Meet IMD’s MBA Class Of 2020

Women in the MBA Class of 2020


What does the Class of 2020 think of each other over the past six months? Stephanie Hurry calls them a “big, happy, and high-performing family” – well, for the most part. “We challenge each other to learn and grow, we party together, we occasionally fight and give each other tough feedback. Still, we stick together through thick and thin (and through Digital Labs and Integrative Exercises).”

Dr. Ruchi Senthil only needs one word to describe her classmates: resilient. “This year has brought us more ups-and-downs than a regular one year MBA would, with the COVID-19 situation.  As a class, we have handled this challenge beautifully, not allowing it to take away from our learning process – be it classroom learning through Zoom, or peer learning through group work. We have demonstrated a keen desire to derive the maximum from this program, despite these hardships, and have taken all our classmates along.”

Shweta Mukesh uses a different word for the Class of 2020: diverse. “[Different] ethnicity, backgrounds, culture, and mindsets,” she writes.

Women from the Class of 2020


How diverse? The 89 members of the Class of 2020 hail from 37 different countries, with 97% born outside Switzerland. Overall, IMD – an acronym for the Institute for Management Development – received 493 applications for a spot in the Class of 2020, up 14.7% from the 430 applications the program received the year before. The school accepted just 136 applicants for a 27.6% acceptance rate. At the same time, 65.4% of accepted applicants ultimately joined the class – a percentage higher than MIT Sloan, Wharton, and Chicago Booth.

The class arrives in Switzerland with a 670 average GMAT and a 690 median GMAT, with the former down from last year’s 680 number. In addition, GMAT scores ranged from 600-780, with 17% of the class opting for the GRE. Overall, 34% of the class is female, up from the 28% rate in the Class of 2019.

Academically, 27% of the class earned undergraduate degrees in Business & Commerce, a segment nearly equaled by Engineering (24%). Natural Sciences (14%), Finance and Economics (12%), IT and Computer Sciences (12%), and Social Sciences (11%) make up the remainder of the class. In terms of professional experience, Manufacturing doubles its nearest profession at 35%. The remainder of the class includes Financial Services (16%), Energy (14%), Business and Management Services (12%), Technology (12%), and the Service Industry (8%).

MBA students in the classroom (Before pandemic)


Before COVID-19, IMD was certainly enjoying a banner era. In the 2019 Bloomberg Businessweek recruiter survey, employers ranked the school #1 in the world for Prestige and #2 for Diversity. That has certainly translated to pay. In the 2019 Forbes ranking of MBA programs in Europe, IMD repeated as the #1 program, with MBAs seeing their pay jump by $168,900 within five years of graduation – a number made more impressive by IMD being a one-year program where students can quickly return to their career track. These big gains were hardly an anomaly with Forbes. IMD also topped the Bloomberg Businessweek International MBA ranking last year, earning the highest marks for Compensation, Learning, and Networking. Globally, IMD ranked 10th in the world with Bloomberg Businessweek, higher than MIT Sloan and Northwestern Kellogg – not to mention being the only non-American MBA program among the Top 20.

On March 13th, IMD shut down its campus and moved online in lieu of COVID-19. Three months later, the school re-opened for in-person classes with several major differences. That starts with each student having their temperature taken when they arrive to class each day.

“You have to wear a mask in the corridors and open spaces,” explains Dean Seán Meehan in a June interview with Poets&Quants. “We came up with a plexiglass solution with holes in it to allow the voice to carry in the classroom. The plexiglass guy is suddenly doing really well. We paid a boatload of money. They get cleaned twice a day. The minute students leave, a cleaning crew comes in and disinfects everything.”

MBAs in class (Before pandemic)


Beyond that, the school isn’t taking any chances. Students must wear a different mask for morning, afternoon, and evening. The school has also established a quarantine room for anyone who shows COVID symptoms. To further protect students, the school has cut student teams from six to four members. IMD has even given students small stipends to help them cover food costs. That doesn’t count breaking the class into groups of 45, with one taking in-class instruction while the others learn online.

