Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2021

MBAs on an M-Trek in Belize

4) Ross is known for experiential learning, particularly its ‘living case study’ model. One example is your Living Business Leadership Experience, where students help run a company. What types of results have your students been helping them produce? What have been your biggest success stories so far?

“Through our Living Business Leadership Experience course, MBA students have been able to go the next step beyond advising companies – as they do with MAP – to implementing new business initiatives at sponsor companies.

Working on interdisciplinary teams, students have been able to establish and grow these new opportunities and present their results to the companies’ senior-level leadership.

One of the biggest successes is that our students have experienced both success and failure in a faculty-guided learning experience, something that cannot be taught from case studies alone. In each project, students have faced the challenges that every new venture eventually encounters and they’ve been forced to shift their trajectories and pivot strategy as a result.

University of Michigan Ross School of Business MBA Orientation, Monday, August 5, 2019.

The LBLE course is an experience that students find deeply rewarding. For example, Scott Skinner participated in the LBLE project with NRP Group as an MBA student and discovered he had a passion for what NRP is doing in the affordable housing sector. He impressed NRP’s leadership team so much through his work and passion in the course that he was hired by the company after graduation. Scott continues to work with the students in the LBLE course, serving as the NRP project liaison this year.”


LBLE falls under the Ross Experiences in Action-Based Learning (REAL) a programming umbrella that enables students to advise, launch, invest in, and lead real businesses. For example, prospective founders can be selected for the Zell Lurie Institute for Entrepreneurship, an epicenter for startup-minded coursework, funding, expertise, and community. It includes an accelerator to nurture startups, competitions to hone planning and presentation skills, and student-run funds that provide real-world experience in due diligence and selection. Similarly, the Erb Institute connects sustainability-minded students, faculty, businesses, and thought leaders through research, workshops, projects, and fellowships. In addition, the Sanger Leadership Center maintains a portfolio of programs including the year-long Ross Leaders Academy. Here, selected students receive intensive executive coaching and research-driven programming to help them gain self-awareness, sharpen their communication skills, and achieve long-term goals.

For Arcelia Gomez, an innovation and learning manager at the Congressional Hunger Center, the Story Lab is the big attraction of the Sanger Center. “[The] program helps students develop executive presence and learn to deliver powerful messages both one-on-one and to full auditoriums. Before being admitted, I had the opportunity to sit in on Story Lab’s annual launch event and listened to a group of current students share stories in a quasi-TED Talk fashion. The way they connected with the audience was incredible.”

The Leadership Crisis Challenge is another centerpiece of the Sanger Center’s programming. Patricio Zirion Rivera describes it as a “pressure cooker simulation where MBA students are tasked with dealing with a high pressure, highly-publicized crisis for 48 hours.” Over this weekend, students play the roles of stakeholders like division leaders, journalists, consumers, attorneys, and board members who grapple with the financial, ethical, operational, and public relations dimensions of the issue. Set in real-time, the challenge gets “as close to a real-life crisis as you can get,” says Rivera.


A crisis is truly a stretch assignment, a risk-free platform to learn grace under pressure. More than that, it is a place for students to test out a leadership role. That’s what Kashay Sanders did. A 2019 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, Sanders went against her “churning gut” and volunteered to be the CEO, which required her to present to the board. The experience spurred her biggest growth as an MBA student.

“I was terrified, thinking I had tanked the presentation. However, when they gave me feedback, I was shocked. They didn’t care about the words I stumbled over or an answer that wasn’t perfect. They were impressed by the compassion I brought to a tragic situation. That day, I received an “Executive Presence” award from the board, but what I took away was something much greater—confidence that I have a valuable leadership perspective, grounded in emotional awareness, to contribute in business contexts.”

