Meet Stanford GSB’s MBA Class Of 2020

For only the third time in 24 years, Stanford Graduate School of Business captures the No. 1 spot in the Financial Times global MBA ranking

REVISED FINANCIAL AID SYSTEM

When the Class of 2019 arrived in Palo Alto, the school had some special new wrinkles awaiting them. For one, the program introduced 13 new electives this school year, says Yossi Feinberg, the school’s associate dean for academic affairs. In doing so, the program provides students with “fresh perspectives” along with further enabling them to customize their academic experience.

“We now offer 156 management education electives,” Feinberg outlines. “New electives this year include Designing AI to Cultivate Human Well-Being, Using Technology and Market Interventions to Solve Social Problems and Beyond Disruption: Entrepreneurial Leadership Within Existing Organizations. The courses addressing AI and new technological applications of long-standing problems are of strategic importance and have broad implications in today’s world. They also coincide with the newly-created Stanford Institute for Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence, which is run by GSB Economist Susan Athey.”

Yossi Feinberg

That wasn’t the only major development, adds Feinberg. In 2018, Stanford GSB also began to redesign its financial aid system. After feedback from students, faculty, and staff, the school adopted a financial need-based model for divvying out endowed aid funds. “We believe that this model best supports our goals of attracting a competitive and diverse class, enabling all admitted students to attend and participate in the educational experience, and ensuring that the process treats students fairly and equitably,” Feinberg says.

ACTIVITIES FOR EVERYONE

When it comes to future GSB classes, Feinberg hopes these prospective students devote more time to learning about Stanford’s wide-ranging connections to other schools at Stanford. In other words, he says, the GSB experience extends far beyond the Knight Management Center.

“Students are encouraged to take advantage of offerings across Stanford University. With the GSB situated within walking distance of six world-class schools—the schools of Engineering, Humanities and Sciences, Law, and Medicine; Graduate School of Education, and Stanford School of Earth, Energy and Environmental Sciences—business students can take courses that stretch their horizons. And many do: about 85% of students take classes outside the GSB and approximately 20% of students pursue a joint or dual degree. Conversely, classroom interaction is greatly enriched by the perspectives of students from differing backgrounds and disciplines.”

Such opportunities and connections also foster a robust extracurricular life at Stanford GSB. For Abdul Abdirahman, the GSB Investment Fund has been a highlight of his first-year. Along with 40 classmates, Abdirahman advises and funds early-stage ventures that support the social good. At the GSB Venture Studio, Zuber Memon has been working on turning a wellness concept into a venture, gaining invaluable mentorship and networking from Stanford alumni along the way. Similarly, Diana Nassar has enjoyed her bi-weekly Women in Management group meetings, a “safe space” to explore workplace issues without judgment or distractions.

Beyond that, Stanford GSB also hosts dozens of conferences, with the annual Sports Innovation Conference being one of Danny Reyes’ favorite moments in 2019. “It was incredible to hear from successful athletes such as Lance Armstrong and Shawn Johnston East as well as renowned industry thought leaders such as Condoleezza Rice, Brooklyn Nets owner Joe Tsai, and Golden State Warriors owner Peter Guber. I am looking forward to being part of the team that leads it next year!”

LEARNING TO GIVE AND RECEIVE FEEDBACK

Stanford University Graduate School of Business – Ethan Baron photo

Overseas treks were also a favorite of the Class of 2019. For example, Jordan Feyko completed a Global Study Trip to Georgia and Bulgaria, where he and 30 classmates were able to meet with stakeholders from regional startup founders to prime ministers. These excursions weren’t just reserved for overseas. Every Wednesday – a day when classes aren’t held – students often take organized trips to organizations around the area.

“While so many students from other schools frequently travel to San Francisco – which is such a hotbed of everything from tiny new up and coming companies to unicorns to large incumbents – we are lucky to be right here in The Bay,” explains Becca O’Leary. “I have used these treks to learn about completely new industries to me (VC), as well as to hone in on the one that I have expertise in (Retail). On these treks, I learn about industries at-large, companies and firms themselves, as well as the presenters, who always have great nuggets of career advice. I always come back from the day feeling so inspired.”

