Meet IMD’s MBA Class Of 2018

Some of the MBA students in the Class of 2018 at IMD

“90 Strong.”

That’s the premise behind IMD Business School’s full-time MBA program. Here, no student is dispensable. Each brings something different, something fresh, something essential to the community.

“We put so much emphasis on putting together what we call ‘the one best group of 90’ every year,” explains Dean Seán Meehan in a 2017 interview with Poets&Quants. “From the students’ point of view, they are all high achievers, and they got admitted to a program that is highly selective and desirable. They think it is a big stretch and they get in and they are on a high. And then they look around and think, ‘Wow. I am one of 90 and they are all like me, extraordinary people with an amazing amount to bring to this one group of 90.”


“Extraordinary” is certainly a word that fits the Class of 2018. Let’s start with Roy Rong, a Shanghai native who started his career as a physician before arriving in Lausanne as a marketing manager with Eli Lilly. Did I mention he was a part-time psychotherapist? Chances are, he’ll be putting those therapeutic skills to work during IMD’s legendary 48 hour projects. What student wouldn’t go batty when their team must solve intensive business problem at the end of each module, presenting their findings to an executive board in just two days? Based on what he has experienced, Rong won’t be fazed by any of it.

“I am proud to say that I have cured and saved thousands of patients, physically and psychologically, he shares. “During my life as a physician, I diagnosed and treated more than ten thousand inpatients and outpatients with excruciating somatic diseases annually. As a part-time psychotherapist, I have helped hundreds of individuals or families through suicides, anxiety, couple relationship, family issues, sexual disorders, and so on.”

The IMD campus at night

Rong isn’t the only member of the 2018 class working to help others live longer and healthier lives. Take Lauren Hasek. Raised in Cleveland, Hasek rose to being a senior associate at the Clinton Health Access Initiative, where she made 58 visits to 15 countries to reduce costs and raise quality in medical diagnostics for low and middle income consumers. How about Joyce Tsuchiya Melo, “a fearless, challenge-seeker with a passion for doing good?” How fearless? Before she became a cornea and cataract surgeon, she ran the largest live surgery event in her native Brazil, which televised over 40 surgeries at the venue. Oh, and she wasn’t afraid to cut the mike on a leading surgeon who went behind the allotted time, either.

Medicine isn’t the only field where MBA candidates bring a necessary viewpoint to their classmates, however. Nancy Phelps, who grew up on a California ranch herding and branding cattle, is a digital maven. She describes her biggest accomplishment as “defining and delivering the technology development roadmap for Facebook’s data center division,” where she helped to “build custom products, tools, and automated systems that made internal teams more efficient and effective.” You could describe Suyun Huang as a tech pioneer herself. She was the first member of the Apple Beijing R&D Center – an honor that included an eight round selection process – before eventually heading out into the startup world. Let’s not forget banking, either. That’s Marco Villalpando’s calling card. He advised a multinational consortium that broke open the Mexican Wholesale Telecommunication Network to foreign investment. The result? 92% of the country can access high speed wireless internet access.


Those weren’t the only impressive achievements you’ll find with the incoming MBA class. Before she turned 30, Maria-Jose Ortiz made senior manager at LATAM Airlines Group, one of the very few women to reach that level so quickly. As an associate at a leading Greek law firm, Dimitrios Karampatakis punched well above his weight class. He delivered the successful pitch for a client that eventually completed the largest acquisition in Greece during 2016. For Saba Yasini, coming to IMD is hardly a change. Nearly five years ago, she took a leap of faith, traveling from Berkeley, California to Aubonne, Switzerland to build a contracts infrastructure for a top surgical robotics firm. “My job gave me the opportunity to work with 40+ different countries and cultures while taking in the beautiful and picturesque views of the Alps.”

Yes, it is a lean class…but one filled with students who are passionate, purposeful, enterprising, and engaged. They will make for enlivened discussions and enriching collaborations. You can bet that classmates will be rallying around Hassan Abdel Fattah, an engineer and entrepreneur who describes himself as an “energetic, highly-driven professional who loves working with teams and enjoys arriving at meaningful solutions to complex and ambiguous challenges.” Yasini breaks the mold as a “no nonsense kind of gal with a flair for science and shoes.” “Gutsy” is a synonym for no nonsense – and Ortiz carries that label with pride. “I plan to transform organizations by empowering women.”

