Meet Rochester Simon’s MBA Class Of 2021

Simon School students prepping for class.

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

RL: “The news has spread far and wide that in 2018, Simon Business School became the first business school in the US to offer a STEM MBA designation option for every specialization, from Finance – including Asset Management, Banking, Corporate Finance, Venture Capital and Private Equity – to Marketing, including Brand Management and Product Management, and even Consulting – including Operations, Pricing, Strategy, and Technology. The business world for which we are preparing our students becomes more complex every day, requiring both students and schools to become increasingly agile and progressively forward-thinking. While a rigorous approach to analytical problem-solving has always been at the heart of Simon Business School’s curriculum, the STEM option takes it a step further, giving incoming MBA students a competitive edge in a market where data drives virtually every business decision.

There is also an additional benefit for international students, of which Simon is proud to boast many. For international students, a STEM-designated MBA offers the ability to extend OPT (Optional Practical Training) by 24 months, for a total of three years without H1B visa sponsorship. This extra time can help bridge the gap between a student visa and a work visa by allowing for more chances at the visa lottery.”

P&Q: Last year, Simon was STEM-designated across all of its concentrations. What has been the impact on the program and enhanced the student experience? 

RL: “Data drives virtually every business decision. A STEM designation signifies to recruiters and employers that Simon students have the ability to not only interpret the data, but apply it to create strategies that will help their organizations secure existing customers, penetrate new markets, recognize emergent, disruptive competitors, and design new products and services that attract and secure new customers. We are seeing the positive effects of our STEM option in the starting salaries of our graduates which, as of the end of June 2019, are showing a 14% increase over the same time last year. And as mentioned above, for international students, a STEM-designated MBA offers the ability to extend OPT (Optional Practical Training) by 24 months, for a total of three years without H1B visa sponsorship. This extra time can help bridge the gap between a student visa and a work visa by allowing for more chances at the visa lottery.”

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

RL: “When discussing the merits of Simon, industry experts typically focus on our analytically-rigorous curriculum. Our designation as a Poets&Quants Top MBA Program is frequently cited, along with our ranking as a #9 Top MBA for Entrepreneurship in the US, #3 for ROI in the US, #4 for Economics and #5 for Finance in the world, or #13 MBA for Women, and so on. But if you were to speak to our students, they’d tell you that our strong sense of community, and the support they’ve received from their classmates and the office of student engagement, made an impact that will remain with them long after they’ve left our halls. Simon is small by design, giving students the opportunity to form close bonds, learn from one another, and forge networking connections that can help propel them forward in the business world.”

Simon students preparing a project together.


The Class of 2021 would certainly agree with Rebekah Lewin’s depiction of the culture. Karima Kusow calls it “extremely intimate and collaborative” – a place where she could get to know more people and enjoy more accessible leadership opportunities. Darren Small takes Kusow’s point a step further.

“Simon’s small class size facilitates the opportunity to get to know my classmates on a much deeper level,” he explains. “Smaller career action teams, cohorts, and homework teams provide different opportunities to meet more of my classmates and build connections. I didn’t want my business school experience to be transactional. No picking and choosing of friend groups. With a small, tight-knit community of first- and second-year students, I can get to know everyone in the program. There aren’t many schools that can provide a similar experience.”

Not surprisingly, the program’s STEM designation also enjoys widespread popularity among class members like Khushi Vijayakumar. “The economics and analytics-based approach to business appealed to me as I was looking to pursue the Finance specialization.  Second, as an international student, I could leverage the 36 months OPT period to gain exposure to corporate life in the US. Many more doors would open for me and enable a truly global experience.”

Simon School of Business at the University of Rochester


Vijayakumar herself is looking forward to the Simon School Venture Fund. A $2 million dollar early-stage seed fund, it trains students both on how to invest as well as pitching and launching. Several class members also cite the Simon VISION Consulting Club as a major enticement. In a nutshell, says Juceliz Batista, the club supplies pro-bono consulting services to local businesses and non-profits. In the process, it enables students to apply everything they learn in the classroom.

“Vision Consulting is an organization that will provide the client-facing and problem-solving skills I need in my career moving forward,” adds Ashani Peterkin.

What’s ahead for the Class of 2021? You can’t say they are thinking small. Shinjini Neogi, an Ernst & Young senior consultant, plans to put her analytics learnings to the test, making life-saving medicines available to a larger segment of the population. In the meantime, she will continue to work with Enactus, a program operating in 30 countries that brings sex workers into entrepreneurship. Neogi herself has mentored these women in tailoring and beauty – as well as communication. While her team has helped 70 women change their lives, Neogi hopes to someday start her own non-profit.

“I truly believe hard work and dedication, coupled with a specific skill set, can give any human being a decent life with dignity.”

For Andrew Datu, that dignity will come from heading a consulting firm that brings “meaningful socially equitable and sustainable practices” into Fortune 500 companies. Perhaps one of those firms will be Darren Small’s Twilight startup. His dream?

“Ringing Opening Bell of the NYSE as my company is being listed.”

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.


Student Hometown Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Osman Bah Freetown, Sierra Leone Colby College Edge by Ascential
Juceliz Batista Bronx, NY Syracuse University The Armory Foundation
Andrew Datu San Jose, CA University of California-Irvine Genesys Works
Karima Kusow East Lansing, MI Grinnell College Universal Service Administrative Company
Jeniris Liz Montañez New York City, NY Fordham University Bank of America
Toby Motyka Rochester, NY Mansfield University 13 WHAM Television
Shinjini Neogi Mumbai, India Narsee Monjee Institute of Management Studies Ernst and Young
Ashani Peterkin Falmouth, MA Brandeis University Centers for Diseases Control & Prevention
Darren A. Small Jamaica, NY Middlebury College MUFG Securities Americas, Inc
Khushi Vijayakumar Bangalore, India National Institute of Technology, Karnataka Nomura
Ysabel Villamor Manila, Philippines University of the Philippines Smart Communications
Mohammed Faiyak Zaman Dhaka, Bangladesh Institute of Business Administration HSBC

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