Meet Ohio State Fisher’s MBA Class Of 2021

Ohio State Fisher. Courtesy photo

A Q&A WITH FISHER COLLEGE LEADERSHIP

According to P&Q’s annual MBA ranking, the Fisher College placed 36th among American programs, with the school placing among the ten-best in three specializations according to U.S. News: Accounting, Logistics, and Operations. More promising still, Forbes projects Fisher College MBAs to increase their pay by $49,100 in the next five years. That’s not the only good news happening at Fisher. Recently, P&Q reached out to the school to learn about new developments and underrated aspects of the full-time MBA program. This is what future MBAs can expect at the Fisher College…

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

KC: “While our redesigned, full-time MBA program was developed with input from a variety of university stakeholders, some of the most valuable feedback came from recruiters and executives. Their perspectives helped us design a program that develops the comprehensive skillset graduates need for a successful career. This includes new opportunities for students to develop their soft skills, including leadership, team fluency, communication, self-awareness and project management. All of this, of course, is integrated with a curriculum that develops both a broad and deep understanding of how businesses work. Ohio State’s program is structured to facilitate transformational growth, graduating work-ready professionals with skills and strengths that set them apart in the initial job market and throughout their careers.”
Keely Croxton (Co- Director Full-Time MBA Program)

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

RB: “We’re very proud of the support network that supports students through the challenges and rigor of our program. From our admissions team to the professional development and career coaching teams, to the faculty and leadership teams, our discussions are consistently focused on student success. This is combined with a collaborative culture that our students really appreciate. This culture of support can be difficult to duplicate, and we think it differentiates Fisher.”
Roger Bailey (Co- Director Full-Time MBA Program)

Keely Croxton

P&Q: Last year, Fisher reconstructed its MBA program. What changes did you make? What did first-years tell you about the experience they had?

KC: “Our redesigned MBA program is built around three focus areas. First, we wanted to emphasize experiential learning. So we added two project courses in which students work with local companies and non-profits to address real problems they face. Students get hands-on experience with problem definition, project scoping and management, and solution development and communication.

Second, we wanted to create a more personalized experience. Course structure now better allows students to develop a curriculum that meets their unique needs and goals. A focus on assessments and coaching help students assess their strengths and weaknesses and find opportunities to develop (personally and professionally) into career-ready individuals with strong leadership potential.

Third, we’ve improved the integration of our curriculum, particularly in the core courses. To accomplish this, we introduced weekly integrative sessions where multiple faculty plan cases, guest lectures or exercises that reflect the material covered during the week, which helps students discover and explore the intersections between different functional areas. This is the first year of the redesigned Fisher MBA, so we are of course learning what works well and what tweaks can be made. But overall, we are very pleased with how things are going. In particular, students are enjoying and learning from the integrative sessions. They’re also looking forward to their first big projects, which they will complete during spring semester with a local organization.”
Keely Croxton (Co- Director Full-Time MBA Program)

A COACHING CULTURE

The redesign has been three years in the making, a “blow up” more than a “tweak” in the words of Dean Anil Makhija. Known as PIE – an acronym for personalized, integrated, and experiential – the new program drew heavily from insights from alumni, employers, students, and researchers. Notably, the programming is coaching-centric, with a strong dose on one-on-one sessions. In fact, the school has built a strong safety net, with each student guided by a four-member support team: an academic advisor, a career consultant, a professional development coach, and an alumni mentor. The coaching component was designed, says Dean Makhija, to enhance students’ soft skills and job readiness. It gives them an observer and sounding board to look at their communication styles and critical thinking abilities – as well as guiding their self-discovery and job hunting.

“The agenda of regular meetings with the coach will be driven by the students,” adds Keely Croxton in a 2019 interview with P&Q. “They will come in and say here is an issue I want to work on, whether it is time management or recruiting for an internship. So this relationship with the coach will help them grow their leadership skills, their personal satisfaction with what they get out of the program, and how they use those skills going forward.”

The programming also features an intriguing wrinkle. Every Friday, professors will come together to team-teach a case study or host a simulation that integrates the various functional areas. In the process, students got a taste for how areas like data science, strategy, and operations overlap and inform each other.

“We have told the faculty these are not opportunities to come in and lecture,” adds Croxton. “We will look to the students to explore the material in their functional courses and how they can be used across silos. Some of this came from conversations with recruiters and managers who said the difference between those business grads who can move through a company quickly and those who can’t is the skill to think in a cross-functional way.”

Ohio State students

A ‘GAP’ SEMESTER

The Class of 2021 is the first class to experience the redesign. So far, Kate Morales is a fan. “I knew Fisher does great things for students through the curriculum redesign,” she writes. “The distinct features — experiential, personalized and integrated learning — were all qualities I knew I wanted in my MBA experience. I learn best through hands-on experiences that give me insight into real business problems. I have not been disappointed.”

Morales is equally enthused about Fisher’s prowess in case competitions. “Participating in the National Black MBA Case Competition has been a defining moment in my MBA experience. Bringing home first place for Ohio State after competing against 35 other nationally-ranked MBA programs was unfathomable for me. I am extremely proud of our team and the amazing accomplishment. It showed that I’m capable of making an impact in the business world and that I can contribute to teams in the future.”

Come spring, first-years can also participate in a Fisher College tradition: the Global Applied Project (GAP). Wrapped with a project management course, GAP exposes MBAs to business climates and cultural mores in nations like Brazil, India, France, Ethiopia, and Indonesia. In addition, students partner with corporate or non-profit clients on issues. For example, one team spent its three weeks in India, conducting consumer research for the chemicals division of Aditya Birla Group, a $48 billion dollar conglomerate. The team even prepared their presentation in the conference room outside the chairman’s office!

For Cara Ann Laviola, a 2019 P&Q MBA To Watch, the GAP venture to Borneo turned out to be, in many ways, life-altering. “This experience threw myself and six of my fellow MBA colleagues into a world that was completely different than anything we had ever experienced, where 95% humidity was the norm, air conditioning was scarce, and spending five hours on a small speedboat to reach the remote village was better than the 18 hours it would have taken by car,” she remembers. “Despite the challenges we faced, we provided tangible solutions that helped put a small, rural hospital on the path towards a more financially sustainable future. But I consider this project achievement for more reasons than one: After seeing the deforestation of Borneo, I also gained an appreciation and passion for sustainability — a passion I plan to foster in my future business roles.”

Columbus, Ohio

SECRET WEAPON: COLUMBUS

John Sanderson is one member of the Class of 2021 who has already signed up for his GAP project.I recently elected to partake in Fisher’s GAP program this spring, which involves traveling to a foreign country and applying everything we’ve learned out in the real world as a business consultant. It was one of the first elements of Fisher’s MBA program that caught my eye as a prospective student, and I absolutely can’t wait.”

Of course, there is the matter of location – a major check in the Fisher College’s plus column. Home to 2.1 million people, Columbus is within a four-hour drive of nearly 70 Fortune 500 companies in metros like Cleveland, Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Detroit, and Indianapolis. And it’s a reasonable six hour drive to Chicago too.

More than that, Columbus is the home of 15 Fortune 1000 companies, including Nationwide, Cardinal Health, Abercrombie & Fitch, DSW, LBrands, and Big Lots. JP Morgan Chase employs 20,000 people in the region, with Amazon adding another 5,000. One of the fastest-growing cities in the Midwest – with a cost of living that’s 10% below the national average – Columbus has emerged as a startup powerhouse. In 2019, two Columbus startups – Root Insurance and Beam Dental – generated a combined $405 million dollars in VC investment (with the former breaking into unicorn territory in 2019). At the same time, Olive AI and READY Robotics are boosting the city’s tech credentials.

THE FUTURE

Fisher is uniquely positioned to help MBA students forge deep connections with firms across all industries, writes 2019 grad Neethi Johnson. “Columbus itself is home to the highest concentration of Fortune 1000 companies per capita in the U.S., allowing students countless opportunities to build relationships and garner experience that leads to career success.”

As their first year inches ever closer to their summer internships, where does the Class of 2021 expect to be in 10 years? Kofi Oppong Asumang, for one, plans to build a non-profit focused on leadership development for young people in Ghana. In contrast, Anna St. Clair Chopp, a medical assistant from Colorado, pictures herself as a head strategist at a healthcare company. In this role, she says, she’ll implement changes like price transparency and telecare.

Alas, John Sanderson is leaving Fisher with a specific mission: Going against the grain. “I respect the status quo, but at the same time the very reason I’m getting an MBA is so I have the tools to break it. Not alone, but with other crazy, nerdy, weird people like myself. Okay, my future colleagues don’t have to love Star Wars. But that isn’t to say I won’t insist on making sure everyone on my team has seen The Empire Strikes Back.”

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
Bria Booker Pickerington, OH Butler University Eli Lilly & Company
Jesse Dawson Rochester, MN Olivet Nazarene University Ford Motor Company
Sandy Lopez-Zeledon Panama City, Panama University of Michigan Thomas Concrete
Kate Morales Denton, TX University of North Texas The Delta Gamma Foundation
Fredric Morgan Dayton, OH Ohio State University Danone North America
Bismark Oppong Asumang Techiman, Ghana University of Ghana KPMG
Shoumodip Roy Bhagalpur, India National Institute of Technology Tata Steel Ltd
John Sanderson Prescott, AZ Boston University STRIVR
Anna St. Clair Chopp Denver, CO Colorado State University Colorado Heart and Vascular
Sam Zafris Columbus, OH Ohio State University Freelance Writer
Dean Zettler Worthington, OH U.S. Naval Academy U.S. Navy

DON’T MISS: MEET THE MBA CLASS OF 2021: THE GO-GETTERS

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