Meet the Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2019

Students at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Here’s the big news: The Class of 2016 pales in comparison to the incoming class in nearly all key metrics. For example, the Class of 2019’s average GMAT comes in at 716 – a full 14 points above their predecessors. In fact, this average is eight points better than the previous class as well, another sign that Ross is on the rise. At the same time, the incoming class’ 3.5 average undergraduate GPA is .1 of a point higher than Ross’ record-breaking class of 2016 (and .06 of a point higher than the last class).

Not surprisingly, applications continue to swell. During the 2016-2017 cycle, the school received 3485 applications, up 132 from the year previous. While that number may not impress on its face, just put it into context: Ross received just 2,436 applications five years ago! By the same token, the school accepted just 25% of all applicants, with the class size growing by 8 members to 423.


The percentage of women in the Class of 2019 was another bright spot. This class is comprised of 43% women – tying it with Yale SOM among the leaders in this category. To put it another way, this is 11% higher than the 2017 Class – a full 52 more women. The percentage of international students also climbed from 31% to 34% over the previous year (with the number of countries also expanding from 33 to 45). Even more, the percentage of underrepresented American minority students also jumped from 15% to 23%.

All told, the incoming class ranks as Ross’ most diverse and academically accomplished ever. Despite the rising numbers, the educational background of the class (as a whole) is segmented the same as the previous year. 38% hail from business, with STEM (32%) and the humanities (30%) also constituting large blocs of the class. Similarly, like the 2018 Class, the largest portion of the incoming class is made up of finance professionals, who take up 19% of class seat. Consulting composes another 13%, followed by government and military (10%), education and nonprofits (8%), healthcare (8%), technology (8%), engineering and manufacturing (7%), and consumer goods (5%).

Ross is blessed with several key advantages as one of America’s largest research programs. Home to nearly 45,000 students, the school boasts highly-regarded graduate programs in areas like law, medicine, and engineering – which only intensifies the school’s multidisciplinary nature. The university itself features a living alumni base of nearly 575,000 graduates – including 45,000 Rossies in 90 countries. Make no mistake: Those graduates stay engaged and give back based on Ross’ #2 ranking in alumni effectiveness from the 2016 Economist student survey.

Ross’ Soojin Kwan


If you’re Soojin Kwon, the managing director of full-time MBA admissions at Ross, the past year has been a breath-taking tour de force that represents the best of times for the program. “We’ve welcomed a new dean whose vision for the future of business education is inspiring, daunting, and exciting,” she tells Poets&Quants in a written statement. “We’re creating more opportunities and unique ways for students to “learn by doing.” In addition, we opened a new state-of-the art building with more classrooms and more flexible spaces for group work. These changes are generating a lot of energy and excitement throughout the Ross community.”

Kwon adds that pace will only intensify in the coming 2-3 years, as the school intends to further boost the avenues for Ross students to gain practical experience. Kwon notes that the 2020 and 2021 classes will enjoy opportunities to “ADVISE a business on real issues of strategic importance; START a business, with seed money and advisors; INVEST in businesses with real money, in real markets; and  LEAD an actual business – from design to launch to operations.”

It is an initiative, Kwon adds, certain to benefit the great majority of Ross MBAs. “With more than 80% of our students being career switchers, being able to gain real experiencebefore re-entering the working world, will make our graduates more prepared to thrive in their new careers.”

That isn’t the only big benefit awaiting future Ross MBA candidates. The program is also laying the groundwork to “reinvent” the business school experience through the soft launch of its “Living Businesses” program. Think of it as a project that doesn’t end at semester or an internship that continues beyond the summer. With Living Businesses, students report directly to a CEO and complete a stretch assignment that exposes them to the various intertwined disciplines involved in running a business. The initiative began last spring with a Ross team has been partnering with Shinola, a Detroit-based luxury brand, to launch an entirely new business unit.

“This is ongoing,” DeRue explained in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “This is not a short-term consulting project where they tell Shinola what the business should be and what the business case is. Students have to do that, but then they have to actually build it. There will be multiple functions in play, from marketing and branding to supply chain and operations to the finance and administrative functions of the business. Our students are going to have to do all aspects of that business. And the stakes are real. We fundamentally believe the best way to learn business is to actually do business. And we wrap all this with the coaching, mentorship and the faculty, who can help reinforce the core fundamentals and expertise of the various functions when needed.”


Ask a Ross graduate what they remember most about their MBA experience and their MAP project is sure to come up. Every January, Ross first-years pair up in teams of 4-6 to complete a consulting project, with the previous class ultimately completing 83 projects in 25 countries. The course is considered so important and all-encompassing at Ross that it is the only one slated during the first part of the second semester. In recent years, Ross MBA candidates have partnered with firms like Amazon, Dell, Facebook, Ford, PayPal, PepsiCo, WalMart, and the World Bank. In the process, Ross MBAs have developed market entry strategies for Expedia in China; formulated global diversity and sustainability programs for MGM Resorts International; researched early adopter practices for Oracle; boosted the appeal of Kellogg’s breakfast products to Millennials; evaluated a potential car sharing service for General Motors; and built tools to help Make-A-Wish America reach 17,000 children a year.

