IS GEEK IN CHIC?
The numbers don’t tell the real story. The class arrives in Durham from undergrad programs as diverse as Stanford, the University of Indonesia, the U.S. Military Academy, and Brigham Young University. And it ranges from Pepper the pediatrician to Choi the conservationist (not to mention a dolphin researcher and a Goldman Sachs vice president).
If the strength of a team can be measured in its diversity, the Class of 2019 will be in good shape. Call it the class of freaks and geeks…in the best way possible. Matthew Pepper, a Duke alum who went on to medicine, considers himself to be a “goofy science geek.” Anuj Choruey is a soccer and cricket “freak” who hopes to become more of an extrovert at Fuqua. And Griffin Mueller, who once represented Team USA at the track and field world championship, just plain “geeks out” when it comes to systems thinking and disruptive technology.
Gage will undoubtedly be the toast of Fuqua Fridays as a “passionate, confident, competitive, reliable, party-hosting, globe-trotting, yoga-practicing, guacamole-eating, animal-loving, Texan.” When time comes time for those FuquaVision skits, she’ll get a run for her money from Sam Freakley, a U.S. Army officer who’ll bring a wicked sense of humor to the Fox Center, describing himself as “more Steve Carrell than Steve Jobs” and “more Jimmy Buffet than Warren Buffett.”
DR. PEPPER TO THE RESCUE…LITERALLY
The colorful ways they frame themselves pales in comparison to their life stories. Sylvia Choi fell in love with kayaking and sailing after overcoming aquaphobia. Winny Arindrani competed on Indonesian Idol as a 16-year-old, making her the show’s youngest contestant ever. Zambranno is busy penning a graphic novel on the history of the Great Lakes…and developing a non-profit to serve the LGBT community in Mexico and Latin America.
How is this for a great story? “I once had to treat a medical emergency with secret service agents as my assistants,” writes Dr. Pepper. “I was in a secured area in front of a major party presidential candidate when someone collapsed. No other medical personnel could get through the crowd and security bubble fast enough, so I had agents fetching me supplies. Luckily everything turned out okay!”
Luck had little to do with why these students made it into Fuqua. Jennifer Nicole Miller, a 2017 graduate, recently shared a quip from former Dean Blair Sheppard: “Fuqua wants to produce graduates who can drink champagne with the rich and famous and can drink chai with those who that’s all they can afford.” Looking at the incoming class, there is one quality that unites them all: They were able to achieve big things for those who had little.
McGEE OPENS THE DOORS FOR WOMEN TO FIGHT IN THE ARMY
Take Winny Arindrani. She found an empowering side hustle when she was working as an assistant vice president in mergers and acquisitions at DBS Bank Singapore. Looking to make a bigger contribution, she partnered with her mother, a fashion entrepreneur, to launch Tatoen, a social venture through which Muslim women in rural Java would produce and sell ceremonial attire called Mukena. “When I first met them,” Arindrani shares, “they were either unemployed or working as farm labor struggling to make ends meet. We organized sewing, embroidery, business, and confidence classes for them. Now working with the venture, they are economically empowered and have even started seriously thinking about their children’s education.”
Arindrani wasn’t the only pioneering force in her class. During her three years serving the Armed Services Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives, Megan McGee heard plenty of lip service about integrating women into all facets of the U.S. Army, including combat. Turns out, she would set the bar for other women to follow. In 2010, she was assigned as a military intelligence officer to the 82nd Airborne Division — the only woman in her regiment — where she defied institutional barriers and stereotype alike.
“While in Fort Bragg and Afghanistan,” she shares, “I proved that I could analyze intelligence, work in diverse teams, and keep up with the physical rigors of an infantry regiment. Four years later, I took those experiences and helped integrate the first 10 women into the infantry as the Gender Integration Officer-in-Charge for the Army’s Chief of Infantry. I advocated for women in Ranger School and combat arms jobs by providing personal experiences and professional feedback. And honestly, it wasn’t until I started applying to business school that I realized how my experiences came full circle!”
Looking back, the 2019 Class employed a variety of leadership tools so they could achieve business results and do good in the same motion. James Couch, a baseball lover from Howard University, may not be a physician, but he used his finance wizardry to fight Alzheimer’s. At Eli Lilly, he ran the financial side of a large clinical trial, where he identified several strategies that reduced costs without undermining trial results. “In the end, we were able to create a new trial design that reduced the overall budget by approximately $50 million, which allowed us to gain internal expertise, and ultimately reduced time to market for one of our largest clinical trials by about six months,” he explains. “The new design has since been implemented and has encouraged other trials in the portfolio to take on similar designs in hopes of bringing revolutionary products to the patients that need them most.”
NEW BAR…NEW CLASSES…AND NEW PARKING!!!
Fuqua itself has been in growth mode, capped by the recent opening of its newly-renovated conference center and its hotel, the JB Duke. Russ Morgan, senior associate dean of the full-time MBA program, describes the facility as “modern and sleek.” It is also connected to the rest of the complex, a form-follows-function design that further drives interaction among students, faculty, and staff. “Students already love the extra space to gather,” Morgan observes.” The facility includes a full-service restaurant and bar. We’ve been hearing from folks over the summer who are raving about being able to have a drink and play bocce ball in one place!”
Better yet, the school recently finished a project near-and-dear to every full-time MBA’s heart. “The other big perk for students is the new parking facility,” Morgan adds, “which is extremely convenient for our community.”
In addition, Fuqua launched a one-year Master of Quantitative Management (MQM) program in 2017, which enables the school to beef up its offerings in analytics. “We feel this program is also going to benefit our MBA students as our faculty develop even deeper expertise in business analytics and strengthen ties to industry,” Morgan notes. “We also envision MBA students will benefit from the extracurricular opportunities with conferences, speakers, coding forums and such. We expect MQM will help us provide more depth of offerings in business analytics in our MBA programs in the future.”
Like all top business programs, Fuqua is constantly revamping its MBA curriculum. Looking to the future, Morgan is most excited by several new courses that address many of the disruptive and polarizing elements bedeviling modern business. Morgan points to a course being launched this spring by Professor Aaron “Ronnie” Chatterji, which examines the risks and rewards of CEOs weighing in publicly on controversial issues. General Martin Dempsey, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will teach a course on real-time decision-making that looks at the thought processes involved in complex situations with competing interests. In addition, the program will soon open a course from Cam Harvey on blockchain and its applications beyond bitcoin currency.
“We feel it is essential our faculty be on the front lines of real world business issues and we very much value how those insights are passed on directly to our students,” Morgan adds.
Go to page 3 to see profiles of 12 incoming Fuqua students.