Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2021

The world is divided into two groups: talkers and doers.

Most people are talkers. They spit out detailed lists and plans. Fixating on the future, they equate productivity with perfection. More than anything, they dread the accountability that comes with action. Doers get their hands dirty. Resourceful and rare, they take risks and brave failures. For them, execution trumps enterprise and expertise is measured in experience.

Doers go where the action is. That place is Cambridge, home of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Just three miles down the Charles River from Harvard, MIT has carved out a distinctive heritage for transformative ideas that include GPS, email, spreadsheets, and video games. Equally daring is the Sloan School of Management. Forget the notion of Sloan being quant-central, where engineers, biotechnologists, and computer scientists huddle up to learn how to run organizations. Instead, it is the home for a different type of student, says Faye Cheng, a 2018 grad and Bain consultant.

MIT Sloan is a place for “doers”—those who don’t just talk about what they want to do, but actively build the organizations and processes that make the world better,” she tells Poets&Quants. “I cheered on my classmates as they lay the foundations for their dreams; in turn, I felt supported in my own endeavors toward diversity and inclusion. Sloan is intensely collaborative – I never felt that I was operating alone or in a vacuum.”

PROFILES OF MIT SLOAN’S MBA CLASS OF 2021

This commitment to action is wrapped into Sloan’s DNA. The program’s motto is “Mens et manus.” That translates to “Mind and Hand” – an ethos of equality where the mind forms an idea with the purpose of forming it into something that can help others. That’s why the Sloan MBA program is based on experiential learning, a project-based curriculum where, in the words of first-year Adam Swartzbaugh, “[everyone] is there to create.”

Team Meeting

“Students intend to make an impact and they have no shortage of passion to do it,” adds the Executive Officer in the U.S. Army Special Forces. “MIT’s [culture] is one of rebel thinkers utilizing disruptive ideas to change the world…[It is] an institution focused on placing theory and academia into action to achieve real results.”

This learning-by-doing philosophy was equally attractive to Maura Fitzsimons, a staff member to the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance who helped pass legislation to stem the opioid epidemic. “The opportunity to gain real-world experience and connect with industry leaders as early as my core semester is particularly important to me, as I am entering the program with primarily public sector experience. I look forward to working with a team of classmates to solve real business challenges and put the principles learned in the classroom into practical use.”

HELPING THE NBA GIVE BACK

Swartzbaugh and Fitzsimons are just two members of a daring and driven Class of 2021, a group that personifies the term “doer.” Take Toronto’s Zoya Ajani, a special projects manager for the Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development. In Madagascar, she encountered a woman who walked 13 hours for a bank loan. That’s because just 5% of the population could access a bank. Despite this, 45% also possessed cell phones. That gap represented an opportunity to Ajani, who paired a mobile banking platform with a telecom provider.

“Today, the project has been widely successful, with over 100,000 mobile banking clients within 15 months of the launch – which is over 500% more than the number acquired by traditional lending channels after 10 years.”

The “doer” tag could also be applied to Becky Blanchflower, a Lieutenant in the U.S. Coast Guard. During her eight years of service, her duties ranged from narcotics interdictions to managing waterborne projects in the Port of New York. However, Blanchflower found herself in the spotlight when she spearheaded the refurbishment of America’s oldest lighthouse, Boston Light, in time to celebrate its Tricentennial celebration – all while earning a Master’s degree and a project management certificate.

MIT Sloan students meeting outside class

“For three years, I led monthly meetings with state, regional and port partners, oversaw the work of six subcommittees, coordinated funding resources, and ultimately elevated the celebration to a national level and a Coast Guard Headquarters sponsored event honoring the Coast Guard’s heritage,” she explains. “This event brought attention to the repairs and restoration projects that the Coast Guard spent over $2 million on in order to maintain the aid to navigation and symbol of the Coast Guard’s commitment to maritime safety.”

Before joining the Class of 2021, Sam Walsh worked as a strategy and analytics manager for the National Basketball Association. When it came to making an impact – and being a doer – his legacy was cemented by his work in charitable giving.

“It was extraordinarily exciting to win the NBA’s first company-wide innovation campaign by proposing that players should compete during the All-Star Game for donations to their communities of choice. Alongside two colleagues, I had the chance to present my team’s winning idea to Adam Silver, Mark Tatum, Amy Brooks and the rest of the senior leadership team and a version of this idea has been implemented annually since 2017.”

GOING TO LAW SCHOOL…ON A BET!

Their contributions don’t stop there. Caitlin Braun, a design engineer, fashioned a cot loading and fastening system for ambulances. Her classmate, Parisa Movahedi, launched the first corporate social responsibility initiatives at ZS Associates, a 7,000 employee consulting and professional services firm. Speaking of firsts, Carlos Delgado González was part of the launch team that brought Amazon to Turkey.

Such diverse backgrounds create a rich learning environment where bold connections and leaps in know-how take root. Professional achievements aren’t the only area where the Class of 2021 differs from its stodgy engineer stereotype. Caitlin Braun, for one, is a world-class Iron Man competitor. “This year, I have put 5x more miles on my bike than on my car,” she jokes. Parisa Movahedi is both a makeup artist and a soprano. During summers, Sam Walsh would break out his kayak and give bat tours to visitors in Austin, Texas.

Speaking of tourists, José Luis Ramos visited 15 countries as part of his 115-day Semester at Sea, with the highlight being attending the Russian Ballet. Then there’s Spain’s Daniel Ballesta Quintana, who holds two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree, and a CFA. How far is he willing to go to prove a point?

“I studied and earned a Law Degree after being challenged by a close friend.”

To access 12 in-depth profiles of 2021 Sloan MBA candidates, go to Page 4. 

To read P&Q’s exclusive interview with Sloan’s assistant dean, go to Page 3.