Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class Of 2020

Incoming MBA students in the Class of 2020 at Duke Fuzua

EMPLOYERS BUY INTO TEAM FUQUA

On a sour note, applications to Fuqua fell by 6.2% during the 2017-2018 cycle. Still, the acceptance rate also held steady at a demanding 22%. Even more, the arrow is trending up at Fuqua, particularly in terms of outcomes. The program ranked 6th-best in the Bloomberg Businessweek employers survey. Better yet, median pay packages for the 2017 Class rose by $5,500, with 96% of the class landing jobs within 90 days of graduation.

What’s behind the success? Russ Morgan, senior associate dean for full-time programs at Fuqua, in a 2018 interview with P&Q, attributes it to the essence of Team Fuqua. In his conversations with recruiters, he has been struck by a theme: Fuqua candidates invest the time to learn about their peers and put them in positions to succeed.

“Our students want to be energized by people around them,” Morgan tells P&Q. “They are supportive in the sense that they are more than willing to help each student not only get the best out of themselves, but the best out of others. For us, Team Fuqua is a way of working that’s embedded in our culture. That’s relevant when you’re a student, but it’s exceptionally relevant after you leave here.”

TEAM FUQUA MAKES STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE TO EACH OTHER

What exactly is Team Fuqua? Think of it as collective purpose, a code where no one is successful unless everyone is. The heart of Team Fuqua is the “Paired Principles,” a framework of six values that include Authentic Engagement, Supportive Ambition, Collective Diversity, Impactful Stewardship, Loyal Community, and Uncompromising Integrity. In a nutshell, the Paired Principles demand a higher level of engagement and selflessness from students – a vision of professional etiquette where the sum is always greater than the individual parts.

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

A marketing ploy? Well, Team Fuqua is very, very real. Just ask Julian Gordon, who experienced the Duke difference for two years. “We really believe in supporting one another, whether in school or outside of it. Whether it’s an open door policy by classmates for interview preparation, pep talks in the hallway, or just a warm smile, we care passionately about lifting as we climb. Beyond any one experience, Team Fuqua really means thinking more about others than about your own personal interests.”

Poll the 440 members of the 2020 Class and you’ll find the Team Fuqua ethos was the school’s biggest draw – an intangible where the mission, means, and motivation all converge to create a like-minded student body.  “Becoming a leader of consequence, or a leader with a higher purpose than just business results, was something that I valued,” asserts Anthony Solesi. “In today’s world, teamwork is a key to success – Fuqua understands this and develops leaders to be able to not only manage a team, but become consequential leaders who invest in professional relationships, promote cohesion, and communicate easily and effectively.”

TEAM PLAYERS WHO GO THE EXTRA MILE

Soccer lover Alexandra Herrera Flores also appreciated how “Fuqua breathes sports from its curricula.” That comes as no surprise given the prominence of Coach Mike Krzyzewski – and his focus on a culture of communication and character in the basketball program. In many respects, Fuqua MBAs resemble Blue Devil ballplayers, she says, particularly when it comes to buying into being team players.

“They are the “extra mile” team players,” Herrera Flores says about her classmates. “I am aware that Fuqua is known for having a team player vision and that’s totally true, but I think the way everyone lives that is what really matters. It is not only that people just help each other and listen to the group ideas; it is that they are passionate about doing it and always looking out for new opportunities for getting things done. More important, they are always working as a family. Everyone is actively proposing activities, helping each other, listening to new ideas, and collectively enforcing them.”

Like Krzyzewski’s vision, Team Fuqua is designed to spread across business as a model for how to think, act, live, and lead.  “There is this idea that business has a responsibility to contribute to society,” Russ Morgan observes. “That is a latent part of Team Fuqua – this idea of making the teams you’re on better and the individuals you work with better and make yourself better. Increasingly, society is looking for business to lead – that’s a key element of what we’re providing.”

A LEADER IN SOCIAL IMPACT

That’s not all that Fuqua is providing. It is ranked as a top three research program by the Financial Times with Top 10 programs in marketing, management, and nonprofits according to Bloomberg Businessweek.  Not surprisingly, the Team Fuqua spirit naturally channels the program towards social entrepreneurship too. Anurag Dusanapudi, for one, plans to pursue poverty eradication after graduation. To prepare for that, he plans to devote extensive time in the Center for the Advancement of Social Entrepreneurship (CASE) – a place where students can network with practitioners; engage in discussions, webinars, treks, and conferences; take part in social impact projects; and gain experience in areas like impact investing.

Duke Fuqua MBAs at their orientation week

“Fuqua offers the best of both worlds to me.” Dusanapudi notes. “With CASE’s world-class faculty, its extension into Africa and India, and the numerous support systems on offer, Fuqua was an obvious choice for me.”

