Meet Minnesota Carlson’s MBA Class of 2018

The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota advanced in U.S. News' ranking

The Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota

Last year, engineering undergrads comprised the largest portion of the class at 22%. No more. In this class, the social sciences hold the majority at 19.63%, up from 14% last year. In fact, this year’s class boasts nearly equal blocs in several disciplines, including business administration (18.7%), engineering (17.7%), science and mathematics (15.9%), economics (13.1%), and humanities (12.1%). In other words, you can expect this wide array of backgrounds to produce some pretty absorbing and productive classroom discussions. The same is true of their professional backgrounds. Here, the category of professional, scientific, and technical services leads the way at 15.89%. They are followed by finance and insurance (13.1%), public administration (12.1%), manufacturing (11.2%), information (9.3%), healthcare (8.4%). Overall, 17% of the class has served in the military.


What sets Carlson apart? If you ask employers, they’d point to graduates being proven commodities thanks to the school’s Enterprise program. Spanning three of the program’s four semesters — and nearly a fifth of the coursework — this hands-on program partners students with leading employers for special projects related to their concentration. Here, students can choose to focus on one of four enterprises — brand, consulting, funds, and ventures — so they can gain extensive experience with firms ranging from 3M to General Mills to Target. This acts as an ongoing internship, with students working on a minimum of three projects and leading one. Even more, it creates a virtuous cycle beyond students beyond just padding their resumes. They’re also proving themselves to and gaining an “in” with these highly selective employers. “Firms get to know our students very well from the enterprise projects,” explains Carlson Dean Sri Zaheer. “It’s phenomenal for career changers but it’s also good for career enhancers because they have the ultimate responsibility for the project work.”

Sri Zaheer

Sri Zaheer

Sarah Johnson appreciates being able to apply what she learns throughout the program, calling it an “amazing and unique opportunity.” For Grantham, the hardest part may be choosing between the enterprises. “Spending three semesters learning the ropes as a strategy consultant or running a $20m equity fund or learning how to translate a start-up’s vision into a real product was too good to pass up,” he reasons. “Dean Zaheer and her team made a compelling case that a career changer like me could best supplement my previous global experience by developing concrete business skills. The experiential learning enterprises will provide me with practical experiences that I can highlight to future employers.”

The Enterprise program isn’t the only hallmark experience for MBAs at Carlson. Each January, second years also complete a Global Discovery Trip overseas, with recent classes studying business in China, India, Argentina, Chile, Oman, and the UAE. Such activities further buttress Carlson’s tight-knit culture, which Laura Margaret Johnson describes as “elite but not elitist.” Despite Carlson’s small size, students enjoy the same benefits as they would with larger programs adds Sarah Johnson. “Carlson’s resources are on par with much larger MBA programs, so I knew I wouldn’t be sacrificing program resources for a smaller class.”

When it comes to resources, you’d be hard-pressed to find many better locales than the Twin Cities, home to 17 Fortune 500 firms, including UnitedHealth Group, Target, Best Buy, Medtronic, and U.S. Bank. The area also yields a high quality of living, ranking in the top five for Nerdwallet’s Best Cities for Job Seekers in 2015 and the Huffington Post’s Best Cities for Post-Grads in 2016. “The University of Minnesota’s location within Minneapolis offers an ideal mix of small town flavor and friendliness within a vibrant city with a thriving business community and a global network of alumni,” adds Laura Margaret Johnson.


Como Park Conservatory

Como Park Conservatory

As history shows, many members of the 2018 Class will branch out far beyond the Twin Cities. Each carries a unique vision for themselves. Katherine Robertson hopes to translate her military experience and Carlson MBA into a role in supply chain operations. Debjani Mallick , an engineer who developed a waste management system powered by cafeteria waste, plans to lead sustainability efforts in a tech firm. Friesema is also pursuing a larger mission, pushing for health equity in local communities. Cloyd too falls into this category, as his goal is to move from raising awareness for spinal cord injuries to developing products that serve this population.

Wherever they land, the Class of 2018 will be bound together for life with shared memories and values. Many times, their classmates will be the first people they call with their greatest joys — and their deepest sorrows. Collins, for one, hopes to be remembered as the personification of Twin Cities “character and values.” Colin Robertson would like to be known as someone “who wasn’t afraid to learn or try something new…as someone that gets the job done to the highest standard.” And Cloyd imagines being paid the ultimate compliment by his classmates: “I can’t wait to work with him again.”

Actually, there is an even bigger honor, argues Sarah Johnson. “After graduation, I’d consider it quite the compliment if my business school peers were to say, “She’s a leader I want to follow.” It speaks volumes about a person if people choose to follow them and I hope to make that type of positive, deep and lasting impact throughout my two years at Carlson School of Management.”


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

Patricia Brooks Wright / Edina, MN

Joseph Clinton Collins / Minneapolis, MN

Thomas Cloyd / Edina, MN

Rachel Evans / Cannon Falls, MN 

Elisha Friesema / Byron Center, MI

Chris Grantham / Pullman, WA

Laura Margaret Johnson / Yankton, SD

Sarah Johnson / Minneapolis, MN

Nayandeep Mahanta / Guwahati, India

Debjani D. Mallick / Edina, MN

Colin E. Robertson / Apple Valley, MN

Katherine E. Robertson / Bellevue, NE


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