Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2019

An INSEAD graduation at the Château de Fontainebleau in France, one of three INSEAD campuses


This year, the incoming class brings a 711 average GMAT to campus – down a point over the previous year…but still an eight point improvement over the past three years.  33% of the 1,039 member class is female, roughly the same percentage as the past two years. However, it is an area where the program is devoting increasing attention and resources. That starts with INSEAD’s year-long iW50 celebration, which honors the contributions of INSEAD women over the past half century.

“We graduate one of the largest number of women on an MBA programme every year (about 350),” Virginie Fougea notes. “INSEAD is committed to support women leaders who will be giving back to their communities, driving economic prosperity, promoting sustainability and making the world a better place. Our faculty not only conduct research on gender diversity, but also teach on the various programmes. We know that sharing real world role models of female leadership influences how both men and women perceive women as leaders, which has implications both for gender stereotyping and for women’s professional aspirations. Having a wide and strong INSEAD women network will benefit all our future students.”

In a 2018 interview with P&Q, Dean Ilian Mihov notes that the percentage of women is heavily influenced by region, adding the school is working to bring a better balance to the classroom. “We find that from the United States, we get 40-45% women; from China, 60% women,” he says. “We realized that we have a much smaller percentage of women from European countries…We try to understand why fewer women apply. Obviously we have enough applicants, if we want to put the number to 40% or 50% we could, but we don’t want to do it just to say, “I have this number.” You want to do it in the right way.”


Academically, the Class of 2019 is segmented quite closely. Business-related majors account for 34% of the class, with another 29% of the seats held by students holding undergraduate engineering degrees. Economics (11%), sciences (8%), political science (6%), arts and humanities (6%), and media (1%) round out the class. In terms of professional experience, the corporate  and consulting sectorsmake up nearly two-thirds of the class at 34% and 31% respectively. At 24% of the class, finance services professionals maintain a large presence in the class as well.

In any cutting edge program, change is a constant. And INSEAD is no different. Last year, the school rolled out a revamped MBA curriculum, which included a beefed up leadership program, expanded coaching and career development, and a capstone course that pulled the 10-month program together. This year, the big news came in August, when André Hoffmann (’90) made a  $46.4 (U.S.) million dollar gift to INSEAD – the largest gift ever made to a European MBA program.

The gift will be a down payment on the school’s ambitious Hoffmann Global Institute for Business and Society.  A think tank, the institute will be devoted to solving the big issues plaguing the planet such as wealth and gender inequality and environmental degradation. Even more, it will provide resources for faculty to tackle business-related applications in technology, ethics, and social impact.

INSEAD Dean Ilian Mihov

“Many of our 21st-century challenges cannot be addressed by governments or NGOs alone,” Dean Mihov asserts in a school statement. “Business leaders must rise to the challenge — integrating sustainability, responsibility, and social impact directly into the decisions they make. This is where the Hoffmann Institute holds great potential to accelerate progress towards a peaceful, prosperous, and sustainable future.”


By the same measure,  Virginie Fougea points to the vision laid down by the founders of INSEAD, who viewed business “as a force for good” – developing leaders who can not only boost productivity and shareholder value, but also build new models to do business that would change the world.

“INSEAD is consequently launching a number of initiatives like the “Campaign for INSEAD: A force for good”, which is a global initiative to advance business as a force for good in the world, or creating “The Global Institute for Business and Society”. The institute will tie together, develop and strategise the many things that we do and can do at INSEAD that help individuals and businesses articulate and execute on these challenges. These initiatives among many others will benefit and I hope inspire future generations of INSEAD students.”

Ask the Class of 2019 why they enrolled at INSEAD and you’re bound to receive dozens of answers. Aside from diversity, the alumni network rides high on their lists. With 57,000 alumni in 175 countries, the school offers an “unprecedented network,” says Adel Boulazreg, in terms of geography, role, and industry sector. How strong is the network? According to the 2018 Economist survey of students and alumni, INSEAD ranked 1st for “Internationalism of Alumni” and 5th for “Potential to Network.” While alumni are happy to open doors for students, the INSEAD brand also gives graduates an inherent advantage wherever they want to go, says Bernardo Frère.

“INSEAD is one of the most recognized MBA programs in Europe with an incredible alumni network that not only shows the potential impact the INSEAD MBA can have in a career but also shows that it is a global school.”


The program’s flexibility also plays into its appeal. For one, students can move between the three campuses – something nearly three-quarters of students ultimately do. Even more, the compressed 10-month schedule is a blessing for most. The big benefit? It reduces students’ time away from the job market. Aside from gaining a year’s worth of paychecks that they’d lose in a two-year program, the compressed timeframe also reduces tuition and living costs, not to mention the accompanying debt. The tradeoff, of course, is that the program is intense; students must juggle their studies, extracurriculars, job hunting, and networking at a whiplash pace where every single day matters.

For students like Tanja Duester, the return on investment makes it all worthwhile. “As a mother and wife,” she writes, “I did not want to be separated from my husband longer than I had to, but I did not want to sacrifice quality. Also, let us not forget the opportunity cost of no making money for a year versus two years!”

At INSEAD, the diversity of faculty and students make for a global experience,

Duester shouldn’t worry about the quality part. Ranked as the 2nd-best MBA program by the Financial TImes, INSEAD has been a hit with students. In the 2018 Economist survey, the program notched the second-highest marks in “Education Experience.” By the same token, it also finished in the Top 10 when the Financial Times asked respondents if they would recommend their alma mater. Not surprisingly, the program has received “rave reviews” for its core courses, says Paul Warren, a 2018 P&Q MBA To Watch. In fact, INSEAD takes great pride in its faculty’s research and classroom prowess, boasting thought leaders such as Renee Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim – authors of Blue Ocean Strategy.


Likewise, the program has emerged as a force in entrepreneurship, boasting alumni-built success stories like BlaBla Car, RedMart, and Azimo. The school also operates the INSEAD Centre for Entrepreneurship (ICE), which sponsors bootcamps, forums, and venture competitions, along with innovative courses like “The First Hundred Days” elective. Such programming offered that little extra to Laurenz Vorderwülbecke, who is weighing whether to tackle technology-based issues or launch an enterprise.

“The school’s excellence in Entrepreneurship and Innovation topics and the opportunity to explore these areas with like-minded classmates were essential to me,” he writes. “I wanted a school, where free out-of-the-box thinking is not only encouraged but nurtured through a curriculum that will push me to deep dive into these topics.”

Once that deep dive is over? Adel Boulazreg, for one, hopes to transition out of politics and into the public sector. While he is looking forward to the opportunities, he is – like any good politician – hedging his bets.

“I have an idea of where I want to be and who I’d like to work for, but it would be premature to have it published yet. To the company that will eventually hire me, you were the one I always intended to work for.”

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 Last Employer
Benjamin Amoah-Adjei Aburi, Ghana University of Ghana, Legon Fidelity Bank Ghana
Adel Boulazreg Toronto, Canada University of Toronto Justin Trudeau Administration / Government of Canada
Tanja Duester Grenzach-Wyhlen, Germany United States Military Academy U.S. Army
Dina El-Abd Cairo, Egypt American University in Cairo
Bernardo Frère Lisbon, Portugal Instituto Superior Técnico Jan De Nul Group
Siddharth Handa Ahmedabad, India VIT University The Baker’s Dozen
Gauthier Joyeux Nimes, France Ecole Centrale de Nantes CARMAT
Natasha Saini Delhi, India Delhi University GAC Bunker
Laurenz Vorderwülbecke Munich, Germany Karlsruhe Institute of Technology El Retiro S.A.

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