PIANO PRODIGY BUYS FIRST HOUSE AT 14
What do the Class of 2022 do when they’re not working? Emory’s Breanna Spurley, for one, is a “tap dancing, violinist trying to better the world through finance and equitable education. Her funny story? She decided to push back business school after falling asleep during her first GMAT study session (who hasn’t?). She is geared up now, as is Michigan Ross’ Chris Connolly, a medical student with an interest in 3D printing, genetics, and disease treatment. And you can bet Notre Dame classes are going to be entertaining with Meghan Lally around.
“I’m like a movie score—a dynamic storyteller who helps to keep the plot exciting,” she writes.
Well, Lally would be hard-pressed to top this story from classmate Aric Stahly, a U.S. Navy Seal. “When I was in the Navy, I had the opportunity to skydive with my military K-9 strapped to my chest. He absolutely loved the view as we floated over the trees, fields, beach and traffic below us. Sharing the skies with such a great dog was an experience I hope to never forget!”
How is this for cocktail hour fodder? MIT Sloan’s Jerry Hong is a commissioned officer in both the U.S. Coast Guard and the Singapore Navy. Hong’s classmate, Sarah Black, decided to change the oil and gas industry “from within.” Turns out, they saw her coming from a mile away. “I accidentally ended up working on an offshore oil rig for over two years,” she writes, often as the only female aboard to boot. And then there is HEC Paris’ Samuel Deason, who earned his doctorate in piano performance. He considers his greatest achievement to be performing Beethoven’s hour-long “Diabelli Variations”, a test of both stamina and technical sophistication. However, many would point to a different achievement.
“If I could pick one defining moment which prepared me for business school, it would be purchasing a house with piano competition prize money at the age of 14,” he explains. “Learning about mortgages, cashflow, property taxes, and city bylaws at a young age was a fantastic learning experience.”
TEACHING PRINCE HARRY TO PASS, TACKLE, AND KICK
Deason isn’t the only artistically-gifted member of the class. The University of Toronto’s Fabiola Diaz Mier is a flamenco dancer, while Georgetown University’s Bridget Greaney directed an Off-Broadway comedy musical for five weeks. As a teenager, Washington University’s Nataly Garzon created short films and documentaries, with one being included in the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival. In Garzon’s class, you’ll also find Bryanna Brown. A professional ballerina, she has also danced to “Horton, Graham, jazz, African, Gaga – I have done them all.” The London Business School even boasts a celebrity: Alex Parker, a quarterfinalist in the BBC’s MasterChef competition. He used his celebrity to launch a “living room super club” – four course meals served in his home.
The Class of 2022 also includes its fair share of athletic prowess. Before Dartmouth Tuck, Briana Provancha represented the United States in sailing at the Olympic Games. The University of Chicago Booth’s Alejandro Cadena finished 2nd in Ecuador’s Karate National Tournament, while Notre Dame’s Raymond Kusch made Team USA’s National Standing Amputee Hockey Team. Before enrolling at UCLA’s Anderson MBA program, Ben Antoine — an engineer by trade — was an American Ninja Warrior competitor TV series. As a professional stuntman, Antoine’s motion capture work appeared in Avatar.
That said, Drew McKnight’s best work was restricted to the sidelines. “When I was an undergraduate, I was part of a small team that put on a private clinic to teach Prince Harry the basics of American Football,” writes the Michigan Ross first-year. “It went well…but not well enough to get invited to the big wedding.”
THE BIG MOMENTS IN LIFE
An unforgettable event, no doubt – much like the defining moments that shaped this class. For some, those moments evoke pleasant memories. Georgetown McDonough’s Maya McWhorter, for one, increased her GMAT by 110 points over four weeks. In contrast, UCLA Anderson’s Sami Sciacqua’s moment came when she “commanded the attention of the room” – when the room was “full of executives, majority male, all with 20+ more years of experience.”
