This diversity carries over into the student backgrounds, too. The 417-member class hails from 312 organizations and 144 higher education programs, with 11% holding advanced degrees. When it comes to academics, the school throws the doors open for liberal arts majors. About 48% of the class studied humanities and social sciences as undergrads, with STEM majors rustling up another 37% of the class. Business-related majors constitute just 15%. The class is even more segmented in terms of their career choices. The largest bloc of students — 20% — hails from the investment management and private equity sectors. Par for the course, consultants compose 18% of the 2018 class, with technology backgrounds taking up another 16%. Beyond that, the class is relatively evenly distributed in the areas of public sector, consumer products, financial services, energy, the arts, and healthcare.
A BANNER YEAR FOR GOOD NEWS
After a trying 2015, which saw the school’s dean resign, Stanford GSB rebounded with a banner 2016. For one, the 2016 Class pulled down $163,827 in average median compensation, up another 2% and higher than any other school — including HBS, whose graduates came in at $158,080.
That’s just the beginning. 2016 was the kind of year where, if you looked the other way, you probably missed something. In May, for example, the school elevated Jonathan Levin, a powerhouse economics professor, to dean. Described by Provost John Etchemendy as a “skilled and innovative administrator and a brilliant scholar,” Levin is renowned for his down-to-earth, consensus-building style. He also hired a new leadership team, including popular personalities like Sarah Soule, an upbeat organizational behavior professor, and Yossi Feinberg, who came up with Levin from the economics department. This fall, the school cut the ribbon on Highland Hall, an upscale residence that includes lush colors and bold southwestern architecture…not to mention roomy living quarters and even housekeeping. Let’s not forget Nike co-founder Philip Knight’s $400 million dollar gift to Stanford to build a leadership development program across its various graduate programs (including the GSB).
By the numbers, the school also excelled in 2016. It maintained one of the lowest salary-to-debt ratios, the result of generous financial aid and high starting pay. The school also remained one of the wealthiest business programs, with an endowment nearing $1.4 billion. Most important, the program has alumni singing its praises, ranking 2nd in alumni satisfaction surveys conducted by the Financial Times and 1st in Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2016 alumni satisfaction survey.
A “TOUCHY FEELY” CLASS THAT DELIVERS THE GOODS
No doubt, the 17,000 or so Stanford MBA alums are passionate about their program. You’ll find a similar fervor among the Class of 2018, whose enthusiasm has only intensified after nearly six months on campus. One reason is the program. Organized by quarters, the curriculum is a mix of deep dive courses and targeted seminars. For the most part, it emphasizes general management, critical thinking, global perspectives, and personal development. “I got the sense that the GSB was more of a Leadership School that happened to teach business classes, as opposed to a Business School that taught leadership classes,” explains Sparks. “That distinction was very important to me.”
For Rudigier, Stanford’s major selling point was the ability to tailor the curriculum to his interdisciplinary interests. Pursuing a Joint Master of Science in Environment and Resources, he appreciates that he can simply take classes “across the street,” affording him the opportunity to “learn with and from experts and interact with PhD and graduate students from other disciplines.” Such flexibility better prepares him to jump into the fray on Day 1 after graduation. “Since I already had a business degree, I wanted to customize my MBA curriculum and have the freedom to explore a broad variety of other disciplines, such as engineering and computer science, as these fields would be directly relevant to my future career in the automotive space.”
Thus far, Rudigier is most excited about the “Interpersonal Dynamics” course, better known by its legendary moniker, “Touchy Feely.” Here, a “T-Group” of a dozen students meets for marathon afternoon sessions that have been likened to group therapy. The overriding goal is to better understand others and, in the process, achieve greater self-awareness. In a nutshell, this elective is a means for students to sharpen their communication (aka managerial) skills by learning in a safe space how to give feedback, listen intently to others, and show respect and appreciation.“I felt most attracted to Stanford’s MBA program because of its focus on the interpersonal aspects of leadership that cannot be taught but only learned experientially,” says Rudigier.
