Our Favorite MBAs Of 2018

Rotman School of Management students organize the Accessibility, Inclusion & Universal Design MBA Conference & Case Competition. Courtesy photo

Students Bringing Accessibility To Rotman

It’s not unusual to hear discussions around inclusivity at the world’s top B-schools. This is a time of increased awareness placed on the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace and that trickles down into business education. But one piece of that discussion that is rarer is creating inclusive environments for those with disabilities. That changed this year with a conference and case competition dedicated to the creation of inclusive policies and awareness for students and future employees with disabilities.

The conference was the handiwork of four second-year MBA students at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management who, in 2016, founded and launched Access to Success, a student-run organization that serves to raise awareness about the importance of accessibility and universal design — the creation of products and environments that meet the needs of users with various types of abilities and disabilities. The main purpose of the innovative conference was to answer the question: Why bother?

“There is a larger need,” Varun Chandak, the president of Access to Success told us last January. “What about emotional support? The transition into professional support? It’s about industry mentorship as well as academic support where people can be themselves. That’s what’s driving the need for this.”

The conference featured multiple top MBA-hiring companies including Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, and Slack.

Solan Strickling and St. Jules Desir, USC’s 30 To Melrose Podcast

Business can be creative. Take it from Solan Strickling and St. Jules Desir, two recent graduates of USC’s Marshall School of Business. The duo launched a podcast, called 30 to Melrose, that examines the television and film industries through the lens of business strategy. Though they now live on opposite coasts, Strickling in New York City and Desir in Los Angeles, the friends and colleagues make it sound easy, putting together the weekly podcast — whose episodes range from a half hour to more than an hour long — through the power of Skype. 30 To Melrose recently celebrated its 1,000th download on iTunes.

“In finance, one of my jobs was working as a generalist, where I would look at many different industries to understand how the market was moving,” Strickling tells Poets&Quants. “I spent a lot of time in the healthcare space, automotive, and other industries. I remember that whenever I did the entertainment or tech space, it never felt like work to me. I had a great job in finance, but I didn’t fully love it.

“That’s why I decided to go back and get my MBA; to get new skills and break into a new industry.”

Now, both with positions inside the world of entertainment, with Strickling at NBC and Desir at Paramount, the two are producing podcast episodes at a clip of two to three a month.

Nik Kumar spent nearly a decade as a part-time auxiliary police officer for the New York Police Department before enrolling in Columbia Business School’s full-time MBA program. Courtesy photo

Nik Kumar, Columbia’s Crime-Fighting MBA

The “volunteer” section of a LinkedIn profile might the be most over-looked and telling part so someone’s page. For Nik Kumar, it tells a story of an incredibly different life. For the full-time MBA student at Columbia’s Business School, the work experience of his social media page checks out. A stint at Bank of America Merrill Lynch right out of college. Then a couple stops at New York City-based private equity firms Sound Harbor Partners and AEA Investors. And then comes the volunteer experience where Kumar lists a decade’s worth of volunteering as an auxiliary police officer for the New York Police Department.

“I’ve never met a finance guy who also part-times as a cop,” Kumar, a Dallas native, said last spring.

Neither have his finance colleagues, who call Kumar the Banker Cop, for his Batman-esque persona.

“They all knew I did this on the side,” Kumar says, noting he often would rush from the office on Thursday and Friday nights to the 10th Precinct in Chelsea, where he served.

Kumar’s time as a volunteer cop has led him to policing the Thanksgiving Day parade, the New York Marathon, the Pope’s 2008 visit, and one of President Donald Trump’s recent visits. For four years, he worked the New Year’s Eve ball drop in Times Square. For now, Kumar has stopped volunteering to fully focus on his time at Columbia, but afterwards, he might pick back up the badge.