Fuqua’s location is another underrated aspect of the Fuqua experience. For one, the school is just 15 minutes from Research Triangle Park (RTP). The nation’s largest research park, RTP is home to 250 companies ranging from early stage biotech and information technology firms to large players like IBM and Fidelity Investments. For students like Tali Keyyali, this makes the possibilities limitless in Durham.

“I am doing the Health Sector Management certificate which is a highlight at Fuqua. Being in the Research Triangle Park (RTP) area gives us a unique perspective on health care because we are surrounded by several biotechnology and pharmaceutical companies and nestled within some of the country’s leading research organizations and medical centers. I also love the proximity to an international airport since I love to travel.”

BIG-TIME FACULTY GEARING UP BIG-TIME COURSES

The weather isn’t bad either, averaging just four inches of snow a year. Then, there’s Durham itself, an upbeat and entrepreneurial city whose values closely mirror Fuqua itself. “There’s such an intersection between what Durham is and what Duke Fuqua is,” Russ Morgan points out in his 2018 interview. “It’s reinforcing. It’s easy to live in Durham, which means you can get together with classmates. You get this benefit of a lot of connection between students – the trust that comes with spending time together. Everyone lives within this network in the community and it facilitates a lot of organic interaction. It builds this trust which leads to, “I will allow you to give me strong feedback. I understand why we are in this together.’”

Looking ahead, what can the Class of 2020 expect? Morgan points to a new certificate in Management Science and Technology Management, which he says focuses on how analytics and technology impact every facet of business. In addition, the MBA program has added several new courses over the past year. One example: Professor Ronnie Chatterji has developed a course that looks at the intersection between politics and business, including the perils and opportunities that exist for leaders who weigh in on the issues. “The feedback we’ve gotten has been that it’s one of the best courses many students have ever taken in their academic careers,” Morgan notes.

That’s just the start. According to Morgan, Professor Campbell Harvey, a Fuqua legend and blockchain expert, continues to broaden his acclaimed Blockchain Technology course. General Martin Dempsey, a retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is a marquee attraction with his ever-popular courses in leadership. At the same time, Hot off the press, Professor Ashleigh Rosette has developed a new course on challenges facing women in leadership.

“Ashleigh is one of the top diversity and gender experts in the world and is much sought-after by companies looking to meaningfully initiate change,” Morgan notes. “We are thrilled she’s developing this new offering and we’ve been clear that this is a course for both women and men – as we strongly believe it’s important for all future business leaders to talk through gender issues.”

Portraits and B Roll images at Duke University Fuqua School of Business in Durham, NC Monday, April 23, 2018. (Justin Cook for Rotarian Magazine)

COMING SOON: FUQUA IDOL

Even with the world-class coursework, Morgan adds, the biggest surprise involves just how much students learn from each other. “We are very intentional about creating the conditions for students to engage with each other through collaborative teamwork and facilitating entrepreneurial activity among students around co-curricular development.  This type of organic activity is authentic and becomes driven by student interest and passion, naturally fostering relationships across a wide array of diverse backgrounds in our cohorts – which doesn’t just mean geographical locations, but gender, industries, functions, and personal experiences.”

Two months in, the Class of 2020 is falling into the rhythms of students past. They certainly don’t mind being free from classes on Wednesdays, though most use that time to work on club activities, case competitions, and pet projects. The end of the week brings Fuqua Fridays, where students and their family join faculty and staff for food and drink in the Fox Center before capping off the night with skits and talent show.

“To me, it is such a feel good night,” Morgan observes. “It is a way for us, internally, to celebrate. Not only do we have this academically gifted talent, but look at this person in terms of vocal performance or piano or guitar talent. The quality that you see there makes me feel like it is such a special community.”

That includes Tala Kayyali, who is expected to wow her Team Fuqua peers at Fuqua Idol. “I am really excited to share my 75-string instrument with my classmates!”

What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates. 

Student Hometown Alma Mater Previous Employer
Shezanne Cassim Dubai, UAE University of Minnesota American Airlines
Anurag Dusanapudi Tadepalligudem, India BITS Pilani, India Impact Micro Ventures
Mary Fernandez Woodbridge, NJ Emory University National Federation of the Blind
Alexandra Herrera Flores Lima, Peru Universidad del Pacifico Etex Group Peru
Tala Kayyali Amman, Jordan Tufts University Biogen
Evan Luo Guangzhou, China Guangdong University of Foreign Studies PwC
Anthony Solesi Bel Air, MD Lehigh University The Bank of New York Mellon
Anna Sturkey Charlotte, NC University of North Carolina Bain & Company
Tanvie Vinayak New Delhi, India Hans Raj College Clinton Health Access Initiative
Alexander Wilson Buenos Aires, Argentina University of Texas at Austin United States Army

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