“TALK” AMONG THE HIGHLIGHTS OF THE TWO YEARS
For Ruiz-Healy, the school’s structure and philosophy offer the best of both worlds. “Stanford GSB’s inclusive environment and small class size encourage transformative personal development in two ways,” she explains. “First, the school’s emphasis on feedback allows students to deeply reflect on their strengths and weaknesses as leaders. Two, the open culture enables students to follow their passions.”
If you polled the Class of 2018, you’d probably find that “community” rates as the best part of the Stanford MBA experience. For starters, Stanford is half the size of Harvard (with far fewer buildings). While students aren’t divided into sections, they tend to form a tight-knit and collaborative community where students genuinely care about their peers, says Rudigier. One way is through TALK, a rite of passage at the school. A Monday evening staple, students share their personal stories in front of their peers for 30 minutes. Make no mistake: The majority of the class attends — and the hope is that every student eventually steps up.
“The whole class comes together to listen to the unique story and perspective of two classmates,” explains Ruidigier. “TALK is not about sharing career aspirations or professional accomplishments – it is about sharing who you truly are as a person, what matters most to you, and why. It is one of the many ways that people here form deep connections with each other, and vividly demonstrates the spirit of the GSB.”
THE MEDITERRANEAN COMES TO PALO ALTO
Witnessing such supportiveness at Admit Weekend led El Baily to choose Stanford over Harvard and Wharton. Mendonca Abreu made a similar calculation based on interacting with his future classmates. “I chose Stanford because of what I expected (and confirmed) my classmates to be. They are a very accomplished group of young people, but humble enough to know there still is much more to learn. At the same time, this is a diverse student body, with various interests, degrees, and backgrounds; we share the same commitment and support each other to go down this journey: discover our passions, develop the skills we need, find the roles we want to play, and luckily be a change agent for what we believe in.”
Alas, Palo Alto plays a part in Stanford MBAs’ sunny disposition. Picture cool 70 degree days shaded with palm trees (and sparse rainfall). In other words, students can hike, golf or swim anytime of the year. How could anyone get bored? For entertainment, there is San Francisco to the north. For wine lovers, Napa is just two hours away. To the east, there are snow capped mountains and ski resorts. To the west, you have the pearl blue Pacific. Head south and you can wind down with the breath-taking views and culinary delights that define Carmel and Big Sur. Truly, there is something for everyone within a short drive of the school.
As the Class of 2018 races through the third quarter, many have an eye on what they hope to do after graduation. Some plan to build on their success, with Ruiz-Healey looking to use her experience with digital products to build bridges between nations. Larkin intends to continue developing innovative health tech solutions, all while maintaining a medical practice to stay close to patient needs. Rudigier wants to better integrate automobiles with technology. “My vision is to drive this strategic change in the automotive industry and play an active role in making autonomous, emission-free driving a reality for future generations — either from the perspective of an investor or by leading high-powered teams in the industry,” he says.
IN THE DARKEST OF DAYS…YOU WANT SPARKS ON YOUR TEAM!
For Quddus, the main goal is someday making an impact…a big impact. “My dream job would be creating a product or venture that changes the lives of millions of people in a fundamental way – giving them something that they did not have access to before. I know that’s very big picture, but in a way it’s also very limiting because I have to focus on markets that will deliver the biggest impact to the largest number of people.”
When it comes to how he wants to be remembered, Sparks best captures the essence of the 2018 Class. His goal, like those of so many of his peers, is to tackle the biggest challenges with an outward grace and an inner urgency. “No matter what the project or task,” he emphasizes, “if it seems like it will be difficult, scary or impossible, I want Sparks on my team.”
DON’T MISS: THE STEREOTYPE-DEFYING MBAS IN THE CLASS OF 2018
To read profiles of first-year Stanford GSB students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.