Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2021

Suman Gidwani

Ross School of Business, University of Michigan

“Using behavioral science to design programs that empower others.”

Hometown: Demarest, NJ

Fun Fact About Yourself: I was a dancer in the halftime show at the 2010 Orange Bowl with the Goo Goo Dolls.

Undergraduate School and Major: Duke University, Neuroscience

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: ideas42, Senior Associate

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: In 2018, I helped develop a voter turnout initiative called Vote Tripling, for which I am now a senior advisor. Vote Tripling (VT) is a behavioral science-based method that encourages voters to get three of their non-voting friends to vote. VT aims to empower Americans who are often left out of the political process, either because they are not reached by campaigns or they don’t have the means to financially support campaigns. Our 2018 test results confirmed the success of VT: they showed that VT boosts turnout by at least 10x the ROI of standard voter turnout tactics. Since 2018, VT has supported dozens of political candidates in the midterm and presidential elections.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Altruistic. What drew me to Ross was that most of the people I met at Ross events and during GBR (the accepted students’ weekend) wanted to make some kind of positive impact on the world. The program encourages students to explore various paths to social impact through dual-degrees programs and action-based learning. Rossers also seemed to have a strong “pay it forward” attitude towards other Rossers. The ~50 graduated Rossers who came to campus for GBR to answer our questions demonstrated how the Ross community will help us succeed in our careers.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? One of the things I love most about Ross is interdisciplinary learning. Students have the ability to take classes in, or get a dual degree, in any school within U-M’s top-ranked graduate programs. I think having multiple perspectives and backgrounds can better equip people to solve complex problems and “disrupt” their fields – just as the psychologist Dan Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics for transforming the field through behavioral economics.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? For professional development, Wolverine Venture Fund and for personal fulfillment, Risky Business (the school’s rock band).

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? The most challenging questions I received during the admissions process were not predetermined questions. Instead, they were questions that drilled deep into the details of my previous experiences and even made me question the how’s and why’s of what I did.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Working at ideas42 allowed me to hone my skills in applied behavioral science and armed me with an incredibly unique lens with which to view the world. I believe behavioral science is just one of the many tools I can use to create social impact and I am ready to expand my tool chest. I felt that business school would allow me to learn new skills and new ways to do so.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Booth, Wharton, Kellogg, MIT

How did you determine your fit at various schools? I evaluated schools based on a few factors: the people that I met, the avenues they had for social impact, capacity for real-world applied learning, how cross-disciplinary their MBA program was, and whether they were changing with the business needs of the world. I did this by talking to current students, alum, and professors, by researching their websites, and by looking at alums’ LinkedIn profiles.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? My defining moment was more like a defining year. After I graduated from college, I was working a job that I knew wasn’t the right fit for me, but also wasn’t sure what the right fit was or how to find such job. I decided to speak to a career coach, who helped me create a roadmap for discovery. I went to lots of conferences that exposed me to various jobs within a field and scoured LinkedIn for people who had jobs that sounded interesting to me (I spoke to someone new almost every day). This process allowed me to hone in on the specifics of what I wanted – in a job, work environment, and colleagues – and helped me find a position that combined all of my interests. This defining year allowed me to find a career, rather than a job. It fueled my passion for understanding human behavior and creating social change and most importantly, it taught me that I could create any reality for myself.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? In ten years, I want to be doing impact-driven work that promotes environmental sustainability and allows me to be creative. I would love to work somewhere like the New York City Economic Development Corporation, where I’d have a direct impact on the city’s economic growth and on people’s daily lives. However, throughout business school, I’ll be on the lookout for other companies/organizations that can help me do the same!

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