It’s one thing to think about it. It’s quite another to do it. If you’re a Ross MBA, you go out and do it. There’s no way around it.
Three months ago, the Class of 2022 arrived at the University of Michigan’s Ross School. Most couldn’t wait to get on campus. Business school was the chance to start fresh, free from the pressures and the past. For them, it was a chance to embrace what’s different and promising – new people, routines, sites, ideas, and experiences. The best part, says Elizabeth McLaughlin, is the class really had no idea what was in store for them.
“As funny as it sounds, I am most excited by the things I can’t even imagine yet: the class that introduces me to a new skillset, the project that changes my recruiting plans, and the classmate who challenges my preconceptions about something. As much as the pre-MBA process has prompted developing short- and long-term plans, I am reminding myself to stay open to the unknown.”
SO MUCH TO DO
Every class member has a different reason why they joined the Big Blue. Alexia Sabogal, a New York City native, was looking forward to settling into small town life and Midwest hospitality. In contrast, Daniel Ketyer couldn’t wait to get his hands dirty – as in hands-on activities like the MPA consulting project, student-run investment funds, and the Crisis Challenge. For Marissa Cooper, donning the maize and blue was a means of honoring her mother, a Michigan med school grad who epitomized “hard work, perseverance, and selflessness.” In the case of Harshita Pilla, that excitement stemmed from witnessing her classmates in action.
“In response to the recent and tragic deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, I helped spearhead a fundraiser alongside current and incoming MBA students across the country for Color of Change (and raised over $68K!). It was during this process where I saw first-hand how quickly my peers at Ross mobilized in order to achieve a greater goal. I’m really looking forward to tackling these big problems alongside the greater Ross community.”
That’s not to say there wasn’t some hesitancy with the Class of 2022. After all, MBAs often start their first years wondering if they belong socially or measure up academically. Alexia Sabogal experienced a different set of jitters: the proverbial fear of the firehose, wondering what to leave in and what to pull out.
“What makes me nervous is that there’s always something to do. When you’re talking to alums or second years, you’re always given the advice of knowing what you want to prioritize before business school starts – it can be social, academics, or recruitment. These commitments are often viewed as a triangle where only one can be at a time can be on the top. My worry is that I will spread myself too thin by wanting to do and experience everything in two years.”
HIGH IMPACT + LOW EGO
Y.C. Wong started classes with mix of excitement and wariness. On one side, he was thrilled to surround himself with a diverse group of students who fit the school’s “high impact + low ego culture.” Like many peers, he worried about the pandemic’s weight on networking, learning, and employment. At the same time, he also sees opportunity in disruption.
“I think that the Class of 2022 has a unique opportunity to reimagine, co-create, and elevate the future Ross MBA experience (i.e., a new normal) for ourselves and future Rossers.”
That shouldn’t be an issue. After all, the Class of 2022 has been setting the bar for those around them long before Ann Arbor. Take Stephanie Babij, an economics major in college. No financial experience? No problem for this doer. After three years and over 1,000 hours of self-study, she became a CFA Charterholder. The reward: Babji became the sole bank analyst at her firm – and responsible for the investment portfolios of over 40 companies. Her classmate, Alexia Sabogal, was named to the Front Office Sports Rising 25 list in 2020. Not only was it a big honor for her, but she was the only representative from Major League Soccer to make the list. Her big moment involved organizing a Word Cup Brunch for clients – despite the U.S. Men’s National Team failing to qualify for the tournament. On top of that, the event was held in three different venues across the United States.
“This event included a half-time program of a panel that featured the president of the local MLS club and Howard Webb, the 2010 World Cup Final head referee, discussing the state of soccer in our nation. The event hosted over 200 people across San Francisco, Chicago, and New York. Planning and hosting each brunch taught me how to work cross-functionally, manage up, and adapt to change. It also gave me a 101 in food and beverage minimums!”
AROUND THE WORLD WITH ABC NEWS
Chances are, some class members might think Elizabeth McLaughlin looks a little familiar. That’s because she is a former Pentagon reporter and producer with ABC News. At 24, McLaughlin was already researching the intricacies of military and foreign policy before conducting interviews and filing stories. It was a journey, she says ranged from covering ISIS’ uprising to the rollout of Space Force. In her words, “there was never a dull moment.”
