Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Class of 2020

Physicists are smart. Geniuses, really. That’s how most people view them. Operating in the intersection of time, space, energy, and matter, their discoveries have sparked innovations like computers, 3D printing, and solar power. And their ranks include Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton, and Marie Curie, and Galileo. Someday, you may just find Eva Belonohy-Borba on this list.

How smart is Belonohy-Borba? In high school, she was already fluent in five languages. Now, she is busy mastering two more. An experimental physicist, Belonohy-Borba describes her mission as “recreating the process that powers the sun.” To that end, she was selected to be part of an elite team involved in the JT-60SA Fusion Project in Japan. The goal: creating a continuous supply of carbon-free energy for the electrical grid.

Of course, physicists come with a reputation. Blame The Big Bang Theory, whose characters were often riveted by theory and dismissive of application. That’s not the case with Belonohy-Borba, who recently earned her MBA online from Imperial College in London. Attracted to the program’s STEM focus, flexible structure, and leadership programming, she gained a big picture understanding of her employer, the UK Atomic Energy Authority. The MBA programming also inspired her to launch new initiatives there. Now, she has taken her graduate business education to Japan, where she is laying the groundwork for a large-scale fusion experiment.


Imperial College’s Eva Belonohy Borba

The best part of her MBA experience? That’s easy. It was the flexibility provided by Imperial’s online format, Belonohy-Borba writes. “Being online, I could learn anytime and anywhere. I could read a Harvard Business Review article in my lunch break or listen to a few videos in the evening, while leaving taking notes to the weekend. It also meant that in case of a business trip, I could catch up with the content in the following week. The exams felt equally hard and we sat for them at our local approved universities. Being older and having a full-time job while studying made all of us more conscious of our priorities and we learned to manage our time extremely well.”

Belonohy-Borba is one of the 52 MBAs represented in Poets&Quants 3rd annual “Best & Brightest Online MBAs.” In March, P&Q reached out to the highest-ranked online MBA programs in the world. We encouraged administrators to choose two nominees based on “strong academic performance, critical and consistent contributions, striking personal narratives, and innate potential.” At the same time, we posed this question: Which students were so fundamental that you can’t imagine the class without them?


Overall, P&Q received responses from 24 schools, including the top online MBA programs: Carnegie Mellon Tepper, Indiana Kelley, USC Marshall, Lehigh University, and North Carolina Kenan-Flagler. On this Best & Brightest list, students range in age from 28-60, with women outnumbering men by a 29-to-23 margin. Their job roles range from Vice President of Medical Affairs to Mill Superintendent. At the same time, their employers included blue chips like Google, Deloitte, Amazon, AT&T, and Unilever.

Jack Welch Management Institute’s Joseph Peter Park Florendo

The Best & Brightest include Joseph Peter Park Florendo, a Jack Welch Management Institute grad who serves as Vice President of Cybersecurity and Technology for JPMorgan Chase. When Rachel Pruitt isn’t busy raising a family and completing coursework at Arizona State, she is guiding Microsoft on change management initiatives. Auburn’s Hilary Butler heads up major gifts for Make-A-Wish in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. As a USC MBA student, Antoine Harden landed a job as the head of sales for Google’s public sector Healthcare and Lifesciences division – a promotion he attributes to the program’s legendary “Trojan Network.”

“When I started the MBA program, I was working at a cybersecurity start-up,” he writes. “I was able to leverage the USC network and get to the right people in my area who was hiring and the rest was history! The information I have learned during the program has prepared me for the future.”


For many, the online MBA was hardly their first foray into graduate school. The University of Arizona’s Tammy Ostroski, for one, holds a doctorate in Nursing Practice. She has been a recipient of the American College Health Association’s New Professional Affiliates Awards, which honors excellence inpatient care. Ada Koo pursued her doctorate in Australia while earning her MBA at the University of Wisconsin Consortium. A research scientist by trade, Koo hopes to build her tutoring business and gain the background needed to commercialize research. At Imperial College, Nicolas Van de Velde earned his Ph.D. in Epidemiology. During business school, he served as a senior director at ViiV Healthcare, where he worked on launching a breakthrough treatment for HIV. That’s not the only disease that Van de Velde has battled over his career.

