Meet NYU Stern’s MBA Class of 2020

There is something timeless about New York City. From Irish immigrants disembarking on Ellis Island to Omaha emigres rolling into Penn Station, everyone is struck by its vastness. By day, newcomers stand in awe of the iconic skyline, where every street is the set from some hazy TV memory. By night, the city is maze of streaming and flashing lights – a backdrop to the city’s non-stop stimulation and never sleep spirit, where there is always something to see or do.

In New York, everyone is chasing, feeding off the sense of possibility: the feeling that you can do more, do anything – be anything! It is a limitless “You name it, we got it” milieu, where you can access anything at any time. That’s what made it a commercial hub, a cultural capitol, and a melting pot. Basically, the Big Apple is the front line of the American dream: brassy and buoyant, rewarding the gifted and gritty, ever-changing yet rooted in a timeless promise of autonomy and opportunity. Think of it as the city of startups, a place that has birthed everything from hot dogs to hip-hop. It is a setting to shed the past, start anew, and never look back.


That also makes it a dream destination for thousands of business students. Every company is here. Just hail a cab or scrunch into a subway and students can be at their dream destination in 40 minutes. Home to every language and nationality, New York City offers the best of everything: food, fashion, entertainment – you name it! An experience unlike any other, the Empire City was a big part of New York University’s Stern School of Business’ allure for the Class of 2020.

NYU ‘Sternies’ hanging out in Washington Square Park.

Arati Venkatram hails from Mumbai – considered by some to be India’s answer to New York City. A senior consultant at Deloitte, Venkatram was struck by how ‘Gotham’ was “teeming with opportunities.” Jeff Battipaglia, a U.S. Marine, touts the school’s Greenwich Village locale for being close to “practically any industry a candidate is interested in pursuing.” For Rodrigo Acuna Cervantes, a private wealth management analyst at Morgan Stanley, that industry is finance.

“One of the most important advantages that Stern offers is the access to the financial institutions in the city,” he explains. “Stern has an unparalleled network of alumni and its footprint is embedded in all the major banks in NYC. This bond between the city and Stern is absolute when it comes to experiential learning, networking and recruiting.”


J.P. Eggers, Vice Dean for MBA Programs at Stern, notes that the program takes this bond into the classroom for an unparalleled education experience as well. No school makes better use of its locational advantage,” he contends in a statement to Poets&Quants. “By being in New York City, we are able to attract amazing adjunct faculty to offer some of the most popular electives at NYU Stern. We have four sitting CEOs or Presidents who teach full courses at Stern (including Buzzfeed’s Greg Coleman and Sotheby’s Tad Smith), and other faculty are senior leaders with deeply specialized knowledge at many of the leading banks, consulting firms, and media companies in New York. Stern offers countless opportunities to maximize your exposure to New York City, right outside the front door.”

Inside that door, Stern carries a long and proud tradition too. The ‘Father of Modern Management,’ Peter Drucker, spent nearly a quarter century teaching at the school. Currently, the faculty includes three Nobel Prize winners in Economics, not to mention Aswath Damodaran – a finance guru who has been described as Wall Street’s “Dean of Valuation.” The MBA alumni also boast PayPal CEO Dan Schulman and Bank of New York Melon CEO Charles Scharf – not to mention past heads of NASDAQ, Cardinal Health MTV, and the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Many of these leaders – like the Class of 2020 – didn’t matriculate among New York City’s elite. Instead, they arrive tough and tested, hardscrabble and humble, ready to tackle anything that comes their way.

Nica Langinger, who earned her bachelors and master’s degrees at Stanford, calls her classmates “clear-eyed: “They know what they like, what they don’t like, and what they’re working toward.” Piggybacking on that, Miguel van Zeller calls the class “highly motivated to conquer the world.” At the same time, Patrick Phillips believes his classmates compare favorably to the platoons he has led in the U.S. Army.


