Every business school tosses out terms like ethics, values, courage, and the greater good. No doubt, these words test well with Millennials looking to make an impact. There are few MBA programs that, at their heart, train the mind and nurture the spirit. For students looking to connect social teaching with business practice, the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business is where they go to “ask more of business” — and themselves.
“You don’t go to Notre Dame to learn something,” former Notre Dame football coach Lou Holtz once observed. “You go to Notre Dame to be somebody.”
The Mendoza experience is centered on how to create and sustain a principled workplace. That starts with setting a high bar for the individual. At Mendoza, students commit — in thought, word, and deed — to personal excellence, personifying the qualities of integrity, accountability, and teamwork as an example for all. That mission is global in nature, demanding that graduates fan out with a conviction to turn their values into action.
FROM A POETRY-LOVING CHEMIST TO A KICK BOXING BRAND MANAGER
That’s what’s expected of the Class of 2018. It’s something that every Mendoza class embraces. Looking at this new crop of “Domers,” you could argue that a bias toward action, along with wide-ranging interests, define the class. Mumbai’s Amita Balasundaram, who studied biotechnology in college before becoming a brand manager, describes herself as a “marketer, a kick-boxer, a singer, a volunteer, and a multilinguist.” She’ll find plenty of competition for the title of “Renaissance person” in this class. Tom Jones, a South Bend native who went to West Point, considers himself to be a “jack of many trades, master of none (musician, engineer, athlete, helicopter pilot, former military officer, salesman).” You can make it a trio with Charles Jintao Jiang, a Chinese poetry connoisseur with a doctorate in chemistry who’s “a curious scientist, a practical dreamer; a photographer, a reader.” In terms of sheer personality, it’s hard to top Sir Martin Cortez, who’s thankful for his parents naming him “Sir” because it makes a great conversation starter. Not that he needs much help — “I make seemingly boring things like the power industry surprisingly sexy,” he jokes.
True to Notre Dame tradition, the class brings bona fide athletic credentials to the table. Mexico’s Jose L. Guadarrama has competed in two marathons and two Olympic triathlons. He should train with J. Walter Sterling, formerly a college philosophy instructor, who’s completed an Ironman triathlon. But the class also brings an artistic sensibility to South Bend. Balasundaram’s band finished second in Zee Aspire, India’s answer to American Idol. Jack Pelzer wrote a musical based on the life of … Brendan Fraser. Move over Lin-Manuel Miranda.
Mendoza’s 2018 Class also possesses a fascinating mix of professional backgrounds and achievements. Jiang was the lead inventor on a patented model that has improved the half-life of peptide drugs, enabling patients to inject them less frequently. Balasundaram managed an 8,000-partner program that earned her firm the Loyalty Summit’s moniker of best channel loyalty program of 2014 in India. Bradley Egbert, who thrives in “deep water and unknown territory,” used his aptitude for analytics to reformulate traffic forecasting for the New York and New Jersey Port Authority, which collects over $1.7 billion in tolls each year. At the same time, Cortez was intimately involved in a sell-down that added $445 million in cash flow, so his firm could expand operations across Southeast Asia. When it comes to life-and-death responsibility, it would be hard to top Jones, who commanded a Kiowa Warrior Air Cav Helicopter Troop in a war-torn hotspot in Afghanistan. “I was blessed to lead the best team in the world, populated with the best people in the world. We brought every ‘Alpha Trooper’ home, never lost a bird, and supported the efforts of our beloved infantry brethren in a very big way,” he proudly says.
Such an expansive mix didn’t happen by accident. “The Notre Dame MBA Class of 2018 was selected, not just based on their career potential and academic prowess, but because they have far-reaching goals and aspirations beyond the acquisition of business knowledge and career advancement,” says Kristin McAndrew, director of graduate business programs.
GMATs RISE AS APPLICATIONS SLIDE
Overall, the Class of 2018 consists of 121 students in its two-year MBA program (with roughly another 60 MBAs in its one-year program, who join the second-year class after the summer). Despite maintaining the same class size, Mendoza has witnessed a decline in applications, which have fallen from 735 to 646 over the past two years. That said, the percentage of accepted applicants who ultimately enrolled rose by 2.5% with the incoming class. Not only that, but average GMATs inched a point higher to 683, 13 points better than in-state rival Kelley. Average GPAs also eased up, from 3.31 to 3.36, in the past year.
However, the school took a big hit with women. Just 18% of the incoming class is female, way down from 30% a year ago, further evidence of the ardent competition between B-schools to diversify their ranks. However, Mendoza’s percentage of international students held steady at 30%, with the percentage of underrepresented American minorities coming in at 7%.
Traditionally, Mendoza has been known as a great destination for military veterans, thanks to intensive support from alumni and school and career services. Not surprisingly, 11% of the class hails from the armed forces, the third-largest career bloc in the full-time, two-year program. Banking and finance remains the largest career population at 15%, followed by technology (11%), healthcare (8%), consulting (7%), education (6%), government (6%), and nonprofits (5%). Academically, the program draws students from all disciplines, particularly the sciences. Undergraduate majors in IT and engineering account for 29% of the class, with sciences making up another 9%. Business majors comprise the largest group at 33%, up a whopping 13% over the 2017 Class. The liberal arts, namely social sciences (11%) and arts and humanities (9%), also take up a large portion of the incoming class.