Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2020

What two words are magic to any recruiter’s ear?

“STEM designated.”

A fancy term, no doubt. Basically, it is a designation that shows MBAs have completed half of their credit hours in science, technology, engineering, and math-related coursework. That’s important to recruiters. As leaders are increasingly harnessing data to drive decisions, recruiters are pursuing MBAs who possess a rare combination of skills. They seek candidates with both the soft skills to motivate action and the hard skills to design the processes for unleashing disruptive, tech-driven innovation. This mix is exactly where the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School excels.


That starts with Simon Edge, programming geared towards personal development for in-demand areas like communication, teamwork, global awareness, and character-building. Such skills are amplified by Simon’s quant-heavy, research-driven curriculum, grounded in the fundamentals of analytics and economics. With its STEM designation, which the school received in August, the Simon School is poised to become a destination for top employers worldwide.

“This designation will have a critical impact on current and incoming students, both domestic and international,” writes Dean Andrew Ainsle in a statement to Poets&Quants. “Corporate recruiters see STEM designation as validation that an MBA candidate has the kinds of analytical and managerial skills necessary for leaders in today’s data-driven business environment (the US Department of Labor is forecasting almost 200,000 job openings in STEM management roles by 2024).”

Simon’s STEM offering also goes far beyond most business schools, which typically designate one master’s program or MBA concentration. Here, all 10 of Simon’s MBA specializations are STEM designated, covering a gamut that includes banking, brand management, operations, strategy, and venture capital. Beyond the flexibility, this designation is a boon to international students. By receiving a STEM designation, Dean Ainsle notes, international MBA grads can add 24 months to their Optical Practical Training (OPT).

In other words, these students can work in the U.S. for three years. At the same time, this designation also reduces the costs and paperwork associated with sponsoring international graduates, making them all the more attractive to employers.


University of Rochester, Simon Business School

“With 36 months on a work visa for a STEM-certified job, it gives a student three attempts to get an H1b visa instead of one,” adds Ainslie in a 2018 interview with P&Q. “Secondly, in those three years you might be able to get to other options, including straight to a green card. It is an extended period during which an employer can decide whether they like the employee and vice versa. Right now, for any foreign student, it’s been something of a scary moment. Quite a few companies have pulled back from offering foreign students jobs. This will open a lot more doors for our students…Recruiters have been saying to us that it is very hard to find talent in the U.S. and very hard to employ foreign students because of the uncertainly around the H1b visa. This is a big win for both of us.”

For Ainsle, the STEM designation is a natural extension of the program’s signature: “a rigorous focus on quantitative analysis and economic-based thinking.” For the Class of 2020, these valuable analytical skills are only one of the reasons to come to New York for a Simon MBA. Rachel Robinson, for one, touts the school’s small cohort size as much as its analytical approach.

“This small size means that students get unparalleled support from professors, career coaches, and alumni, and are able to build stronger relationships with our classmates. Secondly, I feel that the analytics-based curriculum provides tangible skills for the working world. Managers are expected to back up decisions with data — I know that with a Simon education, I will have a skillset not found in all MBA programs.”


Not to mention, she’ll enjoy a network with diverse backgrounds and interests, says Mark Matthews, an investment management analyst who describes the Class of 2020 as deeply goal-oriented. “You’ll find everyone from entrepreneurs to venture capitalists to founders of non-profit organizations. You name it and I’ve connected with someone in my cohort who has aspirations of accomplishing it. It’s refreshing to be around so many like-minded individuals who have clear goals in mind and are intensely focused on achieving them.”

Then again, this is a class that is used to accomplishing big goals. Take Krishna Patel. As an investment banker, she spearheaded a divestment project worth $10 billion dollars for the Indian government. However, structuring the complex deal was the easy part, as she was also the “youngest and the only non-management graduate” on the team. That might be child’s play compared to what Lohit Korrapati faced. As a consultant at ZS Associates, he successfully ran a post-merger integration spanning four countries. “Overcoming the logistical, cultural, and communication barriers that would impede smooth functioning of most teams, we delivered compelling recommendations, of impeccable quality, that were readily implemented,” he explains.”

