The Tepper School of Business has a reputation as a quant program – and for good reason. It is part of Carnegie Mellon University, a school long associated with R&D. It is a “New Ivy,” celebrated for cutting edge computer sciences, engineering, and robotics programs. On the surface, Tepper is the Monongahela MIT – a pioneer in analytics that boasts elite programs in operations, logistics, and information systems. Look deeper and you’ll see a more pronounced parallel between Tepper and its parent school.
Along with its technical virtuosity, Carnegie Mellon is renowned for its aesthetic air. Alumni have taken home nearly 150 Emmy and Tony Awards. The university’s alumni ranks include Josh “Olaf” Gad and Zachary “Spock” Quinto – with credits ranging from Hamilton to Magic Mike. You’ll find these binary appetites in Tepper’s Class of 2019 as well. Forget fickle financiers and single-minded suppliers. This is a class who understands that innovation may start with imagination, but strategy is rooted in technical mastery and scientific rigor. This year’s class is packed with MBA candidates – people savvy and data-driven – who bring an artistic sensibility to an increasingly technological landscape.
AN IVY LEAGUE RAPPER AT GOLDMAN SACHS
With an Ivy League pedigree and a last name like Forbes, Goldman Sachs would seem to be a natural fit for Carlton Forbes. When he wasn’t toying with equities and interest rates, Forbes was working as a rapper – a passion he has lived for 15 years. “I’m a poet just trying to up my quant cred,” he jokes.
Forbes isn’t the only first-year with musical talent. Noah Weiss studied jazz and saxophone performance at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music as an undergrad. Later, he played with acts like James Taylor, The Temptations, and The Four Tops. However, he found his greatest joy in designing and launching a new arts venue called The Garage, a place where musicians, actors, and dancers could “connect and collaborate” with younger audiences.
And then there’s Laura Chan, who earned her undergraduate and graduate degrees in mechanical engineering at Carnegie Mellon. When she isn’t busy bringing Brazilian tire manufacturing plants up to snuff, she is practicing her ballet – something she has done since she was two years old.
MONKEY SCHOOLS MBA CANDIDATE IN NEGOTIATION
Indeed, you could call it a class of contrasts. It features U.S. Peace Corps volunteers like Puja Patel Iyengar, who transitioned to consulting, and Linsha Yao, who went from studying Chinese literature and culture to recruiting for Amazon and launching a startup. It isn’t just their backgrounds that represent a collision of capabilities. Chan, for one, calls herself “an introvert who isn’t afraid to be on stage.” At the same time, Forbes sounds like a man who has already lived a full life: “I am a reformed pragmatist who is slowly regaining the confidence to dream again.”
Want a great job? Ask Rebecca George what it’s like to be an engineer at Whirlpool. She used to brew beer on Fridays for engineering testing. That’s just one of her many, many interests. “In high school I earned my pilot’s license and trained on flute. In college, I did marching band and orchestra and even learned the tuba just for something new. As a young professional I’ve become a writer and am working on my yoga teacher certification.”
That’s just a start. Mark Haakenstad flew nearly 400,000 miles when he worked for American Airlines and Qantas Airways. Abhishek Bhattacharyya taught himself how to speak and write Urdu during his daily commute from New Jersey to Wall Street. Then again, few people can say they learned business basics from a monkey like Patel Iyengar did. “Once while on a family vacation, my glasses were stolen by a wild monkey,” she recalls. “We managed to get them back unscathed by offering snacks as a fair trade. And that was my first lesson in business negotiation.”
APPLICATIONS UP 13.5%
The Class of 2019 is equally impressive in their careers. Andrea Caralis was the first female analyst on the foreign exchange trading floor at PNC Bank, where she was eventually elevated to being a vice president. Her claim to fame, however, came by helping to build a young professionals chapter at PNC that boasted 600 members and won the firm’s Chapter of the Year Award. Yao emerged as one of Amazon’s top recruiters, with performance that was nearly a third higher than the worldwide average. Nilvea O. Malavé Torres inspired a new business line in Puerto Rico’s Banco Popular. As an entrepreneur, Bhattacharyya helped his company, a solar energy developer, raise $25 million dollars.
The class’ contributions don’t stop in the business realm, either. Take Kimberly Turner, a research scientist who holds a Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Wisconsin. She broke new ground in an article published in the Journal of Marriage and Family, which contended that high child support debt correlated with fathers spending less time with their children.
Tepper’s combination of analytics excellence and intensive leadership training continued to be a big draw for prospective MBA candidates. During the 2016-2017 cycle, the school attracted 1,833 applications, up 208 submissions over the previous class, a 13.5% increase that ranks among the best improvement in the Top 20 American programs. To accommodate demand, Tepper boosted its class size from 207 to 221 students as well.
STEM REPRESENTS HALF OF CLASS
The increase in applications didn’t dilute the talent pool, either. The average GMAT rose from 686 to 691 with the Class of 2019, with scores ranging from 640-740 in the mid-80% range. At the same time, undergraduate GPAs held steady at 3.3%. Not surprisingly, Tepper tends to appeal to candidates with STEM backgrounds. In the Class of 2018, for example, 47% of the class held undergraduate degrees in engineering, information systems, math, and physical sciences. This year, that number rose to 51%. Notably engineers comprise 37% of the class, up 9% over the previous year. That said, the percentage of information systems and math and physical sciences majors dropped by three points and two points respectively to 7% each. The class also includes fewer business majors, which slipped from 27% to 23%. That said, the number of economics and humanities and social sciences majors held steady at 11% and 9% respectively.
Overall, 27% of the class is comprised of women, nearly identical to last year’s number. International students also account for 33% of the class and hail from 31 countries, including Peru, Germany, Australia, Israel, Iran, Russia, Japan, and Singapore. Among American students, 53% are arriving in Pittsburgh from the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, with the rest coming from the West (15%), Midwest (13%), Southwest (12%), and the South (7%). If past is precedent, the percentage of students heading to the West will double, thanks to the program’s deep roots in the tech sector.
“About a third of our students end up on the West Coast and that is unexpected because we are nestled in the hills of western Pennsylvania,” says Kelly Wilson, executive director of master admissions at the Tepper School of Business in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “There are many people interested in a couple of things: One is to get a deep understanding of analytics and how that can help them stand out in the marketplace but then this interest in technology and just how that has become a part of the everyday world we live in. They have an opportunity to tie these two things together.”
How relevant is this proposition? Look no further than the wide range of professional backgrounds featured in the 2019 Class. Financial services represents the largest bloc of students at 20%, followed by consulting (15%), technology and new media (12%), manufacturing (8%), energy (6%), government (6%), consumer goods (4%), and health care (4%). This doesn’t even count another 25% of the class that don’t fit neatly into any of these broad categories!
EASY TO COLLABORATE ACROSS CAMPUS
You could say that Tepper is definitely a school on the rise. In the Bloomberg Businessweek MBA rankings released in November, the program ranked 14th overall, punctuated by top ten finishes in surveys targeted to employers and students. According to Forbes, pay is also on the upswing, with its research uncovering that the 2012 Class saw their pay increase by $64,400 over the past five years.
One reason for this is the program’s interconnectedness with Carnegie Mellon as a whole. Here, says Wilson, the barriers are low for MBA candidates to partner with students at programs like the Heinz College of Information Systems and Public Policy. For Kate Barraclough, who heads the MBA program, such collaborations really set the program apart.
“Since the Tepper School sits at the intersection of business and technology, it has been exciting seeing cross-campus collaboration come alive in ways that are academic, creative and exciting,” she tells Poets&Quants in a statement. “The business school is more closely aligned with its #1-ranked computer science colleagues as evidenced by the launch of the Masters – Product Management, a one-year joint program tailored for technology strategy and leadership.”
The opportunity to forge dynamic partnerships across campus also made Tepper a must-attend MBA program for Caralis. “The Tepper school is a part of the most prestigious and diverse academic community, Carnegie Mellon University, which is full of extremely talented students and professors in fields like computer science, engineering, and fine arts – just to list a few,” she says. “Having the opportunity to collaborate with students outside of the business school and perhaps come up with life-changing technology is something that excites me.”
Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Tepper students.