Meet Dartmouth Tuck’s MBA Class Of 2020

What makes Tuck Tick?

That’s an age-old question for the world’s oldest graduate business program. Known for their openness, generosity, and togetherness, Tuckies are a breed all their own. That’s exactly how they want to stay – and that’s exactly who the Class of 2020 want to be!

Call it the “pay-it-forward” spirit that pervades the program – a commitment from the students to repay the blessings they once enjoyed. The incoming class has been beneficiaries of this goodwill – much like classes before them. Soon enough, it will be their duty to return the favor. That’s was true of Vivian Guo, who arrived in Hanover from China this summer. Once here, her family received a red carpet treatment you’d only find in a Marriott case study.


“Tuckies are kind,” she shares. “They will go out of their way to help one another. Take my experience as an example. Our neighbor offered to pick us pick from the bus station (around midnight) and let us crash at their place for as long as we needed to set things ready for our house. I cannot imagine how hard it would have been for us to set things up at the beginning without their help, and this does not only happen to us. Most students and partners I have met so far have either hosted other students, offered rides to others to get around, helped with furniture moving, babysitting, dog care, and more.”

Colin Chapin got an early taste of this trademark closeness during Tuck Bridge, a summer program that exposes liberal arts majors to business fundamentals. In just four weeks, Chapin developed strong bonds with faculty and students. He was treated like an MBA, indulging in the Tuck rituals of small group dinners, tripod hockey, and drinks at Murphy’s. Long before he decided to pursue an MBA, he became privy to one reason why Tuck students were so warm and engaged.

“Students here self-select into a small, rural program,” he observes. “There is no city to disappear into or metaphorical backrow to coast in.”

Tuck students in class

In other words, Tuck is the “all-in” business school where students take up more than a seat in class. Instead, every student is expected to be indispensable. They came to Tuck to be part of a group – and that means personifying the values, becoming heavily involved in activities, and tending to their classmates. Call it a communal culture that prepares students for always-on jobs that demand teamwork guided by servant leadership. Since the school carefully chooses students who fit this profile, buy-in is quick and lasting.


“The rate at which you go from “strangers living in Hanover” to “of course you can borrow my car in the middle of the night” at Tuck is rapid,” jokes Claire Shaw, a business development manager who grew up in Alaska.

This “share the love” ethos doesn’t happen by accident. Instead, it is constantly reinforced at all levels according to Jonathan Masland, executive director for career development at Tuck, in a 2018 interview with P&Q. Tuck’s structure and scale, he says, is designed so everyone knows each other. This closeness creates an urgency to pitch in whenever they can. And the commitment to the Tuck ideal reminds them that their responsibility to their peers ultimately extends to the classes who follow them.

“They’ve had this great experience. They understand, to have this community, it is something that really requires them to give back.” Marsland notes.

Some might call that “nice.” Sure enough, “nice” or even “soft” is the label that’s often slapped on Tuckies. “Nice” was the first word that came to mind for Irina Titkova, a Belarus native and KPMG finance whiz, when she came to Hanover this summer. However, this first year defines “nice” as “humble, brilliant, ambitious” – a body of students with “open minds, big hearts and with wonderful personal stories.” In contrast, Martina Ravelli, a 2018 grad and member of P&Q’s MBAs To Watch list, acknowledges the nice part. However, she ultimately replaces “nice” with “collaborative competitiveness” – a mindset that’s a refreshing departure from the cutthroat antics of many graduate programs.

“I believe that we are all pushing each other to do better and do more every day.”


The school, itself, doesn’t shy away from “nice.” Taking a page from Berkeley Haas’ Four Guiding Principles, Tuck fully embraced “nice” by including it among its four admissions evaluation criteria unveiled in June. The list, which also included smart, accomplished, and aware, treats “nice” as far more than easy smiles, calm demeanors, supportive words, and occasional kind acts. For Luke Anthony Peña, executive director of admissions and financial aid at Tuck, “nice” is part of a much deeper social contract between the school and its students.

“For us, “nice” means that our candidates will have practiced a habit of kindness,” Peña tells P&Q in a 2018 interview. “It means that applicants are invested not only in their own success but also in the success of others…In order to build the right teams, our wise leaders need to engage others effectively, motivate others, empower others, and have empathy for the diverse experience of others — and in order to do that, we believe that our students should care for others, be kind to others, respect others, lift others up.”

