Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2021

MBA students at the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School


For most, “same old same old” comes with a negative connotation. After a year like 2019, when many business schools experienced 10%-20% drops in applications, more of the same is just fine with the Simon School. This year, the MBA program received just six fewer applications than the previous year. Enrollment also rose from 104 to 107 full-time students, a noteworthy number considering the most recent graduating class included just 84 students. At the same time, the school’s acceptance rate dipped from 32.9% to 29%, meaning it is more difficult to enter the Simon MBA despite increased class sizes.

Academically, the Class of 2021 boasts a 665 average GMAT. That’s a negligible point drop, particularly when the mean remained 680. That said, the average GPA also decreased from 3.5 to 3.43. Overall, 32% of the class majored in Business and Commerce as undergrads. That number swells to 39% when Economics is tacked onto the total. While Simon is regarded as a STEM school, student backgrounds don’t back up that assertion. STEM degrees hold 33% of the seats between Engineering (19%) and Math and Science (14%). That barely eclipses the share of Humanities and Sciences majors, which stands at 28%.

There was one number that stood out: 42%. That is the percentage of women who make up the Class of 2021 – up seven points from the previous year. International students account for 39% of the class, with U.S. minorities making up another 40%. Overall, the class hails from 18 countries. The largest bloc of students – 28% – most recently worked in Accounting and Finance. Another three professions enjoyed double-digit shares of the class seats: Consulting and Services (17%), Government and Non-Profits (14%), and Technology (11%). Healthcare and Engineering accounted for 8% of the class, followed by Engineering and Entrepreneurship (5% each), and Entertainment and Sports (4%).

Rochester Simon – P&Q’s MBA Program Of The Year in 2018 – is described as “two short years of hyper-focused energy by Victoria Vossler, a 2019 P&Q MBA To Watch. In fact, she considers Rochester itself as one of the city’s biggest advantages, particularly its reasonable cost of living and convenience.

Rochester Simon Classroom

“Business school is an opportunity to travel and make connections. Rochester is in the middle of the Northeast, making New York City, Boston, Toronto, DC, and Chicago accessible via train or a 1-2-hour long flight.”

The program has also been long-recognized as a leader in finance – not to mention a world-class pricing concentration. As a result, it is sometimes tagged as a “finance school” or a “quant school.” True, analytics is threaded throughout programming according to alumni like Mike Alcazaren (’19). However, that doesn’t the program caters to spreadsheet jockeys and data diggers.


“I think the biggest myth about Simon is that we over-index on analytics,” he asserts. “In other words, students might be lost without a quant background. While an analytical approach is key, Simon is a very collaborative place with students from a variety of backgrounds. Our class includes not only analytical wizards, but amazing storytellers and community builders as well.”

In November, Rochester Simon ranked 37th according to P&Q’s annual business school ranking, a fusion of five MBA rankings. Overall, Simon placed highest with Bloomberg Businessweek, finishing 29th in a ranking skewed heavily toward student, alumni, and employer satisfaction survey results. Some of that can be traced back to the efforts of Dean Andrew Ainslie, who will be stepping down this summer so he can join his wife at the University of Colorado. During his six-year tenure, Ainslie pioneered innovations that have been replicated by peer schools. In 2015, for example, he cut tuition by 13.6% and later froze tuition rates to make business education more accessible. In 2019, Ainslie rolled out the school’s Integrated Student Experience (ISE), a personalized development and coaching plan that connects the academic, extracurricular, job hunting, and social sides of the Simon experience. At the same time, he sparked the STEM movement by making Simon the first U.S. MBA program to earn a STEM designation across all of its concentrations.

What new innovations does the Simon MBA have in store for future MBAs? Last fall, P&Q reached out to Rebekah S. Lewin, the school’s assistant dean for admissions and financial aid. From the STEM MBA to the Simon MBA Edge Program, here are Lewin’s written responses on some of the unexpected resources and opportunities that are part of the Simon experience.


P&Q: Along with your focus on quantitative analysis and economic=based decision-making, you also offer Simon Edge to spur personal development. How does the program work and why is it so critical for your students’ growth?

Rebekah Lewin

RL: “Academics are an essential part of a student’s success, but at Simon we believe a well-prepared employee must offer something more. When recruiting MBA talent, there is a high premium on the soft skills that turn a student into C-suite material: communication, teamwork, and leadership skills. The Simon MBA Edge Program was developed to build these key competencies, augmenting the technical skills Simon students acquire in the classroom with high-impact personal development workshops and signature events throughout the course of their MBA.

The Simon MBA Edge Program helps students evolve their abilities in these six areas:

Problem-solving: Advanced problem-solving skills are prized in many of the roles to which MBA students aspire, yet few students enter MBA programs well-developed in this area. Simon helps students build the most common problem-solving skills: Framing; Analysis, Communication, and Synthesizing the Findings and Conclusions.

Communication: Effective communication is a critical part of leadership and a challenge for many of today’s business leaders. Our staff works closely with each student to maximize their written communication and presentation skills to better equip them to succeed in a wide range of environments.

Leadership: Simon Business School prepares its students to be leaders. One of the ways we do so is by giving them the opportunity to participate in student clubs, the Graduate Business Council (GBC), Student Career Leadership Board, Student Ambassadors, Student Career Advisors (SCAs), Communication Tutor, Coach and Workshop Leader programs, as well as ad hoc Simon student advisory boards and task forces which offer opportunities to develop leadership competencies.

Global Awareness: Globalization is among the top ten challenges identified by today’s business leaders. Simon prepares students for this challenge with opportunities such as involvement in student organizations, electives in ethics, courses such as entrepreneurship that cultivate creativity, attending Global Awareness and Communication Learning Center programs, getting to know fellow classmates from around the world, seeking an internship with a global company, and participating in a travel or exchange program.

Integrity: Simon applies the principle of integrity at every turn. We define it for our students as behaving consistently with their personal values, principles, and motives, and being trustworthy, truthful, and candid and doing the right thing even when no one is looking. It is an ideal we put to work in the classroom, the community here at Simon, and the wider world, including volunteer and internship opportunities.

Teamwork. Competencies such as collaboration, group savvy, interpersonal skills, personal power, relationship savvy, the ability to value opinions of others, and the ability to follow a leader are all critical in helping students develop team skills. Team projects in classes, unpaid projects with area employers, case competitions, and the Simon Vision program all offer Simon students the opportunity to develop teamwork skills.

At Simon, we believe these skills are key to integrating and applying the knowledge and skills developed by our MBA curriculum. Together they provide a process for selfleadership that prepares students for a lifetime of opportunities.”

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