Meet Pittsburgh Katz’s MBA Class Of 2021

Pittsburgh Panther


In fact, you could describe Katz as a small school that delivers big results. By results, we mean jobs and pay. 95% of the Class of 2018, for example, had received job offers within three months of graduation. Better yet, within five years of graduation, Katz MBAs receive a $52,100 boost in pay according to data collected by Forbes in 2019. By the same token, Katz MBAs enjoy the biggest jump from pre-MBA pay, going from $40K to $115K, giving graduates the highest return on investment against their American peers. 2019 data from The Economist data backs that up, with Katz ranking 8th globally for percentage pay increase.

That’s not the only area where the MBA program excels according to The Economist. In a 2019 survey of students, Katz ranked 6th for Faculty Quality and 18th for Education Experience. That wouldn’t come as a surprise to Carmelena Moffa, a 2019 P&Q MBA To Watch, who touts the program’s demanding academics (particularly during the first-semester core). “The rigorous semester develops a toughness within students that is a necessary skill in the workplace. The first semester pushes students to their limit, which develops a strong work ethic and prepares them to learn quickly. These skills are essential in the workplace.”

What else is in store for the Class of 2021 – and future full-time MBAs? To answer that, P&Q reached out to Laura Oknefski, Katz’s director of MBA programs. Here are some of the new developments emerging out Katz, along with a deeper look at the school’s experiential philosophical and Pittsburgh locale.


Laura Oknefski

P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments in your program?

LO: “We’ve recently launched the Center for Sustainable Business, along with a Sustainability Certificate for MBA students. These initiatives help prepare students to be leaders in sustainable business strategy. Through these initiatives, along with a larger focus on sustainability at Katz, students learn how to help companies leverage their investments in sustainability across all functions of the organization to generate better business and societal outcomes.

We’ve integrated new professional development weeks into our fall and spring semesters. Each professional development week is a time when classes do not meet. Instead, the MBA program office along with the Career Management office provides a wide variety of professional development opportunities for students. These opportunities include Wall Street Prep, CAPM, diversity and inclusion workshops, time management seminars, and national conference attendance. We’ve made this change in order to help students balance their academic studies with special-topic professional development that we think will help to set them apart in their career search.”

P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish prospective students knew more about?

LO: “Our global initiatives—From professional development workshops in orientation and throughout the year, to Global Research Practicums, Global Issue Workshops, Global Consulting Projects, the work of the International Business Center, and partnerships with other business schools abroad, we offer students a variety of opportunities to hone their understanding of global business issues and strategies, as well as the intercultural skills and understanding they will need in order to be successful no matter where their careers take them.”

P&Q: Your MBA program is known for having “Katz Ready” graduates who are particularly strong in soft skills. What does your program do to foster these skills to such a high degree?

LO: “We focus extensively on what we call experience-based learning (EBL), both in classes and in the co-curriculum. Through opportunities like Consulting Field Projects, case competitions, Management Simulation, Global Research Practicums, Six Sigma, and fall and spring professional development weeks, our students take foundational business theories and apply them in real-world contexts. In doing so, students are intentionally coached by faculty, staff, and Executives in Residence in how to not only make successful business decisions but also to approach teamwork and problem-solving in creative and collaborative ways.

P&Q: Pittsburgh is known for both a strong Fortune 500 presence and a bustling startup ecosystem. What does the city offer that makes it a great place for MBA students to learn and grow?

LO: Pittsburgh is a big city, with a small-town feel. From an old steel town to a national leader of innovation, education, and healthcare, Pittsburgh has reinvented itself into an incredible place to work, live, and raise a family. It is consistently recognized as one of the nation’s most livable cities and has recently been recognized for its extensive foodie scene. Pittsburgh is a great place for MBA students to learn and grow through its influx in tech companies, its low cost of living, and its thriving sports scene.


University of Pittsburgh


Two decades ago, Pittsburgh had been written off as a Rust Belt cautionary tale – a city whose glorious manufacturing and energy days were long behind it. In 1963, the city boasted 23 Fortune 500 companies. Today, that number has dwindled to six, though the remaining names – Kraft Heinz, PNC Financial Services, PPG Industries, U.S. Steel, Alcoa, and Wesco – still conjure up images of reach and might. As memories of mills and mines fade, Pittsburgh has re-emerged as a biomedical and tech hub, fueled by university talent from Pittsburgh, Carnegie Mellon, Robert Morris, and Duquesne. Google, Apple, and Uber have all built regional headquarters here – while firms like Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and IBM deepen their footprint in the area.