While treks to China and Silicon Valley have been pushed back, the school earned commitments from a record number of companies for its fall consulting projects. Better yet, all but one member of the Class of 2020 was able to return to campus in June.

“These people have made an enormous commitment, one of the biggest expenditures of their lives, so we were not going to let go,” Dean Meehan explains. “We were going to hold their hands and we asked ourselves what else can we do. We took the experiential stuff out of module two and put it in later in the year. We filled the gap with electives. We decided early on that recruiting this year would be via Zoom so we prepared sessions for students on how they can make an impression on Zoom. We stacked up a lot of resources and got practice sessions and simulations with support from over 500 alumni. We brought in motivational speakers and gave students extra coaching sessions. We did frequent town halls to keep them engaged and tried to address issues that arose.”

There is more good news for IMD on the horizon. While many business schools are reducing class sizes,  IMD is boosting the “Magic 90” to the “100 Who Led.” Later this month, students will step off campus for a week-long discovery expedition to Berlin. The pandemic has even pushed some faculty to embrace a flipped classroom, where four hour classes have been replaced by two hours of discussion and coaching supplemented by online lectures and assignments.

IMD students and faculty member (Before pandemic)


What else is happening at IMD? This summer, P&Q reached out to Anna Farrus, IMD’s MBA Recruitment and Admissions Director to learn about new initiatives at the school, along with what makes it leadership and entrepreneurial program so unique. Here were her thoughts…

P&Q: What has been the biggest news at the IMD full-time MBA over the past year? How will these development benefit future MBA students?

AF: “We are experiencing a very unique year as we all had to face the Coronavirus pandemic. None of us have ever lived through anything like this, and our MBAs were not expecting this when they signed up for the program. It has been a challenging few months with lots of uncertainty. We kept campus open for as long as we were allowed by the government and the MBA was the last program running in person before we had to move to virtual classes in mid-March.

We had to quickly adapt to the new reality, ensuring our faculty and participants were comfortable using Zoom, redesigning class materials and teaching plans and moving things around so that we could offer the experiential part of the program when we could return to campus. During the off-campus period, we added extra classes, simulations, and events with alumni, faculty, motivational speakers and coaches to help our MBAs navigate these exceptional circumstances. On June 8, on-campus classes resumed with all of us observing COVID safety measures. The feedback from the MBAs has been extremely positive and they are all very happy to be back.

We say our MBA program is one of IMDs top priorities and our response showed it to be true. Future MBAs can expect that their development, education and well-being will remain our top priority.”

Anna Farrus heads up MBA admissions at IMD

Anna Farrus heads up MBA admissions at IMD

P&Q: What project or initiative do you have in your pipeline? How will they enhance the learning experience for future MBA classes?

AF: “We’ve used this period to experiment with different technologies, pedagogies, and formats. We are currently evaluating some specific infrastructure enhancements (IT) to enhance the student experience – everything from teaching, mentoring, accessing guest speakers, and networking. It is reasonable to expect that we will be required to social distance in our auditorium in 2021. If this is the case we will conduct face to face classes across two auditoria.”

P&Q: Your classes are often referred to as the “Magic 90.” What makes the IMD approach, coupled with a small class size, such a potent combination?

AF: “We commit a lot of resources to enable us to handpick our class. It is a very personal approach. By the time we make an offer, we’ve gotten to know the applicant very well. This personalised approach continues throughout the MBA and beyond. 90 MBAs enjoy a student-faculty ratio that is 2:1, the attention of 8 coaches and 17 staff. This involvement and attention creates an amazing bond. Our alumni are therefore very involved not only in the program’s career development stream, but also recruiting MBAs and preparing them for interviews and negotiations. The IMD bond is a product of our size – it could not be achieved in a very large multi-section program.”

For 12 in-depth profiles of MBAs in the Class of 2020, go to Page 3. 

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