The Pioneering MBAs In The Class Of 2019

Alyssa Forman, a Teach for American volunteer, is a first year at Northwestern’s Kellogg School of Management

Then again, it might be hard to wipe away UCLA’s Hoonki Hong‘s knowing smile on influencing national policy. As an audit manager at Deloitte, he developed a new accounting standard for the largest savings bank in South Korea. Just one problem: It would de-value nearly a third of the bank’s assets. While the model was sound, the timing wasn’t, with the bank postponing the implementation by five years to give it time to restructure. Soon enough, other banks — and the government itself — followed his lead. “It was one of my biggest accomplishments,” he says, “not only because I helped build a valuation model for loans of a savings bank, but also because I contributed to deciding the nation’s policy.”


Many MBA candidates return to campus hoping to make a career transition. But many have already managed to switch roles and industries before then. After majoring in English and playing professional hockey, New York University’s Conor Pieri turned himself into a quant, becoming the “go-to” on finance questions by JetBlue’s treasury and c-suite teams. LBS’ Adeyemi transformed from a project engineer in oil and gas to a footwear designer. What can you make of Northwestern’s Alyssa Forman? After joining Teach for America, she was asked to start up a special education department in a new charter school. Just one problem: she majored in public policy and possessed limited exposure to special ed. You can probably guess how this one turned out. A year later, the charter school network was already copying Forman’s model.

Pioneers…Groundbreakers…Inventors…Champions. Whatever word you use, the underlying meaning is the same: The Class of 2019 is willing to step up, bear the risks and burdens, and turn ideas into category leaders. Before she joined HEC Paris to become an entrepreneur, Yanji Wang spearheaded the development of the merchandising structure for Adidas China’s Retail Factory Outlet, which resulted in 80% yearly scale growth. And she wasn’t above serving as the lead actress in the company’s recruitment videos, either. LBS’ Amanda Morgan brought KFC to Myanmar. If you’re a fan of Girls Who Code, you can thank the University of Michigan’s Dayna Hine. She headed the organization’s operations and built its infrastructure. “I had the opportunity to work with, and learn from incredible coworkers,” she says, “while building a movement bigger than any of us could have imagined in the beginning. I’m proud that my work contributed to helping thousands of young women see potential in themselves and learn skills that will help them advance in school and their careers.”

Yanji Wang, formerly with Adidas, is now an MBA student at HEC Paris

There is one virtue that first years share with so many past MBA classes: An irrepressible desire to give back. Yale’s Rakesh Saha dumped a comfortable living as a senior software engineer to join Make a Difference, a decade-old non-profit serving children in foster homes. In less than a year, his after school support pilot ballooned from one shelter focused on 40 students to 67 shelters catering to 3,400 students.  At Cummins, Emory’s Ryanne Fennimore inaugurated a corporate social responsibility business that forged 100 teams who donated thousands of hours of volunteer time. At the same time, the University of Michigan’s Kashay Sanders developed the curriculum for VOICE 4 Girls, an empowerment social enterprise for females in India, which grew from 3,000 to 34,000 participants over the past four years.

“The opportunity to work globally, lead a diverse team, and tangibly witness the impact of our content gave me a professional confidence that continues to serve me to this day,” Sanders notes. “The experience instilled in me a willingness to raise my hand to tackle complex challenges at subsequent places of work. It also moved me to be proactive and find ways for my skills to add unique value to an organization.”


So what’s ahead for the Class of 2019? For one, there are the dreaded “core” courses, where first years are certain to come face-to-face with a subject they dreaded — and probably avoided. There are meet-and-greets with recruiters, followed by all-night prep for case interviews and hard choices on where to spend their summers. Chances are, they will have one pivotal epiphany about who they are — or what they really want to do — that will rock their carefully-laid plans.

Gheremey Edwards of Washington University’s Olin School plans to stretch himself in every way

Going in, these students have set the usual goals for their first year. For many, success means experience, expertise, confidence, friendship, and (of course) a coveted internship. That doesn’t mean this class doesn’t drop the serious façade, if only for a moment. Take Yale SOM’s Britt Milano who is anticipating that Excel is more than “sum(A1:A4).” Chris Shen wonders if the “Freshman 15” also applies to graduate school, particularly with the renowned pizza joints in New Haven. And Katie Sierks isn’t looking for a wholesale change after year one. “Next May, I hope to be a new, improved version of the friendly, sustainability nerd I am today,” she jokes.

In the end, perhaps the best measure of the class’ success can be traced to what defines true pioneers: how often they fail over the next year. “I hope to finish my first year with a concrete list of subjects or careers in which I was not successful,” argues the University of Chicago’s Leila Cutler. “If I sail through first year, to me that means I will have failed in embracing what business school is all about: a chance to push myself outside my comfort zone.”

Washington University’s Gheremey Edwards admits that he has spent his life avoiding any experience that might “stretch” him or cause him “embarrassment.” For Edwards, business school is his opportunity to step out of the shadows and test his leadership and technical abilities like never before. “I plan on taking a supply chain course even though I’m concentrating in brand management,” he vows. “I’m going to join the case study competition team despite my fear of public speaking. I’ll also be attending every corporate networking mixer to learn from industry leaders even though I am quite the introvert. I’m finally going to invest in my learning, and I’m looking forward to my failures.”