Forget craft beer startups. In Pittsburgh, you’ll find artificial intelligence and self-driving cars with a thriving Robotics Row carved into the warehouses along the Allegheny River. In 2018 alone, nearly 150 tech startups shared $550 million dollars in tech investment – an amount that reaches $3.8 billion dollars over the past decade. And Katz is right in the middle of it all, with its close association to the larger university’s Innovation Institute and Blast Furnace accelerator.

This thriving business ecosystem is only part of the area’s charm, adds Zach Weinberg. “With the area’s relatively low cost of living, offer of a city lifestyle in proximity to nature, and historic neighborhoods built along the hills, we see ourselves staying here post-graduation. Pittsburgh also appeals to my professional aspirations. With its emerging cyber and technology sector, home to a large contingency of the defense industrial base, and its military and law enforcement regional presence, Pittsburgh has a growing job market for those with a specialty in national security and business.”


Along with its location, Katz also earns kudos for its Career Management Center (CMC) – from current students and past graduates alike. 2019 grad Shaun Iaun, for one, lauds the Career Development Summer Boot Camp, where CMC members worked with students via Skype on everything from resume preparation to mock interviews. That personalized support continues on throughout the program, notes Min Cai, a human resources manager from China.

Katz team meeting

“As an international student, I chose Katz because of the professional support from the career management team. They provide great advice and resources to help students during their job search and focus on their priorities. Most international students like me may lack working experience in the U.S. Professional support is essential for us. The Katz career management center offers one-on-one support to explore future career goals, develop personal branding, and attend networking events. I am excited to continue to work with the career management team during my MBA journey.”

Despite the Katz MBA’s small size, it provides students with an array of learning options, including 6 academic concentrations, 10 certificates, and 20 career tracks. The program is particularly strong in healthcare, a point of emphasis in the school’s strategic plan and a strength of the larger Pittsburgh ecosystem.


“The Katz School of Business offers a joint MBA/MPH program, adds 2019 grad Shan Iuan. “Moreover, Pittsburgh is a unique city with the presence of two health-care giants, Highmark and UPMC, as well as large pharmaceutical companies, such as Bayer and Mylan. Katz frequently partners with these organizations to provide students with industrial knowledge.”

Intimate and individualized, Katz is a place, says 2018 grad Christopher Staten, where students can roam the halls and “be able to greet everyone by name and follow up on their personal endeavors.” That’s because everyone takes the time to get to know each other, says Raunaq Lala, instead of retreating back to people most like themselves. That makes the relationships deeper…and the teamwork of Katz MBAs all the better, he adds.

“I found my fellow classmates do not just stick to only such groups, but put in the effort to interact and foster a bond with everyone. This helps in faster team bonding and helps the class to grow both professionally and personally. And I believe that for a team to develop faster, having such quality is commendable and makes it easy for everyone in the class.”

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 Alma Mater Most Recent Employer
Nijat Behbudov Baku, Azerbaijan Azerbaijan State Economic University Procter & Gamble
Min Cai Jingdezhen, China East China University of Political Science and Law Mondelez International
Tyler Guerriero Lock Haven, PA American Public University Michael Baker International
Clare Koneval Pound Ridge, NY UCLA Internet Brands
Raunaq Lala Bhopal, India Visvesvaraya National Institute of Technology Atos
Molly Lindway Cleveland, OH Marquette University Siemens Healthineers
Bianca Payton Detroit, MI University of Michigan Regus
Anil Mathew Roy Trivandrum, India Sree Chitra Thirunal College of Engineering Oracle Financial Services Software Ltd.
John Sopko Kent, OH University of Mount Union Consolidated Food Company
Siddharth Srivastava Bangalore, India Manipal Institute of Technology, Manipal JP Morgan Chase & Co.
Shen Tian Beijing, China Peking University Covestro
Zach Weinberg Chicago, IL DePaul University Business Executives for National Security (BENS)


See The Entire ‘Meet the Class’ Series