Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2022

MBAs on a MTrek

P&Q: Last year, 45% of Ross’ incoming MBA class was composed of women. What types of programming has Ross developed to enhance the MBA experience for women? Why does existing programming hold such strong appeal to women?

Kwon: “Despite not being the majority of the student population, 64 percent of Ross professional clubs are led/co-led by women. This includes the presidents of many of our most popular clubs, including the Tech, Consulting, Entrepreneurship, and Marketing clubs. Our talented community of women students at Ross feel empowered to take on leadership roles, and are encouraged and provided with the resources to do so. We are proud to receive feedback that women feel that their voice is equal at Michigan Ross.

In 2019, Women Who Launch (WWL) was founded at Ross with a mission to foster gender balance in entrepreneurship and investing. WWL addresses the gender gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem by strengthening the pipeline of women entering the industry as founders, investors, or start-up team members. More specifically, WWL is empowering women to follow their passions in investing and entrepreneurship through a supportive community, monthly events, educational programs, and professional opportunities.

The Michigan Women’s Business Club is a formidable force. They continue to organize a number of initiatives to support women’s experience at Ross. These include Conversation Pods (which are small groups of MBA1s led by an MBA2 who attended training in bias, crucial communications, and more), WomenX (where Ross women share meaningful stories based on their experiences from countries around the globe with the goal of engaging, educating, and finding points of connection with their fellow classmates), Women:Rising (an initiative that supports women pursuing careers in male dominated fields), an annual retreat, allyship events, and more.

Each year, Ross hosts the Women in Leadership Conference for current and prospective students, which has long had strong appeal for women. The event sparks relationships among prospective women and current students that oftentimes lead them to choose Ross. Last year, the conference focused on authenticity and numerous women in the community — students, alumni, faculty and staff — shared authentic stories about their personal and professional challenges and victories as women.”

Ross Building

P&Q: Ross is best known for innovative, hands-on, project-driven curriculum that provides students with the experience to hit the ground running from day one. Tell us about two programs that truly reflect Ross’ action-based philosophy.

Kwon: “At Michigan Ross we are known for our signature MAP program (and for good reason as it remains an unrivaled, hands-on, action-based learning experience for MBAs). There are many more great examples of innovative, experiential classes at Ross: from our student-led investment fund courses, to our integrated product development course, to our +Impact Studio course. However, I want to talk about two other lesser-known, but widely popular programs offered at Ross through our Sanger Leadership Center that focus on personal development, discovery, and leadership: the Leadership Crisis Challenge and Story Lab. Personal and leadership development are central to the Ross MBA experience, and these programs are part of our distinctive approach to developing purpose-drive leaders. Both programs are still going to be held this year in virtual formats which will enable all full-time MBA students the opportunity to participate.

Sanger runs many programs focused on providing students with opportunities for personal development, discovery, and leadership, including though a new five-step, self-guided Sanger Leadership Journey.

1. Leadership Crisis Challenge

The Leadership Crisis Challenge (LCC) is one of the most innovative and immersive action-based leadership development experiences an MBA student can participate in. LCC is designed to prepare students to lead in high-pressure, high-stakes environments by asking them to assume executive leadership roles at a fictitious company and navigate a crisis that quickly spirals out of control. Through the 24-hour simulated crisis, students are tested on their ability to strategize through extreme turbulence, think on their feet, and demonstrate poise under pressure. Along the way, students receive personalized feedback from business leaders, communication coaches, and faculty experts.

LLC begins on a Thursday afternoon when students are assigned to teams; learn what fictitious company they will be representing; take on various C-suite roles; and then find out what crisis has befallen their company. In real-time, the teams must respond to the crisis as it unfolds: they receive emails from internal and external stakeholders, social media updates, phone calls from angry members of the public, media ambushes, and more throughout the evening. Teams must weave together strategic thinking with real-time poise and adjustments to meet the barrage of issues.

Then, on Friday, teams present their strategy to a board of directors (made up of leaders within the U-M alumni community). The teams with the best plans and presentations move on to the finals where they participate in a live press conference in front of real journalists from outlets such as CNN, NPR, the Detroit News, and more. Whichever team develops the best plan and effectively handles the pressure is named the winner based on the judges’ and audience’s feedback.

The fake companies and crises are always extremely realistic and timely. Recent challenges have involved students acting as leaders of a driverless car company that fell into crisis when one of its taxis hit a cyclist, and executives of a cruise line that is accused of unleashing an environmental disaster. And we’re always really proud of how many alumni come back to Ross for the challenge. Around 375 alumni have played a role in the challenge since the first one in 2007, which is a great example of the strength of that network and alumni’s desire to give back as well as the uniqueness of this program.

Ross students working up their Ross Diaries talk in Story Lab.

