Meet Emory Goizueta’s MBA Class Of 2021

Most MBA students take their business school’s namesake for granted. To them, the name just represents a deep-pockets alum who wanted his name to carry on. That’s not quite the case at Emory University’s Goizueta Business School. The namesake – Roberto C. Goizueta – personifies the promise and spirit of the MBA program: dynamic and bold, open-minded and forward-thinking, customer-driven and community-centered.

Goizueta is the quintessential American immigrant story. A chemical engineer by education, he joined Coca-Cola in 1954 working for a bottler. Five years later, he ran all of Coca-Cola’s Cuban plants. After Fidel Castro took power in 1959, Goizueta immigrated to the United States, eventually heading up Coca-Cola’s technical research and legal affairs. In 1981, he was named Chairman and CEO, a position he held until his passing in 1997.


“My story boils down to the uniquely American idea that a young immigrant could come to this country with nothing but a good education and a job as a chemist, and thirty years later have the opportunity to lead one of the world’s best-known enterprises,” Goizueta once wrote.

Roberto C. Goizueta

In the process, he became one of the top business leaders of the 20th century, taking Coca-Cola’s market cap from 4.3 billion to 180 billion dollars during his 16 years at the helm. When he died, Coca-Cola had become the world’s best-known trademark. Before that, Goizueta orchestrated Coca-Cola’s toppling of PepsiCo as the world’s best-selling soft drink, snapping up 40% of the market in the process. Under Goizueta’s leadership, Coca-Cola introduced the wildly-popular Diet Coke and Cherry Coke lines. He even purchased Columbia Pictures for $692 million dollars…selling it seven years later for $1.5 billion dollars.

His executive career wasn’t spotless, however. Face it, most MBAs know Goizueta for signing off on New Coke – an enduring case study on the perils of mistaking the product for the brand. As Goizueta liked to say, “If you can’t be different, you might as well be damned.” For him, taking the right risks, following the right principles, creating the right experience, and setting the right example were the hallmarks of true leadership. It was also his strategy for achieving his ultimate goal: “A Coke within arm’s reach of everyone on the planet.”


For Goizueta, communication was a leader’s most important responsibility. He described it as ‘the only task a leader cannot delegate.’ In reality, Goizueta delegated this role at the end. He made the Goizueta Business School the steward of his message – and it is one that resonates heavily with the MBA Class of 2021.

“I was drawn to Goizueta because of the values it represents,” writes Mariah Harris, a Yale-trained biomedical engineer. “The core values of Goizueta – Courage, Accountability, Integrity, Rigor, Diversity, Team, and Community – are not just for recruiting pamphlets. The students, faculty, and staff have truly bought into these values…As a member of a small class, I never felt like I would be a cog in the b-school machine. I chose Goizueta because I knew I would be in a place filled with people who were just as invested in my success as I am, and vice versa.”

Jay Mathes, a 2019 Goizueta grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, echoes Harris’ sentiments. “During my MBA, a major goal of mine was to become a better leader and I saw the Goizueta core values as a way to challenge my leadership growth outside of the hard skills acquired in the classroom. While touring MBA programs, it was clear that each program had values they touted. At GBS the core values are truly the foundation on which the school is built.”

A commitment to these core values isn’t the only legacy left by Goizueta, jokes David Thomas, a 2019 grad and P&Q MBA To Watch. “Coca-Cola University: It’s definitely true! You will never see a Pepsi on campus, and I think anyone caught brandishing a Pepsi might be banned forever.”


As Emory Goizueta celebrates its 100th year as a business school, it has adopted a new tagline: “Change Perspective.” It is a call to change business – and the world – for the better. That’s exactly what the Class of 2021 has been doing before business school at employers like Amazon, Goldman Sachs, and Citi. At M&T Bank, for example, Anisha Shrestha headed up an organization-wide United Way campaign. Similarly, at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Anupama Tadanki was part of a team that delivered $100 million dollars in grants annually on social impact projects. Long-term, Tadanki plans to increase access to people facing employment barriers – which has led her to Goizueta.

Emory University’s Goizueta Business School

“I wanted to equip myself with the tools and knowledge to become the best leader I possibly could be for an organization seeking to drive social change. I knew that I needed to be able to both articulate an organization’s vision and also design an efficient and sustainable operation that satisfied the needs of the people it intended to serve.”

Serving client needs? That’s Divya Doshi’s calling card. At Citi, he helped oversee one of the nation’s biggest pension funds. Clearview Healthcare Partners, one of the elite boutique consulting firms, placed Mariah Harris in charge of all of its forecasting training. Looking for a tale of inspiration? Meet Steven Couche. A field engineer at Schlumberger, Couch was so smitten with private equity that he took an unpaid internship so he could pursue it. This risk led to a series of roles, culminating in a research position at Robert W. Baird.

“The night I decided to not take “no” for an answer and then realizing that a dream was a powerful experience,” he shares. “Although I am likely pivoting out of finance, committing myself to beating the odds then fulfilling that promise to myself was a transformative experience.”


That’s not the only big transition you can expect in the Class of 2021. Sam Lichtveld, who holds a Master’s in Animal and Dairy Sciences, plans to “pivot” to management consulting after selling process equipment in the poultry space. Considering his first year results — boosting sales in his territory from $400K to $2.5 million – it is scary to picture what Lichtveld can do with two years at Goizueta! Elizabeth Hitti has already lived the consultant life, traveling across the country in the tech space. Now, her plan is to pursue the consultant dream: moving into the c-suite. Like Lichtveld, past performance is probably indicative of future results. Just look at what she had to juggle in college!

“Getting my offer letter from Deloitte as a senior at Penn was a big moment for me,” she admits. “I was in-season (meaning I was spending 40 hours per week on field hockey and traveling for away games) and I was taking a full mechanical engineering course-load while I successfully navigated the competitive on-campus recruiting and intense interview process. Not only did I get an offer from my top choice firm, but I also led the field hockey team to the Ivy League Championship game and maintained dean’s list grades in engineering. It will forever be a reminder to me that I can handle anything that comes my way and be successful doing it!”

Emory Students at Graduation (with Associate Dean Brian Mitchell)

School and career aren’t the only areas where the Class of 2021 has made noise. Previously, John McCauley was a nationally-ranked rock climber who lived out of a van. In her free time, Erin Lightfoot trains for obstacle-laden endurance events like Tough Mudder and Spartan Race. Naveen Srikakulam already speaks seven languages…and is busy learning an eighth at Goizueta. If you’re ever wondering why Anupama Tadanki has no fear of failure, here is her secret…


“In my 23 years of performing as a classical South Indian musician, I have experienced my fair share of stage mishaps. There is nothing quite like forgetting lyrics in front of 300 people to teach the importance of preparation, discipline, and self-confidence.”

For the Class of 2021, that audience is 147 peers – not counting 2nd-years. Mustapha Sakr, for one, is thrilled by how diverse his classmates have been. “I have met an ex-professional opera singer who wants to move into management consulting, a lawyer who wants to get into private equity, a professional athlete who seeks to develop her career in the sports management industry and an entrepreneur with a record of different start-ups.”

Divya Doshi observes the class has already developed a “close-knit” feel. In fact, he had already met all of his classmates within the first three weeks of class. “The MBA program office does a great job of building relationships among the students early so that once classes start everything is second-nature,” he adds. “You always feel comfortable, welcomed, and heard in all settings.”

* Go to page 2 to read 13 MBA student profiles and an interview with associate dean Brian Mitchell. 


Connect with Goizueta's MBA program.

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