction ranking was based off of the class of 2015, and indeed it was a rough year for rankings, seeming lack of direction, and even the Ithaca Commons going through delayed construction. I honestly believe that was the unfortunate lowest point Cornell’s MBA program will see (and yet still top 15).

    Now that Dutta and company are providing the vision in how this will all come together, people are starting to understand. I’m also a huge proponent of the CCB, which (as Dutta said) will empower the students with more choices and allow Cornell to differentiate itself among the myriad corporate finance & management consulting factories that are most MBA programs. And even if you want to do those things, Cornell is even stronger since you can differentiate yourself–for example, you can be a consultant and work with Dyson to specialize in corporate sustainability.

    What you will ultimately see, I believe, is an expansion AND increase in quality, much the same way Yale has been enlarging its class and faculty while at the same time rising in the rankings.

  • Let’sAgreetoDisagree

    Appreciate the truly current perspective, however I am a very recent Johnson grad and could not more strongly disagree that students are on average dissatisfied with the experience? Quite the contrary, on average the vast majority of the fellow students I interacted with were quite satisfied. Cornell is certainly making investments into the future that should pay long-term dividends. The momentum is quite positive and the comments and posts that we are reading about in these forums are as much about the future as they are about the present. Again, I value and appreciate your real-time perspective but having graduated in the last 2 years myself, just had a very different experience. Best wishes.

  • CornellJohnsonStudent

    Current Johnson student here….This is a very nice article and its easy to be optimistic about Johnson going forward… but the school’s track record of effecting large scale positive change is mixed at best.

    If the school’s improves the full time student experience via this b-school mashup, Johnson will rise in the rankings….BUT if the school continues to focus on expanding the program (i.e. two new master degrees have already been announced) & takes resources away from the full time program, Johnson will continue to drop in the rankings as the full time student experience worsens….This has shown up in the rankings. In the last business week MBA ranking the student survey ranked Johnson 35 in terms of student satisfaction (the worst of the top 20 MBA programs)….On average Johnson students are NOT happy with resources pulled away from the full time program. Time will tell how this new b-school mashup benefits the full time program, for now it’s not looking so great.

  • LameDuck

    I am a Cornell Johnson Alum and am thrilled by the efforts and momentum being put forth by the current Administration, Faculty, and Students. And while I appreciate your comments on the one hand, your past posts have gone from extreme love of Yale to extreme disregard for Yale and most recently to a self-professed love of Cornell. It is tough to take your comments too seriously and I do not believe you are genuine at all. Cornell Johnson is a terrific program moving in the right direction to be a top 10 player but it is not M7 because it is not part of the M7. It hopes to one day be viewed as M7 comparable. This is the same as U of Chicago Booth saying it is Ivy League. It is not because the Ivy keague is defined But it is Ivy League like in quality. Cheers!

  • somsquared

    Cornell has higher GMAT, better GPA and sends more students to MBB than Booth. (according to a friend of mine who is a recruiter)

    Hey SOM troll, when SOM finally becomes an M7 or passes Cornell in a ranking then you can talk…until then leave the talking to the real students.

  • somsquared

    Each class is better than the next. When I went to Johnson 3 years ago my class was outstanding but this one is even more qualified! Cornell is one of the most rounded programs in the M7. Despite slightly lower PE/Finance recruiting compared to H/S/W, Cornell is clearly strong number 4 or 5 due to our placement. Cornell continues to be a standout M7 program and knocking on the door for #3 or 4 in coming years!

  • Jason113

    If you look at ranking history, Cornell has mostly been a top 10 school. Though it slipped in the last two years (maybe due to focus on Cornell Tech), it looks like it’s on it’s way back up.
    At the end of the day, who cares about ranking? One year, you are 6, next year you are 9, and the year after that you’re back to 6. What matters is brand, recruiting numbers, salary potential, career growth potential. I’ve heard Duke, MIT, Cornell take a holistic view of application and don’t care about gmat/gpa/ranking. I think they should be ranked higher. These schools have much better recruting numbers and their alumni tend to be a lot more successful.
    Plus there are so many rankings to look at. Would you trust Forbes? Or BW? Or US News?

  • Zach

    As a Johnson alum, Cornell is not currently a top 10 school. Top 15, yes. Not top 10. I view our peers as Stern/Ross/Fuqua/Yale/Darden/UCLA. The constant sniping on this board over who is top X would be hilarious if it didn’t reveal a MASSIVE amount of insecurity (and probably youth as well). Once you are 1-2 years out of school, no one cares where you went. It’s all about your job performance.

  • James

    It is really sad that Yale SOM does use such cheap ways for promotion over the web. Or its students and fans are low and feel jealous of Cornell prestige and history.

  • YaleTrollsInsecure

    SOM is NOT a M7 and probably ever won’t be. Who did Yale replace in the M7? Certainly not CBS, Booth, MIT, or Kel. Stop the trolling on this website. The SOM trolling in almost every article is really pathetic.

  • eddysham

    Cornell University is the only ivy league institution that is essentially not a liberal art. It is comprehensive university with pioneering leadership in business administration, economics, and management. It is credible to say that its MBA program is one of the best in the world. It is clearly a top 7 MBA program worldwide.

  • quest

    Cornell/SOM/CBS/Tuck/Haas all are on the same level and peers. However, IMHO, what made Cornell better and edged them are two things: 1) its unmatched strength in Science and Engineering and 2) its global brand name. Please keep in mind that all those schools are just terrific schools with amazing programs, and any applicant can’t go wrong with any of them.

  • gal

    The top 10 is subjective, but I find it curious CBS/SOM were included in this article as comparison points, considering these two schools are in the M7 and Cornell is not.

  • Oaktree

    Solid class. Cornell allowing students to spend a semester in NYC on its campus will be really sweet and the integration into a larger Cornell College of Business seems to be the right choice. These will make the school stronger and improve rankings even more.

  • quest

    among the top 10, I said, say that this Cornell MBA class is the best well rounded and balanced. It is not that skewed toward numbers & scores and not sacrificing the quality. In my opinion, 700 GMAT average is the best balanced representation of a diverse group of students.

  • CornellTroll

    But to say it’s the best among the top 10 is at best – laughable.

  • Harold

    It was ranked number of times in the top 10, particularly in Forbes. I think it is quite a legitimate claim and people have the right to pick the ranking that serves them.

  • C. Taylor

    Looking at P&Qs 2013 US ranking, Cornell placed 11th overall. Contributing to that, it placed 7th with BB-BW, 9th with Forbes, and 11th with The Economist.

    It is arguably in a stronger position today than it was in 2012 or 2013. I wish Cornell the best in capitalizing on its B-school mashup and NYC campus. I suggest decisive action is in order and marketing should accompany that process.

  • CornellTroll

    Remind me how Cornell is top 10 again?

  • F500-HR

    Yes. This is what called real, solid, well rounded, and balanced MBA class profile. No inflated numbers of scores, and no sacrificing of the quality, but balanced poets and quants terrific people. Among all the top 10, Cornell represents the best MBA class so far.