Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class of 2019

Class of 2017 MBAs at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management


In 2016, Vanderbilt made headlines by opening the Wond’ry, an innovation and entrepreneurship center operated by the School of Engineering that features several partnerships with Owen. This includes a hands-on course, New Product Design and Development, where MBAs pair up with talented students across the university to tackle big issues and test startup ideas. A year earlier, the school opened its Turner Family Center for Social Ventures, best known for its Project Pyramid program where students partner with social enterprises worldwide to issues related to poverty. Now, the school is focusing on more bread-and-butter initiatives.

Dean Johnson notes, for example, that the school has also been investing renovations to better align the facilities with the program’s personal-scale culture. “We just opened a lovely outdoor courtyard patio that will be the centerpiece for frequent Owen events, receptions, and celebrations,” he tells Poets&Quants.  “We are also finishing a $4.5 million-dollar renovation in our library.  Our library will soon include sound-buffered, technology-enabled meeting rooms to support our commitment to team-based learning.  It will also feature a large fireplace where we can host executives for informal fireside chats with our students in support of our relationship-oriented culture.”

Johnson adds that the school is undergoing a building expansion and additional upgrades to enhance learning spaces both in and out of the classroom. It doesn’t stop there. The school has also been investing heavily in faculty, adding seven new members, headlined by marketing maven Kelly Goldsmith, a member of Poets&Quants’ Best 40 Under 40 professors in 2014. “We are expanding our faculty to bring even more expertise into our school and create more specialized electives,” Johnson concludes.  “This will benefit future MBA students by offering them even more opportunities to create MBA learning experiences that are personalized to their individual goals.”


The program has also earned praised for its Leadership Development Program (LDP). A voluntary program that is used by over half of the class, LDP can be described as a deep dive into the self. It features an array of tools from assessments to high level coaching normally found in Fortune 500 training programs. Basically, LDP Is designed so students can maximize their MBA experience, with an emphasis placed on targeting underlying passions, setting goals, and practicing leadership.

“The caliber of leadership development students receive at Vanderbilt is typically reserved for high-level executives, says Melinda Allen, executive director of leadership development programs at Owen. “It incorporates resources and best practices applied by top organizations in developing their own leaders.”

In Allen’s experience, LDP goes far beyond what MBA candidates might experience in other programs.

Melinda Allen

“We individualize leadership development to fit students’ needs and goals, and to help them understand and leverage individual strengths, challenges, drivers and capabilities,” she explains. “Vanderbilt uses executive coaching, Hogan Assessments and various Korn Ferry products, all of which are key components of top leadership development programs across Fortune 500 companies today. To my knowledge, we’re the only business school that offers the Hogan to the entire student body, across all programs. The 34 Executive Coaches we have in our network are credentialed and trained in the profession.”

Based on early returns, the LDP program has been a major hit among Owen alumni. “We consistently hear from alumni and students who actively engaged in the leadership development program that they gained self-awareness and learned to improve upon core competencies, such as conflict management, dealing with ambiguity, managing complexity and motivating others,” she adds. “All of these are complex skills that can ultimately be leveraged and built upon in their internships and full-time jobs.”



Nashville is nicknamed “Nowville” — and for good reason. Once regarded as a provincial outpost known best for the Grand Ole Opry, the city has emerged as a Fortune 500 hub, with firms like HCA Holdings and Dollar General calling the area home. Long considered the “music capital of the world” and a refuge for the creative class, the Nashville region has also turned into the south’s answer to Detroit, with over 30,000 people working in the automobile industry, including thriving Nissan and General Motors plants.

Such synergies have enabled the area to rack up its share of accolades. In 2017, Forbes ranked Nashville #1 among labor markets for creating the most high-wage jobs in the business and professional services sector. It also finished 3rd overall in NerdWallet’s 2017 ranking of the best cities for job seekers, thanks to low unemployment rates and lower monthly rents than competing “it” destinations like Austin, Seattle, Atlanta, and Washington, DC. According to U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data released in 2017, the Nashville area boasted the 3rd highest growth rate among large metros at 4.0% — a jaw-dropping 1.84% improvement over the previous year. Not surprisingly, the city’s population has grown by 4.4% over the past year.

