Meet Minnesota Carlson’s MBA Class of 2018

Members of the MBA Class of 2018 at the University of Minnesota's Carlson School of Management

Members of the MBA Class of 2018 at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management

“Suus ‘circa omnes jobs stultus!”

Translation: “It’s all about jobs, stupid!”

You won’t find this variation of James Carville’s axiom plastered above the entrance to any business school. These days, MBA students seem more concerned with undergoing personal transformation or becoming catalysts for social justice. Make no mistake: the Class of 2018 is hunkering down to monetize the experiences and networks they gain. When they imagine graduation day, they picture packing for their dream job, not waiting for return calls.


If you’re looking for a job — a good job — the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management is the place to be. This year, 97% of the graduating class nabbed offers within three months of graduation. That placed Carlson alongside the University of Chicago for the highest placement rate of any U.S. business school. Even more, Carlson grads cashed in, earning mean starting salaries of $108,720, not to mention bagging bonuses of $22,101. It wasn’t just the Class of 2016 that caught employers’ attention, as the school placed 100% of its students in internships this summer.

Maggie Tomas

Maggie Tomas

What’s Carlson’s secret? Most would point to the program’s deeply hands-on curriculum, its closeness to the many companies headquartered in Minneapolis-St. Paul, and the wealth of resources available to students. However, Maggie Tomas, director of the Graduate Business Career Center, points to an intangible quality: agility. “There is a lot that contributes to our success in placing students in the careers they want, but the single most important factor might be our ability to stay nimble,” she notes. “Interests change from year to year. To ensure we meet the particular needs of each student and class, we look at new cities to travel to, new employers to engage with, new assessments to offer, and new events to host. Having a smaller class size and a well-staffed career center allows us to do this.”

The incoming class is poised to build on this momentum. According to Phil Miller, assistant dean of Carlson’s MBA and MS programs, the 2018 Class hit the ground running when they arrived on campus. “The new class has wasted no time getting involved at the Carlson School and forging connections with one another,” he tells Poets&Quants. “Whether through active and early engagement in career exploration at national conferences this summer or self-organizing social and alumni events around the globe, this incoming class is actively digging in to opportunities for early career and leadership preparation.”


No doubt, this is an eclectic mix of personalities who come from a wide range of backgrounds. They include marketing and media managers, researchers, engineers, military officers, and even a U.S. diplomat. They come to Minneapolis brimming with spirit and ideas. Thomas Cloyd, an advocate for those who’ve suffered spinal cord injuries, describes himself using his best rendition of Dr. Seuss: “Alliteratively articulate, inevitably indefatigable, selectively serious, purposefully pledged to progress…and one word short.” Rachel Evans calls herself a “recovering politico” who has worked on campaigns in every election since 2006. Colin Robertson, a West Point grad and U.S. Army Captain, has visited 40 countries in the past decade, a feat matched by Nayandeep Mahanta, who has been to 41 states over that same period. And classmates had better shape up around Laura Margaret Johnson: She once played Sandy in the musical Grease.

At the same time, Joseph Clinton Collins, a U.S. Navy linguist by trade, can rap all 206 bones in the human body. Sarah Johnson celebrated her graduation from high school by doing the most Minnesota thing ever: spending 40 days in the Arctic camping and canoeing. That takes guts, but when it comes to profiles in courage, you have to give the crown to Elisha Friesema. As a child, she would play with a black panther when it visited her father’s veterinary practice. “It surprisingly had less attitude than our house cat,” she quips. Looking to slow down, scale back, and live the simple life? Take a page from Chris Grantham, who went full-on Green Acres by buying a Minnesota hobby farm after leaving the U.S. State Department. “Over the past four years, we have raised chickens, turkeys, pigs, honey bees and cows,” he says.  I really had no idea what I was doing when we started, but I had very sympathetic neighbors and you’d be amazed what you can learn from YouTube.”

The class is as equally accomplished as they are amusing. Katherine Robertson, a West Point grad and U.S. Army Major (who also happens to be Colin’s wife), was part of history. “I coordinated the travel of the Commanding General of US Army Europe and his personal staff,” she says, “through four countries via Stryker, Helicopter, and Plane during Operation Dragoon Ride, the largest road march the US Army has conducted in Europe since World War II.” She’ll be joined in the history books by Grantham, who worked alongside the lead U.S. negotiator during the early stages of talks that ultimately produced the Iran nuclear deal. The experience he gained will serve him well in business school and well beyond. “I received invaluable exposure to high-level, multi-party, cross-cultural negotiations,” he shares. “I learned first-hand what it takes to manage intensely complex and dynamic situations to create leverage even when the odds are stacked against you.”

Colin and Katherine Robertson

Colin and Katherine Robertson

As a whole, the 107-member class seemed most satisfied when their efforts improved the station of their peers. That was certainly true of Collins, who takes pride in mentoring linguists and cryptologists, particularly considering the high attrition rates in the field during training. “Many of these men and women have gone on to be extremely talented linguists or gone on to do other sophisticated functions inside and outside of the intelligence community,” he says.  Laura Margaret Johnson’s crowning moment came during a two year stint as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer in Lesotho, where she was able to address the “culturally sensitive” issues of HIV and violence against women in her village. “I brought together my colleagues, community members, village leaders, as well as representatives from nearby South African diamond mines,” she explains. “To navigate project design, funding and execution in a culture so different from my own with such a diverse group of stakeholders taught me the value of communication and developing a shared a vision.”


Thus far, says Miller, the class has more than lived up to their resumes. “The interaction reinforces what a great cohort we already know we have on paper. We are known for attracting accomplished students from a diversity of experiences and this year’s class well-represents the unique and connected nature of the student community at the Carlson School.”

Looking at the metrics, the 2018 Class closely resembles its predecessors. The school received 606 applications during the 2015-2016 cycle, up 12 from the previous year. That said, average GMAT scores slipped from 680 to 676, with GMAT scores ranging from 530-760. While the incoming class may have struggled more on the GMAT, their academic track record suggests they may still be a stronger class, with the median undergraduate GPA rising from 3.44 to 3.51. In addition, the percentage of women also climbed from 29% to 31% in the past year, with the number of international students holding steady at 15%.

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