Every MBA needs a guardian angel to watch over them. At Notre Dame, alumni embrace this role as a higher calling. For them, a Notre Dame diploma is a pledge to serve as advocates, coaches, and models for the students who follow them. This commitment is driven by more than an impulse to pay forward past blessings. It is a means of expressing the values and sharing the experiences that profoundly shaped them. And it is a continuation of the apostolic tradition of bringing light from darkness – and being stewards who mentor and recruit the next generation into positions where they too can make a difference.
This mission can be tough to fathom away from the shadow of the Golden Dome. Just ask Lou Holtz, a former football coach, whose famous maxim sums up the Notre Dame mystique: “Those who know Notre Dame, no explanation’s necessary. Those who don’t, no explanation will suffice.” Kristen McAndrew, who heads admissions for the Mendoza School’s graduate business programs, echoes Holtz, claiming in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants that “until you come and experience it, you don’t truly understand it.” This point was recently underscored when McAndrew asked a Mendoza graduate for advice to share with incoming students.
“TRUST THE NETWORK”
“She said, ‘Trust the network.’ As a student, she reached out to 15 alumni and thought she would hear back from three or five. She said, ‘I was appalled. Every single one of them wrote back to me. I had more coffees and phone calls than I could handle.’”
She wasn’t alone. In 2016, Mendoza MBAs gave their alumni the 4th-highest score for effectiveness in The Economist student survey. Not surprisingly, Mendoza grads gave their alma mater equally impressive marks in the Bloomberg Businessweek alumni survey. McAndrew traces this back to the program’s strong emphasis on ethical values, a bridge that connects Mendoza MBAs of all classes.
“The focus on ethics, the focus on being part of something bigger than yourself that students experience when they are part of the community is why the network is as strong as it is,” explains McAndrew. “A Notre Dame alumna knows that when they graduate, they can think back to why they chose Notre Dame, what they cared about, and what their values were. They know the way they were taught in the classroom to think about the impact that their decisions might have in the business world beyond just the bottom line. They have confidence that we are still teaching that way. They have confidence that they are the same kinds of students that are drawn to Notre Dame. So they feel very comfortable passing your resume along to a colleague or making an introduction even if they’ve just met a new Mendoza grad because they know what Notre Dame is about and they know who chooses Notre Dame.”
LIKE-MINDED ALUMNI TAKE PAINS TO INVEST IN STUDENTS
Now, multiply that level of engagement across 140,000 alumni in every function or industry worldwide – and that’s the depth and power of the Notre Dame network. The Mendoza program itself maintains a Graduate Alumni Board. Here, working committees advise the school on everything from industry trends to professional outreach to give students a leg up in the workplace – and beyond. Shashank Saurav is quite familiar with having an alumni angel on his shoulder. A manager at the State Bank of India, he jokes that his education is being funded by Kenneth Meyer, a former Chairman and CEO of Lincoln Capital Management who set aside $10 million dollars for fellowships in 2010. For him, alumni like Meyer are perhaps the biggest advantage wielded by Mendoza.
“As an international student, I will have to walk the extra mile to secure an internship and job,” she asserts. “When we talk about walking the extra mile, it is not just performing above average when it comes to grades and leadership activities, but also networking with more people than is the norm. And the only way this will work is if I find enough alumni to write to and connect with. With such a huge base of powerful and like-minded alumni employed in different firms across the country, Notre Dame was an obvious choice for me.”
This commitment to connection is an extension of Mendoza’s culture. It was this sense of community that gave Andrew Engvall, a senior financial analyst at Capital One, the courage to take the leap of faith back to campus. “The MBA program espouses values that tie in with my own, especially supporting the effort to improve corporate ethics,” he explains. “Less grandly, but no less enjoyably, attending Notre Dame will afford me the opportunity to enjoy the school spirit and top-tier athletic programs that I didn’t have the opportunity to experience as an undergraduate.”
A SPIRIT THAT SETS NOTRE DAME APART
Indeed, you would be hard-pressed to find a school steeped in more iconic tradition and mythology than Notre Dame. Despite the bustle of 13,000 students and faculty members, Notre Dame, at its heart, is a corner for contemplation. The campus is braided by tree-lined paths, with plush courtyards setting off the Neo-Gothic landmarks. It is a place that stirs the spirit, where you feel the presence of something warm and undefinable in the wide silence of the Grotto or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. At Notre Dame, the standards are higher; the expectations are to ponder deeply, act accountably, serve unconditionally, and live faithfully – with the gospel working as both tutor and muse.