The first-year class also benefits from unique courses taught by rock star faculty. One example is a Freedom, Democracy, and Capitalism course, which is taught by Keith Hennessey. His claim to fame? He is the former Director of the White House National Economic Council under George W. Bush. Another is the school’s legendary Interpersonal Dynamics elective – popularly known as “Touchy-Feely.” A group-based, feedback-driven course, Interpersonal Dynamics demands that students take a close look at how they think and act – the very things that many leaders prefer to avoid. In the process, they experience how their behavior impacts others so they can connect with them and ultimately become leaders who deserve to be followed.

It is just students who have been deeply impacted by the sometimes-painful but always supportive environment of this class. “Although we all can read about leadership research, this class puts the theory into practice,” says Kristen Moss, who served as a facilitator in the course. “Throughout the course, students have the opportunity to observe and experiment with different behaviors to increase their influence with and connection to others. Over the course of the term, together, we discover how our specific leadership style and behavior impact our connection to every other person in the room. We also learn how the subtleties of gender, culture, ethnicity, and even socio-economic status affect others’ response to our behaviors. We each have the raw material to be influential leaders. The challenge is understanding how this raw material needs to be molded. Stanford provides a safe place to experiment and practice.”

YOU CAN’T HAVE HARD SKILLS WITHOUT SOFT SKILLS

That’s one reason why Stanford GSB is sometimes considered Leadership U. – a more well-rounded approach that places greater emphasis on “self-development, introspection, and vulnerability,” in the words of Diana Nassar. Business school, says Chris Barnum, is often where professionals move from being a stellar individual contributor to someone who can harness and direct the talents of “2, 20, or 2000” people. That requires exploration, understanding who you are so you can better complement what you know. In short, the Stanford GSB focuses on the whole person, all while surrounding them with the best people to challenge their fallacies and support their growth.

Stanford University Graduate School of Business

“Whether it’s a start-up or a Fortune 100 company, the GSB recognizes that it is most often the “soft skills” that separate good leaders from poor ones,” writes Jordan Feyko. “I was (and continue to be) impressed with the way the curriculum is structured to provide ample opportunities to not only learn directly from successful leaders but also to put these theories into practice.”

Many times, these lessons are practiced through entrepreneurship at Stanford GSB. Over the past five years, Stanford GSB alumni have produced 39 of the 100 best-funded startups, with these firms raising a combined $1.3 billion dollars (nearly double the total of HBS startups). While the vibrant tech ecosystem and deep-pocketed VC patrons contribute to this success, it can also be traced to the inimitable support and training that GSB MBAs receive on campus…and beyond.

“I came to the GSB to scratch my start-up itch,” writes Ashley Wu. “Startups are risky and lonely – having so many classmates who are also interested in new ventures makes a huge difference to the culture. Whether or not I ultimately leave here to pursue an entrepreneurial venture directly after school, I know it will have been valuable time spent experientially learning best and worst practices in finding product-market fit, team dynamics, and getting plugged into an amazing network of classmates who will be co-creators and funders someday.”

In short, adds Jenny Carmichael, Stanford GSB offers the best of both worlds: a chance to develop as both a practitioner and a leader – and most importantly as a person. “Because there are incredibly technical courses coupled with courses on organizational behavior, leadership and coaching, I knew I could grow as an individual while at Stanford as well. This factor was incredibly important to me because it will allow me to build deeper and more meaningful relationships in the future while teaching me how to lead more effectively.”

To access Stanford GSB first-year profiles, click on the links below.

StudentHometownAlma MaterEmployer
Abdul AbdirahmanMogadishu, SomaliaUniversity of MinnesotaErnst & Young
Andrea Aguirre RuizMexico City, MexicoInstituto Tecnológico Autónomo de México (ITAM)Nexxus Capital
Jack ArmstrongKeswick, UKOxford BrookesPwC UK
Chris BarnumPacific Palisades, CAStanford UniversityHulu
Jenny CarmichaelTulsa, OKUniversity of OklahomaExxonMobil
Jordan FeykoColumbus, OHHarvard UniversityFrancisco Partners
Zuber MemonKolhapur, IndiaManipal Institute of TechnologyGE India
Diana NassarAmman, JordanUniversity of JordanAmazon/Souq.com
Becca O’LearyIrvine, CASmith CollegeUrban Outfitters
Danny ReyesMiami, FLUniversity of PennsylvaniaBoston Consulting Group
Ashley WuPortland, ORYale UniversityBill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Kaoutar YaicheFez, MoroccoEcole Nationale Superieure des MinesGAITS Industries