Meet Harvard Business School’s MBA Class Of 2019

Harvard Business School

The program also remained a vanguard for women, boasting its sixth consecutive class where women comprise 40% or more of the student body. 26% of the class also features American ethnic minorities, just a shade under the 2017 Class’ high-water mark. 35% of the class also hails from overseas – 70 countries technically – with Asia (14%) and Europe (10%) constituting the largest Non-American blocs.

The 2019 Class is almost a mirror image of its predecessor in terms of professional backgrounds, however. Last year, consulting, high tech, and venture capital and private equity each composed 15% of the class. Among first years, the numbers are identical…aside from consulting, which added a point. Financial services was the only other profession that reached double digits at 11% – the same size as last year. Healthcare gained a point at 7%, while government, education, and nonprofits (7%), consumer products (6%), and energy (6%) each lost a point. The percentage of the class who come from the military held steady at 5%.

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Despite name appeal and heavy demand, HBS is one program that won’t rest on its laurels. It seeks out – if not creates – cutting edge practices, always turning the latest business passions into its strengths. That’s particularly true of entrepreneurship. For over a half century, HBS has dipped into its general management roots to build one of the world’s top entrepreneurship programs. In the past five years, the school has launched two dozen ventures with the highest venture capital-backed funding, which have raised a combined $618.29 million dollars. In fact, 47% of HBS founders find a partner at the school, with 42% of graduates eventually starting firms of their own.

Aside from requiring “The Entrepreneurial Manager” for first years during the second term, the school also launched an “Entrepreneurial Bootcamp” in April. A blend of case study and hands-on testing, the course slows down the startup process to make sure students cover all the bases before they pitch and launch. “It was an opportunity to sort of pressure test an idea you might have,” says Ruth Isenstadt, a second year who completed the program last spring. “It’s kind of a risk-free way to figure out if this is something you want to pursue,” adds Andrew Rothaus. “I think it has increased the entrepreneurial spirit on campus.”

Inside a Harvard Business School classroom (Photo by Natalie Keyssar)

In January, the school also introduced its HBS Boardroom, a capstone that puts student decision-making to the test. Think of it as the case method on steroids, where students play CEOs and must defend their viewpoints and actions from a case in front of HBS alumni who serve as board members. Not only does this give students the chance to practice cool under pressure, but also show their stuff in front of prospective mentors and employers – with the school drawing 400 alumni during its first run last spring.

“We wanted to do something meaningful, big, and interesting for the first-year students,” wrote Professor Felix Oberholzer-Gee in a school statement. “The task is to draw on the wisdom in the room and for the students to apply everything they have learned this year. And it is an opportunity for alumni to have a meaningful experience with students and relive a little of the energy of HBS.”

CASE METHOD REQUIRES LOTS OF WORK – AND OFFERS NO EASY ANSWERS

The HBS Boardroom will undoubtedly be hit for the Class of 2019, many of whom cite the case method as their top reason for joining the HBS community. It is said that HBS is driven by drama as much as data. The case method combines both. At HBS, over three-quarters of the courses are centered around the case method, with students often reading three or more cases a day. Such courses are designed to teach students how to think through issues, identify solutions, and make decisions.

It can be a grueling exercise, requiring an intensive synthesis of information – most of which is insufficient and occasionally unreliable. Even more, the case method rubs against the grain of traditional education, with process superseding result in importance and right answers (if any) being derived from context and persuasion. Even more, this learning method is truly a public affair, where students must lay out their process and defend their conclusions in an atmosphere where grades are partially based on participation and substance. This creates an environment defined by camaraderie, with 90 students learning from the approaches, insights, experiences, and even foibles of their peers. Bottom line: it simulates the world of CEOs, who must make scores of decisions each day – most defying quick and simple solutions.

Make no mistake: The Class of 2019 knows exactly what it signed up for with the case method. “I have been fortunate to see many different business cases across the globe and strongly believe in the immersion and accountability that comes with the case method,” McCarthy acknowledges. “The method teaches you to analyze a situation with incomplete information and take a position — a daily requirement of all business leaders globally. The case method also encourages debate and discussion with highly skilled professors and peers, providing a chance to hone the skill of ‘seeking dissenting opinion’ on the way to making decisions.”

Harvard Business School students

In the past, Hunt has been criticized in the workplace for being too quiet. That’s why she is embracing the case method: It will force her out of her comfort zone – and develop c-suite skills in the process. “I’ll have to speak up as if my grade depends on it,” she jokes. “Learning from my sectionmates through the case method will also give me the tools to make decisions in the face of conflicting data, ask the right questions, hone my business judgment, address developmental gaps, defend and challenge viewpoints, and become versed on how to persuade, negotiate, and influence others. In my view, there is no better place to acquire these skill sets than at Harvard Business School.”

A CLASS SEEKING LEADERSHIP OPPORTUNITIES…AND COMMUNITY

While Banarji is looking forward to case discussion, he has a more personal reason for joining the incoming class. He has witnessed the value of an MBA from observing Hiroshi Mikitani, an HBS grad and CEO of Rakuten where Banarji had spent his entire career before business school “Harvard has always stood for excellence, and the university and its principles have stood the test of time,” Banarji explains. “Success stories such as those of Rakuten have been made possible in large part because of the education and experience Mr. Mikitani had as a Harvard MBA student from 1991 to 1993. HBS personifies the values of personal transformation and widespread impact, values that have been an intrinsic part of my journey thus far.”

So what’s next for the Class of 2019? Rahn, for one, is seeking inspiration, friendship, and adventure, noting that he wanted an experience “that would push me to think bigger, more globally, more diversely, broadly and long-term.” Hunt too is hoping community (not to mention a leadership role and meaningful work as an intern). Young, however, intends to look back on his application to remind him of why he came to Harvard Business School.

“One year from now, I hope to have a much deeper understanding of what it takes to run a business and – just as important – of who I am, what makes me tick, and what areas of business and management most excite me,” he says. “My core beliefs will have been thoroughly pressure-tested and perhaps changed because of things I’ve learned in and out of the classroom.”

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

DON’T MISS: MEET HARVARD BUSINESS SCHOOL’S MBA CLASS OF 2018 OR THE PIONEERING MBAs OF THE CLASS OF 2019 OR THREE HBS APPLICANTS, THREE SUCCESSFUL MBA ESSAYS

Student Hometown Alma Mater Employer
 Anirudh Banarji  Delhi, India  University of Pune  Rakuten Inc.
 Kenya Hunt  Huntsville, AL  Tuskegee University  Chevron
 Jonathon McCarthy  Brisbane, Australia  University of Queensland  TerraCom
 Darrin Rahn  Chadwick, IL  Iowa State  General Mills
 Mike Young  Commack, NY  Yale University  Bain & Company

Editor’s Note: On page 1, we had incorrectly listed the incoming class’ yield rate as 83%. Upon further review, it is 91%. We have modified the copy on the bottom of the page to reflect this data. We regret this error.