100 MBAs To Watch In The Class of 2017

USC’s Brandt Hill


The 2017 “MBAs To Watch” originated from nominations submitted by over 60 MBA programs for P&Q’s earlier “Best & Brightest” MBAs. By the numbers, this ‘Watch’ list features  52 women, nearly identical to the 53-to-47 female-to-male ratio in “Best & Brightest” — and a vast improvement over most business schools, where the percentage of women lags below 40%. The list also included 40 students who were born outside the United States, with another 14 bringing military experience to campus. Overall, the “MBAs To Watch” gravitated to a wide range of employers, though 11 students chose to continue working on their startups. That said, Amazon, The Boston Consulting Group, and McKinsey each landed four members of the class, with Bank of America and Deloitte chalking up three hires each.

Most “MBAs To Watch” boasted impressive credentials long before they started their MBA journeys. Take USC’s Brandt Hill. Four years, ago, he joined his brother in launching the Electric Run, a series of 5K evening running events that eventually spread to 20 countries and drew up to 25,000 athletes. At the same time, Warwick Business School’s Goyal started a “Mighty Angels” program in India on behalf of Deloitte. Here, she produced a year-round program implemented by 150 trainers and completed by over 1,000 women that included everything from vocational training to self-defense. Other class members vaulted themselves into rarified air early in their careers. IE Business School’s Zayne Imam was just a 24 year-old McKinsey consultant when he was advising the President of a North African nation on agricultural policy. By the same token, BYU’s Rhoden rose from being an unpaid volunteer gathering signatures to serving as the operations lead for Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign. “The subsequent 12 months were a whirlwind of once-in-a-lifetime experiences,” Rhoden adds, “including meeting my future wife!”

Other achievements were less splashy, though no less extraordinary. As a school teacher in Tennessee, Launa Wood drove her students to a 100% pass rate on the state exam, despite a majority of the students reading below their grade level competency level at the start of the year. Similarly, during a tour of Afghanistan, the University of Washington’s Aaron Tyler developed study groups, replete with textbooks, for the team he was leading as a U.S. Marine. “Something was missing from their experience,” Tyler explains. “I noticed that many of them were struggling with some fundamental academic concepts. All but one confided in me that they believed college was out of reach for them… We started reviewing math, English, history and science. It was a tough first few meetings, but weeks later they became believers in the power of education to advance their lives and the lives of those around them.”

How big of a believer did he make each of them? “I am most proud that upon returning stateside, five of my twelve young Marines went on to pursue degrees in higher education,” he adds.


Equally impressive was the class’ achievements once they started business school. Some students launched businesses that gained momentum as their studies progressed. That was the case for the University of Minnesota’s Jamie Glover, who co-founded ASIYA, which markets “culturally appropriate” athletic wear such as hijabs to Muslim females.  In 2016, it won the Minnesota Cup Startup Competition as the best social venture. Since then, it has received media coverage in outlets ranging from The New York Times to People. During the same time, the University of Maryland’s Mohamed Boraie built his side wedding photography business, where his weekend sacrifices enabled him to retire his MBA debt before graduation. Boraie’s classmates weren’t the only ones to notice his hustle. “Capital One featured my company in a regional campaign highlighting small businesses that adopt banking products to best serve customers,” he adds. “I couldn’t help but feel a great sense of accomplishment when I first saw the corresponding billboard on the streets of Arlington, Virginia, with my company logo next to the Capital One logo.”

