Great story! And the 2019 Class is full of them. “I once sat next to Jon Stewart and chatted with him throughout an entire Knicks game,” reminisces Vanderbilt’s Odelia Lao. “But I didn’t realize it was him until after the game because I was too busy cheering on Steph Curry and the Warriors. I even ate his popcorn!”
Did you hear how Mercedes Rodriguez won her first elected office? Maybe it’d be better if the Darden first year told you. “I was once elected to student government with help from my imaginary friend,” she relays. “In elementary school, I resurrected my dear friend — gave him a personality, drew pictures of him and placed him all around campus with chat bubbles convincing fellow students to “Listen to Percy and vote for mercy.” One might call that my very first marketing campaign.”
FIRST YEARS HAIL FROM PRINCTON, STANFORD…AND SECOND CITY IMPROV?
No matter how badly you flubbed the GMAT, you probably didn’t have a worse experience than Dolapo Adeyemi. “I wrote the GMAT exam whilst 37.5 weeks pregnant with my second daughter! The coordinators at the examination centre had the ambulance on speed dial as they thought I would have the baby before finishing the exam!”
Adeyemi can (probably) laugh about that now that she’s part of the London Business School. When it comes to the Class of 2019, they are hardly bound by any region and academic discipline. Sure, you’ll find plenty of students from such hotbeds as the United States, India, and China. Still, the best MBA programs are attracting top talent from Nepal, Trinidad and Tobago, Uzbekistan, and Ireland. And students from those far-flung locates are all thankful to be in business school. Just ask Harvard Business School’s Jonathon McCarthy, who undoubtedly enjoys better odds of survival in Boston than his rural Australia, home to 16,000 people — and 40,000 saltwater crocodiles!
Their alma maters are equally diverse. While MBA programs are dotted with the usual alumni from Stanford, Princeton, and Michigan, they boast plenty of outliers too. Northwestern’s Chuck Feerick proudly hangs a diploma from Chicago’s Second City Improv (and William & Mary). MIT’s Rosa Glenn is a classically trained weaver with a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design. And Yale’s Andrew Mulherkar holds a dual degree from Tufts and the New England Conservatory, where he studied environmental economics and jazz performance.
GREAT FEEDERS TO BUSINESS SCHOOL: OPERA AND BALLET
Indeed, business school has become a big tent, deep enough to accommodate the usual Economics, English, and Engineering majors, but wide enough to attract students who studied African Studies, Geography, Visual Arts, Anthropology, and Architecture. They are quite a mix. If the Statue of Liberty welcomes the tired and poor masses yearning for freedom, then business school is the home for stifled and idealistic professionals dreaming of hitting the reset button.
This diversity is particularly evident in the Class of 2019’s professional backgrounds. As you’d expect, the classes are stacked with representatives from such blue ribbon firms as Goldman Sachs, General Mills, PwC, JP Morgan and the Gates Foundation. Heck, Harvard’s Mike Young has already worked for Bain & Company and Facebook! True to their pioneering spirit, the class ventured out into some novel directions before finding a home with business.
In particular, the class brings a real artistic bent back to campus. Indiana’s Stephanie Jordan and the University of Washington’s Giulia Pellegrino are both classically trained opera singers. Cornell’s Lindsey Staley performed with the Nashville Ballet after graduation. And you could call the University of Chicago’s Juan Vasquez a quadruple threat: a singer, dancer, actor, and engineer who ultimately ended up at McKinsey.
TOP GUN INSTRUCTOR READIES FOR THE DANGER ZONE — WHARTON
Those aren’t the only class members who’ve made the spotlight. After learning to water ski when she was three, Dartmouth’s Gillian Apps went on to win three Olympic gold medals in women’s ice hockey for Team Canada. Duke’s Griffin Mueller competed for the USA in the track and field world championships. Babatunde Oshinowo, an engineer by trade, played for three NFL teams before joining the University of Chicago. He also spent his offseasons teaching himself how to code. Looking for a blend of artist and athlete? Head to Indiana, where Micah Pellerin is known for a two-year stint in the NFL…and being the First Chair flutist in Mississippi’s State Orchestra.
The MBA is far from a finishing school for bean counters and middle managers. Duke and Cornell netted Sylvia Choi, a dolphin researcher, and Christine Mbaye Muchemu, a nuclear engineer, respectively. The class also features Wharton’s William Vuillet, who spent three years as an instructor at the United States Navy Fighter Weapons School — known as TOP GUN in the movies. On the ground, Adam Scheer was a U.S. Navy SEAL Platoon Commander before starting at New York University this fall. If you want to tap into someone’s network, get to know Georgetown’s Ximena Gonzalez Rojas. She was the White House’s Chief of Staff for Presidential Personnel during the Obama Administration.
These first years’ accomplishments are equally impressive, with many achieving them on the biggest stages possible. At Bain, America Gonzalez, a University of California-Berkeley recruit, helped a global retailer save $200 million dollars in three months. Indiana’s Bryant Lim devised the models that served as the foundation for the opening of a new in-house finance company at Yamaha. Lim wasn’t the only person to turn an idea into an enterprise. At New York & Company, Vanderbilt’s Lao launched the Eva Mendes collection, turning it into a $50 million dollar line — and the most profitable in the whole company! Who wouldn’t want to trade places with Georgetown’s Schwartz? “As a producer at FOX Business Network,” she shares, “I secured interviews with Fortune 500 CEOs, conducted phone interviews with guests prior to on-air appearances, and wrote questions that were used in the live shows. There have been many incredible people that I’ve had the privilege of working with, including Warren Buffett, Carl Icahn, and Elon Musk.”
FROM ADVISING PRIME MINISTERS TO MARKETING CHAINSMOKERS
Big names, but the University of Chicago’s Caitlin Geehan wouldn’t change the past two years for the world. During that time, she has been running point on marketing for The Chainsmokers, a music duo famous for their hypnotic anthem, “Closer” (“So baby pull me closer / In the backseat of your rover / That I know you can’t afford / Bite that tattoo on your shoulder.”). “It was a path of consistent and strategic artist development, not overnight success, which made every single milestone challenging to achieve but ultimately rewarding,” she says. “It is incredible to remember where we started and then recognize how far the project has come with several #1 singles, a chart-topping album, multi-platinum sales, billions of streams, sold out shows, and even a few Grammy awards along the way.”
Like Greenhan, London Business School’s Amy Dobbin stood in the background, taking quiet satisfaction from watching her bosses rake in the accolades. In Dobbins’ case, she served as a senior advisor to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, where she helped shape messaging and policy, including the development of a $49 billion dollar national broadband network, the country’s largest infrastructure effort to date. Michigan’s Greg Phillips didn’t win any awards either when he worked as an analyst in the Obama White House. Instead, he took pride in the camaraderie he built with teammates and communicating the president’s energy and environmental message to constituents.