Sternies spending time together after class

“The Sternies I have met so far are both driven and generous. Everyone is passionate and focused on their future and career goals, but is simultaneously incredibly willing to help fellow classmates and prospective students. Even though the military has such a singular and unique culture, I definitely feel like there is a similar level of teamwork found here at Stern. People are always going to set you up for success.”

The class doesn’t always come from the fanciest locales. Think Valparaiso, Indiana and Yardley, Pennsylvania, or Porto, Portugal. Many times, they defy convention. Patrick, for one, hopes to break into the entertainment industry after studying cinematic arts and spending four years in the army. In contrast, Nnamdi C. Obukwelu, a Harvard grad, beat the odds by making it as an NFL lineman – and again later as an equity researcher.

“Athletics defined who I was for the majority of my life, so having to essentially rebrand myself was a tough transition to make,” he admits. “However, looking back on it, having to go through such a transition relatively early in my life has prepared me for other transitions I will have to make, notably from working full-time to becoming a full-time student.”


That wasn’t the only achievement notched by the Class of 2020 on their way to the Kaufman Center. At Snapchat, Langinger built the firm’s B2B support team from one member to over 40. Similarly, Cervantes created five asset allocation models for offshore clients at Morgan Stanley – which netted over $100 million in new investments for the firm. Similarly, Venkatram earned her first promotion in investment banking in half the time for normal analysts. For Battipaglia, his biggest achievements were also his most personal.

“One of the great privileges in the Marine Corps includes being asked to promote junior Marines and sailors that one works with,” he explains. “Promotions are a source of pride for service members and are indicative of the additional schooling, training, and sacrifices made to achieve them. I consider it my biggest accomplishment and honor to have been asked to promote several Marines and share in their special day.”

Indeed, you’ll find this new crop of Sternies all enjoyed a special day of some sort. Alice Schnurman, a Wharton grad-turned-consultant, scaled the Great Wall of China…a month after ACL surgery. Cervantes was part of the soccer team that won the Adidas Soccer Cup in 2008. In college, Sami Abdisubhan gave Vice President Joe Biden and his granddaughter a tour of his Georgetown dorm. Then again, Battipaglia enjoyed two special days.

I met President George W. Bush on two separate occasions, on two different football fields, almost two years apart.”


By the numbers, the Class of 2020 is decidedly smaller than its predecessors. During the 2017-2018 cycle, the school lured 375 students, down from the 399 who comprise the 2019 Class. By the same token, the class attracted nearly 150 few applications, a number that’s coupled with a 2% uptick in acceptance rate to 23%.

Academically, the 2020 class represents a slight improvement over previously years. They posted a 717 GMAT – up four points (and the school’s best number since the 2016 Class). In contrast, the undergraduate GPA also remained relatively steady, slipping by a negligible .03 of a point. At the same time, the percentage of women slipped by three points, a number nearly made up by a two point gain with the percentage of international students. In fact, the number of international students at Stern has jumped by eight percentage points over the past three classes, a tribute to the increasingly-cosmopolitan nature of the program.

Stern has been characterized as the intersection of commerce and culture. That is reflected in the academic and professional backgrounds of the classroom. Last year, business majors accounted for 36% of the class. This year, that number was sliced to 29%. Making up the difference are the humanities and social sciences, which jumped a combined 4% (with humanities comprising 17% of the class and social sciences another 16%). Similarly, STEM majors climbed three points to 20%, with economics holding steady at 18%.

Overall, Stern drew the largest percentage of students from the financial services sector. At 26%, finance professionals double their nearest bloc – consultants – which come in a 13%. Considering New York City’s depth and variety in industry, it should surprise no one that Stern’s classes are equally diverse. Besides finance and consulting, no profession makes up 10% of the class with the biggest blocs including technology (9%), entertainment and media (7%), military and government (7%), and consumer products (6%).


Meet the Class of 2020 Series

London Business School

University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business

MIT Sloan School of Management

Columbia Business School

Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business

Yale School of Mnnagement

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School

New York University’s Stern School of Business

Emory’s Goizueta School of Business

Washington University’s Olin Business School


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