Meet Harvard Business School’s MBA Class Of 2022

Harvard Business School celebrated the first virtual graduation in its lone 112-year history

P&Q: What are the two most unique or differentiating features of your full-time program? How do they enrich the MBA experience?

CL: “One defining aspect of the immersive learning environment at Harvard Business School is the section experience. In a typical year, each HBS class consists of 930 students. We divide them into 10 sections of 93 students that each represent a microcosm of the diversity of the overall class. It’s similar to hiring for a company or assembling a team—we bring together a broad representation of perspectives, backgrounds, industry skills and experiences, and leadership styles. This rich diversity of thought fuels our case discussions and helps you build interpersonal skills throughout your RC year. You’ll prep for case discussions together. You’ll hang out together. You’ll get to know one another—and count on each other for new insights to help broaden understanding.

Students quickly discover that the section experience gets them fully engaged during their first year at HBS and beyond. The students in each section become a tight-knit family that supports each other for life.

There are many different ways that we teach at Harvard Business School—from the case method to hands-on project-based learning to simulations and small-group sessions. We’re best known for the case method, which is the second differentiating feature of our program to mention. Pioneered by HBS faculty, the case method puts students in the role of the chief decision-maker as they explore the challenges facing leading companies and organizations across the globe. The professor serves as conductor, leading students to probe underlying issues, compare different alternatives, and suggest courses of action in light of the organization’s objectives. HBS brings together amazingly talented people and the case method puts that experience front and center. Students see themselves and fellow students doing 85 percent of the talking, as the professor steers the conversation with observations and questions. Section mates from diverse industries, functions, countries, and backgrounds bring all that experience to the conversation. Students are amazed at what they learn from exchanging ideas with their classmates as well as how their perspective changes.

In a recent blog post, Farah Azmi (HBS MBA 2021) reflects on how both the section experience and case method are playing a strong role in her new entrepreneurial journey:

“Prior to school, I had a career in investment banking covering apparel companies and was in corporate strategy at a large apparel company, but nothing can really prep you for entrepreneurship. I knew what to do, but not necessarily how to do it. At HBS, we are put in the protagonist’s shoes every day and are forced to evaluate what decision he or she should make.  While my 94 section mates and I always walked into discussions with firm conclusions in mind, the decisions are far more difficult when you’re the protagonist in your own case study. I’m constantly asking myself: “Should I be really doing this?” “But what if I did this instead?”

Putting the case-method to use, I asked my section mates to put themselves in my shoes and use my problems as their case studies. Maybe the decision would be clearer to them. For marketing strategy, I brainstormed with my section mate Dana who was the marketing queen in class and knew frameworks like the back of her hand. She gave me ideas for partnerships and even gave me the idea to start this blog series about building a company through COVID on my website. For incorporating decisions, I had 5 other entrepreneurs from my section eager to give me advice from their experiences. My section mates were the ones who encouraged me to apply to Harvard’s Innovation Lab’s Venture Incubation Program; upon acceptance, I’ve been able to attend numerous workshops from building pitch decks to developing your brand story. For every problem I had, someone was always willing to lend an opinion.”

Harvard Business School Graduation. Harvard photo

P&Q: What are the two most important qualities possessed by Harvard Business School students? Why are these traits so invaluable in an atmosphere like HBS?

CL: “Our goal as an admissions board is to assemble a diverse class across perspectives, experiences, and backgrounds. In each class, we create a dynamic environment that mirrors the breadth and depth of our world economy. Our goal is to create a class of ~930 students who come from different backgrounds and perspectives so our students will be prepared to lead in any context. And the case method puts the perspectives and insights of your classmates’ center stage.

Across that diversity, our admitted students all share the following common characteristics” (which were taken from the HBS website):

Engaged Community Citizenship
So much of our MBA experience – including the case method, field-based experiential learning, section life, and student-organized events – requires the active collaboration of the entire HBS community. Our students care as much about each other’s learning and experience as their own. That’s why we look for students who exhibit the highest ethical standards and respect for others, and who will make positive contributions to the MBA Program. We are looking for students who are engaged in the communities around them and will be engaged as students at HBS. Our incoming students must be eager to share their experiences, support their classmates, and teach as well as learn from their peers.

Habit of Leadership
We are looking for students with a habit of leadership. Leadership may be expressed in many forms, from college extracurricular activities to academic or business achievements, from personal accomplishments to community commitments.  We recognize there is not just one type of leader—we are deliberately looking to build a class of diverse leadership styles, everyone from the front line commander to the thought leader behind the scenes. In essence, we are looking for evidence of your potential and the impact you have had on organizations of which you have been part.

Analytical Aptitude and Appetite
Harvard Business School is a demanding, fast-paced, and highly engaging environment.  Our case and field-based methods of learning depend upon the active participation of prepared students who can assess, analyze, and act upon complex information within often-ambiguous contexts. The MBA Admissions Board will review your prior academic performance, the results of the GMAT or GRE, and, if applicable, TOEFL iBT and/or IELTS, and the nature of your work experience. There is no particular previous course of study required to apply; you must, however, demonstrate the ability to master analytical concepts.  We are also looking for students who are intellectually curious—who will be prepared to work, to engage, to think deeply, and to be open to changing your mind.”

A Harvard Business School pilot class with masks and social distancing during COVIC


Harvard Business School is perhaps best known for its case method for teaching. Think of it as management simulation, a discovery, and decision-making process where students must face ambiguous situations with limited (and often conflicting) information. There are no correct answers to the readings. Instead, MBA candidates must ask questions and comb through details – always looking to identify and weigh the right variables to make the least damaging tradeoffs. In the case method, there are few places to hide. Instead, MBAs must stake a position and defend it – with the benefit of receiving real-time feedback from talented classmates along the way. At the same time, case learning requires students to examine an issue in its totality, including long-term strategy and impact on stakeholders and society in general. As a result, it discourages easy answers and short-term solutions in favor of rigorous debate and big picture thinking.