That’s not to say these moments were all bright spots. Catherine Romero, a senior private wealth analyst before enrolling in U.C.-Berkeley’s Haas program, was transformed by the most important people in her life losing everything.
“When I was in college, my parents declared bankruptcy on our small business, and unfortunately, our home was foreclosed. This life event sparked my interest in finance and pushed me to teach financial literacy to my community. Since then, financial inclusivity and representation are at the core of every decision I make and every project I take on. This prepared me for business school by giving me the confidence to question our financial systems and help align profit and impact to benefit everyone equally.”
Falling short actually laid the groundwork for Aric Stahly to re-define himself. Despite an 80% quit rate in SEAL training school, Stahly believed he possessed the mental toughness and physical stamina to make it through. After all, he had succeeded in everything else. After washing out – and watch a select few of his peers graduate – Stahly re-doubled his efforts.
“That moment in my life defined me. I had let myself down by giving up on the one goal that had motivated me in life. I was determined not to let that personal failure define my future. After serving elsewhere in the Navy for a couple years, I returned to the basic SEAL training school determined to succeed. I committed to doing everything in my physical and mental power to overcome every challenge. That mindset carried through training and on to graduation. Since then, I have applied the same mindset to every challenge that stood in the way of my goals, and I have enjoyed many other successes as a result.”
You could say the same about the rest of the Class of 2022. Before enrolling at the University of North Carolina, Dan LaSorte was managing $190 million dollars of investable assets for high-net-worth clients. Georgetown University’s Sean Ginter launched Amazon’s first fulfillment center in New York City. Impressed? How about this number: Northwestern Kellogg’s Roberto Chavez Flores was charged with opening 1,501 retail stores Anheuser-Busch InBev in one year. He ended up beating the mark with 1,514 stores!
In New Zealand, the London Business School’s Alexandra Lipski founded the nation’s first social enterprise devoted to closing the investment gap between men and women. Partnering with WWF-Australia, MIT Sloan’s Sarah Black developed a roadmap for the government to reduce the use of environmentally-damaging, single-use plastic. At the same time, Tomas Campos – a project manager who joined Berkeley Haas – helped “transform Latin America’s largest coal generator into a renewable energy company.”
That wasn’t the only transformative campaign notched by a Haas first-year. Sevita Qarshi worked with Nike to create a social media series to spotlight female Muslim athletes. “This was the first time I had worked on stories that were similar to mine,” she writes. “These athletes were relatable to anyone who’s been the underdog, but to hear their nuances felt like I was hearing my story on the screen for the first time.”
A STORYTELLER AND AN ENTREPRENEUR
Like Otosi, IESE Business School’s Zhu Shang is a storyteller. In fact, he already has two films credited him. A “culture chameleon,” Shang has even worked with the China Film Group Corporation and been mentored by Zhao Haicheng, whom Shang describes as the “Tsar of the Chinese movie industry.” Despite his accolades and connections, Shang hopes to leverage business school to boost his long-term impact in China and entertainment
“At a certain point of my career, I realized that if I continue to do what I was doing, I may eventually meet my ceiling in my 40s,” he explains. “I could keep on and become a more promising and money-making storyteller, but this kind of role wouldn’t fulfill my wish to really have an impact on the foundation of the industry. When I pulled myself out and observed the whole business with a more objective view, I found that there is so much more we could do to improve the industry. An MBA may provide some solid answers to my questions, while opening doors to new tech, new industry ecosystems, and new ideas for entrepreneurship.”
One of those big ideas may have come from Cornell University’s Ming Liu. In China, she started a business which served children with disabilities through therapeutic horseback lessons. For Liu, the enterprise was means to reduce the stigma around being disabled along with giving a shot in the arm to the nation’s fledgling equestrian industry.
“Understanding the demands of the local market and adapting our approach accordingly, identifying common interests across different stakeholders, and continuing to push against the status quo were some of the most important lessons I learned from the experience.”