Meet Foster’s MBA Class of 2018

Members of the MBA Class of 2018 at the University of Washington's Foster School of Business

Members of the MBA Class of 2018 at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business

There is a certain majesty to the Pacific Northwest. From snowy summits to forested foothills to cresting coastlines, the region rouses a communal spirit that embraces openness and innovation. Here, in the solitude of great outdoors, people have the space and silence to reflect and think big — then return home to breathe life into what has never been dared before.

Seattle is the product of this promise. It possesses a creative vibe like no other. What other metro could be home to diverse musical talents like Bing Crosby, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Kenny G, Macklemore, and the Wilson sisters? Forget flannel and fish markets or coffeehouses and cloudbursts. Seattle is a testament to entrepreneurship and invention, home to software sultans and logistics lords…not to mention the gateway to the Pacific Rim. Carved into the shadow of Mount Rainier with the Space Needle serving as its exclamation point, the Seattle area is home to many of the companies that headline every business school’s case list: Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, Boeing, Costco, and Nordstrom. That doesn’t count big name brands like Expeditors International, Zillow, Safeco, Cinnabon, Expedia, PitchBook, Red Robin, and Nintendo.


This creates a bevy of opportunities for MBA candidates studying at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business. Ranked as the top full-time MBA program in the Northwest — and finishing in the top 25 of every major 2016 American ranking —the program infuses a holistic, high tech mindset through its emphasis on strategic thinking, leadership development, and global operations. This curriculum, coupled with the program’s deep connections with Emerald City’s business elite, proved irresistible to the incoming Class of 2018.

Mount Rainier

Mount Rainier

Ami Shastri, a world traveler and cupcake connoisseur who aspires to move into technology product management, was drawn to the surplus of leading cloud computing firms in the area. In contrast, James Souza, an Idaho native who matriculated at ConAgra and Target before arriving in Seattle, touted the city’s vibrancy, culture, and “robust startup scene.” For Julia Gilroy, a Fulbright Scholar who counts Elon Musk and Nelson Mandela among her influencers, Foster and Seattle came as a package deal, a supportive alumni population based in a locale with a kinetic energy, and a diverse industry mix. “I met with Foster alumni from across industries and was blown away by their dedication to the school and the benefits of their experiences both as students and now as alumni, she says. “Together with the larger community, Seattle is a hot bed for start-ups and home to some of the most influential companies today. This environment creates an exciting opportunity for students at Foster; companies that support the school are simultaneously developing new ways to approach growth and development and are defining business globally.”

Indeed, connections are the secret sauce of the Foster MBA experience. For example, the school hosts advisory boards that include over 75 leaders from the top firms, including c-suite execs at Starbucks, Amazon, Accenture, and Wells Fargo, to provide mentoring to MBA candidates. Not surprisingly, 90% of Foster students pair up with a mentor. “Foster has great relationships with companies in the region, including Amazon, Microsoft and Starbucks as well as fast-growing technology companies and mid-size firms,” notes Naomi Sanchez, assistant dean of MBA Career Services, in a recent press release. “We’re able to connect Foster MBAs with career opportunities through internships, networking and recruiter interviews, resulting in strong employment rates and high average salaries.”

How strong? The Class of 2016 notched a 98% employment rate within three months of graduation, ranking them at the very top of leading MBA programs. Even more, these graduates pulled down average salaries of $111,847 and bonuses of $28,713. The biggest winners were students entering consulting, who made $124,325 on average. However, the majority of the class — 52% — gravitated to technology firms, where average pay was $113,241 (where the highest pay topped $150,000). In fact, the Foster MBA ranked 12th among recruiters in November’s Bloomberg Businessweek survey. The program also finished 7th for diversity of recruiters and 15th for opening new alumni career opportunities in October’s Economist’s student survey, further indications of the program’s increasing cache among employers.  Better yet, the program is a bargain. Just 55% of the 2015 Class carried debt, which amounted to a middling $35,104, half that amount that graduates from Berkeley Haas bore.


In popular culture, people often associate Seattle with the bickering brothers of Frasier or the doting doctors of Grey’s Anatomy. In reality, Seattle is a relatively laid back city where you can kayak around Pudget Sound, scale Mountain Rainier, or snowboard down the Cascades. With mild winters and low humidity summers, this setting is perfect for a 2018 Class with a lust for living. Nigeria’s Oluyinka Awobiyi, for example, is “a complete optimist and activity junkie who goes for her dreams no matter the odds.” DC Native Troy Strandquist calls himself a “self-starter with an appetite for innovation and a proven ability to execute in high-stress environments.”Be on the look out for Lauren Krainski, who climbs mountains despite being afraid of heights. She comes across as the archetypal Foster MBA: “A strategic aspiring leader who is passionate about people and curious about the world.”

University of Washington Foster School of Management

University of Washington Foster School of Management

They certainly carry an adventurous spirit into PACCAR Hall. Amanda Lowe, who studied psychology at Emory, spent a summer on remote islands in Vanuatu and Samoa researching child development. That pales in comparison to Courtney Wenneborg, who studied biology at the University of Washington. She devoted two years to researching the Magellanic penguin colony in Argentina. The class has also been around greatness, with Souza enjoying a lunch with Warren Buffet and Strandquist playing tennis on the President’s courts at Camp David. Let’s not forget Robert Nelson, who seemingly made full use of his subscription. “I am a descendant of Richard Warren, one of the pilgrims who sailed aboard the Mayflower and signed the Mayflower Compact,” he explains. “Other descendants include Ulysses Grant, FDR, and Henry David Thoreau.”

The class also comes to Foster with some impressive credentials dotting their resumes. At the U.S. Treasury, Strandquist prepared the briefing materials for U.S. Secretary Jack Lew ahead of his meetings at the 2016 G20 Meetings in China. Nelson served as the youngest chair of Miriam Kitchen’s Steering Committee, raising a record $652,000 in the process thanks to forging partnerships with individuals such as U.S. Senator Chris Murphy. And Robert A. Della-Moretta, who has already been to 30 countries, considers his biggest accomplishment to be assuming command of 100 paratroopers in the Afghan theatre and watching them perform successfully in combat.

In fact, business school might actually be a step down for Krainski. At Alcoa, she became the first non-MBA to earn an internal promotion to consultant. “I even ended up recruiting MBAs without one myself,” she jokes. Wenneborg was a trailblazer herself as the founding member of the team that launched Amazon Books, the firm’s first foray into brick-and-mortar retail. “Operating a startup within an existing company creates unique challenges,” she says. “It was exhilarating to partner with teams from throughout the company to identify and refine existing processes, build new tools and programs for our unique business needs, and unite physical retail operations strategy with Amazon’s customer obsession and growth-oriented mindset.”

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.