Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2020

Vanderbilt University, Owen Graduate School of Management

BIG JUMPS IN FEMALE AND MINORITY STUDENTS

By the numbers, the Class of 2020 held their own in a down year for applications. During the 2017-2018 cycle, Owen received 224 fewer applications. As a result, the acceptance rate jumped from 43% to 61%. By the same token, average GMATs fell from 688 to 678, with the median also falling by 10 points.

Such numbers also created opportunity for the incoming class. The percentage of women, for example, rose from 26% to 30%. Similarly, the share of U.S. minority students also increased from 11% to 15%. The percentage of international students held relatively steady at 16.5%, with international students arriving from countries like Ethiopia, Germany, Japan, Nigeria, and Vietnam.

Overall, 120 educational institutions and 160 employers are represented in the 2020 Class, including notable firms like Bain & Company, Goldman Sachs, and PwC. Contrary to the impression of Owen as a “southern school,” just 37% of the class hails from the south. The rest of the American students are nearly equally divided, with the Midwest composing the next largest group at 13%. Overall, the largest bloc of the class consists of business, accounting, and economics majors. They account for 49% of the class, followed by engineering (14%), humanities and fine arts (13%), social science and legal (10%), science (5%). Professionally, health care services has the highest representation in the class at 12%. Government (11%), consulting (7%), education (5%), and high tech (5%) also make up sizable blocs of the class.

MORE RESOURCES DEVOTED TO THE STARTUP SPACE

What’s new at Owen? In a statement to Poets&Quants, Dean Eric Johnson points to a $4.5 million dollar renovation of the Walker Management Library, with added space and state-of-the-art resources that has turned it into a hub of campus life. “The renovation enables new programming that supports our personal-scale culture,” Johnson explains. “From Alumni Receptions to Humans of Owen live storytelling events and one-on-one conversations, to Executive Fireside Chats with leaders like Emerson Chairman and CEO David Farr or Dollar General former Chairman and CEO Cal Turner, our Walker Management Library offers students a multi-dimensional space to study, learn, and collaborate.”

Dean Johnson also lauds the school’s increasing push into entrepreneurship. In recent years, Nashville has emerged as a popular startup spot, buoyed by the area’s cosmopolitan vibe and diverse strengths in the healthcare, music, and manufacturing industries. Recently, three Nashville-area startups – Digital Reasoning, Confirmation.com, and Aspire Health – generated a combined $220 million dollars in funding according to Inc. magazine. At the same time, Intermedix made a $460 million dollar exit in 2018. To capitalize on such middle market opportunities, the school recently launched its Center for Entrepreneurship to offer, in Johnson’s words, greater “structure and resources” to Owen MBA students.

Portrait of Dean Eric Johnson smiling in a charcoal suit, white button down, and a gold tie with blue details.

Vanderbilt Owen Dean Eric Johnson

“Besides the Center’s programming and seed funding for startups,” Johnson notes, “we are also developing a significant new Entrepreneurship Conference in Nashville, with associated events in San Francisco and New York. The conference will offer students exciting opportunities to practice and develop leadership skills, showcase their entrepreneurial ideas, and learn from seasoned and rising entrepreneurs.”

When students think of Owen, “small school” isn’t the only word that comes to mind. One is leadership, thanks to the school’s acclaimed “Leadership Development Program (LPD), a voluntary program, customized to each student, that offers assessments, coaching, and experiential opportunities normally reserved for selected executives in large firms. Another might be “social sector,” with the Turner Family Center for Social Ventures and Project Pyramid providing MBAs with opportunities to engage with leaders in the field and gain industry experience through school-sponsored projects.

NASHVILLE HEALTHCARE FIRMS GENERATE $92 BILLION DOLLARS ANNUALLY

However, these selling points pale in comparison to the biggie at Owen: Healthcare. Nashville is home to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. One of the largest hospitals in the nation, the center receives over two million patient visits a year. Even more, the Nashville metro serves as the headquarters for some of the largest healthcare providers in the world, including the Hospital Corporation of America and Community Health Systems. How big is the reach of these organizations? HCA alone operates 178 hospitals and 119 surgical centers in the U.S. and U.K. – employing 249,000 people who manage 28 million patient visits a year.

According to the Nashville Health Care Council, over 500 health care companies operate out of Nashville. These firms are also supplemented by another 400 boutiques that offer specialized healthcare services in areas like legal, accounting, and accounting. Overall these healthcare firms generate over $92 billion dollars in annual revenue and account for 570,000 jobs. They also manage over half of all private hospital beds in the United States. Such scope has also spawned investment, with Nashville area health care companies drawing over $1.6 billion dollars in investment from 2005-2015.

Add to that, the industry is growing at a 5% annual clip, with Americans spending $3.5 trillion dollars for health care each year – or nearly 20% of U.S. GDP according to Dean Johnson. As a result, the industry is evolving, requiring a more “professionalized” and model-driven approach. That creates unprecedented avenues for MBAs says Johnson in a 2018 interview with P&Q.