“I never thought I’d fly in a Black Hawk over Baghdad, seek shelter from the cold in a yurt in Nur-Sultan, visit an airfield in Ho Chi Minh City, or produce an exclusive interview in Kyiv,” McLaughlin writes. “But my role as a Pentagon reporter took me to 18 countries, flying with secretaries of defense and state as one of a handful of journalists invited to travel with these senior leaders. These trips became the defining moments of my career as I was pushed mentally and physically. Though I worked for ABC News, during these trips I sometimes represented all five TV networks – ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC – as the pool reporter and was responsible for sending video and editorial information back to their DC bureaus. It wasn’t unusual to average a new country every day or two, fly overnight, and encounter logistics challenges like transmitting a press conference out of a desert in Saudi Arabia and or a base in Afghanistan.”
Speaking of the military, Drew McKnight served as a program manager in the U.S. Air Force. Here, he managed the financial and technical analysis for a $3.5 billion dollar satellite program that was eventually launched into orbit. As a consultant, Y.C. Wong designed and implemented a communications solution that enabled 4,500 government employees to serve low income families. At the same time, Christopher Connolly beat the odds by being accepted into the University of Michigan’s medical school despite being a quadriplegic.
“Currently, individuals with disabilities can be denied the ability to matriculate into medical school due to physical requirements called “technical standards.” When applying to medical school, I knew that my test scores and grades were strong enough to go anywhere. However, I needed to find a program willing to work with me. After I was accepted at Michigan, a dean from the medical school called me and said, “Once you’re in, you’re family — and we take care of family.” This is the culture that permeates throughout the University of Michigan.”
TEACHING AMERICAN FOOTBALL…TO A BRITISH PRINCE
Many have taken this sense of family – this commitment to helping others enjoy luxuries most take for granted – into the far larger world. Before business school , Daniel Ketyer flew to Kenya to help d.light, a solar energy provider that has supplied energy to over 100 million people – many of whom live in impoverished and hard-to-reach communities. Justin Woods experienced a similar calling, joining the Peace Corps to teach English to secondary students in Rwanda. These years steeled Woods’ commitment to push for a “more just and equitable world.”
“I remember going to teach one day and seeing advanced calculus on the board from the class before, more advanced than anything I ever came across in AP Calculus. Keep in mind, these students had likely never seen, let alone used, a graphing calculator. It forced me to grapple with the meritocracy narrative that invokes hard work as a means to success but doesn’t acknowledge the systemic barriers that even hard work struggles to pierce.”
Outside work and class, Daniel Ketyer rates golf course architecture for Golfweek. Stephanie Babij played professional basketball in Germany – despite not speaking the language, let alone having any friends or family in the country. Elizabeth McLaughlin was a competitive water skier in college, while Michael Walsh earned a pilot’s license before he even learned how to drive. And how is this for a great story?
“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 Drew McKnight. “It went well… but not well enough to get invited to the big wedding.”
A TIME TO CHANGE
The Class of 2022 has joined Ross’ full-time MBA program for a variety of reasons. Christopher Connolly views business schools as a means to better understand healthcare opportunities beyond the practitioner perspective. In contrast, Elizabeth McLaughlin plans to use the next two years to lay the groundwork for something new.
“While I loved my job at ABC, I was finding that I was more interested in the topics I was covering at the Pentagon than in the act of reporting itself. I considered a transition directly into the aerospace/defense or technology industries but realized the MBA would provide a holistic understanding of the business world, along with the technical skills and network I desired to optimize a career change.”
Make no mistake: this year’s class was plenty busy getting ready to make the most of the next two years. “My three main priorities this summer have been experience, academics, and network,” adds Daniel Ketyer. “For experience, I’ve completed two internships, one strategy role in the clean energy space at d.light and one in private equity investing at Kohlberg & Co. For academics, I enrolled in Ross’s Fast Track in Finance program, where I’ve taken online accounting and finance courses to position myself for advanced finance coursework when I get to campus. And for network, I’ve had about two dozen conversations with Ross students and alums doing things I’m interested in. I’m excited to hit the ground running!”
Page 2: Class Stats
Pages 3-4: Interview with Soojin Kwon, Managing Director of Full-Time MBA Admissions and Program
Page 5: In-depth profiles of 12 members of the Class of 2022