The Maji of Music City, however, is healthcare, with over 350 healthcare companies in the metro area. In fact, Dean Johnson has referred to Nashville as the “Silicon Valley for health care,” an ecosystem where Fortune 500 and startups alike administer the intricacies of the American healthcare system. Such strengths create opportunities for Owen MBA candidates to partner with leading players to take on projects, complete internships, and land jobs.

David Grometer, a 2016 MBA to Watch who joined DaVita Redwoods after graduation, was thankful for the deep connections that Owen had forged with leading healthcare companies across the region as part of its healthcare concentration. “I’ve appreciated the opportunity to enroll in a wide range of healthcare electives. And I’ve benefited from Owen’s ability to partner with the Vanderbilt University Medical Center and hundreds of other local players including Hospital Corporation of America, Community Health Systems, large insurance payors, consulting firms, and many more.”


Downtown Nashville

This blend of curriculum, connections and location makes for a hat trick that’s tough for rival schools to defend against. “Nashville is a great place to experience a vibrant and growing business climate with a lot to offer students both while they are in school and after,” says Emily Anderson, director of the career management center, in a statement to Poets&Quants. “Vanderbilt Business Students are encouraged to learn, grow and build a network by engaging with the community through organizations like the Nashville Healthcare CouncilHealth:Further and the Nashville Entrepreneur Center. It’s also an attractive business environment with growing corporate presence – for example, the Bridgestone USA HQ consolidation in Nashville.”

More than that, Nashville is a place with “something for everyone” in the words of Christie St-John, director of MBA admissions at Owen, in a 2016 interview with Poets&Quants. She clicks off the many amusements in the area, including sports, music, food, boating, hiking, and even ballet and opera. If Owen is family for Martinez, then Nashville is certainly home. “I wanted to live in the south in the United States,” she explains, “which is a part of the country that maintains its unique traditions, cooking, music, etc. However, by choosing Nashville, I was also choosing a cosmopolitan and fun city.”

And fun may be downplaying what the city all has to offer, adds 2017 alum Collins. “Nashville’s food and music scene stood out as a perfect place to experience business school. There’s always something exciting to do to take your mind off classes, and it’s not all county music!”

Entering the first year, the Class of 2019 has their minds set on surviving the early mods and landing internships. However, they also want to make a difference. Travis Bouchard, a Michigan native and self-improvement aficionado, dreams of becoming a Project Pyramid leader. Martinez is looking forward to learning best practices that she can take back to her native Ecuador. For Goldenberg, a successful first year would involve what has eluded so many professionals as they return to campus to pursue their MBAs.

“Some people come into B-school knowing 100% what they want to do afterwards,” he says. “As for me, there are multiple avenues I have interest in, so success after year one would be clarifying my career path post-MBA.”


To read profiles of incoming Owen students (along with their advice for tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews), click on the student links below.

Student Hometown Undergrad School Employer
 Moheb Abdelmaseeh  Assuit, Asyut, Egypt  New Jersey Institute of Technology  Galileo Global Advisors
 Bobur Boboyorov  Shakhrisabz, Uzbekistan  Westminster University  Korea Development Bank
 Travis Bouchard  Detroit, MI  Michigan State  Arc Worldwide
 Julia Brown  DeRidder, LA  Texas A&M  Aon
 Jose Espinosa  Quito, Ecuador  San Francisco de Quito University  Biocells Discoveries Internacional S.A
 Bernie Goldenberg  Brooklyn, NY  CUNY Hunter College  fuboTV
 Reed Hayes  Hingham, MA  U.S. Military Academy  U.S. Army
 Odelia Lao  San Francisco, CA  U.C.-Berkeley  New York & Company
 Raj Majumder  Idaho Falls, ID  Dartmouth College  Boston Children’s Hospital
 Nile Marshall  Chestnut Hill, NY  Georgetown University  DC Prep
 Alejandra Martinez  Quito, Ecuador  Universidad San Francisco  PRONACA Ecuador
 Emily Redfield  Dallas, TX  Indiana University  Frito-Lay North America, Inc.

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