Meet Chicago Booth’s MBA Class Of 2021

Booth MBA Students

P&Q: Flexibility is a signature feature of the MBA. Aside from the LEAD course, along with choosing a course in three different disciplines, students are free to take whatever classes they want in place of a standard core. Why did Booth adopt this approach with MBAs? What are some of the benefits of this to students?

SK: “As a part of the University of Chicago, our institution fosters a community that values diverse perspectives. We welcome varying viewpoints because difference enriches classroom discussions and elevates our collective insights. While everyone is here to learn and grow together, we acknowledge that everyone comes from different walks of life—with different skillsets in tow, gaps to fill, and career ambitions to realize—and we want to make sure every moment of the MBA is additive and maximized to fit your exacting needs.

Our research shows that there is no singular path to success, so why would we prescribe student learning in a rigid way? Instead, we offer students immense choice and a breadth of experiences in an environment where they are encouraged to take risks with supportive advising in place. Students not only work with peer advisors and staff to select their preferred courses, but also determine the intensity of those courses, bid on the faculty and style of learning they desire and decide their sequence of classes. We give students unparalleled freedom to build upon their distinct educational and professional circumstances, which means every student can utilize the full extent of the two years to pursue options aligned with their personal goals.

Students work inside the Rothman Winter Garden at the Charles M. Harper Center, which houses the Chicago Booth School of Business pictured on Friday, May 5, 2017, in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

By design, flexibility challenges students to push themselves and make decisions that involve trade-offs, gaining confidence in themselves along the way. Our decentralized approach purposely allows students to customize the MBA adventure. So, as a Booth student, you get to decide what, when, where, and why this particular direction is the most impactful for you. That’s a lot of autonomy, which also gives you ample practice in weighing options, making decisions, and taking risks.

An important complement to choice and flexibility is a supportive community. And we are proud to hear our graduates tout the incredible support they experience—from our world-renowned faculty to our network of engaged alumni around the world, to second-year advisors and other classmates who invest in one another, while students and long after graduation. As I share with each incoming class, our goal is to ensure that, two years from now, the person standing in that Booth graduation robe is the colleague, friend, and leader that you want to be.”


Among the Class of 2021, Booth’s flexibility is particularly popular. As Kole notes, students are only required to take Booth’s LEAD (Leadership and Effective Development) course, a series of exercises conducted by facils (selected and trained 2nd years) on areas ranging from negotiating to delivering feedback. Beyond that, students must take a foundational course of their choice from three other disciplines. As a result, says Yiran Huang, she doesn’t have to repeat concepts in statistics and finance that she mastered as an undergrad or working at UBS Asset Management. At the same time, adds Juan Pablo Jimenez, he can pursue his interests right from the start.

“Other programs have six months or one year of core classes,” he observes. “I wanted to start exploring what I want and what I like from the kick-off. Now, I have a great opportunity to discover new dreams, strengths, weaknesses, and learn from day 1.”

In other words, there is no “cookie-cutter” path at Booth, in the words of Sarah Presant. Instead, students simply “find their own adventure.” This approach is particularly beneficial to students like Dan Derrig, who plans to take advantage of courses outside Booth.

“As someone who studied business during my undergraduate years, I did not want to engage in a traditional core curriculum that, in my eyes, confined students to a standardized education experience. I plan to dive deep in M&A and entrepreneurial courses as well as transaction law courses through The University of Chicago Law School within my first two quarters. This is not something that can be done at every top business school.”

Booth faculty member heading to class


Yiran Huang equates this structure to a safety net. “As people’s views and plans change with time, Booth offers broad space for its students to jump high with extra cushions when they land,” she writes.

That cushion is also exemplified by Booth’s trademark “pay it forward” ethos, where 2nd-year students go out of their way to support their 1st-year underlings. Unlike the structured means of slicing and interpreting data, Booth’s pay it forward outreach is more organic in nature, passed down from class-to-class – a way of transmitting the values that shaped them and saying thank you to those 2nd-years who broadened their network by hosting dinners or conducted mock interviews until midnight to prep them for the big day.

“Booth attracts an amazing set of accomplished people who work hard to reach their goals, but harder to help you when you need it—whether you need help during recruiting, classes, extracurricular activities,” writes Luiz Paulo Fabre, a 2018 graduate who joined Bain & Company.

Students work inside the Rothman Winter Garden at the Charles M. Harper Center, which houses the Chicago Booth School of Business pictured on Friday, May 5, 2017, in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)

1st-years aren’t the only ones who benefit from this Booth tradition. “Pay It Forward manifests itself in all sorts of way,” Kole adds. “As they’re paying it forward, they’re improving their leadership skills, developing empathy, and building a network and community that is supportive, constructive, and very positive.”


Of course, this all takes place in Chicago, a city second to none in terms of Fortune 500 muscle and entrepreneurial moxie. South of the Loop, Booth is just a 20-minute ride from the Miracle Mile, with most MBA students congregated in a neighborhood near a subway station downtown. The winters can be brisk, but there’s always something to do – not to mention 24 lakefront beaches and nearly a thousand miles of trails!

“Chicago offers a vibrant cosmopolitan environment, amazing food places for foodies, and opportunity to create a strong network,” writes Swati Agrawal.

This location is the finishing touch to a program that maximizes freedom and opportunity while minimizing redundancy and distraction. “Booth students are fully in the driver’s seat of personalizing their MBA experience towards their needs,” adds Kwaku Frimpong. “The Booth experience is fully ours to own, whether it is taking courses from any of the Noble Prize-winning staff to helping prepare for interviews or summer internships to taking advantage of Booth’s location and interning or doing experiential work with real companies in the vibrant city of Chicago.”

What led these professionals to enter business schools? Which programs did they also consider? What strategies did they use to choose their MBA program? What was the major event that defined them? Find the answers to these questions and many more in the in-depth profiles of these incoming MBA candidates.


MBA Student Hometown Undergraduate Alma Mater Last Employer
Swati Agrawal Sikar, India from IIT Bombay Aarti industries
Ethan Ardern Milwaukee, WI Rice University Shell
Kyra Atekwana Stillwater, OK Harvard College Dubai Women Establishment
Simon Ayzman Brooklyn, NY Hunter College Bloomberg
Denis Blazanovic Eltville am Rhein, Germany Tongji University School of Economics and Management Bain & Company
Julia Boserup Newport Beach, CA Penn State University Women’s Tennis Association (WTA)
Marie Cour Highland Park, IL University of Michigan U.S. Army
Daniel Derrig Mount Prospect, IL University of Illinois Chicago Venture Partners
Kwaku Frimpong The Bronx, NY Providence College Intersection Media
Yiran Huang Puyang, China The Chinese University of Hong Kong UBS Asset Management
Juan Pablo Jimenez Buenos Aires, Argentina ITBA (Instituto Tecnológico de Buenos Aires) McKinsey & Company
Sarah Presant San Diego, CA Brown University Google

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