The case method is also one major reason why the Class of 2022 descended upon Harvard Business School this fall. Here are their thoughts about the benefits of case teaching:

1) Hones Communication Skills: “Looking back on my career, there have been times when I had an important thought or idea to contribute but spent too much time thinking about the best way to say it. By the time I was ready to speak, the conversation had already moved in a different direction. The case study method creates leaders who can efficiently synthesize information, take an educated stance, and clearly vocalize their point of view. I’m looking forward to practicing these skills every day in the classroom (whether I’m prepared to or not!).”
Olivia Melendez

2) Prepares You For Management: “Sitting in on my first HBS class and seeing the students weigh in on how legacy retailers should innovate to stay competitive with emerging tech ventures was such an exciting experience. As the class eagerly raised their hands, I realized that, in order to thrive in the case method, you have to (1) be an active listener, (2) think quickly on your feet, (3) succinctly summarize large amounts of data, and (4) be willing to have your perspective challenged. These are all qualities and skills that every manager should embody and be able to effectively deploy.”
Toyin Shodiya

3) Reflects The Best Practices In Learning: “As a teacher, I sought to be more of a learning director than a preacher. Given the volume of content teachers are expected to cover and the limited time with students, this is especially difficult. But it is undeniable that my most effective days in the classroom were the days when students engaged in deep conversation with their peers, questioned the things I said before accepting them and learned collectively from one another. The case method is an extension of this experience for me. At HBS, I will read more than 500 cases and discuss those cases with my discussion group and section. As the professor artfully directs the conversation, I will learn from the diverse perspectives of my classmates. This is not possible through lecture-based pedagogy.”
Richard Pettey

Harvard Business School in a wintry scene

The case method may be HBS’ signature, but it’s certainly not its only unique feature. Here are some additional program strengths according to students’ past and present.

1) Access: “We have a truly world-class faculty and access to business leaders and experts beyond what I imagined when I accepted my offer of admission. I found myself at the table with CEOs of major retail and luxury brands, having discussions on everything from racial and body-type representation in advertising to the challenges of creating transparency in supply chains to measuring and improving environmental and social metrics across the value chain. Not to mention there was the richness of experiences my peers brought to discussions in and out of the classroom. I’m humbled by their breadth of backgrounds and willingness to share in an open, empathetic manner.”
Sergio Velasquez-Terjesen (’19

2) Scale: “I was very drawn to the size of HBS, along with its first-year required curriculum and section experience. I think HBS gives students the best of both worlds. On one hand, you get a large incoming class of students from all over the world with exceptionally varied backgrounds who you can meet through clubs, social events, or random Zoom meetings. On the other hand, you get to know your smaller section on a very personal level by taking all of your classes together throughout the first year.”
Olivia Melendez (’22)

3) Entrepreneurship: “HBS offers unparalleled access – access to inspiring professors, dedicated mentors, top investors, and diverse peers. I’ve learned from professors how to scale a tech venture, build a brand, value our business, and learn from entrepreneurial failure. I’ve gained mentors organically, such as Tina Sharkey (founder of Brandless) who was a speaker in my Creating Brand Value course who then became an advisor, operating capital investor, and ISA capital investor.

I vetted and launched Stride [my startup] during HBS ‘Start-Up Bootcamp’. I gained office space and helpful mentors via the Venture Incubation Program and I was able to ideate with peers and advisors who kept us accountable on our timelines and milestones during the HBS Rock Accelerator. We had weekly meetings with Entrepreneurs-In-Residence and a set of peers going through parallel journeys.”
Tess Michaels (’20)

4) The People: “When I first did my research on the school, I found it striking that more than 50% of the class went on to start their own business at some point in their career. However, when you consider the sheer amount of support and resources HBS makes available to its students, it’s easy to understand why. Both in and outside the classroom, there is a community of driven people seeking to find solutions to global problems, something which I find incredibly inspiring.

On top of this, the strength of HBS’s global alumni network is something that is hard to ignore. Even before enrolling, I have personally been able to reach out and connect with industry leaders in both Europe and the US due to my Harvard connection and will continue to do so throughout my career.”
Tim Backstrom (’22)

5) Joint Degrees: “One of the major distinguishing factors for why I chose HBS was the opportunity to receive an MBA and Engineering Masters through the MS/MBA joint degree program. I was drawn to the MS/MBA program because it provides the hand-in-hand education of engineering and business needed to effectively lead the vision of a technology venture. With my experience mainly being in highly-regulated government environments, I’m excited for the opportunity to work collaboratively with Harvard’s School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS) on human-centered designs through experiences like Tech Venture Immersion.”
Toyin Shodiya (’22)

What led the Class of 2022 to pursue an MBA? What was the toughest question they were asked during the application process? What other schools did they consider? Check out the student profiles below for answers to questions and many more. 

MBA Student Hometown Undergrad Alma Mater Last Employer
Tim Backstrom Stockholm, Sweden University of Glasgow Spark
Camilla Mia R. Carag Quezon City, Philippines University of the Philippines Growsari
Peter James Kiernan Babylon, NY Columbia University Office of Governor Andrew Cuomo
Charlotte Lawson Washington, DC University of Pennsylvania Prisma Health
Megan Maloney Westchester County, NY Columbia University General Catalyst
Olivia Melendez Montclair, NJ University of Michigan Intel Corporation
Richard Pettey Decatur, AL Auburn University U.S. Department of Education
Toyin Shodiya Upper Marlboro, MD Georgia Tech Boeing
Cody Mitchell Villanueva Gilbert, AZ University of Arizona Macy’s

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