The Class of 2020 also hasn’t been shy about shaking up the norms. At Coca-Cola, Joshua Solomon West poached a major account – a major university in Philadelphia – that had been with a rival for 40 years. It was a feat that required him to orchestrate efforts from functions ranging from finance to equipment services. Speaking of the 1970s, Rachel Robinson managed her company’s first re-branding effort since 1974! Jazmine Carter is no stranger to re-brands either. As part of the customer experience team at Southwest Airlines, she contributed to efforts such as sprucing up in-flight food and beverage and “refreshing” uniforms worn by 40,000 frontline employees. If you need to design a training program, Raul Carvalho is your man. After he finished his session on structured investments, his team boosted capital raised for current clients and new investors by tenfold!


When it comes to sales, Zig Ziglar has nothing on Wallace Gundy. She was charged with selling boarding school education – an intangible that came with a $60,000 a year price tag that was aimed at a 14 year-old customer. Oh, and she managed a $4.2 million dollar financial aid budget too – a skill that will come in handy with her background in analytics at Simon.

“I learned to find new domestic and international markets where families can afford this tuition and are willing to allow their children to move away from home at a young age. I learned the significance of data-driven decision-making, and how to use that data to differentiate our school from all of the other competitors.”

Outside work, Benjamin Moskoff owns a coffee shop with his brother-in-law in Cape Town. By the same token, Ryan Bell is an avid water skier, one who can ski barefoot…”despite  the countless head-over-heels somersaults that I endured while learning.” Vibhor Mishra has already visited 30 countries, though Rachel Robinson – a ceramicist and white water rafter in her spare time – has made it to Antarctica.

How is this for being a team player? “I do all I can to be “the glue” in every new community I join,” says Wallace Gundy.

Students at the Simon Business School


In fact, “team player” might be the best tag for the Class of 2020. Ask first-years to describe their peers and a synonym for “collaborative” is bound to pop up. For Jazmine Carter, that means going “above-and-beyond to show up and show out each other as cheerleaders, coaches, or simply friends sharing the MBA experience.” Rachel Robinson adds an “amazingly” in front of the “collaborative” tag when it comes to her classmates. She attributes this spirit to the program’s intimate class size.

“Every single person here wants to see you succeed,” Robinson notes. ”Because of the small class size, you are able to form deeper relationships with classmates. From sharing internship search resources to helping each other conduct mock interviews, this collaborative environment cannot be beat. Classmates at Simon are interested in everyone’s success, not just their own.”

Benjamin Moskoff has also observed strong enthusiasm for learning among his fellow first years over the past three months. “It is amazing to see how quickly my classmates with no business background soak up knowledge from our business courses. It is incredible how my classmates who don’t speak English as a first language approach the work and presentations with so much confidence and zeal. They are a positive group of people that challenge me to push towards being better.”


It was also an impressive group in terms of inputs. For one, the Class of 2020 is much larger than the previous year, with enrollment rising from 84 to 104 students – a return to Class of 2018 size. While most American MBA programs received fewer applications during the 2017-2018 admissions cycle, Simon bucked a trend with more apps than the previous year. Despite this, the program’s acceptance rate rose just three points to 32.9%.

Academically, the incoming class matched the previous cohort’s 666 GMAT average – boosting the average GPA from 3.4 to 3.5 to boot. Although the program is sometimes perceived as quant central, the class members’ academic backgrounds undercut this notion. STEM majors make up just 24% of the class, divided between engineering (15%) and math and science (9%). In this class, business commerce majors account for the largest segment at 38%, with humanities and social sciences majors matching STEM at 24%. Economics majors round out the class with 15% of the seats.

The class profile has also shifted substantively over the past two years. In the 2018 Class, for example, 51% of the class hailed from overseas, a number that has dropped to 40% today. In another step back, the percentage of minority students dropped 11 points to 18% with the incoming class. That said, the percentage of women has remained anchored at the one-third mark, climbing a point to 35% this year.


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