Meet Chicago Booth’s MBA Class Of 2019

Chicago Booth students in class. Courtesy photo

Remember how Booth students are sometimes tagged as brainy monks? You can bet those critics never hung out with the Class of 2019. Just try figuring out Geehan, a “try just about anything once” student who loves skydiving…but is terrified of ferris wheels (Navy Pier is just 20 minutes north of campus, Caitlin). Vasquez is a triple threat – an actor, singer, and dancer…who somehow wound up in management consulting. Sam Spletzer has visited every continent except Antarctica – and projects as the benchmark Boothie: “Driven, analytical, and intellectually curious servant leader whose career has been building and leading teams.” Come finals week, don’t let Alex Chi’s cool exterior fool you. “[I’m] the kind of guy who always looks composed even when he’s freaking out inside.”

Then again, what can you say about Yamazaki? Renaissance man, perhaps? The guy runs marathons and triathlons. He has climbed Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro and Russia’s Mount Elbrus. He started a non-profit in the wake of the 2011 Japanese earthquake that decimated the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. And he launched his own record label – 2327 Records – to market promising talent. Oh…and he’s a rock star in his native Japan. “I was a band leader, song composer, guitarist and vocalist of “ASUNARO,” a rock-band with over 100 public performances, several nation-wide tours, and commercially released CDs.”

APPLICATIONS AND GMAT SCORES HIT RECORD MARKS

By the numbers, the Class of 2019 maintains Booth’s trend line, where the incoming class scores higher than its predecessor in most key metrics. Notably, the school is gleaning increasing consideration from MBA applicants. During the 2016-2017 cycle, Booth netted 4,674 applications, up 11.2% from last year’s haul – a further sign that the school’s message of data-driven approach coupled with flexible structure is a winning combination among potential candidates. By the same token, the school accepted 23.5% of applicants, nearly identical to last year’s class. That said, the class size declined from 585 to 580 members.

Atrium of the Harper Center, the main building of the Booth School of Business

Booth also boasts an enviable streak. Since 2002, the school has produced classes whose average GMAT scores have risen year-over-year. The Class of 2019 was no exception. This year, the class broke a new barrier, hitting an all-time high of 730, tying it with Wharton. How impressive is this? Just look back at the Class of 2013, wich arrived with a 715 GMAT. Better yet, Booth’s media GMAT – 740 – was ten points higher than Harvard Business School. These scores weren’t anomalies either, as the school’s average undergraduate GPA climbed from 3.58 to 3.61 (with the median going from 3.61 to 3.65 as well).

It was also a diverse class, with students hailing from 59 countries. Overall, 36% of the 2019 Class are international students, up two points from last year. This good news is tempered by the percentage of women, which slipped from 42% to 40% in one year (though still the school’s 2nd-highest percentage ever)

Academically, the incoming class closely resembles the profile of their second years. Business majors occupy the most seats, taking up 29% of the class, up a point over the previous year. Economics also gained a point to 25%. Engineers make up 19% of the class, while the physical sciences come in at 10%. The year’s big change came in the liberal arts, which lost four points at 12%. Considering Booth’s finance prestige – a tradition rooted in towering figures like Eugene Fama and groundbreaking research like Black-Scholes – it is no surprise that the largest bloc of first years emerge from there. Financial services professionals constitute 26.9% of the class – and that doesn’t count another 6.7% from private equity and venture capital. Consultants comprise another 21.7% of the class with technology and communication breaking double digits at 11.2%. The rest of the class features education, government and non-profits (9.1%), energy (6.2%), manufacturing (3.1%), retail and healthcare (both 2.9%).

$95 MILLION DOLLARS IN NEW GIFTS BOOST SCHOLARSHIPS AND SOCIAL SECTOR OFFERINGS

 Earlier this month, Booth made headlines when it received a $75 million dollar gift from alums Amy and Richard Wallman, which will be applied towards new academic programming, faculty research, and student scholarships. Less known, however, was a $20 million dollar gift from 2007 alum Tandean Rustandy. The gift will expand research and programming at the newly-named Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation and is designed to turn Booth into a leader in the field.

“The expansion brings added visibility and resources to a relatively young but fast-evolving dimension of the Chicago Booth experience, says Stacey Kole, the school’s deputy dean. “The Center is building out programming, curriculum and resources for students and alumni interested in social impact careers. Anchored by the school’s grounding in business fundamentals, experiential learning and research-based insights, the Center brings MBA skills to the social sector and brings the social sector to the MBA journey of all our students.”

Kole is also bullish on another new initiative, the “Startup Summer” program held in partnership with the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. This past summer, the program placed 24 Booth students in 16 startups in cities like San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Sao Paolo to give them a taste of the startup life before they started their first year. “The pilot program, which ran the summers of 2016 and 2017, matches incoming students with Booth-led startups,” Kole explains. “The program has the capacity to serve a much larger number of Booth full-time students. We have seen enormous value for the student participants this summer and last, and the Booth entrepreneurial ecosystem is clamoring for more talent. This pre-MBA experience affords students the opportunity to better understand their own appetite for entrepreneurship and to inform their curricular choices and MBA plans.”

DECISIONS DICTATED BY DATA

Stacey Kole, Deputy Dean for Alumni, Corporate Relations and the Full-Time MBA Program at Booth

Ahlm is fond of saying that Booth is in “a perpetual state of motion,” never satisfied with the accolades and always looking to evolve with the times to gain an edge wherever they can. This mindset stems from the program’s signature “curiosity” – an emphasis on asking questions, engaging in dialogue, and constantly testing and pushing boundaries.

A Booth MBA, in many ways, is a seal showing that graduates know how to think. This philosophy is expressed through its underlying philosophy, where data drives decision-making. Today’s wealth of data, says Ahlm, only makes Booth’s approach all the more relevant. “Having the ability, comfort and confidence to navigate a very data-driven landscape is really important,” Ahlm argues. “What we’re really about is leveraging data in its entirety from qualitative to quantitative. How do you really use information to analyze situations and provide the right frameworks to problem-solving? That’s much broader than the mathematical applications when you think of a quantitative approach…We’re really a place that focuses on giving students tools and abilities to become very good critical and analytical thinkers.”

Vasquez, for one, thrives in such academic rigor. “Pair the most quant- intensive school with a math-lover such as myself, and you get a tailor-made perfect match,” he jokes. However, the class won’t just be learning high level analysis in a vacuum. Instead, Booth also prides itself on bonding this ‘data is destiny’ approach with a strong interdisciplinary flavor, says Kole in a 2017 P&Q interview. Curious to a fault, Booth takes a liberal definition of “business relevant,” employing leading academics from areas like social sciences to instill a “multi-dimensional” mindset. In doing so, Booth can broaden and deepen classroom learning, exposing students to tools and techniques that may someday revolutionize existing fields of inquiry.

Go to page 3 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Booth students.