Our Favorite MBAs Of 2017

columbia business school criticism

The critic within: Columbia MBA Kim Gittleson disses her experience at the school

Kim Gittleson, Columbia Business School

Kim Gittleson is probably a least-favorite MBA of 2017 to a lot of people. On May 22, days after graduating with 787 other full-time MBAs from the Columbia Business School, a scathing essay she wrote about her experience and the school was published in Bloomberg. “An MBA Is Not All it Should Be” was published and set off a firestorm of angry internet comments, as did our feature on the essay.

“It’s graduation season in America and a good moment to admit an uncomfortable truth: Too many grads are walking across campus quads to accept an MBA. I should know — I’m one of them,” Gittleson penned in the opinion piece.

Among other things, Gittleson said as a whole, she thinks business schools “are failing to inculcate any real sense of direction or moral obligation in their students.” Gittleson said the core curriculum “lacks a core” and that “even the most dedicated students find it hard to acquire a substantial body of learning.” Plus, “sexism abounds,” she continued.

Of course, Gittleson’s review of the school is specific to her and her experiences — although she echoes what others say in a not-so-public setting. Still, we admire Gittleson’s bravery to publish a critique of not only Columbia Business School and business school in general. It has been a year of women speaking out where they used to remain silent and we appreciate Gittleson’s willingness to do so in the graduate business education space.

Moshe Cavalin. Courtesy photo.

Moshe Cavalin, Arizona State University W. P. Carey School of Business

Sure, there have of course been other teenage MBA students in the world. But Moshe Cavalin must be one of the most accomplished. Cavalin, who is enrolled at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business and aims to earn his MBA this coming spring was a 19-year-old when we wrote about him last March. He also had already interned at NASA and could fly a plane. Oh yeah, and the MBA will be his second graduate degree.

Cavalin, a Los Angeles native, enrolled in community college at 8. At 12, he transferred to UCLA. And by 16 — when most American teenagers are learning how to drive or worrying about prom — Cavalin had a degree in math from UCLA and enrolled in an online master’s program in cybersecurity at Brandeis University.

“It was a challenge when everyone was so much older than me,” Cavalin told us last spring. “But some of my closest friends today are people I met back in community college, who acted as big brothers and sisters. It started off as a bit of a joke, but they opened their minds to a young person being in a class with them, and now I prefer spending time with older people.” 

Cavalin is the youngest person to ever enroll in the full-time MBA program at the Carey School and plans to enter tech when he graduates in 2018.

“I would love to stay in the aerospace and aviation field, but I’m open to any company that creates innovation and changes the way we see things,” he said.

“I’m interested in bridging the gap between technology and business — it’s the best of both worlds.”

Below are brief summaries of MBAs that made honorable mention for Our Favorite MBAs of 2017.

wharton commencement 2017

Wharton’s Dante Pearson goes from waitlister to class speaker. Courtesy photo

Dante Pearson, Wharton

Dante Pearson, who graduated from Wharton last year is the first of two graduation student speakers that caught our eye last year. Pearson, who was placed firmly on Wharton’s waitlist before being accepted to the school, gave a speech that revolved around the idea that life is “one big waitlist.”

“You worry about the avalanche, but it’s something else entirely that gets you,” Pearson explained in his speech. “I think this applies to us as well because most of us are managing career risk. In other words, the risk of failing professionally or financially. Meanwhile, we are wildly exposed to other risks. The risk that we didn’t tell our brother we loved him enough. Or, that we didn’t practice our faith to its fullest extent to see where it would take us. Or, that we never actually fought for someone else’s rights when we didn’t have skin in the game even though these are exactly the people we say we want to be. It’s never a particularly good time, so we wait.”

hbs class day speaker 2017

HBS Graduate Andrew Cone gave the student address at 2017 Class Day

Andrew Cone, Harvard Business School

Andrew Cone, who graduated from Harvard Business School last spring had one message for his fellow graduates at commencement: Speak out.

“Now is not the time to shy away from topics that make us uncomfortable,” Cone said. “Try to think of a time when you didn’t stand up for an idea or a person. Maybe it was yourself.” The reason, said Cole, was likely fear. “There are times we don’t speak up for fear of being redundant. The silent majority will carry the day. And we face no consequence. If we all remain silent on topics for which others will speak on our behalf there will come a day when no one does. It is better to engage imperfectly than abstain indefinitely.”

Cone, who grew up in Cleveland, Ohio spent much of his adolescence not saying much of anything to avoid being labeled by other teenagers. The way he said “S” prompted “people to label” him, he said. Some of Cone’s best moments at Harvard were when not only himself, but others spoke out.

“We must listen to those who speak up along side and against us,” he said during the speech. “We must embrace dissenters even when it seems inconvenient. We need to value the voices of our doubters as much as those of our champions.”

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