Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class of 2019

Accounting has been called the “language of business.” If true, it is a language with a modest vocabulary. On whole, balance sheets, cash flows, and asset classes are short-term markers with a narrow purpose. They hardly reflect the intricate interrelations and paradoxical patterns inherent to business – where data acts as words and economics serves as structure.

At the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School, data is the means to divine the complex and encompassing forces that drive commerce. Here, economics and analytics are the center point where the fundamentals – marketing, operations, finance – intersect. Indeed, Simon is a program where the art is deciphering the science. Students learn how to develop inclusive models that frame the present to better plot the future. In the process, they shed the clutter and ease uncertainty, so they can ask the right questions and invest in the right opportunities.


The Simon system is characterized by a reverence for integration, depth, and evidence. This economics-fueled and data-driven approach is coveted by many MBA candidates who seek a well-rounded academic experience with analysis at its core.

“With an engineering background, I knew that I wanted a MBA program known for analytics that would allow me to continue to leverage my quant background,” says Mike Alcazaren, a Buffalo native and Raytheon veteran who joined the program last fall. “This is most certainly true at Simon. From our classes in business modeling to marketing research, we always make data-driven decisions.”

Simon centers its program around data, no doubt. That’s one reason why it ranks among the top MBA programs for finance and economics according to the Financial Times. However, #SimonStong is strong across the board. That’s courtesy of heavy academic demands being paired with intensive personalized coaching, which prepare students to translate the trends and project their potency.

Simon School students prepping for class.

“While it does rank very high for finance, we have brilliant faculty in a number of fields and many MBAs go into a multitude of roles after graduation,” explains David Distant, a 2017 graduate and member of Poets&Quants Best & Brightest MBAs. Marketing, consulting, operations and supply chain, data analytics, and entrepreneurship are all amazing career options that Simon MBAs are consistently chosen for. My classmates in other disciplines are very happy with the rigor of those tracks as well.”


Thus far, you’d hear the same from Simon’s Class of 2019, a star-studded group of full-time MBA candidates who come to Rochester from firms as diverse as Oracle, PwC, Polo Ralph Lauren, and Chevron. Make no mistake: Rochester isn’t a quant finishing school for banking analysts and marketing managers. Take Krystalyn Jones. An “avid learner” and jazz aficionado, Jones has worked in human resources in roles focused heavily on diversity and inclusion. Among her accomplishments, she helped an employer rank among Vault’s Top 25 law firms for diversity. Later on, she implemented the Anti-Defamation League’s anti-bias and bullying prevention initiatives in the New York region.

For Jones, the Simon School, where nearly 50% of the class hails from overseas, was a chance to operate in a truly diverse environment on an everyday basis – and experience first-hand the benefits it offers. “I am eager to learn and understand different cultures because of the value-add different backgrounds and perspectives bring toward successfully achieving a common goal,” she notes. “Moreover, these interactions create significant contributions to organizations that directly influence both performance and culture, providing a sustainable, competitive advantage.”

The class isn’t just diverse in terms of origin. They also bring an array of unique experiences to the table. Adrian Gallardo, a “problem-solver” who’s “passionate about finance and technology,” has trained with UFC fighters. Think guillotines and kimuras are scary? Yonnas Terefe faced his fear of heights…by skydiving. While Devins Paton may be among the nine million people who work in American finance, just ask yourself: How many of them can say they made medicine for elephants in Thailand?

Outside of work, the Class of 2019 has found plenty of outlets to channel their curiosity and artistic instincts. Alcazaren may dream of commercializing technology, but his passion is travel. He has already visited 43 states and 16 countries – and plans to hit six more later this year. Cate Bannar stirs her creative juices by knitting and sewing. And then there’s Aparna Unnithan, who describes herself as “Leslie Knope meets Wonder Woman.” Her hobby? “I am a huge fan of upcycling,” she says. “I like turning ordinary discarded things into works of art.”


This year’s class also took ordinary situations and created extraordinary results. At SodaStream, Bannar launched new online strategies and functionalities that boosted digital channel sales by 45%. In her first year on the job, Sree Madakkavil had already filed her first design patent. Working for the City of New York, Unnithan spearheaded an analytics platform to assist with housing the homeless. At the same time, Jasmine Mitchell chose to forego a desk job for the rough-and-tumble world of retail – and eventually led merchandising for one of Macy’s top volume stores.

Simon students preparing a project together.

Sometimes, the class’ biggest successes came from falling short. Gallardo dumped a steady analyst job to launch a company – and absorbed the value of a team motivation and financial forecasting. By the same token, Alcazaren fully admits that his cleantech firm, which used drones to detect disease in grape vineyards, failed…on the surface, at least. However, it was also the “catalyst” that pushed him to business school. “My entrepreneurship professor at Simon, Dennis Kessler, describes this as a part of the entrepreneurial experience – it’s not a failure, it’s just “tuition” that I paid for making the next venture successful,” he jokes.

And these successes haven’t stopped since they entered business school. Many have already landed their dream internships. This summer, you’ll find Jarmarius Moten, the pride of Florida A&M, at Google. At the same time, Terefe and Alcazaren at Morgan Stanley and Amazon respectively. The first year also has been kind to South Africa’s Patrick Coulter, who earned a spot on both the dean’s list and the Boston Consulting Group’s summer internship roll. How is this for overcoming a fear of networking: Madakkavil became so good at it that she is weighing internship offers from Facebook, Amazon and Whirlpool!

The class’ achievements don’t stop there. Gallardo was part of the first Simon team to ever win the regional finals at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), ticketing them to the global finals. He wasn’t alone in making history. Mitchell was awarded the inaugural Women’s Alliance Scholarship. For her, the scholarship represents far more than just assistance in meeting her financial burdens. “It is catalyst for me to serve as a change agent for women’s rights throughout my time at Simon and future career,” she says.


And Simon’s Class of 2019 is 84 catalysts strong. Overall, the school received 894 applications during the 2016-2017 cycle, down from the 915 apps it received the previous year. In the process, the acceptance rate fell from 33% to 30%, putting Simon on par with Carnegie Mellon (Tepper) and USC (Marshall).

Academically, the class brings a 666 average GMAT to class, along with a 3.4 undergraduate GPA. The class boasts a 34.1% female population, a higher number than programs like Georgetown (McDonough) or Vanderbilt (Owen). Chances are, that number will go higher in future years as graduates enjoy one of the smallest pay gaps with men according to the Financial Times. That doesn’t count its above average $116,294 average pay and 93.8% placement rate for the Class of 2017 – with recent graduates gobbled up by the likes of Bain & Company, McKinsey, Goldman Sachs, IBM, Twitter, Johnson & Johnson, and Nike.

Go to Page 2 to Access a dozen profiles of Simon’s Class of 2019 MBAs.

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