100 MBAs To Watch in the Class of 2019

CEIBS’ Tian Tian


“Unique” certainly applies across the board for this year’s MBAs To Watch. Before entering the Warwick Business School, Kristen Rossi was a jazz singer at a luxury hotel in Hanoi, Vietnam. Rossi’s claim to fame? Her lines were cut from a Naomi Watts movie after she came down with Dengue Fever.  She wasn’t alone in excelling in the arts. When Andrew Seepersad wasn’t crunching numbers for British Petroleum, the University of Toronto grad was running a popular theater company in Trinidad. How is this for a transition? Tian Tian went from organizing fashion shows for Louis Vuitton before business school to working in investment banking for JP Morgan Chase after graduation. In his spare time, the CEIBS grad is an abstract expressionist painter and concert pianist to boot!

Tian wasn’t the only MBA To Watch to take a non-traditional path to business school. Just look at Adil Sethi. The this University of Toronto MBA started his career as a professor cricketer before becoming a sports agent. At Schlumberger, Manoela Brito worked as a field engineer in “extreme conditions” – such as the Amazon Jungle. The University of Maryland’s Bill Morton carved out a sustainable surf resort in Nicaragua – one that snapped up Trip Advisor’s Award of Excellence for four straight years. Alas, business school wasn’t the first time some of these students had entered a graduate program. The University of Cambridge’s Slaven Stekovic, for one, already holds a Ph.D. in Molecular Biomedicine and Biochemistry. Then again, HEC Paris’ Tricia Wilson jumped straight from high school to the workforce.  No worries for her, though.

“Coming into the MBA without an undergraduate degree, I wasn’t sure how I would handle an academic program at the caliber of HEC Paris,” she admits. “Fighting that voice of doubt all through term 1 was one of the hardest parts of the MBA for me. To my surprise, the hard work paid off and I was thrilled to achieve good marks in all my subjects, even earning a 4.0 in term 2.”


More than unique, this group of MBAs To Watch is downright cool! As a hobby, Stanford GSB’s Jennifer Villa built fighting robots – and even competed on ABC’s Battlebots. Georgia Tech’s Luke Wareham, who interned at Goldman Sachs before accepting an offer from Microsoft, could fly a plane before he could drive a car. In contrast, Ohio State’s Matthew Rosebaugh, who previously directed graduate-level flight training for the U.S. Army, has seemingly gone in reverse. He is now an FAA commercial drone pilot. The University of Pittsburgh’s Jordan Talmadge is a self-taught guitar and bass player with 50 live shows to his credit. When he was three, Notre Dame’s Joshua Scoresby made his VH1 debut alongside the epitome of cool: Donnie Osmond.

Cornell University’s Fernanda Carranza

“My payment consisted of brownies instead of money,” he jokes.

Not surprisingly, the 2019 MBAs To Watch are as cosmopolitan as they are adventurous. What do Fernanda Carranza (Cornell), Apricot Wilson (CEIBS), and Teejana Beenessreesingh (HEC Paris) all have in common? They each speak five languages. INSEAD’s Nathalie Rashed spent one New Year’s enjoying sunrise from the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. That’d be child’s play for Rachel Whitlock. This BYU MBA camped on top of the Congo’s Mount Nyiragongo after hiking 16 miles…when she was seven months pregnant! Then again, that was far less risky than when Whitlock journeyed along an “unrestored” section of China’s Great Wall – or weaved between protesters, police, and burning tires during a Palestinian riot.

Of course, that last event was an accidental turn. INSEAD’s Lina Gallego seemingly carries an outright death wish. “I love to scuba dive,” she writes. “I’ve dived in the Great Barrier Reef, the Blue Hole in Belize, and with sharks in South Africa.”


Chances are, Gallego can share some amazing tales from her dives. She has plenty of company in the class. Ana Du’s love of animals was tested on her Bali honeymoon, where the IMD MBA was bitten by a wild monkey. In college, Tracy Wolfbiss Cohen spent her summers shooting New York Mets t-shirts into the crowd. Fast forward a decade and the Michigan Ross MBA found herself getting married at home plate. Over that same period, MIT Sloan’s Faina Rozental went from dreaming about being a salsa dancer to being part of a professional salsa performance in Boston.

Vanderbilt Owen’s Odelia Lao

Alas, one MBA To Watch eschewed the cool and cosmopolitan crowd – and that makes her the coolest of them all. “I started knitting to deal with the stress of an MBA program,” admits Michigan State’s Kelly Huston. “It turns out grandma hobbies are GREAT meditation alternatives and I highly recommend.”

Knitting may be a great release during downtime, but the MBAs To Watch aren’t ones for the slow lane. Just look at some of the numbers they’ve posted in their pre-MBA careers. Texas A&M’s David Sunleaf ranked among the Top 10 bankers for sales in all of Bank of America. At Coca-Cola, CEIB’s Jensen Ren doubled the Fanta brand’s market share in the Greater China Region. Think that’s impressive? Check out Odelia Lao. This Vanderbilt MBA launched the Eva Mendes Collection at New York & Company, building it into a $50 million dollar revenue stream.


Think that’s a big number? Over 18 months, Kshitij Verma spearheaded a $200 million dollar transportation deal in West Africa – with a contract signing that was witnessed by two Heads of State! That dollar value was three times larger for MIT Sloan’s Faina Rozental. As a senior associate for social performance at Root Impact, she established the management standards for a $600 million dollar impact investment fund.

Impact would also describe Vaughan Bagley’s tenure at the Joyful Heart Foundation. Here, she oversaw the social impact campaign for the HBO documentary I Am Evidence, which details why over 200,000 rape kits remain untested, a backlog that further victimizes sexual assault survivors. “By working in tandem with my colleagues at the foundation, the film team, and key stakeholders,” she writes, “we were able to successfully employ the film as a bridge to partner organizations across different fields, to empower audiences to use their voices and take action in their communities, and ultimately – partly due to the film’s reach – to pass 50 laws in 32 states, directly affecting over 125,000 survivors.”

Rice University’s Barrett Moorhouse

Bagley wasn’t the only hero among this year’s MBA’s To Watch. In August 2017 – right when Rice University’s Jones Graduate School of Business was opening its doors to its students – Hurricane Harvey flooding swept across Houston, devastating homes and stranded families. It was in this moment when Barrett Moorhouse, a U.S. Marine Corps Officer, stepped up to protect his new community.

“In the midst of the storm, he jumped into action and joined an ad-hoc group of strangers to do water rescues in their sporting boat of people trapped in flooded homes,” says Dave Van Horn, an operations management professor at the school. “Then, he joined a crew of first responders to help guide people of all ages out of an apartment complex surrounded by floodwaters, by swimming with them (including a short stretch underwater) to safety. As if this wasn’t enough, he was then asked to command a sizable group of National Guardsmen and first responders to organize and execute a multi-boat operation that rescued over 160 stranded people in a 48-hour time period to get them to safety in shelters.”

See pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s MBAs to Watch. 

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