Wharton | Mr. Digi-Transformer
GMAT 680, GPA 4
Stanford GSB | Ms. 2+2 Tech Girl
GRE 333, GPA 3.95
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthcare Operations To General Management
GRE 700, GPA 7.3
Chicago Booth | Ms. CS Engineer To Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.31
Kenan-Flagler | Mr. Engineer In The Military
GRE 310, GPA 3.9
Ross | Mr. Automotive Compliance Professional
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
Chicago Booth | Mr. Oil & Gas Leader
GMAT 760, GPA 6.85/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Seeking Fellow Program
GMAT 760, GPA 3
Wharton | Mr. Real Estate Investor
GMAT 720, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Chef Instructor
GMAT 760, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Climate
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. New England Hopeful
GMAT 730, GPA 3.65
Berkeley Haas | Mr. Bangladeshi Data Scientist
GMAT 760, GPA 3.33
Harvard | Mr. Military Banker
GMAT 740, GPA 3.9
Ross | Ms. Packaging Manager
GMAT 730, GPA 3.47
Chicago Booth | Mr. Private Equity To Ed-Tech
GRE 326, GPA 3.4
Harvard | Mr. Gay Singaporean Strategy Consultant
GMAT 730, GPA 3.3
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Electric Vehicles Product Strategist
GRE 331, GPA 3.8
Columbia | Mr. BB Trading M/O To Hedge Fund
GMAT 710, GPA 3.23
Columbia | Mr. Old Indian Engineer
GRE 333, GPA 67%
Harvard | Mr. Athlete Turned MBB Consultant
GMAT 720, GPA 3.4
Ross | Mr. Civil Rights Lawyer
GMAT 710, GPA 3.62
Stanford GSB | Mr. Co-Founder & Analytics Manager
GMAT 750, GPA 7.4 out of 10.0 - 4th in Class
Cornell Johnson | Ms. Environmental Sustainability
GMAT N/A, GPA 7.08
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Trucking
GMAT 640, GPA 3.82
Ross | Mr. Low GRE Not-For-Profit
GRE 316, GPA 74.04% First Division (No GPA)
Harvard | Mr. Marine Pilot
GMAT 750, GPA 3.98

Meet Washington Foster’s MBA Class Of 2021

Interior of PACCAR Hall. University of Washington, Seattle campus on November 20th, 2013. Photo by Katherine B. Turner

A 99% JOB PLACEMENT RATE

Change is a constant in business, with good years and bad years alike. The same could be said for the Foster School, which saw its enrollment slip from 125 to 117 students with the Class of 2021 (though still better than the 90 MBA who graduated this spring). Overall, the school received 98 fewer applications, which only translated to a point increase in acceptance rate (36%). At the same time, average GMAT held steady at 696, while the incoming class’ average GPA actually increased from 3.30 to 3.39.

That said, you’ll find one big change this fall: the percentage of women dropped from 42% to 34%. The average Foster MBA possesses six years of work experience, with 28% hailing from the State of Washington (and another 27% arriving from overseas). In terms of educational backgrounds, 25% of the class holds undergraduate degrees in Engineering, with Business-related fields accounting for another 20%. The rest of the class is broken down into Social Sciences (15%), Humanities (14%), Economics (9%), Math and Science (9%), and Computer Science (8%). 11% of the class boast military experience.

One number that didn’t change at the Foster School: 99%. That’s the percentage of full-time MBA students who landed jobs within three months of graduation in 2019. The Class of 2018 also posted a 99% placement, with the two previous classes hitting 98%. In other words, Foster grads are nearly guaranteed a job after earning their MBA.

INTENSIVE CAREER PROGRAMMING AT THE START

Along with being coveted, Foster grads are well-paid too. The Class of 2019 pulled down $122,841 in average base, up nearly $11,000 over the past four years, with the highest-paid grad earning a $190,000 paycheck this summer. This base was supplemented by 78% of graduates snapping up $28,740 in average sign-on bonus. That doesn’t even factor in the $60,000 in pay increases that Foster MBAs can expect over the next five years according to Forbes.

Despite the higher outputs, Foster experienced a major change in 2019. The percentage of students entering technology, which stood at 60% in 2018, slipped back to 44% — nearly equal to its 2015 total. Consulting firms, which attracted 16% of the class in 2018 jumped to 29% in 2019, much closer to its 27% share in 2015. In other words, the Foster School is starting to settle back into its traditional pattern after a tech surge over the past four years.

MBAs at Gasworks Park

Make no mistake, Foster’s high placement and pay isn’t simply the product of Seattle’s white-hot economy. It is also the result of the school’s intensive career and personal development programming. For example, students complete a six-day professional development courses before the core curriculum opens, with the career center adding four required follow ups throughout the fall.

