Meet Washington Foster’s MBA Class of 2019

Some of the MBA students in the Class of 2019 at the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business

Some schools know how to recruit. Others know how to teach. Count the University of Washington’s Foster School of Business among the latter. It is an MBA program with a history of turning good applicants into great professionals.

Just ask employers. In the 2017 Bloomberg Businessweek employer survey, Foster ranked 11th among recruiters, besting West Coast competitors like Stanford, UCLA, Berkeley, and USC. Not surprisingly, this popularity translated into results. The Class of 2016, for example, boasted a 98% placement rate – better than any Top 25 program. Employers also paid a premium for Foster talent, as starting pay rose 7% to $141,121.

AVERAGE DEBT IS A QUARTER OF FIRST YEAR PAY

Better yet, Foster set its graduates up for success. The Class of 2016, for example, averaged just $32,047 in debt after graduation – the second-lowest debt burden of any Top 25 program. As a result, Foster has become as popular with MBA candidates as employers. In fact, applications to the program have nearly doubled over the past five years – more than any other program during that same period.

So what’s behind Foster’s success? Being located in the heart of Seattle – home to Amazon, Starbucks, and Microsoft – doesn’t hurt. However, Joshua Rodriguez, a 2017 Best & Brightest MBA who joined Goldman Sachs after graduation, attributes it to something more: “a hunger to win.”

“There are no real barriers to success in this program,” he explains. “You want to go into IBD? We have a first year who scored an internship before her first day of class. You want to go to a top consultancy? We have folks that got offers at two of the top three. You want to go to finance? Come with me, I’ll introduce you to Thomas Gilbert and Chris Hrdlicka, two professors that rival any other in the country. Interested in tech? This is Microsoft and Amazon University! We have a home-field advantage that never goes away….This school owns the Pacific Northwest and is always branching out further. Plus, an MBA student at this school is learning about business in a city that is rapidly growing with no signs of slowing.”

A HUNGRY CLASS…IN A GOOD WAY

This hunger defines the Class of 2019. Look no further than Andrew Peppler. His motto: “Tell me I can’t do something—I love being underestimated.” A U.S. Army platoon leader and company commander who served in Afghanistan, Peppler has turned into a Renaissance Man since the service. He managed a $120 million dollar budget at Amazon; taught military science at the University of Seattle as an adjunct; and even launched a regular podcast that provided veterans with a voice on policy issues. He has set the highest standards for himself – and appreciates that Foster has done the same with their incoming class.

“The intention with which the staff approach the application process is a reflection of the quality of the program and the curriculum more generally—they don’t just pay lip service to diversity—and they ensure the very best people make it into a Foster cohort together,” he says. “This is extremely important to me because throughout my Army career, I was surrounded by America’s best—high achievers who understood the value of teams. When I left the Army, I pursued a position at Amazon for the same reason. Foster sets a high bar and I can’t wait to work with and learn from my new teammates.”

Peppler won’t be disappointed. He’ll be joined by Skyler Brown, a West Point grad and Green Beret who worked with Afghan entrepreneurs to sharpen their business skills. Perhaps Peppler could swap career transition stories with Nimit Pathak, who went from being a philosophy major to a derivatives trader. When it comes to setting the bar, he may find some kinship with Kate Neupert. Her motto? “I aspire to live my life in all caps.” He may even get a run for his Renaissance Man title from Derek Kumagai, an econ major who went from recruiting teachers to running a sports academy to being a consultant for PwC.

The class is as colorful as it is hungry. When he isn’t nerding out over basketball, Kumagai is a “ukulele-playing cat dad.” Katie Tinker-Langenfeld is the adventurer of the group. This Arkansas native had seen 46 of the 50 states before she’d even turned 14, thanks to long RV trips with her parents and seven siblings. Pathak, however, prefers to keep his feet on the ground. He has backpacked through 33 countries on six continents. These jaunts have given Pathak plenty of time to ponder life, which may be why he describes himself as a “patient pragmatist and optimistic adventurer who’s always been more interested in questions than answers.”

A CASE OF MISTAKEN IDENTITY

Fake it til’ you make it? That has to be Kumagai’s motto? He has sung karaoke in five different language…though none where he was fluent. Perhaps he could do a duet with Giulia Pellegrino, another “language enthusiast” who also happens to be a classically trained opera singer. And Pellegrino knows how to fake it too. She used to do the work of a first-year attorney…despite having no legal training. But that didn’t stop her. “Within a few months, I was drafting loan amendments that would be ready for clients, needing no extra revisions by the supervising partner,” she says.

University of Washington, Foster School of Business

Want a good cocktail story? Ask Tim Luk about the time he did the Heimlich to save someone who was choking. Spoiler alert: It comes with a stunning O. Henry twist: “She was choking on a piece of food I cooked for her. I feel both very proud and very guilty.” Then again, Yangyang Pan can top that with her true-to-life doppelgänger. I have an identical twin sister,” she shares. “Even though we have lived in different cities, we keep bumping into each other’s friends who don’t know our twin status. Once during a snorkeling trip in Hawaii, I was approached by two complete strangers so enthusiastically calling me by my sister’s name. It’s simply amazing to realize how small the world is.”