MBAs from the Class of 2021 celebrate after completing The Big Picture, which is part of the leadership training segment of orientation

Beyond the action learning programming, the Class of 2021 is also looking forward to the interdisciplinary nature of the Ross’ structure and curriculum. This approach, which incorporates an array of perspectives, better equips students to “solve complex problems and disrupt their fields,” says

Suman Gidwani. What’s more, MBAs are encouraged to take courses outside the business school. As a result, they can tap into the deep resources of a top public research university – one with 46,000 students…not to mention the world’s largest alumni network.

“The University of Michigan has so many strong programs outside of the MBA program and I wanted to attend a university that allowed me to pursue as many of my interests as possible while still receiving a best-in-class education,” writes Nadia Ogene. “I’ve spoken with many MBA students who became dual-degree students because they took a class outside of Ross that they absolutely fell in love with; the university makes the process of pursuing a dual degree seamless.”


The Ross alumni network alone numbers 50,000 graduates. However, its size pales in comparison to its spirit. The alumni are an “always available,” “pay-it-forward” group who are engaged at every touchpoint of the MBA program. They serve as board members in the Leadership Crisis Challenge, judges in competitions like the Michigan Business Challenge, and organize MAP projects – not to mention joining students in case discussions and occasionally teaching classes. Not surprisingly, in the 2018 Economist student survey, Ross alumni ranked as the best MBA alumni network in the world.

The process starts early, with second-years closely mentoring the next class. It is a tradition that new students quickly notice – and soon adopt as their own. Of course, students weren’t the only ones who watched this dynamic…and understood its deeper meaning.

“The key factor that led me to choose Michigan Ross was their strong commitment to helping their students and alumni succeed,” says Kaitlyn Lo. “This commitment to student success can also be seen in the design of the program, particularly with the FACT groups (Functional Accountability Career teams). First-year students are placed in a career-specific FACT group, where they receive weekly guidance and support from a team of peers and second-year MBA coaches who walk them through each step of the recruiting process… This commitment to their students is particularly important to me as it shows they truly value their students beyond test scores and numbers and are there to support them throughout their careers.”

9/20/19 Ross School of Business hosts an Open House for the +Impact Studio.


What’s ahead for the Class of 2021? Unless Marcus Tenenbaum gets ‘the call’ from the New York Yankees, he plans to enter management consulting – and hopes to celebrate a Michigan football and basketball championship as an alum. Balaji Pandian envisions himself as a serial entrepreneur, “spinning off companies that improve the quality and accessibility of healthcare.” Drawing on his political background Jeremy Leung intends to open a consulting firm specializing in crisis management and strategic communications. Like any politico, Luang is careful to hedge his bets.

“As I am exposed to different areas of business at Ross, my goals may change.”

Looking forward, Deb Xavier hasn’t settled on anything except the catch-all “digital transformation.” Instead, she intends to focus on focus on becoming a leader who is both impactful and inspiring. “Ten years ago, I would never even imagine myself here, so I hope to be positively surprised by life again, not by chance but because I’ll be ready to take the opportunities that will come my way.”

MBA Student Hometown Alma Mater Last Employer
TJ Banks Chicago, IL Georgia Tech S.G. Contracting Inc.
Sean Drimmel San Diego, CA University of California, Berkeley Salesforce
Suman Gidwani Demarest, NJ Duke University ideas42
Arcelia Gomez San Diego, CA University of California, Berkeley The Congressional Hunger Center
Jeremy Leung Melbourne, Australia University of Melbourne Cettire
Kaitlyn Lo San Anselmo, CA Stanford University EPIQ Capital Group
Kristin Mixon Dearborn, MI U.S. Military Academy U.S. Army
Nadia Ogene Atlanta, GA University of Pennsylvania Hulu
Balaji Pandian Farmington Heights, MI Harvard University Invenio Imaging Inc.
Marcus Tenenbaum Florham Park, NJ U.S. Air Force Academy Chan Zuckerberg Initiative
Deb Xavier Porto Alegre, Brazil Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul Itau Unibanco
Patricio Zirion Rivera Mexico City, Mexico Universidad Anahuac Uber

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