Just be careful not to mistake being nice for being weak at Tuck, Peña adds. “When you care about another person and are invested in that relationship, you have the courage to stand up to them. You have the courage to challenge them tactfully and thoughtfully, and you have the courage to act with principle with that person even when it’s not easy or convenient.”

Luke Anthony Peña, Executive Director of Admissions and Financial Aid at Tuck


“Nice” is just one part of the equation. Accomplishments count too. Along with the new admissions criteria touting results, it clarifies exactly what that means. At Tuck, the criteria reads, “Great performance goes beyond measurable outcomes; it also reflects your underlying behavior. Accomplished Tuck candidates don’t just go through the motions, don’t seek to win at any cost, and don’t wilt in tough moments.”

That spirit is alive-and-well with the Class of 2020. Just look at Makena Timmins Harris – the first female M777A2 battery commander in U.S. Army history. Her job? Blast 100-pound bombs out of a cannon to hit precise targets miles away. A technical challenge, no doubt, but commanding 80 soldier teams to work as a team turned out to be a leadership laboratory for her.

“I quickly learned that the success of the battery was not how well I performed as an artillery (wo)man, but how well I set conditions for my subordinates to perform their individual jobs to the best of their abilities,” she explains. “Although I failed a few times in the beginning, I learned that sometimes being the leader means taking a step back and empowering those below you to accomplish their given tasks.”


Vivian Guo achieved the near impossible. While employees naturally gravitate towards sales and service cutures, she nurtured a ‘compliance’ culture in her 500 member firm. That’s right: her outreach led to staff embracing concepts like risk, restriction, and regulation. After learning the ropes and paying her dues, Claire Shaw became the first person to move from entry level sales to global business development – where she was the youngest (and only female) member of the team. As a researcher with the Council of Economic Advisors, Cordaye Ogletree work helped pinpoint when the United States would achieve energy independence. At the same time, Roberto Vásquez designed the acquisition structure when Peru’s second-largest pharmacy chain was being purchased. Then there is Shailendra Khemka, whose twin brother joined him at Tuck. In 2017, Khemka was the only person in Deutsche Bank’s Asia-Pacific region client team to earn the company’s Recognition Award for “exceptional contributions.”

Like his peers, Shailendra Khemka also boasts an adventurous spirit. He has already worked in four countries since graduation: Singapore, London, India, and the United States. That’d be child’s play for Irina Titkova, who hit five countries in two countries…but only saw them from the airport. Then again, Vivian Guo spent 20 months backpacking solo through India, Nepal, and China – not to mention Central and South America.

It was quite the trip. I did a volunteer program in Macedonia, visited the Amazon Jungle, thru-hiked Salkantay to Machu Picchu, summited Huayna Potosi in La Paz, trekked in the Patagonia region, and learned tango dancing in Buenos Aires,” she reminisces.


Outdoors near the Tuck campus

During the 2017-2018 application cycle, just two of the top 20 full-MBA programs received more applications than the year before. Turns out, Tuck was one of the schools that bucked the trend. This year, Tuck received 2,621 applicants – up 11 applications over the previous year. Unimpressed? To put that into context, consider Harvard Business School and MIT Sloan. These schools reported decreases of 4.5% and 4.3% respectively. That doesn’t count Wharton, which suffered a 6.7% loss in applications. By those measures, Tuck’s performance was impressive…if not miraculous.

That wasn’t the only big news. The class also reported women make up 45% of the class, the highest percentage of any Top 10 full-time MBA program. It is also an improvement over the past two classes, which were stuck at 44%. Although many programs reported steep losses in international student populations, Tuck experienced just a 1% drop to 36%. Overall, 71% of the class consists of American and Canadian citizens. The rest hail from Asia (16%), Europe (8%) and Latin America (7%).

Academically, average GMAT scores held steady at 722, with average GPAs falling from 3.51 to 3.49. Traditionally, Tuck caters to career transitioners with non-business backgrounds. The Class of 2020 epitomizes this trend. Notably, 51% of the class majored in arts- and humanities-related subjects, which is actually down 4 points from its Class of 2019 high. STEM-related majors constitute another 29% – with business-related majors making up just 20% of the class. The 287 member class also attended 152 undergraduate programs, with 99 based in the United States. Another 14% of the class holds advanced degrees.

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