“In our model competencies, we have the interview skill-building, the resume workshop, the networking, the how-to’s for the international students, and the ability to navigate through this recruiting calendar,” Naomi Sanchez tells P&Q. “So, we assign a professional coach to every student — they can see any of us — but this assures they have at least one person assigned to them. We also have an onboarding position for first-years. This takes them through what to expect, and answers their questions, and tries to make that coming to graduate school process smoother with regard to career… We also bring in a lot of different company representatives to talk about what is trending in their companies and industries. We also have second-year panelists that share how they have gotten where they are.”

A NEW LEADER TAKES THE REINS

Perhaps the most underrated aspect of the Foster MBA, adds Sanchez, is the school’s mentorship program. “We have over 85 executives that actually are assigned to students. The students visit their companies and also have one-on-one meetings with the executives. We also have executive office hours here, which means executives come here and in half-hour intervals, talk to our students about their career goals and also what they’ve done in their careers.”

This school year also represents a changing of the guard at Washington Foster. Dr. Jim Jiambalvo, P&Q’s Dean of the Year in 2018, stepped down in July, replaced by Accounting Professor Frank Hodge. Over his 15 years at the helm, the school has added three new buildings, including the 100,000 square-foot Founders Hall that opens in 2021. At the same time, Jiambalvo has raised over $380 million dollars for the school, building a research faculty that ranks along Stanford and Wharton in per capita research output. He also launched new centers in areas like sales and marketing strategy and entrepreneurship, while nearly doubling the number of graduate students in the business program to over 1,300.

The changes have been noticed by employers. In Bloomberg Businessweek’s 2018 corporate recruiter survey, companies ranked the Washington Foster MBA #5 for Entrepreneurship Training, #5 for Diverse MBAs, and #8 Innovative MBAs, a testament to the school’s student recruiting and development. What’s more, Washington Foster ranks 21st in P&Q’s latest MBA ranking (including 16th with Bloomberg Businessweek and 17th in The Economist) – a far cry from 2004 when the school wasn’t even considered Top 100 material.

That’s a legacy that’ll be hard to top. Don’t think school administration isn’t plotting out how. What can future MBA students expect from Washington Foster in the coming years? In January, P&Q reached out to the school to learn about new developments for MBAs, underrated aspects of the Foster experience, and how its intimate size enhances the educational experience. Here are the thoughts of the school’s heavyweights…

AN INTERVIEW WITH FOSTER LEADERSHIP

Andrew Krueger

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

AK: “The most exciting development? On July 1, Frank Hodge became Dean of the Foster School. His former students – undergrads, MBAs, executives – all call him “Coach.” It’s a nickname that puts people at ease and serves as a familiar shorthand for his distinctive approach to teaching. He’s driven by motivating and enabling people to achieve a level of performance that they would not have achieved on their own. He’s won dozens of teaching awards, including the PACCAR Award for Teaching Excellence, Foster’s highest teaching honor, selected annually by a panel of Foster MBA students. Combine this spirit with his desire to listen, his passion for inclusion and diversity, and his mantra of “better together, better tomorrow,” and the Foster School community will undoubtedly benefit from his leadership in the coming years.”

Andrew Krueger, Director, Alumni Engagement 

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

AJ: “Foster MBAs are expected to lead, and to leave the Foster MBA program better than they found it. Being part of a small cohort gives students opportunities to own significant leadership roles in multiple areas to make a big impact on the MBA program, and its relationship with the larger community. Foster students have led innovative collaborations to bring business leaders and alumni to student-led events, influenced curriculum, led student treks to cities around the nation, raised thousands of dollars for charity, and collaborated to preserve a unique culture where there is a focus on being part of something bigger than yourself. Foster MBAs strengthen the program, their peers, business partners, and the local community. They truly leave a legacy as they continuously refine and create exceptional opportunities for future Foster MBAs.”

Amber Janke, Director, MBA Admissions 

Amber Janke

P&Q: What advantages do small, intimate MBA programs like Foster offer compared to larger programs? 

AJ: “Foster offers several key advantages in being a small, intimate MBA program. With a small cohort size, students truly have the opportunity to get to know each and every person in the cohort personally and professionally. The structure of our first-year core curriculum allows students to work on three different teams of 5-6 students each quarter, which means that students have the opportunity to work with many classmates of different backgrounds and experiences and build their own leadership skills. Foster MBA students are expected to share an area of expertise with their classmates, so that students learn not only from their professors but from their classmates. The Foster MBA community is close-knit, and truly collaborative and supportive in a way that allows every person in the cohort to contribute and achieve. One of Foster’s tenants is “We>Me” and each year Foster student truly embody that achieving their professional goals in and outside of the classroom. With a small cohort, Foster prioritizes providing the necessary resources from phenomenal and accessible faculty, guidance from MBA Career Management and programmatic support from student affairs.”

Amber Janke, Director, MBA Admissions 

P&Q: One of Foster’s most popular experiences are the Applied Strategy Projects. What do they involve and what are some examples of clients and projects that past MBAs have done?

JB: “Applied Strategy projects give students the opportunity to apply classroom learning to real-world problems. Teams of 5-6 students are paired with a corporate sponsor to solve a real business challenge. The teams work on the projects for one quarter, creating hypotheses, conducting primary and secondary research, completing in-depth analysis, and developing recommendations which are presented to the company.”

Here are a few examples from 2019:

Starbucks – Product Marketing  

Created a strategy to increase sales of warm breakfast items.

Jennifer Bauermeister

Tommy Bahama – Sustainability 

Developed recommendations to increase the sustainability of Tommy Bahama’s procurement strategy.

Intel – Strategy  

Developed recommendations around Artificial Intelligence and how Intel can attract developers in the AI space and create a custom AI journey for developers.

NatureBridge – Product Development 

Created a new product offering (STEM summer camp) and provided recommendations on how to market and grow the offering.

Jen Bauermeister, Director, MBA Strategic Consulting Program 

A FEEDBACK CULTURE

Joey Delgado highlighted the Applied Strategy Project was one of the unique features of the Foster MBA program. “Foster’s experiential learning opportunities are second to none,” he observes. “I highly value learning by doing at this stage of my career. The Applied Strategy Projects allow students to get a real consulting style experience with firms ranging from being as large as Microsoft to as small as local startups. The Foster school also partners with the larger UW community on student-led start-ups that can earn funding at the university’s Buerk Center for Entrepreneurship. I am also looking forward to serving the community through Foster’s Board Fellows Program, where students can serve on a board of directors.”

Experiential is one thing. However, the Class of 2021 has heralded the school for something else entirely: Adaptability. In a rapidly-changing world, being responsive – proactive even – marks the difference between the winners and the washouts. This lesson – reinforced daily in the tech sector – is woven through the Foster fabric.

“People consistently emphasized Foster’s ability to proactively ask for feedback, listen to students, strategize, and make changes to old processes,” explains Francesca Aba Rosa Essilfie. “When choosing a program, innovation and flexibility were at the top of my list. Being a part of a program that doesn’t just go through the motions of making changes but implements them and puts them into action quickly is vital to me.”

Foster School interior

MAKING THE MOST OF THEIR TIME

That’s a strategy that the Class of 2021 will take into their careers after graduation. Adaobi Y. Chine, who headed planning and talent acquisition at her bank, plans to run her family’s business in ten year – to “push and redefine the boundaries of our services” in true Foster fashion.

Devin Doyle isn’t ready to list a company, industry, or even role he hopes to attain in 10 years. Instead, his goal is to find the right people and culture to thrive. “I hope to have risen within an organization that doesn’t miss a beat and leaves a little room in the middle for improvisation. Most importantly, in both my professional and personal lives, I hope to be surrounded by bright, decent and fun people.”

Neesha Pinnaduwage, a Princeton-trained engineer, is equally hesitant to commit to a specific path (aside from “high-level manager” in either operations or finance). That’s not because she is indecisive. Instead, she plans to live in the moment and explore every avenue she can in business school.

“As an engineer coming in without any business background, I want to leave myself room to explore during these next two years. Over the course of just the last couple of months, I have become more interested in consulting and corporate finance, for example. I am excited to see where my MBA journey takes me, and how my answer may change by the end!”

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 Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Emmy Armintrout Seattle, WA Stanford University Rivall
Adaobi Y. Chine Nibo, Nigeria American University of Nigeria Diamond Bank Plc
Joey Delgado Austin, TX University of Texas-Austin RAICES (Refugee and Immigrant Center for Education and Legal Services)
Devin Doyle New York City, NY Purchase College CBRE
Ammar Ejaz Lahore, Pakistan Brunel University Backstreet Private Limited
Francesca Aba Rosa Essilfie Diamond Bar, CA UCLA All Def Media
Jennifer (Jenny) Perkins Ruston, WA University of Georgia U.S. Army
Neesha Pinnaduwage Knoxville, TN Princeton University Honeywell
Camilla Casey Polakoff Berkeley, CA Brown University General Electric
Carly Presho-Dunne Seattle, WA Occidental College 72andsunny
Moisés Rivera Los Angeles, CA Vassar College Illustrative Mathematics
Jeff Snell San Francisco, CA Virginia Tech University U.S. Marine Corps

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