Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class Of 2019

A few representative members of the Class of 2019 at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Everyone wants to be a star. Who doesn’t dream of the attention, applause, and acclaim? That’s why being called a “team player” ranks among the biggest compliments in business. It is the rarest of skills —and the most difficult to master.

What are team players? One moment, they are stepping forward to lead their teammates. The next, they are grinding through the grunt work. They are committed to the larger purpose, unafraid to offer feedback and hold peers accountable for achieving the greater good. Team players take pride in their roles, thriving in them and ultimately transcending them. They comfort after setbacks; inspire when doubts arise; and celebrate when others succeed. In the process, they become “leaders of consequence.”


That’s a popular phrase at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. At Fuqua, leaders are those who are passionate about nurturing community, embracing diversity, and acting ethically. These core beliefs are the crux behind “Team Fuqua,” the shared values that have fostered a culture marked by connection and collaboration. If Cheers was the bar where “everybody knows your name,” Fuqua is the school where everybody has your back.

Team Fuqua, the term for the school’s highly collaborative culture, is a defining element at Duke

At Fuqua, teamwork is the stepping stone to leadership, a means for achieving lasting impact. It is a philosophy summarized in a proud Fuqua maxim: “To go fast, go alone. To go far, go together.” Like leadership, teamwork is a skill that requires a concerted effort and daily practice. If there is one attribute that defines Fuqua, it would be that it is a two-year exercise in learning how to successfully work with others. This dynamic was one big reason why the school remained such a big draw for the Class of 2019.

“The Team Fuqua culture is more than a phrase,” writes Lauren Gage, a Texas native who studied business at the University of Michigan as an undergrad. “It’s the way people greet you, listen to you, motivate you, support you and connect with you.” Julio Zambrano, who holds a master of science in law from Northwestern, enjoyed a similar experience during recruiting. He observes that Fuqua MBA candidates “exude a certain je ne sais quoi,” a mix of intelligence and charm that brings a “vibrancy” to the school. After playing basketball at Brigham Young University, Chase Ulicny could sense the same familial spirit at Fuqua. “Growing up playing sports,” he notes, “I know the power of teams and the magic that can take place when teammates pull in the same direction. I want that team experience throughout my MBA, my career, and my life.”

Team Fuqua is the embodiment of school’s long-held belief that the era of the all-powerful leader hero has passed. As expectations, complexity, and competition continue to grow, business success will hinge on tightly-knit teams leveraging their diverse strengths to act quickly. As a research scientist and health manager, Zambrano has seen this team-centric transformation up close. “I found Duke’s mission of molding collaborative leaders appealing,” he explains. “I feel that business in the modern world has become so interwoven and connected with other industries and professions (law, sociology, engineering, etc.) that no one person can run a major business on her own. The future of great companies, in my opinion, depends upon how well their different departments work with each other.”


Being on the right side of history has made Fuqua an increasingly popular option for MBA applicants. This year, Fuqua didn’t want for quality students. “It’s a standout class. We feel very, very good about the incoming class,” explains Dean William Boulding in an interview with Poets&Quants. “This year’s class looks very much like the previous class. We are slightly down in terms of international students, but relative to what I am hearing from different schools, we continue to draw from all the places we have drawn from all over the world. I know some other places have been shut out from different regions.”

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business can lay claim to having the MBA leading the world’s most valuable corporation

This year, the program received 3,796 applications, up 1.5% over the previous year. In the process, Fuqua maintained its privileged 22% acceptance rate, which stayed on par with such peers as Chicago Booth and NYU Stern. Although the class size of 439 students was smaller than the 2018 Class, it was more of a return to normal when enrollments stood at 437 students for several years.

The big news, however, revolved around GMAT scores. The 2019 Class posted an average GMAT of 702, up seven points from the previous year, with its median GMAT jumping 10 points to 710. In the process, the GMAT range rose from 660-750. This was an intriguing development for a program known for prioritizing talent, potential, character, and fit over quantitative measures. By the same token, undergraduate GPAs rose .03 of a point to 3.5.

Otherwise, the class stats remained relatively steady from the previous year. The percentage of female students slipped a point to 34%, the same drop as international students who comprise 39% of the 2019 Class. That said, this difference was made up by American minority students, which now represent 11% of the class.

The 2019 Class will also look a bit different from its predecessor, in terms of academic backgrounds at least. This year, business and accounting majors make up the largest percentage of the class at 36%, up seven points. In contrast, engineering and natural science dropped six points to 26%. That equates to roughly 29 more students with business backgrounds and 29 fewer with hard science degrees. The percentage of liberal arts entrants also fell from 23% to 19%. Professionally, the class arrives from nearly every conceivable corner, with class blocs closely resembling last year’s totals. Finance holds the largest percentage at 21%, followed by consulting (18%), education (7%), health care (6%), government (5%), general management (5%), and energy (5%).

Go to page 3 to see profiles of 12 incoming Fuqua students.

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