Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class Of 2020


It started out with IQ. Business schools expected grads to master discounted cash flows and comparable company analysis. Back then, MBAs just needed to be modeling ninjas for the doors to open and cash to rain. No more. Now, employers are seeking more “complete” talent. Call it bean splicer meets team builder. Like yin and yang, business schools are focusing on pairing the IQ with the EQ – the ability to listen, adapt, and resolve conflicts.

Now, Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business is demanding something a little extra from its students. Dean Bill Boulding calls it DQ – an acronym that’s associated with everything from data quality to Dairy Queen. Long hand, DQ stands for “Decency Quotient.” For Boulding, it is the truly transformational part of the Duke MBA experience – a program long-regaled for its “Team Fuqua” dynamic. While the intellectual horsepower (IQ) and social skills (EQ) are still fundamental to long-term success in Boulding’s view, the DQ will be what ultimately sets leaders apart.

“To be the kind of leader the world needs today, you have to be someone who actually cares about others and who wants to make a difference in the lives of others,” Boulding tells P&Q in a 2018 interview.


Shari Hubert, associate dean of admissions at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, expanded on Boulding’s point at a 2018 CentreCourt Festival from P&Q. “There’s this decency quotient that we talk about and that’s really important to us,” she notes. “And I think at that is at the core of Team Fuqua. It’s not just about how smart are you or, you know, how articulate or communicative are you, but it’s also about how decent, how much empathy do you have for others? Do you care about and support your teammates and your classmates as you’re going through this transformation together? As an individual gets stronger, that will make your team stronger, the class stronger, and the school stronger. It adds value to your brand and to your degree.”

Broll at The Fuqua School of Business at Duke University in Durham, NC on Tuesday, April 18, 2017. (Alex Boerner)

The Duke DQ was immediately apparent to full-time MBAs, past and present. Collaborative, ambitious, supportive, open, growth-driven – Fuqua is home to a diverse and fervent group who are always on the lookout for #2 – their peers.

“Fuqua is truly a happy place,” writes Julian Gordon, a 2018 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “Fuqua students have a strong commitment to helping one another achieve their personal and professional goals. The administration and faculty are also equally yoked in ensuring that we collectively achieve a greater good for all. Those commitments resonated deeply with me. From the first time I walked through our school, it felt like home to me. It was for those reasons that I felt compelled to run for co-president of this school. As a student who has received so much support, it felt like it was my opportunity to pay those gifts forward.”


For Mary Fernandez, an incoming first-year, Fuqua classmates distinguished themselves by what they didn’t do. A blind woman, Fernandez has endured well-meaning peers always looking to jump in and help, assuming she couldn’t make it on her own because of her disability. At Fuqua, the DQ DNA fosters an opposite reaction. Here, she is given space to make mistakes, all while Team Fuqua significantly involves her in the community – a combination she hasn’t experienced anywhere else.

“I think that somehow the community at Fuqua understands that inclusion is not just asking under-represented minorities to show up, but to truly include them in a meaningful way into the fabric of the community,” she writes. “And I think that’s what is special about the students here… I find that I constantly must make an extreme effort to put others at ease because they simply do not know how to deal with individuals who are different from them. I never felt that way at Fuqua. I feel like I found a community that may have questions, and wants to help in whatever way they can, but which also understands that I am not just my disability. In short, there are few precious places I have felt so comfortable to be myself outside of non-disabled circles. And that is something that is extremely meaningful to me.”

This egalitarian spirit is a hallmark of the Class of 2020. Take Alexandra Herrera Flores. She grew up in Peru, where women were prohibited from playing soccer. She was told that “it was not for a girl” and “soccer is too rude for a delicate little girl.” Her parents agreed – even grounding her when she snuck out to play. That didn’t stop Herrera Flores. As an adult, she founded a social enterprise that became Ligas Femeninas Futbol 7 (LF7) – Peru largest women’s soccer league. Boasting 3,500 players and 52,000 followers on its fan page, LF7 hosts the nation’s largest women’s soccer tournament, all while funneling profits into social academies to help underprivileged girls.


Egalitarian – and diverse too. Before departing for Durham, Anthony Solesi was a vice president of strategy at the Bank of New York Mellon. Anna Sturkey served as a consultant at Bain & Company, where she helped the Women at Bain (WAB) group set the bar for the other offices to meet. Tanvie Vinayak worked as a senior analyst for the Clinton Health Access Initiative after a stint at PwC. Vinayak’s claim to fame? She re-designed models for education, employment and support for people with autism, cerebral palsy, and other disabilities that were implemented by the Union Minister of Health and Family Welfare of the Government of India.

