Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2018

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business


Ask any recent graduate about their defining experience at Ross and you’re certain to hear about MAP, which stands for Multidisciplinary Action Projects. A required course, it encompasses the entire final quarter and acts as a dry run for the all-important summer internship. Think of MAP as a seven week consulting project, where students work in teams of 4-6 member teams to put to work everything they’ve learned in the core.

Over the past 25 years, Ross MBAs have completed nearly 2,000 MAP projects in almost 100 countries. In 2016, for example, the school partnered with Facebook on projects like developing market strategy for broadband distribution and developing open license frameworks to encourage product development in emerging markets. MAP teams also joined forces with Amazon — the largest consumer of Ross talent in 2015 — on several initiatives ranging from creating customized listing tools to reducing product defects in its inventory. In fact, you would’ve found Ross students working side-by-side with executive teams at Capital One, Cummins, Ford, Oracle, PepsiCo, Walmart, and even the New York Jets this spring — a testament to the program’s reach and the superior results delivered by students.

Such hands-on learning was exactly what students need to truly internalize what they learn while building a track record. For the Class of 2018, MAP was a true differentiator. “For me it is very important to apply everything I learn in a real-life situation,” explains Valentina Schwerter, whose background is airline revenue management. “Ross offers a unique opportunity to do this with the MAP program (Multidisciplinary Action Projects). I think it is the only school where you are able to spend seven weeks completely dedicated to one real-life project.”

A first-year MBA at Michigan's Ross fields questions from journalism fellows during the Leadership Crisis Challenge. Courtesy photo

A first-year MBA at Michigan’s Ross fields questions from journalism fellows during the Leadership Crisis Challenge. Courtesy photo

MAP was just one of the experiential learning opportunities that are at the heart of the Ross curriculum. Outside of class, the school also holds several signature events to help students further apply what they learn. One is the 24 Hour Crisis Challenge, a simulation that places students in a high stakes emergency, where they must develop a strategy under severe time constraints, all while maintaining their poise. Another is the Impact Challenge, where students get a week to develop and launch a venture.


Another signature of the Ross MBA is entrepreneurship. For example, the program includes the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurship, which has over $8.9 million dollars available for student-run ventures. For Gawron, the true difference maker is the school’s commitment to social impact.

“The University of Michigan is one of the world leaders in sustainability research and education. It permeates throughout the entire campus, from the course offerings to the actual campus operations and initiatives. The Erb Institute for Global Sustainable Enterprise is one of the central pillars of the sustainability movement on campus and offers an MBA/MS dual degree program through a partnership between Ross and the School of Natural Resources and Environment. The prospect of attending such an innovative program with a proven record of results put Ross at the top of my list.”

As first years stream into Ann Arbor, they probably won’t notice an important shift in the program, as Scott DeRue, former faculty director of Ross’ Sanger Leadership Center and associate dean of the executive MBA, took the reins as dean this spring. Best known for conquering Mount Everest, the dynamic DeRue’s job is to maintain the momentum and care for the culture, where a lead by example ethos is the fruit of its action-driven curriculum.

This mindset was the first thing that Weiss noticed when he interacted with students. “At Ross, they didn’t tell me their principles, they showed me. I heard from students who took risks by turning down lucrative internships to start their own company; students who were constantly trying to challenge their mind by taking classes at other graduate programs; and students who were making a positive difference by working on social impact projects in Detroit. And while all these students were impressive, they were also always humble. Without fail, everyone I talked with attributed Ross’ collaborative and supportive culture to their success.”


Interior of the Ross School of Business

Interior of the Ross School of Business

The Class of 2018 intends to take this approach out into the real world after graduation. For many, social impact, if not social justice, is the driving force behind them. Jennings is among those who’ll be pushing on the inside for businesses to play a more meaningful role in alleviating problems like economic disparity and inequality. “It is the responsibility of business leaders to step up and find ways to leverage the resources and expertise of the private sector to address these issues. My dream job would be to direct CSR strategy for a Fortune 500 company, so that I can help facilitate connections between the private and public sector and determine how each can work effectively to improve our world for future generations.”

During his work relating to NASA space missions, Gawron grew increasingly anxious about climate change. In the process, he also found a purpose. “Over the past five years, I have watched with increasing concern as the key indicators of the Earth’s health have continued to worsen. These experiences have instilled in me a deep passion for environmental sustainability and have caused me to dedicate my life toward the active preservation of our planet.”

Stewart-Funai, however, intends to make life better in a more intimate setting, pointing to leading a major opera company as her dream job. “The performing arts in the U.S. have been suffering for many years now, and quite a number of companies are barely able to meet their basic running expenses even with the help of donations on top of ticket sales,” she explains. “After having witnessed the positive impact that the performing arts can have on people, I feel a personal obligation to try to guide the operatic industry towards a better financial future.”


Ross feels a similar obligation to its students. This year, the school launched a “Tuition Free Return” program, where students can attend any of their executive education courses at no charge — a value add that drew 50 alumni during its first go-around in March. This means, in all likelihood, that members of the 2018 Class will still be taking classes together after graduation. When they do meet again, each member has some hopes on how they’ll be remembered.

Weiss, for one, would like to be the one known for making his classmates “a little more adventurous.” Hernandez hopes they would still choose to be on her team. And Bourgeois imagines being thought of as someone who brought out the best in everyone else. “I want to be remembered as the girl with the bright energy and bold ideas, who brought people together to accomplish extraordinary things. That I was someone who inspired others to follow their passion and connected people together to create the biggest impact possible.”


To read profiles of incoming Ross students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

Madeline “Maddy” Bourgeois / Toronto, Ontario

Jim Gawron / Muskegon, MI

Thais Hernandez / San Ramon, CA

Eric Hwang / Los Angeles, CA

Jessica Jennings / Dublin, OH

Hiroaki Kobayashi / Tokyo, Japan

Edward Norwood / Jackson, MS

Elif Ozbay / Ankara, Turkey

Valentina Schwerter / Santiago, Chile

Anjin Stewart-Funai / Swarthmore PA

Matthew Weiss / New York, NY

Aaron Wolff / Detroit, MI

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