Beyond their resumes, the class also brings some unexpected talents to the mix. Rong can diagnose physical ailment just by reading palms. Want to know who the class athlete is? Check out Hasek, who has completed two triathlons and “summited the highest peaks (mountains) in North, East, and Southern Africa.” Then again, maybe Villalpando could give her a run for the money. He was a former member of the under 21 indoor volleyball national team…that is when he wasn’t busy playing his ukulele.

Their stories are even better. Fattah spent eight months near the Arctic Circle, as in a remote town with no road leading to it. Maksim Iavorskii, a “world citizen” and financial whiz, once endured a tropical storm, “which scored 10 out of 10, while being outdoors.” If time is relative, that might have been less frightening than what Jain suffered. “While performing at a rock concert with thousands in the audience, our sound was cut in the middle of our first song because we had wasted too much time on sound check, exceeding our five minute stage time limit. No other event has been more embarrassing for me.”


Overall, the 2018 Class fits within the school’s traditional parameters. The Swiss school boasts a 676 average GMAT score, with the median rising to 680. A truly international program, 99% of its students hail from outside its home country, a higher percentage than one year wonders like Cambridge (94%), Oxford (92%), and INSEAD (89%). Not surprisingly, Meehan describes the 2018 Class as “arguably the most diverse MBA class in the world.” The class also features 29% women, a major jump over last year’s 23% representation.

IMD is nestled near the mountains of Switzerland but also has a campus in Singapore

IMD also tends to select older and more experienced candidates for its full-time MBA program. The average age is 31, compared to 29 at INSEAD and 28.5 at IESE. The class also possesses nearly seven years of work experience, with most MBA candidates speaking 4-5 languages (though classes are conducted in English). While the 90 member class features 43 nationalities, it is equally diverse in terms of education and professional backgrounds. The largest percentage of incoming students – 43% — majored in engineering as undergrads. Another 20% studied business and commerce, followed by finance and economics (15%), and social sciences (10%). Natural sciences and information technology each took up 6%. Among industries, manufacturing makes up the largest bloc of the class at 37%. Financial services (19%), service industry (16%), consulting (13%), telecom and tech (8%), and the public and non-profit sectors (7%) compose the rest of the class.

The small culture, coupled with a carefully cultivated class, made IMD the place to be for Villalpando.Can you imagine bonding with an international, experienced, truly diverse, close-knit community of worldwide leaders,” he asks. “I can’t stress enough the word bonding. Ninety individuals from 40+ nationalities in your class who have proven ability to over-perform in their respective industries, and can bring to the table solid professional experience! You would be learning as much from the faculty as from your colleagues. On top of that, not only within your class, but also within the alumni network you will quickly realize you have accessed a community of brilliant, fast-paced people who boost both their careers and their lives through this leadership journey.”


The diversity isn’t the only quality that makes the IMD MBA experience special. Meehan describes it as a “transformational leadership program,” which he says is increasingly focused on the impact that business leaders can have on society. “Institutions and companies need to adapt and respond to the new digital world in order to survive and thrive. Leaders today need to have a global mindset, be entrepreneurially oriented and be digitally competent,” he tells P&Q in a written statement.

These areas are foundational to IMD, a 45 year-old school that is nestled along the placid shores of Lake Geneva. According to Meehan, the school has devoted the past year to revamping the program along these global, entrepreneurial and digital dimensions. For example, he cites a new module, Business and Society, which is designed, in his words, “to explore ways of collaborating with a wide spectrum of stakeholders and of living with increased transparency.”

Meehan adds that the full-time program has also integrated career services more closely into the MBA curriculum. Notably, the effort has introduced graded deliverables. Even more, it requires greater outreach and coaching to achieve the outcomes that students set ahead of time. “It will include building a personal board of directors to mentor them across all aspects of securing a highly competitive job and building a long-term career strategy,” Meehan notes. “Our President, Jean-François Manzoni, who started in January of last year, is committed to bringing the MBA to the heart of  our eco-system with our whole community dedicated to equipping each class to face tomorrow’s challenges, ready and able to make a positive impact.”

Go to page 2 to see in-depth profiles of incoming IMD MBA students.

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.