2. Story Lab

Story Lab is another one of Sanger’s flagship action-based leadership programs. During Story Lab, MBAs are able to develop their executive-level presence and communication skills through storytelling workshops and events. Story Lab was created based on the knowledge that to be an effective leader — at work, in the community, or in personal life — you must be able to communicate with impact. Often that involves telling stories that are personally meaningful, so Story Lab trains students how to do so in the rich language and expressive style of a seasoned storyteller. In addition, the skills and abilities students develop in Story Lab help them to be better able to convey their value to recruiters, inspire and motivate classmates and colleagues, and influence any audience they find themselves addressing.

All 400+ Ross MBAs are invited to participate in a Story Lab Retreat in the fall semester. The retreats, run in partnership with Ross alumna-owned company, teach students how to identify a motivating personal story. Students then move through a series of interactive exercises to learn how to author their story and how to present it on stage. Along the way, they receive feedback from their classmates and have the opportunity to share.

After the retreat workshops, students can choose to continue refining their stories in small groups during the Sanger’s informal Community Connection meetings. These meetings allow students to continue gathering meaningful feedback from their peers as they work on their expression and executive presence skills.

Story Lab commences each semester with a live storytelling event, the Story Lab Showcase. Seven or eight students who participated in the Story Lab retreat are chosen to step into the spotlight and share their often vulnerable and always powerful stories on stage with an auditorium full of peers. These student storytellers are offered additional 1:1 coaching with Sanger throughout their story formation process. Once they are fully confident and ready to go, they inspire and amaze their fellow MBAs with their creativity and courage. Due to restrictions on gathering, you can hear some of the stories from this past spring in the Michigan Ross MBA podcast, Business Beyond Usual.”

MAP Reveal Event and Microsoft team


Indeed, action-based learning is the center of Ross’ educational philosophy. Dean Scott DeRue compares Ross to a “teaching hospital” – a place where students enjoy a wealth of opportunities to test out various industries and roles before making a commitment. That takes the form of real-world projects, the most famous being MAP (aka Multidisciplinary Action Projects). A required first-year course held during the spring, MAP involves students choosing projects in particular industries, such as real estate and technology. From there, they are placed in five-member teams, where they work with a partner company. Pre-COVID, MAP projects also included an overseas component, where students would conduct on-ground research and later share their findings with company executives.

Last spring, Ebrar Derya Erdem, a Ross second-year, completed her MAP project with Microsoft, working to update manufacturing processes and training. For her, the real benefit was being able to quickly apply what she learned in the core courses that fall.

“Personally, my engagement and interest increases when I work on real projects rather than hypothetical business cases or business cases from the 1980s,” Erdem writes. “Besides learning more effectively, while working on a real project, we do not have specific roles. Therefore, we have the chance to experience different things, such as how to be a project manager or researcher. This freedom provides us safe space to develop our skill gaps or experience different functions without long commitments. In MAP, I was responsible for client management, as I wanted to experience it for the first time. Also, I was responsible for the topics I wanted to learn more about, such as sustainability and long-term vision for manufacturers.”

While MAP started as the pandemic swelled, Dean DeRue should be optimistic about its prospects in 2021. After all, the school was able to pull MAP projects off in 2020 to rave reviews.

“We moved to virtual in March it was the exact point in time that we launch MAP,” explains DeRue. “In 48 hours, we moved everything virtual: 83 projects that were initially intended to be in person with travel around the world were moved online. It was a real team collective effort. The experience was remarkable. The feedback we got from students and our partners have all been really positive and tremendous.”

Davidson Winter Garden at the University of Michigan’s Ross School


What is the Class of 2022 looking forward to doing over the next two years? What were the best parts of the MBA experience for alumni? Here are some insights from Ross MBAs, past and present.

1) Design + Business Club: “I am very excited to become involved in Ross’ Design + Business (D+B) Club. As an undergrad at Stanford, I became interested in Design Thinking, which was pioneered by David Kelley at IDEO and the Stanford Design School. I believe that the basic principles of Design Thinking are underutilized in most industries. Getting involved with D+B will be a great opportunity to expand on my Design Thinking skills and enhance my ability to solve problems throughout my career.”
Christopher Connolly (’22)

2) Ann Arbor: “Being located in Ann Arbor is a strength, not a weakness. Why? Because everyone here is fully present and fully invested in this specific experience. There are few resources more valuable than people’s undivided presence. I am a 10-minute walk within 100 of my new best friends. Where is everyone in the evenings or weekends? The same places you’ll be. This focus and intentionality add a layer of richness, depth, and intensity to the Ross experience that is hard to replicate in larger urban areas. Also, in case you were concerned, every top company comes to campus. That’s the power of the Ross alumni network. We’re also only a half-hour from Detroit International Airport for when you need to escape town.
Christopher Lee Owen (’22)

Page 5: In-depth profiles of 12 members of the Class of 2022

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