Business gurus love to trot out the “Go big or go home” line. In essence, they are urging adherents to be bold, take risks, and never compromise. Alas, big isn’t always better. In business, big often turns into being insulated, overextended and vulnerable. That pales in comparison to the flexibility of being small, where you can act decisively and involve everyone.
You’ll find that big vs. small pull in academia. Go big and it’s easy for students to get lost and overlooked. That’s one reason why the UC Davis Graduate School of Management has deliberately stayed small. Just 48 students populate the full-time MBA Class of 2022. As a result, faculty can lavish personal attention to their students and classmates can develop deeper connections with each class member. Yes, their cohort may be small, but UC Davis MBAs can take advantage of all the resources available in a Top 40 American research institution. Best of all, the Class of 2022 can live in Davis. A proverbial college town that revolves around its students, Davis is just 30 minutes from Sacramento and 90 minutes from Silicon Valley.
Not surprisingly, the spring graduating class averaged $122,000 in base pay from top employers like Microsoft, Intel, and EY.
CLASSMATES GO THE EXTRA MILE
One reason is the class is carefully hand-picked by admissions. Notably, the class includes students from 5 continents and 11 countries. Ash Singh, a senior human resources partner at Amazon India, has been struck by his classmates’ “amazingly diverse backgrounds in education and work experience.” What made a difference for Deepi Agarwal, a marketing manager in the web conferencing space has been the ‘We’re all in this together’ mentality of her classmates.
“The support I received from the school’s leaders and second-year students has been incredible and made my transition so smooth,” Agarwal tells P&Q. “Despite their packed daily schedules, they go the extra mile with all their energy and enthusiasm to explore opportunities through different channels, such as clubs, leadership sessions, and networking events.”
The small class size is one reason for this. At Davis, every class member is indispensable to the class’ success. In other words, everyone is expected to step up so that no classmate is ever left behind. “The small class size means you can reach out to everyone for help,” observes Anthony Liu, who was a clinical research coordinator at the University of Washington before joining the 2022 MBA Class. “We constantly answer each other’s questions on the all-class Slack channel. Everyone has been open and genuine to be a resource for each other. We formed many student-led job huddle groups to help each other with career development. Even though our first quarter was online, everyone was constantly checking in with each other. We had many Zoom parties and game nights.”
ADVERSITY LEADS TO COMMUNITY
Thanks to COVID, the “new normal” for the Class of 2022 involved being apart to start. In many ways, that only strengthened their bonds to each other, writes Fernanda Castro Villegas, who started her career in Biotechnology before becoming a finance manager. “In the months that we have been together, we have explored job opportunities, learned frameworks, created business proposals together, and explored each other’s strengths and leadership styles. My cohort is all around the globe, but we feel and support each other as we were side-by-side.”
More than that, the Class of 2022 has already gained plenty of applicable insights – ones that are transforming how they view their world…and themselves. “I’m approaching problems through a new lens,” explains Daniel Bradley, a Davis undergrad who managed product development teams before returning to his alma mater. “New perspectives that give me a priceless opportunity to continually step outside of my comfort zone in an environment heavily focused on changing lives. Just in the first three months, I’ve seen myself overcome most of my fear of public speaking and have come to somewhat enjoy it.”
The coursework has even helped some class members make sense of what they have already experienced. That was true for Anthony Liu after he looked back on his first quarter. “I can already connect the key knowledge we learned in economics with my past clinical trial management work to make sense about what and why my team made these business decisions.”
SUCCESS STORIES IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP, VENTURE CAPITAL, AND SALES
This year’s class features a wide range of backgrounds. Emmanuel Escamilla, a native of Modesto, holds degrees in religion from UC Berkeley and Harvard. However, he is far from your typical b-school poet. His EdTech startup, which provides technology courses to rural schools, won the Westly Prize For Young Innovators of California. Speaking of nontraditional backgrounds, Jayce Smalley earned his communications degree from UCLA in just three years. After a stint in finance, he has returned to school to earn his MBA – and play football for the UC Davis Aggies football team.
Despite their differences, the Class of 2022 share one quality: they are highly accomplished in their fields. As the chief manager of human resources business partners for Amazon India, Ash Singh managed a 2,500 person workforce. His claim to fame: his team scored a 97% in Amazon’s Workforce Conditions Assessment – 12% better than the next-highest performer. Taiwan’s Wei-Ting Ou was part of a team that boosted sales revenue by 1,000% in just one year. In five years, Deepi Agarwal moved from being a management trainee to running her company’s marketing across India – home to 1.35 billion people. By the same token, Fernanda Castro Villegas led her company’s first-ever investment round for Costa Rican startups.
“In my country, the venture capital industry is still growing, and the startups and enterprises do not have as many opportunities to raise capital as here in the U.S.,” she explains. “My job was to facilitate the connection between the two worlds: the entrepreneurs and the investors. I was happy to create the bases for the first event of this kind, which created the connection between six startups and eight investors (including two international). In my path through PROCOMER, I facilitated almost $900,000 for early-stage companies and established the relationship between the Costa Rican enterprise’s pipeline and more than 26 investors around the world.”
A MODEL, A MUSICIAN, AND A MEDIA MAVEN
Looking for a high pressure job? Try working under legendary conductor Lorin Maazel. That’s what Molly Jo Scott did for three summers in Maazel’s annual opera festival in Virginia. “I rotated through a variety of roles within the oboe section those three years, but playing principal oboist for a production of Puccini’s La Fanciulla Del West was my biggest accomplishment,” she explains. “The music was incredibly challenging. To execute nightly concerts under immense pressure was a great exercise in collaborative leadership within the oboe section and across the orchestra, with beautiful results.”
Although Scott’s experience is firmly grounded in the arts, she quickly discovered connections between music and finance. “I think I understand why so many classical musicians in MBA programs go into finance. It resonates with music theory, counterpoint, it’s spatial math! A musician’s eye for detail while holding contextual understanding helps it all balance. It’s not my path, but I surprised myself.”
Scott’s background is hardly unique in the Davis MBA Class of 2022. Camille Harris, for one, is a former professional model who jokes that she once saw her face “on city buses and in the metro station.” In contrast, Aihe Chen is considered an influencer in China’s beauty industry. In fact, she would present Unilever products in the country’s largest shopping and social media platforms, Taobao and Tmall. Before Amazon, Ash Singh was a professional squash rackets player who led Delhi University to the gold medal in the University National Squash Championship. Speaking of athletic feats, check out how Emmanuel Escamilla spent four months in 2018.
“I rode a bicycle across the United States,” he writes. “I crossed nine states and biked 3,261-miles from San Francisco, CA, to St. Augustine, FL.”
By the numbers, the UC Davis Graduate School of Management received 307 applications for a spot in the Class of 2022. In addition to 48 MBA candidates chosen by admissions, UC Davis also allowed 13 students to defer their enrollment. This year’s class averaged a 641 GMAT score, with 15% of the class opting for the GRE. As a whole, average GMAT scores stretched from 593-697 in the mid-85% range. Overall, women make up 46% of the class. International students take up another 35% of the seats.
Academically, the undergraduate sciences majors account for the largest segment of the class at 31%. Business majors (23%) and Engineering majors (10%) also reached double digits. In terms of professional backgrounds, the largest segment of the class hails from Tech (21%). The class also includes representatives from sectors like Manufacturing (13%), Healthcare and Pharmaceuticals (12%), Consulting (8%), and Financial Services (4%).
What led the Class of 2022 to pursue an MBA? Ash Singh was looking to deepen his exposure to Artificial Intelligence and technology in human resources. As a marketer, Deepi Agarwal recognized how data was increasingly driving decision-making. As a result, she is pursuing a concentration in business analytics and strategy. For Aihe Chen, a Davis MBA is the ticket into the tech sector.
“UC Davis’ location and connections with the Silicon Valley tech ecosystem are a great benefit,” she writes. “I am looking forward to continuing to grow my business acumen and tap into the university’s extensive network in the San Francisco Bay Area.”
Along the way, Chen adds, she has been surprised just how rigorous the academics have been – and the amount of support she has received from the school. “I was emotionally overwhelmed by how jam-packed my schedule was – even heavier than my full-time job – with case readings, presentations, team projects and internship preparation. But everything has been working out perfectly, especially with such supportive UC Davis faculty and program managers. My career development mentor continuously reached out to me for insightful career counseling. I’m excited that I already have an offer to intern this summer at Intel.”
6 QUESTIONS WITH DEAN H. RAO UNNAVA
That’s not the only exciting part of the UC Davis Graduate School of Management MBA this year. For one, the school recently rolled out new electives that bolster its signature Industry Immersion Experience. At the same time, the school has recently earned a STEM designation and enhanced its two-year leadership program. Recently, P&Q invited Dean H. Rao Unnava to share his thoughts on these initiatives as well as how the school leverages its location and alumni network to boost opportunities for graduates. Here are Dean Unnava’s written replies to P&Q:
P&Q: What are the two most unique or differentiating features of your full-time program? How do they enrich the MBA experience?
Unnava: “One of the unique features of our MBA program is the Industry Immersion Experience that exposes students to opportunities in some of the hottest industries now and in the future (e.g., sustainable food and agriculture, sustainable energy, biotech/healthcare, and technology finance). Students in these immersions are taught by senior executives, in collaborative class settings that include UC Davis graduate students from STEM fields. Executives bring real-life cases to the classroom that students work on in teams, providing multidisciplinary analysis and recommendations. These classes are preceded by field trips to learn about the latest technological advances in the industry, and followed by planned projects with company partners to expose students further to the issues in the industry. Students can also take advanced classes in the relevant science fields in which UC Davis is often ranked in the top-5 in the world (e.g., food, agriculture, wine-making, biomedicine, clean energy).
Another differentiating feature of our program is a natural extension of our collaborative culture at the Graduate School of Management – our Collaborative Leadership Program. The program rests on four pillars: inspiring others, helping others to succeed, building trust and bringing positive energy, and being humble and learning from others. Students participate in workshops focused on each pillar, have customized assessments and make plans for reinforcing their strengths. The students get involved in community service, and exhibit leadership by designing and executing many experiences for our community in their second year.”
- Go to Page 2 for a dozen in-depth profiles of members of the Class of 2022.