Along with being selfless, the Class of 2020 is courageous, never afraid to speak up or take action. That’s what set Shoko Ogasawara apart at CEIBS says Evelyn Wang, the school’s MBA Programme Manager. “Under Shoko’s lead, what seems to be logistical disaster turns out to be an enhanced approach in diversifying resources in ways others had never considered before. What seems to be trivial or even a burden to others ends up in a solid proposal from Shoko. For topics on which peers are too afraid to speak up, Shoko stands up for solutions without hesitation. For issues the MBA Office thinks are too unsettling for students to adapt to, Shoko rises up to push forward. Personally, I’ve never known anyone who has cared so selflessly about the student body.”
At Duke Fuqua, faculty and students alike marveled at when Sahana Qaundinya could possibly find time to sleep. An engineer-turned-auditor who became class co-president, Quandinya gained a reputation for being a listener – someone who was always available to her classmates. “Sahana is the ultimate giver,” raves Assistant Dean Steve Misuraca. “She intentionally puts others first…Sahana not only has “open office hours” at Fuqua, but it is also my understanding she keeps an open door at her apartment in Durham. Students come and go seeking advice, friendship, support, or some quality food!”
GEORGETOWN PRODIGY INSPIRES HER PEERS
Of course, the Best & Brightest weren’t always busy as students. When he wasn’t presiding over the LBS India Club or organizing student talks for the LBS Platform, Sid Singh was the lead vocalist and guitarist for The 20 Pounders – the London Business School’s rock band. Perhaps Singh could take a train north to the University of Oxford to duet with Eli Mitchell-Larson. A social entrepreneur who installed solar energy projects in Nepal – and then handed over his enterprise to the local community – Mitchell-Larson sang tenor in the legendary Magdalen College Chapel Choir as an MBA student.
“We toured to Paris and Antwerp, sang for Hillary Clinton and George Osborne (political opposites!), and sang from the top of the Magdalen tower on May Morning to thousands below on the crowded streets of Oxford,” he writes. “These are some of my most treasured Oxford memories, and I feel fortunate to have had such an unusual and unique opportunity.
What can you say about Nina Vann? At 19, she had already earned her undergraduate degree in International Relations. From there, she collected a Master’s in Journalism from Columbia University before becoming a policy advisor at the United Nations. However, it’d be hard to top the honor she notched as a Georgetown MBA.
“She was voted “Most Likely to Give a Life-Changing Pep Talk” by her classmates,” cracks Lawrence J. Verbiest, who heads up the school’s MBA Career Center.
AWAY FROM CLASS…
That’s just one of the intriguing factoids about this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs. The University of Cambridge’s Guneet Malik certainly comes to mind. The son of an Indian soldier, he learned to drive a battle tank before a car! Rebecca Dewey actually had a satellite named after her. Too bad the NYU Stern MBA’s namesake burned up before reaching orbit. In high school, Vanderbilt’s Brittany Hunter ranked among the best basketball players in the country.
“Every year in April, ESPN replays the 2003 McDonald’s Dunk Contest, because it’s LeBron James’ year and you guessed it, I’m in it,” Hunter jokes.
Outside class, the University of Toronto’s Jessica Shannon is a certified sommelier and professional snowboarding coach. Armed with an MBA from IESE, Constanza Melgarejo is applying to culinary school with the intention of becoming a pastry chef. Speaking of meals, NYU Stern’s Allie Kornstein once had dinner with Anthony Bourdain. Forget one night. The University of Michigan’s Madeleine Carnemark spent the summer of 2015 on tour with Neil Young! Then again, large venues really aren’t where Samuel Salvador Romero shines.
“I enjoy learning and performing magic tricks. My four-year-old son also loves magic and is my biggest fan.”
How is this for living the life? “I live on a 38’ sailboat with my husband,” adds UCLA Anderson’s Dani Ebersole, who’ll be joining McKinsey this summer. “We sailed from San Francisco Bay to Los Angeles for my MBA, and it was a beautiful voyage.”
TECHNICAL SKILLS AREN’T ENOUGH
One experience that unites this year’s Best & Brightest? Each had a positive role model growing up who inspired them to enter business. Many times, it was a family member who shaped these students’ outlooks. That was the case for UCLA’s Ajey Kaushal, who cites his grandfather’s influence. Growing up, Kaushal’s grandfather served as Chairman and CEO of Engineers India Limited, then the country’s largest public-sector company. An MBA himself, Kaushal’s grandfather encouraged his pursuit of an industrial engineering degree. However, he was careful to point out the big picture.
“I remember when undergraduate college apps were around the corner,” Kaushal explains. “He sat me down and asked me what I wanted to be. Being the geek I was, I told him I liked physics and math and that engineering seemed to be a great path. And I’ll never forget what he told me that day. He said, “I’ve come across hundreds if not thousands of engineers and each one of them was smart. Engineering builds a deep problem-solving and analytical base. But the engineer that can think pragmatically with a business lens will rise to the top. And I’ve never forgotten that.”
Doug Fiefia points to his father as his business influence. After immigrating from Tonga in the 1970s, Fiefia’s father juggled 2-4 jobs at a time to give his family the “American Dream.” When Fiefia asked his dad why he worked so hard, he received an answer back that he has never forgotten.
TIME FLIES BY
“Son, the reason why we work so hard, is so that you can get an education and be better than us,” Fiefia remembers. “My dad (and mom) have made so many sacrifices so that I could get an education and I am doing my best to make all their sacrifices worth it. After taking nearly every entrepreneurship course offered at Rice, I finally got the courage to start my first company. The best part is that I was able to do it with my hero, my dad.”
As the Class of 2020 prepares to log into their graduations, separated by distance and united in spirit, they can take heart in their own MBA experience. Change may be uncomfortable and painful, but it leaves behind a transformation that exhilarates as much as it sustains.
“Sixteen months flew fast,” writes HEC Paris’ Oliver Chen. “Think carefully what you want to get out of the MBA, plan your job-hunting or entrepreneurship milestones in advance, and be ready for a challenging but rewarding experience with a diverse group of lovely people. Your plan may change throughout the journey, but the experience will for sure change your life for better!”
Congratulations, Class of 2020! Make it count!
See pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs.