Meet Arizona State’s MBA Class Of 2021

How do you stay relevant?

That’s the defining question that matters. Amid accelerated disruption, new models and players are swamping the marketplace. Clayton Christensen once preached accessible and affordable. Now, consumers demand custom and inclusive, all-in-one hybrids that can be personalized. Think faster, cheaper, easier, and smaller, the gurus say. No barriers and no limits too.

Forget evolving to stay current. Today, organizations are expected to raise the bar and set the pace, always stretching the possibilities. If that’s not enough, consumers are looking to them to drive social change – and pick up the tab for it too. The same is true in education – particularly at Arizona State University, which has embraced innovation like no other school. A platform for the proactive, ASU is constantly enhancing its programming, student life, technology, and facilities. These efforts have garnered the attention of college presidents and deans, who have ranked ASU #1 for Innovation for five years running in U.S. News’ annual survey.


Alas, the university has milked this honor for all its worth. Christopher Carpentier, a first-year MBA at the W. P. Carey School of Business, jokes that the number of posters, web ads, and bus sides advertising the school’s innovation mindset “has reached a meme-worthy level.” He adds, however, that this same never-satisfied, always curious mindset has filtered down into the business school.

“Absolutely no one on campus is OK with you – or any admin or professor for that matter – sitting in an ivory tower pontificating on age-old business theory,” Carpentier explains. “I see the MBA as a launchpad for my professional development; undoubtedly classwork helps me get there, but a significant value add is what I’m able to do outside the classroom. ASU is growing so fast that it can’t help but support people who will raise their hand and say ‘I can help’ or ‘I have an idea.’ You have extreme potential to do something worth doing here; I think more so than any other university.”

W. P. Care School

For the Class of 2021, the unofficial mantra at W. P. Carey has been ‘act fast.’ That’s because the school has created a feedback-driven culture to remain relevant. Here, leadership treats student input like startup ideas – potential solutions that should be championed, tested, and commercialized into new programming or support.


“There’s a saying around here: Be careful about giving feedback because we’ll take it,” observes Prestige Adaberemchi Obioma, an emergency and trauma physician from Nigeria. “ASU and particularly the W. P. Carey School is the best at getting better. You see innovation in everything: teaching method, curriculum, admissions process, student support, you name it. In the six months I have been here, there have been three new courses designed to mirror real-life experience in Fintech, Emotional Intelligence, and Big Data. A couple of my classmates are going to Peru next year as part of Global Business concentration. If you’re looking for a school that never rests on its oars, then look no further: W. P. Carey is the place to be.”

One example is Camp Carey, writes Briana Nowak, who supplied outreach and employment services to immigrants for the State of Michigan. Camp Carey is a post-orientation program – one that pulls students back after they’ve spent time in the core – to reinforce values like teamwork, self-awareness, and professional growth, says Nowak. This slow-down event – when everyone else is speeding up – frees students to deepen their relationships with their classmates…and more.

Arizona State’s Sun Devil

“Camp Carey also allowed us to internalize the culture at W. P. Carey,” explains Chaitanya Chintakayala, who previously headed operations at Swiggy, India’s fastest-growing hyperlocal delivery startup. “Activities such as the interactive drumming session, mindfulness kick-off, success-visualization exercise, and team chant, along with inspired interactive sessions led by Dean Amy Hillman and MBA Faculty Director John Wisneski. These events were geared to achieve three vital things: to relax, reflect, and relate. Camp Carey helped us accomplish all the three things and imbibe the W. P. Carey culture of “Business is personal” in the most innovative way possible.”


To tap into the student experience, the school also hosts a Town Hall. Here, both MBA classes gather to discuss how to improve in areas like career services, extracurricular activities, and the curriculum as a whole. The school turns these insights into an action plan that is implemented for the next class. The Carey Collaboration is one example of this dynamic in action, says Zoey Nguyen, a product specialist from Vietnam. In a nutshell, Carey Collaboration is a format where MBA students coach and mentor undergraduate students. After encountering snags in doing this, students raised concerns – and received an unexpected response.

“The person in charge immediately held a meeting with us to discuss how to solve these issues,” she writes. “A lot of great ideas were developed and the school applied them to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the Carey Collaboration program.”

This taste for innovation – and pushing boundaries to stay relevant – should hardly come as a surprise. After all, W. P. Carey launched its Forward Focus MBA four years ago, which provided free tuition to all members of the incoming full-time class through its endowment. Sure enough, applications doubled over the previous year. Eventually, W. P. Carey had to scale back its ambitions, settling for financial support for 100% of its students. In the end, this setback didn’t extinguish the program’s impulse to innovate. Instead, it just channeled the program’s passion for student satisfaction and upending the status quo into new areas.

“At W. P. Carey, innovation is brought into every aspect of our day-to-day lives,” adds David Darnell. “I have seen new classes being introduced that build upon new technology and policies, program clubs being organized to bring in experienced CEO guest speakers, and faculty who are always available for help and discussion on new ideas. The program is built to create business leaders that can navigate transforming business landscapes. At W. P. Carey, the innovation and ability to change sets this foundation.”

Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business


The foundation is only as good as its students. This year’s class certainly doesn’t disappoint. It includes Ann Agbaneje, an architect proficient in design ranging from landscape to fashion to stage and graphics. David Darnell studied engineering at West Point, eventually becoming a U.S. Army captain and operations planner. He takes his greatest pride in returning all of his soldiers back home after their 2015 deployment. Prestige Adaberemchi Obioma also served – as a physician in the Nigerian military. Like Darnell, he finds inspiration in the lives he saved.

“In my previous job with the Nigerian Navy, I worked as a medical intern in the reference hospital. Throughout my almost 13 months there, no morbidity or mortality was recorded under my supervision. I was able to accomplish this with the help of dedicated colleagues and a stellar management team.”

Hannah Jerdonek, a chemist who became a Peace Corps volunteer, also worked in African healthcare. She partnered with the Tanzanian government to better allocate water infrastructure to serve outlying villages. Speaking of service, check out Abraham Levy, a culinary school grad. He was given 30 days to launch a home care agency for 10 patients. He was ready on day 29 – with 12 patients! Think that’s demanding? Meet Chaitanya Chintakayala, whose exploits are worthy of a business school case study. He broke an ore handling operation – which spread across 6 miles and included 22 miles of conveyor belts – into a 43 subsection process that better utilized the 400 employees’ talents. His efforts added a key element to the process that had been sorely missing.

“This increased accountability and ownership of our entire workforce,” Chintakayala notes. “Further, breakdown of equipment decreased by 30%. From this experience I learned that leadership is all about taking initiative, influencing people, and being undeterred to achieve tasks. These learnings have been vital over my career as I sought enhanced responsibilities and diverse roles.”

Go to Page 3 For Student Profiles From The Class of 2021.

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