University of Rochester’s Kathryn Flaschner

The “MBAs To Watch” also sought to give back wherever and whenever they could. At Duke, David Gross spearheaded an effort to sponsor a refugee family, raising $3,800 for necessities in the process. That’s all in a day’s work for Penn State’s Diana Mihaela Stangu, whose fundraising prowess resulted in the school doubling donations to its annual charity event over the previous year. At the University of Rochester, it was near impossible not to bump into Kathryn Flaschner…at least a couple times a day. Tireless and tenacious, this former All-American helped coach her alma mater’s field hockey team to the NCAA’s Elite Eight. That was just a hobby for her! Flaschner’s real passion was turning the Simon Women in Business (SWiB) Club into the go-to destination for women and men alike. Partnering with the Forté Foundation, Flaschner instituted a wide array of programming through SWiB, ranging from coffee chat socials to career coaching sessions. “She has done more with the club in one year than I have personally seen over the last ten years,” contends Nathan Kadar, the school’s director of student life.

It wasn’t always a smooth process, however. At Georgia Tech, Jermaine Fanfair, an attorney-turned-consultant, points out that it was hard enough to take a full course load, let alone serve as a graduate research assistant and a team member in a tech venture. Couple that with fatherhood and you have the makings of a sitcom. “There were times when I arrived at a team meeting with classmates and had some of my daughter’s toys falling out of my bag,” he admits. “Let’s just say the lines of family, school and work were blurry at times.”


Humor aside, business school required tradeoffs for some MBAs. For UCLA’s Tiffany Liu, it meant scaling back on her fitness-driven lifestyle. “I used to practice yoga for 90 minutes six to seven times a week,” she confides. “I swore to myself that I would continue to do so in business school, but it just wasn’t practical given the limited amount of time I had and all of the commitments…that needed to be prioritized. Now I feel lucky if I can squeeze in a practice once a week.”

UCLA’s Tiffany Liu

Those weren’t the only surprises in store for the Class of 2017. Illinois’ Miller was blown away by how intense the workload was…even after spending five years in graduate school. For IESE Vanessa Macdougall, the biggest surprise came from focusing on process over result during cases. Likewise, the MBA approach was completely the opposite of anything that UC-Davis’ Rob Bohn had ever experienced. “The best advice I received when I started my MBA was to “not let your classes get in the way of your education,” he shares. “This surprising and counterintuitive statement acknowledges that learning opportunities come from both inside and outside the classroom, in internship opportunities, extracurriculars, and elsewhere.”

By “elsewhere,” the University of Toronto’s Phil Gazaleh would say “classmates.” His takeaway: Your peers care in deed as much as word. “What surprised me most about business school was how athletes in the same race could spend so much time and energy helping each other cross the finish line,” he explains. “I’m not just referring to helping each other with course work, but more importantly supporting each other through big life changes like a job hunt, breakups, engagements, pregnancies, and losing loved ones. I feel as though I learned more about myself in business school than at any other point in my life.”


The learning has just begun for the “MBAs To Watch,” as they head off to leave their mark in consulting, banking, entrepreneurship, and operations.  Looking back, what will they miss most? Babson’s Wilson, for one, enjoyed having her “mind blown pretty much every day” in business school.  Others like Columbia Business School’s MacKenzie Green, whose highlight was meeting with CNN’s Jeff Zucker after the election, will look back fondly at their ability to hobnob with leading business minds during speaking engagements and trips. Celebrity leaders aside, ESADE’s Sara López Castro will miss what she calls “exposure,” the ability for students to immerse themselves in learning about different industries, job functions, and organizations.”

MIT’s Rei Goffer

Global travel may be all the rage in business schools today, but MIT’s Rei Goffer counters that the MBA experience was a chance to explore the world without ever leaving the safety of the school. “Even though you spend most of the two years in Cambridge,” he observes, “you feel like you’ve traveled through half the globe, because your friends come from so many different places and cultures. I can’t think of any other experience that resembles that.”

As the Class of 2017 applies their MBA lessons to carving out a mission, perhaps what they will miss most are those electrifying epiphanies that reshaped how they view their world…and themselves. “I think that many may view business school as an opportunity to just educate themselves more about the topics you need to be successful in business,” adds IE’s Imam. “I found the real growth came in providing me with the environment to take risks and experiment academically, entrepreneurially and even socially and thus open myself up to parts I never even knew existed!”


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