Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2021

Data is destiny.

It is the difference between a global brand and a stopgap business. It is a tool – a process, really – to make the best decisions. From web traffic patterns to manufacturing cycle time, data helps businesses to track activity, cut costs, understand consumers, identify trends, and streamline processes. Most important, data enables managers to shift resources and strategy in real-time for maximum return.

No wonder the Simon Business School packages itself as “Unabashedly Analytical.” Of course, this is far more than a slogan. In a world in flux – deluged in data and rife with options – the Simon MBA is steeped in data science. Here, students are trained to act as the managers of tomorrow. Forget a flying-blind executive suite where choices come down to a collection of fashionable observations and gut instincts. At Simon, MBAs dig deep and get their hands dirty. They learn to set the right goals, ask the right questions, identify the right data sets, and apply the right tools to extract, organize, and analyze their data. More than flushing out patterns and formulating projections, the Simon MBA prepares students to position their findings and gain buy-in top-to-bottom.


The Simon curriculum is driven by FACT – as in Frame, Analyze, and Communicate. It is a framework designed to help students tackle issues from all angles and develop holistic solutions. Ashani Peterkin, a public health advisor for the CDC (Centers for Diseases Control & Prevention), lists Simon’s focus on quantitative analysis as a chief reason why he is headed for Rochester to be part of the MBA Class of 2021. 

“In my last role, data analytics was essential in the decision-making process, which meant any errors in the data could impact human lives severely. I wanted to improve my skills with data. So far, Simon has been forcing me to think as a data analyst. Unabashedly analytical for me means I’m going to be challenged in ways that will force me to get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Post-MBA, the value of data is being intertwined across industries thus when I leave Simon, I know I’ll be able to leverage these skills to be an effective decision-maker within the Healthcare industry.”

Entrepreneurship is another industry where data science is indispensable. When Darren Small wasn’t busy being a vice president at a securities firm, he was building his business. For him, analytics is a means to take goal-setting and strategy to the next level.


University of Rochester, Simon Business School, was the first to start the STEM stampede among U.S. business schools

“Even during my short time at Simon, I’ve been able to take what I’ve learned in class and apply it directly into my business,” he explains. “My framework for decision-making and critical thinking is already changing. I’m excited to continue to dive deeper and apply what I learn in the classroom almost immediately into practice.”

That’s not the only advantage to the Simon way. Karima Kusow, the proverbial poet, considers Simon’s approach to be a great way to round out her skill set – with the school’s STEM-designation option reflecting the “analytical rigor” of her education. Similarly, Juceliz Batista – a “Go-Hard New Yorker with the wit of a Golden Girl”believes data science offers a “bigger toolbox” for solving business problems. At the same time, Jeniris Liz Montañez frames it as a way to fill her knowledge gaps.

“On a macro-level, analytics is redefining organizations and changing how we do business,” she explains. “Obtaining an education that trains us in the foundations of analytics and its practical uses is an assured way to have an impact in your organization. I intend to leverage all the resources at Simon to build my knowledge in analytics and use them as a strategy consultant to better understand data sets and make informed decisions at the C-suite level.”


Montañez herself is a new mom who joins the Class of 2021 after serving as a vice president at Bank of America. She represents one of the many unique backgrounds in this year’s cohort. Take Toby Motyka. He comes to Simon after serving as a sports reporter and anchor at 13 WHAM television. His claim to fame? He nabbed a “Best Feature” award from the Associated Press. How about Khushi Vijayakumar? She describes herself as both a “poet and a quant.” After studying metallurgical and materials engineering as an undergrad, she moved into equity structuring. Those were hardly her only interests.

I worked as a banker by day (and night) and wrote poetry and pursued theatre by weekends.”

Just how cool was Ashani Peterkin’s role at the CDC? You could almost develop a TV show around his job. “My most impactful accomplishment is enhancing the vector-borne diseases surveillance system infrastructure in Southern Nevada to protect over 2.2 million residents and over 40 million Las Vegas visitors from disease transmission. As a Federal employee, I was on the frontlines of investigating vector-borne disease activity and coordinating with local, tribal, and state agencies to create strategic response activities in vulnerable communities through education outreach, disease investigation and influencing health policy.”

Those aren’t the only big achievements notched by this “Simon Strong” class. At Bank of America, Jeniris Liz Montañez’s team created an onboarding platform for 3,500 clients that eventually yielded a £20 million dollar savings over three years. In the Philippines, Ysabel Villamor was a key player in planning and launching for the country’s first-ever free YouTube campaign. At the same time, Mohammed Faiyak Zaman bagged the proverbial elephant, a $5 million dollar client, during his time as a VP at HSBC in Bangladesh. Speaking of banking, Darren Small’s startup, Twilight, works with Millennial college graduates to help them save for a down payment on their first home – a proposition that earned his firm a slot at CNBC’s 2019 Money 20/20 Conference.


MBA students at Rochester University’s Simon Business School

Impressed? During his Peace Corps service in Malawi, Andrew Datu made his mark by collaborating with nine musicians to create a 10 song music video DVD. The result? Datu and his band earned their 15 minutes of fame…and then some. “The music was focused around three core issues: encouraging youth to go to voluntary counseling and testing, building an inclusive society for people living with HIV, and educating people about medication for those affected by HIV. Our videos were broadcasted nationally on Malawi Broadcast Station’s music video hour, Music Splash.”

Perhaps Datu could jam with Mohammed Faiyak Zaman. In college, he wrote a few songs that ended up being played at campus events. They could even be joined on stage by Ysabel Villamor, a cheerleader and ballerina – “who loves jumping out of planes.” Chances are, you won’t find Darren Small rocking out with them for too long.

“I know how to knit and crochet. Winters in Rochester are cold, it will come in handy. Thanks, Mom.”

What does the Class of 2021 think about each other? Jeniris Liz Montañez uses the term, “extraordinarily generous.” “My classmates share internship leads, academic resources, and all types of events on our class group chat,” she observes. “It is not uncommon to walk past a study group before a test and see students collaboratively studying. Classmates who have already secured internships or gone to pre-MBA conferences use their free time to help coach other classmates. There is a real sense of camaraderie and no one thinks twice to spend an hour or two of their time helping another student.”

Ashani Peterkin would describe as classmates as “curious and brave” instead. “The typical Simon student is naturally curious about applying concepts from class in order to drive impactful change not only on campus but throughout their respective industries. We are brave because we ask the hard questions but challenge each other to do better and be better.”

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