The Simulation Operations Manager shows Vanderbilt Owen students around the lab. Hands-on training is a key part of the Vanderbilt healthcare MBA. Vanderbilt photo

“The U.S. health care system is in a constant state of churn, and it’s creating a lot of opportunities to roll up all kinds of specialties. For example, anesthesiologists, emergency room doctors, whatever, they get bundled up as a service sold back to hospitals. It’s very much a roll up kind of industry right now, and that’s an MBA sweet spot. MBAs love conquering the world, rolling up industry and a very fragmented industry at that.”

THE PLACE TO BE FOR HEALTHCARE

Owen MBAs are capitalizing on this sweet spot, with 16%-20% of graduating classes entering the healthcare industry. Dean Johnson notes that the Owen’s healthcare concentration is flexible enough for students to pursue careers in consulting, corporate, and care delivery. Being the program’s only industry-focused concentration, healthcare is often paired with a wider specialization such as finance, operations or human and organizational performance. The defining feature of the 13 year-old program, however, is its week-long “firehose” immersion program, where students watch how healthcare is actually practiced by doctors and nurses on the floor. This includes everything from watching surgeries to visiting clinics. In the process, students experience the same day-to-day as practitioners and patients.

Jameson Norton (’15), CEO at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital and Clinics and executive director at Vanderbilt Behavioral Health, believes such experiences, coupled with the healthcare-centric curriculum and Nashville’s abundance of health facilities, gave him an advantage that he couldn’t find anywhere else. “Owen allowed me to come in with somewhat of a head start and knowing where the industry is headed,” he tells P&Q in a 2018 interview. “We’re talking a lot about how things are evolving and you’re able to learn about some of the potential disruptors and the ways that things are transforming. That helps you anticipate where things are moving. It gives you a vision for where we’re headed.”

“It’s just the place to be,” adds Owen’s Christie St. John, Owen’s MBA admissions director in a separate interview with P&Q. “Why would you want to be anywhere else? Because you’ve got personalized attention — personalized services. All the alums, all the companies are right here at your fingertips.”

The same could be said for Nashville as a whole. Since 2010, Music city has added 170,000 jobs – a 21.6% growth rate. At the same time, Nashville’s population has swelled by 25%. Home to 18 colleges and universities, the Nashville area is a Fortune 500 magnet beyond healthcare, featuring big names like Nissan North America, Dollar General, and Bridgestone Americas. That doesn’t even count the city’s $10 billion dollar music industry, which is spawning new ventures in areas like digital technology.

Nashville is home to 400 healthcare businesses, giving Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management an edge in the placement of healthcare MBAs. Wikimedia

“Nashville is a thriving, up-and-coming city that will be a fantastic place to spend two years on both a personal and professional level,” says Crosby Wright. “Combining that with the perfect culture fit of the program made the decision to attend Owen an easy one.”

Ask any Owen MBA: Those two years can go by fast. What does the Class of 2020 hope to do after graduation? Raúl Méndez envisions himself as a “trendsetter,” a leader who “embraces risks” and challenges the status quo. In contrast, Brittany Hunter is looking forward to living in the moment.Two years are going to pass, regardless of what I do – how I spend my time in those years is what really matters,” she explains. “I wanted to be able to say that I invested in myself in that time. That, my friends, is invaluable!”

Likewise, Mackenzie Craig comes to campus with an open mind. “I’d like to find a way to continue my career in a creative space. I’ve toyed with the idea of starting a business, but I’m also interested in brand management. Or who knows, maybe I’ll realize I love finance!”

That uncertainty – and the possibilities it represents – is what excites Gina Hisgin so much when she reflects on what she hopes to do in the future. “The fact that I have so many answers to this question is what excites me the most about starting this MBA journey.”

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. 

StudentHometownAlma MaterLast Employer
Mackenzie Craig

New Canaan, CTCornell UniversityTime, Inc.
Curtis DukeMorristown, TNSewanee: The University of the SouthU.S. Army
Colleen FlynnWall Township, NJVanderbilt UniversityNashville Predators Hockey Club
Shanah GaskillDodge City, KSUniversity of KansasUber
Gina HisgenPittsburgh, PACollege of WoosterU.S. Army
Brittany HunterColumbus, OHUniversity of ConnecticutHarlem Village Academy
Cali LivingstonePortland, ORColby CollegeMercy Corps
Raúl MéndezPanamá City, PanamáUniversidad Católica Santa María la AntiguaMapfre Panama
Ishan SaranLucknow, IndiaThapar UniversityLending Hands Foundation
Tiffany StillwellSeoul, South KoreaU.S. Military AcademyU.S. Army
Deepa TudavekarBelgaum, IndiaVisvesvaraya Technological UniversityExploreLifeTraveling.com
Crosby WrightCarbondale, ILPurdue UniversityAzzip Pizza