Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2018

INSEAD bills itself as “the business school for the world”

In addition, Fougea notes, the program will explore the digital dimensions of business in greater depth. “A New Digital Start will be aimed at offering an early start to the MBA Journey by leveraging new technologies with online content, “integrated” digital cases, and industry-specific orientation videos for participants to be well-prepared in advance for the accelerated 10-month MBA. This also aids in reducing pre-knowledge gaps between participants.”


In recent years, INSEAD has emerged as the business school to watch, a darling of recruiters and students alike. In many ways, it has already joined the elite real estate held by Harvard, Wharton, Stanford, and Chicago Booth. For the past two years, INSEAD has finished atop the Financial Times MBA rankings, thanks to the program’s rich international flavor, research prowess, and strong returns for graduates. With the latter, the Class of 2016 earned $134,268 in pay and bonuses, with 89% receiving one or more job offers within three months of graduation.

More impressive is the pay gains made by INSEAD graduates over time. According to Forbes, the Class of 2012 came out $150,400 ahead over four years when tuition and cost of living are factored into the equation. Even more, the class’ pay rocketed from $80,000 before starting school to $189,000 in 2016.

Of course, such numbers are helped along by the low opportunity costs of INSEAD’s 10-month format. The MBA program is divided into five blocs of two month periods – with the winter intake having the flexibility to complete a two-month summer internship. That model resonates with applicants, considering that three-quarters of INSEAD students are in the process of switching function, industry, or geography (including some brave souls making the transition in two or more areas). However, the 10-month format also appeals to sponsoring employers looking to upskill their HiPos without losing them for an extended period. Notably, 40% of McKinsey’s 2016 hires – 50 in all – returned to the firm.


Forty-six percent of INSEAD’s 2016 class of MBAs went into consulting, the highest percentage among more than two dozen top programs examined by Poets&Quants. Courtesy photo

INSEAD dubs itself as “The business school for the world” – and that’s no embellishment. Think of the program as a melting pot of students from every corner and culture. As a whole, INSEAD boasts over 85 nationalities between its campuses in France, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates. What makes the school special, however, is the class composition. In 2016, the largest nationality comprised just 9% of the class according to Mihov.

“We don’t have a dominant culture,” he points out in a separate 2017 interview with P&Q. “That means everyone is in the minority.”

Think that’s a recipe for friction? Well, conflict is the whole point. Mark Dimal, a 2016 grad from the Philippines, observed that student working groups are designed to “maximize conflict.” This reflects the reality of a truly international business career: Graduates must be able to manage conflict and adapt to peers with varying backgrounds and belief systems.

“We create teams of people that sometimes are from countries that are at war with each other, adds Mihov. “Because we want to make sure that during this year they learn how to interact in teams with somebody that you may not like.”


Thus far, the Class of 2018 has been getting along famously. Long before classes even started, the class was already reaching out to each other through social media. Kule Dale connected early with classmates through Slack, Facebook and WhatsApp. Sure enough, many were already making plans to take trips – an INSEAD staple.

“Extracurricular activities and socializing are at the core of the program,” explains Shirgiri. “INSEAD has a great reputation for student-led events and trips. For instance, people at our class started planning for numerous trips and gatherings months before the program’s start date without even having met each other. There is going to be large pre-MBA trips with 100+ participation for a week just before the official start date!”

Kule Dale reports that some of her classmates were looking to visit Rawabi, a tech hub in the Palestinian territory. Zhu’s group, on the other hand, was targeting running a marathon in Paris before heading off to Oktoberfest. Such adventures only added to the anticipation of starting class. “Reviewing the group conversations, it was difficult to find two people with the same nationality within any thread of messages,” Shirgiri observes. “That’s how global our class is. It is really impressive to see how everybody is eager to connect with each other and help out one another.”

“I am getting out of my comfort zone and loving it,” adds Kule Dale.

A class at INSEAD, where the faculty is 94% international too.


The breadth of the program also creates an enviable network. 50,000 alumni strong, the INSEAD network covers over 150 nationalities in over 170 countries. In other words, the alumni, much like the student body, isn’t bound to a particular region (or industry). That translates to a network that can open a door or answer any question wherever a graduate may go. Chances are, they are happy to pick up the phone when an INSEAD alum is on the other line, says Koloina Razafindratsita, a Madagascar native, dog lover, and “food junkie.”

Every single alumnus I have had the chance to meet has unfailingly and excitingly depicted his or her MBA year as highly transformative and as having led to everlasting bonds with INSEAD peers. The school’s alumni loyalty is very solid, and the network is uniquely diverse. An alumnus told me that the people are like a “different breed, but very diverse.”


The Class of 2018 is a breed apart as well. Look no further than how they define a successful 10 months at INSEAD. Preeti Turna, a production engineer from Australia, has already composed an impressive checklist to meet: “Making life-long networks and friendships, dreaming large, taking on the adventure, pushing beyond my boundaries, and contributing to the success of others.” Similarly, Lu hopes to return to the work world refreshed and ready to make a difference. “Success to me would be waking up every day to work that I am passionate about and a career path that challenges me to continually learn, grow, and make an impact on something larger than myself.”

For Kule Dale, success would hinge on how well she personifies Mahatma Gandhi’s famous challenge: “Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Her goal is to follow the INSEAD mission to make the world a force for good by returning to her homeland to bring out the potential in others.  “I am embarking on this transformational year hoping that I will deliver on this promise. Success to me would be getting a job that is challenging enough to allow me to continuously grow, yet impactful enough for my community. What better way to do so than to contribute to Africa—a continent that is clearly lagging on qualified workforce.”

Bassiouny was drawn to INSEAD’s roster of “standout people from different backgrounds and nationalities.” Over 10 months, he plans to leverage his classmates’ experiences – and condense a stockpile of know-how – into an enterprise that does far more than produce a bottom line in the black. “Success would be translated into being an integral part of an environment that fosters real innovation and practices impactful entrepreneurship where the results of the work transcend profitability and venture into the tangible development of knowledge, culture, people and economies.”

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


Name Hometown Alma Mater Employer
 Mohamed Bassiouny  Cairo, Egypt  American University (Cairo)  SolarizEgypt
 Nourhan Farhat  Beirut, Lebanon  American University (Beirut)  Roland Berger
 Kristin Karlisch  Munich, Bavaria  ESB Reutlingen / N.C. State  Hannoveraner Verband e.V.
 Alda Kule Dale  Kinshasa, Congo  ESSCA Business School  AlphaValue Equity Research
 Arianna Lu  Toronto, Canada  University of British Columbia  Ritual Technologies
 Eunice Ofori  Tema, Ghana  University Of Ghana  Greenvine Company Limited
 Gijs Pelt  Amsterdam, Netherlands  Erasmus University  Roland Berger
Roni Semaan  Beirut, Lebanon  American University (Beirut)  Emirates NBD
Rouzbeh Shirgiri  Tehran, Iran  University of British Columbia  Lavan Energy Development Company
Preeti Turna  Melbourne, Australia  Melbourne University  ExxonMobil
Shane Zhu  Jiangsu, China  Beijing Foreign Studies University  China Central Television

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