“I am so proud of each vaccine I had the chance to work on: Gardasil, the first vaccine against a cancer; Shingrix, the vaccine that protects elderly against shingles; Bexsero, which protects infants from meningitis; or Synflorix protecting children against pneumococcal diseases. I am proud of these products because I calculate what you don’t see. I calculate the number of cervical cancers averted, the pain avoided from shingles, the suffering prevented of parents not losing a child to meningitis, or not seeing a child attain full potential because of long-term neurodevelopmental sequelae. What you don’t see is a cascade of benefits which impacts countries and economies.”

University of Nebraska’s Jamie Williams

For Jamie Williams, the University of Nebraska has been a homecoming of sorts. After all, he was a four-year football letter-winner at Nebraska – and even spent three years as the school’s associate athletic director. Williams also spent a dozen years in the NFL, joking that he was the first NFL player to sport dreadlocks. Over the years, he has earned a Master’s degree in Mass Communication and an Ed.D. in Organization and Leadership. Most recently, he founded the Bulgarian Entrepreneurship Center (BEC), which was designed to promote startups throughout the country. His biggest achievement, Williams writes, is building the only NCAA athletic program at an art institution – and even winning championships there.

“[This] defied the myth that art and athletics are mutually exclusive. Beyond the competitive prowess achieved, I’m ecstatic that an annual cohort of professional “artist-athletes” graduate each year to work in applied art fields like film, game design, advertising, fashion, illustration, and graphic design.”


This year’s Best & Brightest also features the University of Arizona’s Jade Surela P. West. A U.S. Naval Academy grad, she is slated to become the weapons officer for a guided-missile destroyer in Hawai’i. Northeastern’s MBA class boasts Regina Parker, who ranked as the top cadet in both Biomechanical Engineering and Social Sciences at the U.S. Military Academy. Now a Second Lieutenant, Parker is finishing her third year at Harvard Medical School!

Parker isn’t the only medical doctor among the Best & Brightest. Jeffrey C. Teixeira is a Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeon who earned his MBA from the University of Delaware while serving in the U.S. Army. He is joined by Indiana University’s Amani Jambhekar, a Surgical Oncologist from Houston who was tapped to build a new surgical program thanks to her MBA. While participating in the school’s virtual idea blitz, she came up with an idea to supply personal protective equipment to areas ridden with COVID-19.

“I had been looking for an opportunity to combine my business skills with my medicine skills after completing my MBA this term. This startup provided the perfect opportunity to combine my existing skills with entrepreneurship lessons from our incredible advisors and make a huge impact. We have already donated 21,600 masks to hospitals and clinics in need.”


Adenike Macaulay also nabbed a promotion after starting her online MBA at Warwick Business School. She was named the General Manager for the Lufthansa Group Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea – making her one of only two women to hold this role in the company’s European, Middle East, and African operations.

University of North Carolina’s Scott Forsgren

“I was also nominated in the Most Influential People of African Descent (MIPAD) Travel & Tourism edition, recognized by Leading Ladies Africa as one of Nigeria’s 100 most inspiring women in 2019 and also by Guardian Nigeria as Woman of the week in March 2019,” Macaulay adds.

Many times, the Best & Brightest chose online MBA programs because they were simply too vital to their organizations. Take Warwick Business School’s Freddy Bob-Jones. He runs the operations for an NGO across 15 countries in Africa and Asia. Before that, he served as an Economic Advisor to the Afghan government, where he helped to develop educational and health programs that reached millions of people. During his consulting career, North Carolina’s Scott Forsgren’s teams have collected nearly a dozen awards and produced a video series used by the U.S. Defense Department. During her second year at Syracuse University, Celina Rosita Tousignant’s MBA classes caught the attention of her bosses.

“I was selected to be the project manager for the acquisition of my current company and support the foundation of the new entity from legalities to facilities (and all responsibilities in between),” she writes. “At the time, I had only been with the company four weeks in a very focused position on the product team; I suddenly found myself completely enmeshed with executives, legal counsel, investors, department heads, and myriad others who were integral to “the deal.” For months, I successfully juggled ever-changing and compounding needs at work with my coursework (and, of course, the deal itself closed during finals because ‘When it rains, it pours’).”

Go to page 3 to access in-depth profiles for over 50 Best & Brightest Online MBAs.

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