This hunger is also reflected in the class’ accomplishments. Take Tinker-Langenfeld. At Wal-Mart, she spearheaded an accelerated development program for international professionals who held master’s degrees. This program created a talent pipeline, where participants were trained on best practices in areas like merchandising and supply chain so they could apply these lessons in Wal-Mart operations in emerging markets. “Building this new, innovative program allowed me to exercise my entrepreneurial spirit inside a Fortune 100 company,” she says. “And most importantly, the experience of working with aspiring global leaders opened my eyes to the tremendous ability to use business as a force to positively impact the world.”

BIG DECLINE IN NUMBER OF STUDENTS

Looking at the Class of 2019 as a whole, it represents a bit of a departure. Applications plateaued during the 2016-2017 cycle, with the school receiving just six more than the previous year. Technically, Foster remained a relatively exclusive program, accepting just 22% of applicants. This is down nearly two points, putting it on par with UCLA and Duke. That said, the big news comes with the student population. Last year, the program enrolled 125 students. This year, that number fell to 98 first-year MBAs, a 22% decline that makes Foster perhaps the smallest full-time MBA program among the Top 25.

Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming Foster students

  • avivalasvegas

    Lonely, not in the least. Definitely controversial though. It’s all about the delivery I find.

  • avivalasvegas

    The majority of Foster campus hires at Amazon are L5. The majority of M7 business school admits are L6. There are exceptions to both, but they are rare. Promotions from L5- L6 at Amazon aren’t as easy or straightforward as you claim. The promotion from L6-L7 is even harder after an apparent promotion process revision.

    Call me naive, but based on this, I’d prefer to get in through the front door if Amazon was indeed my reason for attending.

  • HBS2019

    You must be a very lonely person avivalasvegas…

  • I have to comment

    looks like another loser entered into the debate. Let’s be honest, I went to a top 5 school and once you graduate no one cares where you went. Guess what doesn’t happen once your up for assessment? No one asks where you went to school. Why? because it doesn’t matter. You would never last at my company with that type of attitude. I’ve met some awesome people that went to Harvard all the way to MBA programs below the top 50. I’ve also met some crappy people at the top 3 that didn’t last more than 2 years while others made it. The common theme… they were great at their jobs and team players and the clients loved them. Get over yourselves. I think you and the other loser (avival or whatever) haven’t made it into any program and secretly wish you had a shot to even get accepted into something outside of Devry and Webster. Good luck to you.

  • FosterAlum

    This is wrong. But there’s a small kernel of truth that actually demonstrates Foster’s value here.

    My classmates who were hired through their internships or through traditional full-time recruiting all went in at L6. Over the past few years, Amazon has hired about 20 Foster students per year this way.

    Same as any of the other MBA programs you’re thinking of. But after that, students who really want to get into Amazon and didn’t make it through the typical MBA pipeline have lots of resources to tap and they can go have coffee with just about anyone there at a moment’s notice. And while a few more of these folks get hired at L6, many come in at L5. But the difference in salary is negligible — less than $10k — and promotion to L6 is fast.

    In other words, going to Foster means you get to use the back door at Amazon. And once you’re in, it doesn’t matter how you got in.

  • Foster sucks

    you don’t have a life do you? No wonder you defend some third-tier hole like Foster

  • warren

    Happy that we finally have reached a common ground: Washington’s Foster is great school.

  • avivalasvegas

    Absolutely not a bad school. Never said it was. Simply said that it wasn’t the most relevant for these forums.

  • warren

    I understand. You are not alone. But I guess you do agree that Washington’s Foster isn’t always a bad school, right?

  • avivalasvegas

    On some days, I do. On others, I’m quite proud of working here. I guess it depends, ya know?

  • warren

    Why, do you feel ashamed by your company name?

  • avivalasvegas

    So you did try to insult me with a standardized test outcome!

    I’ve never experienced an adult do that before. Wow.. Love it!

  • avivalasvegas

    I did read your profile and came away impressed with your background and career path, regardless of your input. I wish the same for you.

    I also took a quote from your article to back up an earlier point I made: “Interested in tech? This is Microsoft and Amazon University! We have a home-field advantage that never goes away”

  • I wonder why they choose not to disclose certain stats

  • Josh

    No thanks. I’ve no desire to impress you and you certainly don’t need any more attention than you’ve received already. I’m pretty comfortable with my assessment and it seems it’s in line with a few others whose credibility is out in the open for everyone to see. No need to hide who I am as I’ve already spoken on the record and without a pseudonym, much like the people who are actually paid to assess the rankings. I’m pretty comfortable with the path I’ve taken so far. I wish you the best, truly.

  • Jeremy

    I’m merely saying that yours may be a good indicator of your ability to reason and comprehend what you read.

  • avivalasvegas

    Did you seriously just try to insult me with a GMAT score?