NameSchoolHometownPrevious Employer
 Linsha Yao Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) Beijing, China SmartConn
 Babatunde Oshinowo Jr. Chicago (Booth) Naperville, IL NFL
 Celine Tarrant Columbia Business School Toronto, Canada Walmart Canada
 Barbara Demetrio Salgado Cornell (Johnson) Sao Paulo, Brazil Itau Unibanco S.A
 Orlando Gómez Dartmouth (Tuck) Chicago, IL Peace Corps, Perú
 Griffin Mueller Duke (Fuqua) Durham, NC Cisco
 Richard Murray Emory (Goizueta) Birmingham, AL Bain & Company
 Jennifer Rose Schwartz Georgetown (McDonough) New York, NY FOX Business Network
 Kenya Hunt Harvard Business School Huntsville, AL Chevron
 Luis Antonio Jiménez Rivera HEC Paris Mexico City, Mexico McKinsey
 Kyle Lewandowski Indiana (Kelley) Muskego, WI U.S. Army
 Nourhan Farhat INSEAD Beirut, Lebanon Roland Berger Strategy Consultants
 Dolapo Adeyemi London Business School Irawo, Nigeria Grolightly Ltd
 Hannah Smalley Michigan (Ross) Los Angeles, CA United Nations Foundation
 Rosa Glenn MIT (Sloan) Dublin, Ireland Anthropologie
 Ian Murphy New York University (Stern) Old Greenwich, CT Behavior-Enhanced Adaptive Smart Thermostat  (BEAST)
 Kathryn Hennigan North Carolina (Kenan-Flagler) Mooresville, NC Houzz
 Alyssa Forman Northwestern (Kellogg) Cleveland, OH Kaiser Associates
 Andrew Engvall Notre Dame (Mendoza) Barrington, RI Capital One
 Tomiko Toyota Knopp Rice (Jones) Houston, TX Mayor’s Office (City of Houston)
 America Gonzalez U.C.-Berkeley (Haas) Monterrey, Mexico Bain & Company
 Adi Rajapuram UCLA (Anderson) Lafayette, CA Oracle
 Dan Ben-Nun Texas (McCombs) Austin, TX Adspace Agency
 Ronald Replan Toronto (Rotman) Nueva Ecija,  Philippines NutriAsia
 Julia Brown Vanderbilt (Owen) DeRidder, LA Aon
 Mercedes Rodriguez Virginia (Darden) Pasadena, CA Brazen
 Skyler Brown University of Washington (Foster) San Jose, CA U.S. Special Forces
 Gheremey Edwards Washington University (Olin) Memphis, TN Frayser Elementary School
 William Vuillet Wharton School Paris, France U.S. Navy
 Rakesh Saha Yale SOM Bangalore, India Make a Difference


  • dilma

    Hello John,

    What is your explanation for this year delay in releasing the employment reports of most top schools? I see only Booth results this year…

  • BigBangTrigger

    aand she is dating the oscar guy at CBS !

  • D.B. Cooper

    When is this GMAT arms race going to end? Average scores keep inflating like crazy…

  • Joe

    I heard a girl at Stern has an Emmy award…

  • Claptone

    The school with the 7th highest gmat is really struggling. Stanford eats their lunch. They hate it.

  • Claptone

    But the number then should be closer to the 91%, because in the 941 you also have to include the 2+2 from previous years who are enrolling this year.

    If they are already included it means that:
    Accepted in 2017: 1,138
    Enrolled in 2017: 941 – previous 2+2
    2+2 from 2017: 1,138-(941-previous 2+2)

    Assuming there are ~100 2+2 from previous year matriculating this year (there were 106 commits last year), it means that out of the 1,138, 300 of them are 2+2 – very high.

  • The HBS acceptances include 2+2 admits who don’t immediately enroll. That is why you think the yield rate is lower than Harvard’s published number. As for where we got the numbers? It’s called reporting. We don’t wait for schools to report the numbers. We call them up and ask for them.

  • Calptone, where we got the numbers? It’s called reporting. We got them from the schools, many of which don’t publicly release some of these numbers.

  • Claptone

    Your numbers on page 2 are wrong. If HBS accepted 1,138 but only enrolled 941 it means their yield is 83%. On their website they say it’s 91%.

    Frankly, I don’t know where you got all those accepted numbers since they haven’t been publicly released.

  • Jacob

    Ya, not sure how you claim to be the best school if you have the 7th-9th highest GMAT class average. Most use the GMAT as the most common metric of determining student-body quality.

  • Joe

    So it looks like the GMAT Ranking is 1. Stanford, 2. Kellogg, 3. Booth & Wharton, 5. Harvard. Harvard won’t even publish a mean because they know its sub-730 and might even be below Yale, and UC Berkeley. Maybe as low as 7th or 8th place.