Much Notre Dame lore revolves around football, where selflessness is forged by sacrifice, courage by repetition, and salvation by the ongoing pursuit of improved performance. Think of football as a ritual where the community expresses its identity, heritage, and aspirations. It is a time where student-athletes strive to do things the right way under the harshest conditions – knowing the next play is a reason for hope and an opportunity for celebration. You can almost picture the four horsemen galloping across the field, the Gipper prowling the sideline, a pint-size Rudy making the tackle, or John Montana leading the great comeback when most would fold – all as Touchdown Jesus raises his hands to the heavens as a reminder of the grand moment to come. From morning mass to the walk to the Gug to tapping the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign, the football team symbolizes what defines the Notre Dame experience: Tradition, character, resolve, purpose, unity, and excellence – the very formula for business success.
Instead of chasing gridiron glory, the Class of 2019 arrives in South Bend to absorb business fundamentals – and become better people. They hail from firms as diverse as IBM, Grant Thornton, and Alibaba. One student – Hayden Davis – started his own software consulting firm right out of college. Another, Al Jumaily, teaches art at a nearby Indiana University extension. One sentiment bands the incoming class together, however. They are seeking to make an impact. Take Faith Miller, who describes herself as a “Former reporter looking to make a greater impact through business than I could on TV.” If you’re hoping to find someone who could shake up the world, look no further than Robert Singley: “Creative leader looking to make an impact by putting data behind big ideas.”
NEW REASON TO START BUSINESS SCHOOL: AVOID AN ARRANGED MARRIAGE
Chances are, you won’t find the class strictly around the DeBartolo Quad. Katie McCullough, a finance manager from Fiat Chrysler, competes in Olympic weightlifting. By now, she has probably found a spotter in Miller, a powerlifter who can “deadlift 250 lbs. and bench 125.” If you want face time with Engvall, you may want to trek out to Saint Mary’s Lake to row. Just don’t forget to stop at Papa John’s along the way – that’s his Kryptonite. “The Men’s Rowing Team at George Washington University offered free pizza to anyone who wanted to come learn about crew, Engvall reminisces. “I went for the free food, decided to try out for the team, and later earned an athletic scholarship.”
Then again, if you want a great story, just ask Saurav why he is hiding out at Mendoza. “The common perception in India is that if you have worked for 3 years or more in a government organization, you are ready for marriage,” he explains. “The talks of my marriage started behind my back and a prospective partner was finalized through a matrimonial site. My admission to the Notre Dame MBA program was my ticket out of this potential imbroglio.”
It is a class that relies on the right and left sides of its brains equally. Exhibit A would be Zachary Leonard, who studied Latin and Ancient Greek at Notre Dame as an undergrad. Fast forward three years and he had transitioned into marketing…at an investment firm, no less! Speaking of financials, Engvall spearheaded a capital distribution plan last year that involved $3 billion dollars worth of repurchases and dividends. At the same time, Miller’s reporting forced the City of Lansing to license and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Make no mistake: This is a class that cares. As a banker, Saurav partnered with several women’s self-help groups (SHGs) and NGOs to microfinance ventures targeting rural, uneducated women. “We helped start 12 SHGs comprising 172 women, 9 of which are functioning satisfactorily to date,” he notes. “We sanctioned hassle-free loans for them to start small businesses by rearing goats, producing spices/pickles, and making handicrafts. Over a period of time, income of the impacted families increased from $80 to $120, but more importantly their children started going to schools instead of working, thus paving the way for a better tomorrow.”
CLASS SIZE UP AND GMATs DROP
By the numbers, the class is a case of a step back and a step forward. Overall, the school received 13 fewer applications for a spot in the 2019 Class. That said, the class jumped from 121 to 131 students – all while the acceptance rate rose by just 1%. Of course, this growth came with a tradeoff: lower GMAT scores. Average GMATs fell from 683 to 674 with the new class, with median scores tumbling from 700 to 680. By the same token, average undergrad GPAs slipped from 3.37 to 3.3.
Go to next page to read in-depth profiles of 12 students from Mendoza’s incoming class.