The bar is high and the demands are heavy with the MAP project. However, the hands-on exposure to multifaceted, interdisciplinary, team-driven efforts pay dividends for the rest of the program – and beyond. “The projects are designed to help you develop skills and improve on weaknesses through real world experiences, subsequently better preparing you for future positions,” emphasizes Semaan.  “In addition, it can be the perfect, low-risk opportunity to explore a different industry.”


If interdisciplinary and experiential learning are the Franklin-like mind and heart of Ross, then entrepreneurship and social impact are its soul. And you’ll find this soul in the Sanger Leadership Center and the Zell Lurie Institute. Along with the Crisis Challenge, Sanger runs the acclaimed Impact Challenge, where students partner with Detroit-area nonprofits to help launch a venture that can bring economic value to the downtrodden city. In addition, Sanger houses programs to help students sharpen their leadership skills, develop self-awareness and purpose, and hone personal narratives for job interviews.

amazon ross hiring

Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Students drawn to triple bottom line can also get involved with the Zell Lurie’s Social Venture Fund, the first student-run fund of its kind to invest in environmentally-conscious and socially-minded businesses. Want to step into the shoes of a venture capitalist? Ross offers the Wolverine Venture Fund and the Commercialization Fund. For entrepreneurs, the school boasts a wide-ranging portfolio of options, including the TechArb Incubator and the Desai Family Accelerator.

Hine is one first-year who is looking to mesh her passion for social impact with entrepreneurship. For her, Ross turned out to be the total package. “Ross has an established history of investing in social impact initiatives and continues to be a leader in the space. I gravitated towards the school’s investment in social impact programs and clubs. I appreciated how Ross creates opportunities to invest in social impact opportunities, even when recruiting for careers in investment banking or consulting. Ross’s social impact clubs, such as the Social Venture Fund and the Community Consulting Club, are an integral part of the community. Ross also stood out in the way it connects all students to social impact. For example, during orientation all students participate in an Impact Challenge during which students spend the week supporting local non-profit organizations.”

As a mid-sized program tucked inside a massive university, Ross can also cater to specific student interests. Sanders for example, is passionate about human capital: the empowerment of employees and curation of culture. As a result, she wanted a program that was strong in areas like talent development strategy and organizational design. In these areas, she says, Ross stood out. “It was one of a few schools with an active, thriving human capital club. It also houses the Center for Positive Organizations, Ross’ academic hub for promoting and researching positive business practices. The student and career services-led support for building a career in human capital also impressed me. I felt that at Ross, I could truly geek out about effective people management and better equip myself to serve companies in growing their people.”


The most underrated part of the Ross MBA, however, might be its community. You could argue that Ann Arbor may be the archetypal Midwest college town, with its vibrant cultural scene and rich sports tradition. However, Inge Bernstein knew early on that Ross was right for him based on the family feel of the Ross MBA program. “My classmates, the second-year students, the administrative staff, and the incredible alumni that I engaged with made me truly feel what that family was about throughout my process. I wanted a safe space to take risks, to fail quickly, and I wanted to be surrounded by a class that I knew would hold me accountable to achieving my dreams. I didn’t find any other program that fit me the way that Ross did. I knew that Ross would help me truly learn how to lead with and through people, the way that my mentor, former boss, and Ross alum did.”

Not surprisingly, a diverse class carries a wide definition of what a successful first year will look like. Cruz dreams of making a “meaningful impact” – and surviving the Michigan winter. For Agrawal, success means doing “at least two things in each term outside my comfort zone.” Sanders, ever consumed with human capital, is looking forward to kindling the same love of strategic HR in her classmates. In True Blue fashion – Smalley already has her first year bucket list laid out.

“I hope to spend the year singing in the business school rock band, help plan the Women In Leadership Conference (the weekend that made me fall in love with Ross), have an impact in the ongoing revitalization of Detroit, and spend football Saturdays painted blue in the Big House with new friends.”


To read profiles of incoming Ross students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.

Student Hometown Alma Mater Employer
 Keshav Agrawal  Ghaziabad, India  Indian Institute of Technology Delhi  Credit Suisse
 Kettianne Cadet  Sharon, MA  Boston College  Accion
 Maria Natalia Costa  São Paulo, Brazil  Escola Superior de Propaganda e Marketing  Procter & Gamble
 Diana Cruz  San Francisco, CA  U.C.-Berkeley  Pacific Gas & Electric Co.
 Dayna Hine  Southbury, CT  University of Connecticut  Girls Who Code
 Allison Inge Bernstein  Long Beach, CA  University of Southern California  Google
 Gregory Phillips   Washington, DC  Carleton College  The White House
 Kashay Sanders  Bronx, NY  Dartmouth College  Community Solutions
 Daniel Semaan   Ann Arbor, MI  University of Michigan  Daniel’s Scholarly Tutoring
 Tsering Sherpa  Kathmandu, Nepal  Harvard University  DaVita
 Hannah Smalley  Los Angeles, CA  Tulane University  United Nations Foundation
 Douwe Yntema  Albuquerque, NM  Harvard University  Ikaso Consulting

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