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Stanford GSB | Mr. Startup Guy
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Rotman Loses Head Of Its MBA Program

Niki da Silva, managing director of Rotman’s full-time MBA program

Nearly six years ago, Kevin Frey, then the managing idrector of the University of Toronto’s MBA program, enticed her to the Rotman School of Management as director of admissions.

This month, Frey, now CEO of the Toronto-based non-profit Right to Play International, has recruited her again.

Niki da Silva, the highy admired and popular managing director of Rotman’s full-time MBA program, is leaving on Jan. 31 to join Frey at Right to Play as vice president of people and culture. Right to Play operates in 24 countries reaching 1.2 million children each week through play-based learning to educate and empower some of the world’s most vulnerable children.


In the three years she served as head of MBA recruitment and admissions and the three as MD of the MBA program, da Silva was a passionate champion for the school and a lynchpin of its friendly and accessible culture. She also was among the more creative business school officials, the first to add video interviewing in admissions and also advocate for a more innovative approach for MBA internships (see Rotman Reinvents The MBA Internship Model). The school also was the first to add a timed written response question or essay to its MBA applications (see A New Admit Test For MBA Applicants).

When Frey first recruited her in 2011, da Silva was director of MBA admissiona and recruitment at the Ivey School of Business at Western University in Canada. Her decision to follow her former Rotman boss ends a 15-year run of working in the business school space, both at Ivey and Rotman. Frey, da Silva and a handful of other officials were instrumental in gaining worldwide recognition for Rotman’s MBA program under previous Dean Roger Martin who left after a 15-year stint in early 2013. She also helped to increase the program’s annual intake to 350 from 265 in just a two-year period.

Both she and Frey also began questioning the heavy emphasis on GMAT scores in MBA admissions. Frey conducted an extensive study of admission files and employment outcomes on more than 1,000 MBA graduates at Rotman over a five-year period from 2008 to 2013. They found that the test was essentially worthless in predicting the employability of a school’s graduates and that a set of five other variables, including work experience and admissions interview assessments, were significantly predictive of employment. To the chagrin of GMAC, the research was presented at a GMAC conference in 2015 by then acting admissions director Leigh Gauthier (see The Case Against The GMAT).


“I feel so incredibly fortunate to have had such a tremendous (nearly) 15 years in the Business School space and it is bittersweet to move on,” wrote da Silva in an email to colleagues and students. “As hard as it is to leave Rotman, I know that the FT Program is extremely well-positioned for the future.  We have an incredibly talented Director’s team running FT MBA and our foundation for future success has never been stronger.  I am so proud of what the team has accomplished in the last few years: placement back up to 85% (and climbing), application growth of 25+% yoy (and rising), achieving our 40% female milestone…I’m certain Rotman’s future successes will be even more impressive than what we’ve accomplished to date.”

da Silva earned her undergraduate degree in business at Ivey in 2003 before serving as a pre-business lecturer at Ivey for two years. In 2005, she became manager of MBA recruitment and admissions at Ivey, moving up to director three years later. She joined Rotman in the same role in early 2012 and then succeeded Frey as MD of the MBA program after he left for Right to Play in 2015.da Silva is currently an executive MBA student at Rotman where she expects to graduate this year.

“My final act of service to the School is that frankly I think I’ve built the team to deliver on more without me here – they won’t miss a beat in my absence,” da Silva tells Poets&Quants. That team includes Jamie Young, director of MBA recruitment and admissions.