  • Jeremy

    Maybe you should get off your high horse. You shouldn’t be rude to others when you scored in the bottom 20% of your class on the GMAT. I can now see why that is. Good luck with everything!

  • avivalasvegas

    Your shock and comments mean as little on these forums as my opinion does.

  • avivalasvegas

    No.

  • warren

    Can you share the name of such horrible company? I don’t want to be your workmate..

  • Jeremy

    The comment about objective truths was a joke because you said you try to be objective, not negative, but used a lot of subjective data to back your claims.

    Slight correction for you: this is the comment you “couldn’t agree more” with: Why does P&Q keep featuring schools like this that nobody realistically wants to go to?

    Great reading comp. 🙂 I’m actually shocked you apparently went to a top 5 school. Also, you’re out of b-school but troll these forums? This just got sadder.

  • avivalasvegas

    No, it’s my cutoff, which is what you asked for. That, by definition, is subjective because it is mine. I suppose you could argue that UCLA is considered to be a Top 20 program that has some appeal.

    Slight correction on your other claim. I said no one I’ve met has expressed any interest in going to Foster. It would be foolish to claim that no one has interest, because clearly people are matriculating into the program.

  • avivalasvegas

    I lead a small’ish division for a Fortune 30 company and am a post 2010 alum of a Top 5 M7 program. I haven’t shared additional details on any public forum (yet).

  • Jeremy

    >I try to be objective, rather than negative.
    What did you say that was objective? You agreed with a comment saying nobody has an interest in the program and the only objective evidence is to the contrary.

    >I often call it lifting the veil of B-school naivety.
    Often? I’m not sure if this comment could get any sadder.

    >Honest answer: everything south of UCLA would probably be where my cutoff lies.
    Based on what criteria? Is this another one of those objective truths?

  • warren

    I’m just curious to know , what do you do for living?

  • avivalasvegas

    I try to be objective, rather than negative. I will try to praise a school when it deserves it and rip on the one’s that don’t. I often call it lifting the veil of B-school naivety.

    Honest answer: everything south of UCLA would probably be where my cutoff lies.

  • Jeremy

    I think he’s making fun of the fact that you sit on these boards writing negative comments about other programs. Whether you’re a current student or a grad, that’s sad. Why do you care that much?

    Both you and Jonathan said you can’t think of anyone who wants to go there and John Byrne responded saying that the data show that Foster is actually getting a lot more attention from prospective students. Seems like a fair rebuke and it doesn’t resort to outlier examples. There’s interest in the program.

    Honest question: where is the cutoff for you for programs P&Q should write about?

  • avivalasvegas

    Glad you’re a fan, Josh. If you really want to emphasize why commenters like me should be ignored, why not highlight what you know about Foster that actually proves my ignorance vs. sharing Hallmark card quotes about drive and great things happening?

    If you can, without resorting to outlier examples like Tami’s friend, I’ll correct my previous comments and apologize.

  • avivalasvegas

    I have classmates from my year who are Senior Managers/ Directors at Amazon. As a rule of thumb, Foster MBAs are hired into what is called an L5 role. M7 school grads are typically hired into L6 roles at Amazon.

  • Josh

    Don’t worry about avivalasvegas. A select few make it to the elite group of P&Q expert commenters. This one is dedicated to pushing its own opinion…sometimes positive and mostly negative. The world is full of this unfortunately. Thankfully, most of the success stories don’t end up spending their off hours bashing programs they know little to nothing about. If you’re driven enough, you can make a ton of great things happen regardless of where you go. Hopefully this person is at least getting paid for all the time spent shadowing P&Q articles.

  • JGM

    Why wouldn’t they? Foster has been climbing in the rankings and is becoming more competitive every day. Educate yourself before you post foolish elite propaganda.

  • Bob

    Hi, can you please provide a source for the lower level at Amazon comment? Who told you that?

  • Tami

    He is really a good man and smart professional. It was 9 years ago, today he is a senior vice president of a fortune 100 company. Successful businessman and respected manager. I don’t envy you for your attitude.

  • avivalasvegas

    If what you’re saying it true, your friend probably deserves to be in the program he matriculated into.

  • Tami

    my friend has selected Foster MBA over Harvard and MIT. He wanted a program in seattle, where his home, girlfriend, and employer.

  • avivalasvegas

    Couldn’t agree more. I can’t think of a single person I’ve met who has ever claimed to want to go to Foster. Rather, its either the Microsoft and Amazon drones who want the MBA check box to try to move up a level, or worse still, job hunters looking to move to and then work at those companies in Seattle.

    I’m told that Foster MBAs are actually admitted at a lower level at Amazon, than their M7 peers. How’s that for a solid data point?

  • Applicants are interested in a broad range of quality schools and Foster is among the very best in the world. In the past five years, this MBA program has seen the biggest increase in applications of any school. Not everyone wants to go to an M7 school. In fact, many don’t even apply.

  • Jonathan

    Why does P&Q keep featuring schools like this that nobody realistically wants to go to?