Meet Stanford GSB’s MBA Class Of 2021

Benjamin Lazaroff

Stanford Graduate School of Business

“A small-town kid who’s writing in the wilderness in a nearby universe.”

Hometown: Floral Park, New York

Fun Fact About Yourself: I’m trying to read a book from every country in the world (64 and counting!)

Undergraduate School and Major:

Undergraduate School: Washington University in St. Louis

Majors: (1) Philosophy-Neuroscience-Psychology, (2) Economics

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Economic Development Associate at the Office of Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: I helped lead a pilot to redesign a prison system and bring a rehabilitative, workforce-driven approach to several thousand incarcerated individuals. From a professional standpoint, I took on a significant deal of responsibility in making this happen and learned from some incredible individuals who have made this their life’s work. From a societal perspective, if the results of this project are only half of what we projected, the ripple effect on communities and cities will be far-reaching—and will hopefully set the stage for continued reform at the national level.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why? Driven. While I think there’s certainly an abundance of intellectual curiosity and well-roundedness in everyone at Stanford, I’ve been blown away by how passionate everyone is in what they have done and will do. It’s been inspiring to talk with so many individuals who have found genuine meaning in their work, and equally interesting to see my classmates experiment on start-ups and new career paths with the same tenacity that got them here.

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? The unique intersection of socially-focused opportunities, interdisciplinary study, and state-of-the-art innovation was what set Stanford apart in my mind. During the application process, the depth of resources that GSB alumni and current students spoke to expanded my conception of both the specific careers I could undertake and how I should approach my career and life in the first place. The philosophy that came through was to step outside of the comfortable and straightforward, and the thought of being on campus with 800 people who shared this mindset was a major point of differentiation.

It’s also worth adding that while I’ve only spent a short time here, this initial hope is already materializing. Over the first half of this year, I will be taking part in the Design for Extreme Affordability program, working part-time for the Opioid Crisis Response Fund, and testing multiple avenues for starting my own venture.

What has been the most surprising thing you’ve found about Stanford GSB so far? The genuine willingness of people to invest in you has really stood out to me. While you often hear about the connectedness of the alumni network and the long-term friendships you’ll make at Stanford, it’s still surprising to see how much time and effort people have personally dedicated to one another. This could take the form of individuals such as my GSB interviewer or Leadership Labs fellow, who have shown real care about my personal and professional growth. It could also simply involve one-on-one conversations with classmates whom I wanted to get to know a bit better. Stanford does a phenomenal job exposing you to people who you apparently have nothing in common with, only for you to realize you share a great deal more than meets the eye.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? Tell me about a big idea you originated in your work at McKinsey or the Mayor’s Office, and how you executed on that idea from start to finish.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Harvard, Booth, Wharton and London Business School

What is the biggest epiphany you’ve gained about yourself or the world since you arrived at Stanford GSB? Though it’s still early in my time here, what’s emerged most clearly is a new-found willingness to stand for something and put myself out there. There are many issues in the world that need an additional voice or two—and which require people to step into the arena to make an impact. I didn’t expect what has been an unmatched level of support and encouragement in doing so. The next chapter of this will entail giving a TALK in front of hundreds of friends and classmates. I’m looking to transition from doing work I’m passionate about to creating opportunity in spaces those passions occupy.

What do you see yourself doing ten years from now? I see myself at the helm of an organization working at the forefront of social change. That might be at a start-up I founded with my classmates or operating from within the public or social sectors. However, the contour of working on behalf of the world’s highest-need populations has come clearly into focus for me.

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