The same could be said for UCLA Anderson’s Ezra Glen. Boasting a double major in Photography and Creative Writing, Glen admittedly never intended to pursue business. However, his experiences as a creative – observing inequity and greed and not having “the tools or language to combat” them – pushed him to the operations side. He co-founded First One Up, a label for artists who were shut out of the music industry due to their “identities and artistic choices.” His organization even helped one rapper client start a foundation to help young women develop their technical skills for jobs in the music industry.
“The fight for equity is a constant part of my experience as a queer person in predominantly straight spaces,” Glen writes. “I strive in everything I do to be an ally and an advocate for those who do not benefit from the privileges that I do have.”
UNC MBA FINISHES WHAT SHE STARTED
That’s just the start. Before entering the Wharton School, Anisha Mocherla spearheaded the introduction of Lyft in Michigan. At the same time, Kevin Rahill created the Chicago Day of Service at PwC, which successfully drew over 900 employees to 40 area projects like teaching financial literary lessons. The Duke Fuqua grad’s annual tradition has since been implemented at PwC offices nationwide. Then there’s Colin Miller, a former U.S. Naval Officer and Pentagon official who is earning a dual MBA and Masters in Foreign Service at Georgetown University. He has been part of two major news stories this decade. Along with aiding in the search for Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 in 2014, he led a 15-member team to fend off Somali pirate attacks.
“My role was to converse with Yemeni fishermen to determine Somali pirate patterns,” Miller explains. “I then placed coalition warships in areas where we could respond quickly and save a merchant ship’s crew before the pirates took the crew hostage. Our effort to the multinational coalition contributed to a 68% reduction in piracy during our patrols in the region.”
Miller wasn’t the only hero among this year’s Best & Brightest. Meet the University of North Carolina’s Melissa Sieffert. A Neurobiology major at Harvard, Sieffert joined the U.S. Peace Corps after graduation, volunteering in war-torn Burkina Faso. Here, she partnered with locals to build 75 latrines in a village to stem diarrheal disease, a sometimes-fatal condition in the region. Before the project could be completed, Sieffert was evacuated from the country, leaving this critical unfinished…but not forgotten. Returning home, she summoned her family and friends to finish financing the program.
“Due to the hard work and dedication of my team and community, all the latrines were built, and everyone was eager to begin the next project! This is my proudest achievement because it goes to show that when you have the right team and a good plan, you can make the impossible happen, even from the other side of the world.”
A GIFT FOR SELLING
Indeed, the Best & Brightest make things happen. Look no further than the class’s sales prowess. The University of Toronto’s Jessica Shannon, for one, turned Lake Tahoe’s Ritz-Carleton into the #2 site in the company for upsell revenue globally. Impressed? Check out Christopher Goff. The University of Texas MBA turned one program’s $28,000 annual revenue stream into $15 million dollars during his tenure. Today, that number has jumped to $100 million dollars! South of Goff, you’ll find Rice University’s Doug Fiefia. Tired of soul-sucking cold calls, he decided to prospect using surveys. The hitch? Decision-makers would receive a $15 Starbucks gift card to thank them for filling out the survey.
“Within minutes of the surveys being sent out, we had many Director, VP, and C-Level Executives respond to the survey,” he reminisces. “With the surveys, we discovered opportunities that we otherwise may have never known and were able to qualify four large customers…It has saved hundreds of hours in the sales rep’s day to day schedule, is now used as a best practice throughout the company, and has led to millions of dollars in revenue. Although increasing revenue for the company is important, I’m prouder of the fact that it allowed me to help many of my peers to become more effective, efficient, and ultimately more successful.”
The Best & Brightest MBAs’ track records are filled with heavy responsibilities and dramatic successes. That trend carried on into business school. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School, Richa Goyat’s two-year campaign enabled her school to become STEM eligible, an effort that increases opportunities and stability for her international classmates.
“Being STEM eligible means that international students can apply for a two-year extension of their OPT (i.e. they can stay and work in the US for two more years). These two years gives them two extra chances on the coveted H1B lottery and additional time to build their experience as well as pay off costly student loans.”
FROM THE SEAT OF POWER…TO A SPOT ON THE DUNK TANK
Other MBAs were so impressive that they were included in critical school efforts. As student body president at UCLA Anderson, Ajey Kaushal pushed to get his classmates a proverbial “seat at the table”, particularly with the search for a new dean. He put together town halls where students could pose questions to dean candidates. Once the new dean was hired, Kaushal partnered with him to begin revamping the curriculum and advancing diversity initiatives. Make no mistake: Kaushal wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty – or his feet wet – in the process.
“One instance sums up Ajey’s leadership style,” writes Rob Weiler, the school’s associate dean. “In an effort to drive student participation in the Dean search process, Ajey promised to sit in a dunk tank if a student participation goal was met. Well, the goal was smashed, and Ajey found himself in a dunk tank until every last student who wanted a shot got one! The ultimate in servant leadership.”
Others expanded opportunities and access for their peers. That was the case with the University of Washington’s Adam Schmidt. An Accenture hire, Schmidt co-founded the Foster Business and Policy Group, turning it into one of the school’s largest MBA groups. However, this group was hardly an excuse to sample wines and hold bull sessions on politics and regulations,” Schmidt notes.
“Our greatest achievement was leading 12 students to Washington, D.C. in May 2019 to get a first-hand perspective on federal policymaking. We met with members of the Washington Congressional delegation, including Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, as well as government affairs executives at Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Multiple participants hailed the trek as one of the best experiences of their MBA.”
ALWAYS ON AND NEVER SAY NO
Such efforts have earned the Best & Brightest unmitigated respect from faculty and staff. At Texas A&M, Travis Black was called the “heart and soul” of his class by an anonymous classmate, thanks to his ability to smooth over differences and make teammates feel comfortable. Patricia Lynne Hambrick, a senior lecturer at Boston University’s Questrom School, uses a similar term to describe Nari Malkhasya…but for far different reasons.
“If you wonder who is organizing the Marketing Learning community, it is Nari. If you wonder who is helping the first years get acclimated, find an internship, and not totally stress out, it is Nari. If you wonder who is intellectually pushing faculty because of her curiosity or push fellow students to think deeper, it is Nari. I have never seen one student impact the entire community- students, faculty, and the program, as much as Nari has.”
See pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs.