Meet The Rotman MBA Class Of 2018

The Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto


Such accomplished students are the norm, not the exception, at Rotman. However, this year’s group brings a little something special, says Brian Golden, vice dean for professional programs. “Like all of our past classes,” he notes, “the students who began this year are very bright, incredibly accomplished and, this year, they are the most diverse Rotman class ever. We are feeling a special energy from them; they believe they can do anything, and our job is to support that. Employers will be very excited to get to know this group. They are poised to achieve remarkable things in their careers.”

Traditionally, Rotman doesn’t release specific numbers on applications. During the 2015-2016 cycle, according to the school, applications rose by 17%, while its acceptance rate decreased by 11 percentage points (the number of accepted applicants also declined by three percentage points). Overall, average GMATs slipped by one point over the previous year, with score ranges remaining steady at 500 to 780. Average GPAs again came in at 3.4.

The class demographics also experienced little change. The percentage of women inched up from 32% to 34%, while the number of international students from outside Canada slipped from 53% to 51%. Again, undergraduate engineering majors comprised the largest portion of the class at 29.5%. Other big blocs include: business (26.7%), economics (13.5%), humanities (8.4%), social sciences (7.3%), and life sciences (6.1%). Like many business schools, finance professionals have the heaviest representation in the class at 25.7%, twice the number of students coming in from consulting (11.1%) and technology (10%) combined.


Brian Golden, Vice Dean for Professional Programs

Considering the University of Toronto’s reputation as a “Canadian Ivy,” there’s little surprise that employers like McKinsey, Google, Goldman Sachs, and Nike are regularly camped out at Rotman. Even more, the program has the resources to land the students they want, doling out over $4 million in scholarships and financial aid each year. The program continues to experiment and innovate, practicing themselves what they preach in the classroom. A case in point is an imaginative course called “Application Management: Placement.” It integrates classroom work with internship preparation so students can hit the ground running, thus increasing the likelihood of converting their summer experience into a dream job.

“We want students to learn how to make themselves valuable to organizations during the internship,” says Jan Mahrt-Smith, the full-time MBA program’s academic director. “So there is three hours of exercises in our self-development lab. And there’s an experience where students observe someone already valuable in the organization. MBAs create plans to make themselves more valuable, and there are 15-minute check-ins with coaches here and mentors on the job. When it’s over, they are asked to reflect on the experience. They keep a journal and write a final paper and discuss the journey with a coach who is an executive in residence.”

Such efforts fit with Rotman’s intensive coaching culture, which stresses leadership development and career management. Notably, the program boasts nearly 20 full-time staff members in the career center, among the largest cadre of support personnel in any full-time MBA. Before classes begin, a coach is assigned to each MBA candidate, a relationship that spans the entire program. As part of the program, students are required to work one-on-one time with coaches on skills ranging from interpersonal communication to interviewing. Aside from unlimited coaching customized to student needs and aspirations, Rotman also offers an extensive menu of workshops called Self-Development Labs. Small group workshops popular among students, these labs are designed to give them a risk-free venue to practice what they learn on topics ranging from delivering presentations to maintaining executive presence.


Going hand-in-hand with integrative thinking is business design. In this area, Rotman applies a three-pronged iterative process that involves engaging with the market to identify unmet needs; conducting rapid prototyping and testing around ideas; and building a strategy to differentiate their solutions, In addition, the program maintains a DesignWorks studio, an experiential learning space where students can complete boot camps, hackathons, and sprints to better internalize the design process and turn their ideations into potential businesses. On top of that, Rotman features a Creative Destruction Lab, a year-long course where students partner with entrepreneurs to turn ideas into ventures, with the program churning out over 25 firms worth $800 million dollars in equity value in just the past four years alone.

Such an environment resonated with Reig, who plans to take the lessons from studio into consulting to help his clients quickly respond and adapt to shifting expectations. “Over the last 4.5 years I have worked at three different companies with very different design and business approaches,” he admits. “However, there is one challenge I have been trying to solve on all these companies, how to empower innovation and collaboration as an organization. By taking advantage of the Business Design major at Rotman I aim to learn not only about different organizational structures, but also how to define and implement new strategies for any organization’s success.”

Bay Street in downtown Toronto

Best of all, Rotman is smack in the middle of Toronto, just a mile from Bay Street, Canada’s answer to Wall Street and one of the world’s largest financial districts. It is a city awash in Fortune 500 dollars. Home to Fortune 500 stalwarts like the Royal Bank of Canada and Weston, it also contains large outposts for industry leaders like Procter & Gamble and Accenture. In other words, Rotman students don’t have to travel far to network for their dream jobs. At the same time, Toronto is a cultural Mecca, perhaps the world’s most multicultural city with over half of the residents born outside Canada. It is also a city renowned for its tolerance, cleanliness, and politeness. “After talking with students and alumni,” Cuesta Reig points out, “I understood how the diversity of cultures and perspectives of the city of Toronto and the student body really makes the Rotman experience unique.”


Three months into their MBA program, where does the Class of 2018 hope to land after graduation? Zhang, for one, has his eye on the private equity and venture capital field. “It brings me a great sense of achievement to identify the right companies and help them to grow,” he says. “The opportunity and challenge of understanding different industries and companies also makes me feel excited.”

Kakkar, an athlete and the product of a family of doctors, hopes to channel her passions into health, fitness and nutrition while kindling her burgeoning fascination with brand narratives and consumer psychology. Like Kakkar, Afanador hopes to raise the bar in the consumer marketplace. “I firmly believe that only through constant innovation can companies beat the “commoditization” of products and the constant pressure of store brands,” he explains. “After graduation, I hope to work in product development in the consumer goods industry because I want to be at the forefront of innovation, creating better products and more memorable experiences for consumers.”

By coupling her energy background with an MBA, Cecil-Cockwell hopes to expand her opportunities beyond the oil and gas industry. “I would love to branch out into other areas, such as mining, hydro, and forestry,” she says. “My dream job would involve leading projects in Canada’s North, developing extractive industries with an eye to benefitting investors, the nation, and local communities.”

Looking ahead to how they want to be remembered by classmates, Hemily hopes her classmates view her as the perfect teammate. “It was great working on a team with Daphne,” she imagines them saying. “She asked good questions, left her ego out of it to have more constructive team dynamics, and was often laughing and having fun, even through stressful moments.”

While Brazil’s Henrique Sana plans to become a mentor in the short term, his larger goal is certain to make the school’s faculty and administrators smile. “In the long term, why not to dream a little bit: Having my name in that respectful List of Donors by the entrance hall.”


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

Andrés Afanador / Bogotá, Colombia

Dr. Toyosi Aiyelabola / Lagos, Nigeria

Tess Cecil-Cockwell / Toronto, Canada

Albert Cuesta Reig / Barcelona, Spain

Daphne Hemily / Toronto, Canada

Rashi Kakkar / New Delhi, India

Cheryl McConachie / Toronto, Canada

Henrique Sana / Sao Paulo, Brazil

Marko Tesanovic / Sarajevo, Bosnia

Desmond Yeo / Singapore

Haolin Zhang / Inner Mongolia, China