Meet Arizona State’s MBA Class Of 2019

Some of the members of ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business Class of 2019

When people think of innovative education, MIT or Stanford naturally come to mind. Both are prestigious and selective – research-driven and influential – with deep endowments and staggering alumni rolls. For those seeking the most cutting edge curriculum, it helps to throw up a pitchfork and head to Tempe.

In 2017, Arizona State was named America’s most innovative university by U.S. News & World Report for the third consecutive year. How did the university set the pace – and the bar – for its peers? Think of it as a student-centric approach that’s predicated on a big tent philosophy. Here, freshmen can complete first year coursework online – and decide whether to pay for credits after finals – a move that has attracted students from 162 countries. Arizona State has also developed a Facebook data mining app that brings together students with common interests. Last year, the school even partnered with Starbucks to provide full-tuition reimbursement to employees. In turn, Arizona State’s graduation rate has jumped by 80% over the past 15 years.


The W. P. Carey School of Business also follows this spirit of leveling barriers to making education accessible to all. Once a pioneer in business analytics, this perennial Top 30 MBA program differentiates itself by increasing access without sacrificing its trademark personalized attention. This starts with offering a full-tuition scholarship for every incoming W. P. Carey student.

Call it “business without borders” – or “no student left behind.” Thanks to a $50 million dollar gift from the school’s namesake, MBAs can graduate without the burden of tuition debt. For students, this perks frees them to pursue their passions sooner. For the school, it enables them to draw the kinds of minds who’ll eventually leave a big mark on business – and beyond.

John Wisneski

“Last year, we re-engineered our Full-time MBA, integrating the new Forward Focus curriculum and full-tuition scholarship,” explains John Wisneski, the faculty director of our Full-time MBA program. “The curriculum is designed to prepare students to lead in times of volatility and uncertainty by developing leadership competencies, such as communication skills, self-awareness, management agility, and valuing differences. Both the curriculum and the scholarship have been game-changers. A larger applicant pool and the ability to be more selective has produced an amazing cohort of students who are poised to make a real difference in the business world.”


The curriculum is also imbued with a strong dose of design thinking, interdisciplinary collaborations, and experiential learning – the very forces shaping business of the future. For Luke Zoesch, a first-year from Wisconsin, this created a potent combination certain to bring out the best in himself – and his classmates.

“W. P. Carey, more than any top business school, seems to understand the MBA game is changing because the type of MBA graduate employers are looking for has and will continue to evolve,” he explains. “They have responded to that realization just like a top business would…with innovation. The Forward Focus MBA is the most innovative MBA program overhaul in at least 15 years. One of the key ways they have adapted to business needs today is by designing a program that not only gives more access to diversity, but that emphasizes its importance in decision-making. As a member and advocate of the LGBT community, I felt connected to a program whose top priority is investing in a diversity of thought and experience.”

Indeed, Carey exemplifies the emerging MBA ethos: ambitious and action-oriented, inclusive and inventive – and always anticipating the next trend or trade. Wisneski attributes this to the school’s “forward-thinking” leadership at both the college and university levels. This embrace of continuous innovation, coupled with its openness to student feedback, has resulted in unique wrinkles like a new concentration in sports business and learning labs that set the full-time MBA program apart.


“We continue to look at the pressing needs of the markets and modify parts of our curriculum as we need to,” Wisneski notes. “We’ve also kept an eye on what students tell us they’d like to see in the program, whether that’s classroom learning or opportunities to network with experienced leaders and to discuss their strategies for success. This will be the first year of our Intellectual Fusion Learning Labs, which pairs MBA students with master’s degree students in other colleges across ASU to solve cross-disciplinary challenges. It helps our students see that business plays a vital role in solving everyday challenges in our communities and gets them accustomed to collaborating with external stakeholders whose expertise may not lie in business.”

The Forward Focus curriculum and scholarships also helped attract a rather diverse class to Tempe. The 2019 Class ranges from Jennifer McAlpine, a foreign services officer in the U.S. Department of State to Michelle Slifcak Villa, who is a veteran of both the U.S. Peace Corps and Teach for America. In between, you’ll find Maria Fernanda Medina Perez, a marketing manager at Pfizer and DuPont who became a high school teacher and Shalini Thomas, a refugee and immigrant advocate who has recently discovered her great passion in life: spreadsheets and Excel! Thomas’ mantra? “I believe that ensuring administrative and innovative excellence at a nonprofit is how I can make the greatest impact in the fight for justice.”

Arizona State’s Sun Devil

You can bet that Thomas will find a kindred spirit in Allen Matsika, a banker and “inexorable force of nature.” Looking for the Renaissance figure of the class? Try Jennifer Del Rossi, a New Orleans native who holds a master’s degree in environmental biology. She describes herself as a “passionate learner, empathetic giver, patient teacher, people person, foodie connoisseur, animal rescuer, and a team player.” Every class needs a devil’s advocate too. Here, Remund Labios relishes the role. His favorite question: “Why not?”


This class also ranks among the most philosophical. Jacky Leybman, a fitness enthusiast and engineer from Israel, lives by a simple maxim: “I dream; I think. I plan; I execute.” Matsika believes that “a good name is better than riches when business is personal.” And Zoesch is the eternal optimist of the class. “I never live like today is my last. I live like it will never end,” he asserts.

El Mahdi El Boukhari is no stranger to free tuition. He once earned a “Scholar Ship,” a one year program where he studied at universities in California, Australia, and Morocco. McAlpine has hiked to the highest point in the Sahara desert – Emi Koussi – where she caught snowflakes. Uzbekistan’s Sergey Chipilenko was a rapper before he turned to the markets and entrepreneurship. Alas, the class award for “Profiles in Courage” would go to Medina Perez. She once ate a scorpion. Better yet, she “admonished” a company CFO for wasting money when she was just nine years old (Here’s hoping her mother or father wasn’t the controller).

Chances are, Medina Perez would give props to McAlpine, whose budgeting saved the U.S. State Department save $7 million dollars a year. Not to be outdone, Leybman helped build a startup to 50 employees. As a freelance consultant, Chiplilenko’s accomplishment was harder to quantify – but led to a deeper purpose. “I saw great changes in the life of my clients,” he shares. “One entered the top business school in Germany, another started his own business, and a third greatly increased profits of his company and started donating money to charity. These achievements made me feel proud and, as a result, I decided to create my non-profit organization.”

Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming W. P. Carey students.

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