“It was an extraordinary feeling to know that our thought process and contribution had been formalized into policy that would benefit millions.”

At the same time, Anurag Dusanapudi has devoted his career to social sector in India, even traveling to 150 rural villages to promote entrepreneurship and fight poverty. “When I started in the social impact space, I had no formal education or experience,” he admits. “In two years’ time, I built and streamlined a model that was selected by the Ministry of Rural Development (Indian Govt.) as a national best-practice. I supported the Ministry in designing and implementing a national policy across 16 states in India to impact 370,000 direct beneficiaries. When I quit my corporate job to explore social impact, I never imagined that I could accomplish anything on this scale.”


Duke University's Fuqua School of Business

Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business

Looking for real responsibilities? How about Tala Kayyali? She ran a $54 million Enterprise Resource Planning upgrade, where she led 23 people and developed six contingency plans. Oh, and she was the youngest and only female lead too!  Then there’s Alexander Wilson, a senior Special Forces medical sergeant. In 2017, he faced his worst nightmare: a terrorist attack in a village that was 100 miles away from a hospital. The tragedy also turned out to be Wilson’s finest hour.

“Our team of twelve (only two of us formally trained in medicine) had the desperate responsibility of treating more critical patients than we had the human resources to handle. But the medical cross-training I had done with my teammates over the years kicked in and we worked together to treat every patient quickly enough so that all lives were saved. Seeing the effect of uncounted hours spent teaching my teammates field surgical skills and witnessing them employ those skills in such a meaningful way to directly save innocent lives was the proudest moment of my life.”

The class is equally fascinating outside their careers. Evan Lau calls himself a Skydiver, finance professional and wild animal conservationist.” How serious is he about the latter? “Elephants visited my tent once-in-a-while on starry nights when I joined the Masai Mara National Conservancy Program in Kenya. There, I lived in the bush with six international volunteers, tutored a local refugee tribe under the boiling sun, and monitored cheetahs through smashing rain.”

By the same token, Tala Kayyali balancesa scientific brain with a musician’s heart.”  Her unique talent is playing a 75-string instrument called the qanun – and she has played in an all-female ensemble in Jordan called “Nashmiyyat.” Then again, Alexander Wilson envies such balance.

“I’ve spent over 18 cumulative years of my life overseas in more than 30 different countries. I grew up having to speak several languages and I attended six different international schools. Every member of my family was born in a different country. Typically innocuous questions like, ‘Where are you from?’ can trigger a minor internal identity crisis for me.”


By the numbers, the Class of 2020 may rank as Fuqua’s most diverse yet. Notably, the class features 42% women – up eight points over the previous year. In context, this represents the highest proportion of women at Fuqua since the Class of 2011, where the total stood at 38%. In a year where American MBA programs reported steep declines in international students, Fuqua posted a 38% share, just a point down from the previous year.

Braeden Hall

The program is equally diverse in terms of American students. The Northeast and South account for just 26% and 23% respectively, with the remaining four regions (Mid-Atlantic, Midwest, Southwest and West) each composing 10% or more of the class. The percentage of underrepresented American minorities also held steady at 16%, with married students making up 18% of the class.

“I am excited about the progress we are making in adding to the diversity in our community – from our student body to faculty and even advisory boards,” Russ Morgan notes. “We have lots of initiatives in place to increase diversity and it’s nice to see those efforts continuing to pay off. We are a community that strongly believes in learning from difference – so truly these efforts are core to our DNA and will continue to make our community even more interesting for future students.”


Academically, the 2020 Class also ranks among the school’s best ever. Average GMATs continue their steady climb. This year’s 704 average is two points better than the previous year – and eight points above the 2017 Class. Even more, its 3.5 undergraduate GPA average is a 0.1 of a point bump over the past three years as well.

In recent years, Fuqua has also trended towards accepting more business and accounting majors. Two years ago, these students represented 29% of the class. This year, that share is 37%. This number has come at the expense of engineering and natural sciences majors, which fell from 26% to 22% over the past year. Liberal arts held steady at 19%, as economics majors hold 17% of the class’ seats.

In terms of professional backgrounds, Fuqua segments them into very small slices. Translation: there are three industries with larger blocs followed by 16 more with 5% or fewer members of the class. Not surprisingly, consulting ranks as the largest segment of the class at 24%. Financial services (22%) and healthcare (7%) also make strong showings in the class.

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

UC-Berkeley Haas School of Business

Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business

Yale School of Mnnagement

University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

Duke University’s Fuqua 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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