People don’t often think of leaders as servants. To many, leaders are out front and brash, focused on market share and image. In business, they supposedly play a zero-sum game where the winner takes all. That’s not what makes servant leaders tick. At Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, MBAs are called to be just that: servants. That means becoming students who contribute, cooperate, and compete instead of big talkers who command, confine, and coerce.
As servant leaders, Mendoza MBAs aren’t looking to concentrate raw power; their goal is to disperse it. Their success is predicated on their ability to grow other leaders and unleash their potential. They choose influence over authority and listening over talking. Most important, they base their credibility on the example they set. That’s the Mendoza way – and it’s a big reason why MBA candidates like Faith Bosom Achangwa flocked to South Bend last fall.
BECOMING THE BEST VERSION OF YOURSELF
“At the core of the Mendoza business school experience, you learn not only to ask more of business but also to step forward as a servant leader and drive initiatives that make a positive contribution to society,” she writes. “As a business leader, I want to be remembered for the positive impact that I have on both those who work with me and on my community at large. Accordingly, the University of Notre Dame provides the perfect arena to learn and morph into the best version of myself.”
The Class of 2022, in the words of Tyler White, are “other-oriented,” a passionate and mission-driven group who are always on the lookout for the common good. Looking back over the past year, Raymond Kusch, an entrepreneur, found his classmates were defined by a “sense of service” and a focus on making the world better through business. Alissa Oropeza is one first-year who personifies this ethos. An accountant by trade, Oropeza’s purpose is to become an ethical and global leader who leads with the heart as much as the mind.
“By using my ethical values that Mendoza has provided me, I plan to create a non-profit organization geared towards aiding neuro-diverse individuals gain a variety of skill sets to apply to post-education employment,” Oropeza writes. “In this world we live in, knowledge is power and Mendoza has and continues to teach me that everyone deserves an opportunity to succeed.”
UPENDS WHAT PEOPLE THINK BUSINESS IS
In a word, the Mendoza experience comes down to values: humility, commitment, integrity, respect – always striving for excellence and never forsaking the dignity of others. That means Mendoza grads are joining a select group, one that rebels against a world that prefers what’s painless, political, or personally enriching.
The program at Notre Dame provides values-based leadership training,” explains Christina Glorioso, a 1999 MBA alum and senior sales V.P. at NBCUniversal. “Going into “business” sometimes seems less-worthy than some of the more valiant roles in society, such as being a first responder, a health care worker, or a teacher. The Mendoza College of Business understands there is a vocation in business, that business can be a force for good, while also doing well. The leader I learned to be at Mendoza was one who is driven, while also looking to find how to make the most good for the most amount of people.”
The program also comes with two caveats. First, says 2020 grad John Chao, Notre Dame is not strictly for devout Catholics. “I believe the majority of my class are not Catholic or Christian and instead are other denominations, other faiths, or agnostic,” he writes.
Second, while the class may be “servant-hearted,” expect an atmosphere that tends to be more irreverent than solemn. “I don’t remember the last time I’ve been this inspired or entertained this much,” writes Meghan Lally. “There has been a myriad of heartfelt discussions, but there have been even more laughs.”
TAKING THE REINS EARLY ON
And a lot of ‘wow’ moments too. After all, the Class of 2022 comes from an array of professional and cultural backgrounds Take Kyle Sorensen, a Ford engineer who helped design wildly-popular vehicles like the F-150, Explorer, and Expedition. On top of that, he was often the “youngest and least experienced” people on his teams.
“I had a steep learning curve working with all new driver assist technology while continuing to learn the incredibly expansive automotive product development process,” he notes. “This role challenged me and ultimately prepared me to take this next step of pursuing an MBA.”
Compare that to Adrian Villalpando. In 2018, he helped execute the Kellogg Company’s Winter Olympics communications program. “Being exposed to true integrated marketing showed me how much I enjoyed working on those kinds of campaigns, and I knew I needed to find a way to work on as many of those as possible.”
“90 DAYS OF SHEER TERROR”
Tyler White comes out of the restaurant industry, where he re-located 9 times and worked in 14 different establishments over a 6 year period. On the plus side, White jokes, he can “butcher whole fish and a beef ribeye roll.” His experience opening a new restaurant – which he describes as “90 days of sheer terror” – prepared him well for the first semester of business school.
“It was exciting to be a part of the team that created and implemented operating systems and set new standards” White explains. “We designed menus and picked décor, hired and trained dozens of new staff members, and balanced creating a new concept with maintaining an established brand. There was a ton of adversity along the way—a few months before opening, a hurricane hit South Florida and forced us to shut down for over a week. Additionally, one of the kitchen hoods collapsed…causing construction setbacks. Operational flexibility and thinking on-the-fly was important throughout the whole process. There, however, was no better feeling than seating our first guests, seeing the food go out, and creating positive hospitality experiences.”
Looking for adversity? Raymond Kusch was forced to medically retire early from the U.S. Army after triggering an IED in Afghanistan. Despite losing part of his leg and suffering a brain injury, he went on to notch a perfect GPA as a University of Michigan undergrad and played for Team USA’s National Standing Amputee Hockey Team. In the U.S. Navy, Aric Stahly heard that just 20% of SEAL candidates make it through training. In his first attempt, Stahly joined the other 80%. However, this setback only steeled his resolve to never fall short again.
BOUNCING BACK STRONGER THAN EVER
“I let myself believe I didn’t have what it took to continue on with training,” Stahly recalls. “I watched the remaining candidates as they endured and closed in on graduation. That moment in my life defined me. I had let myself down by giving up on the one goal that had motivated me in life. I was determined not to let that personal failure define my future. After serving elsewhere in the Navy for a couple years, I returned to the basic SEAL training school determined to succeed. I committed to doing everything in my physical and mental power to overcome every challenge. That mindset carried through training and on to graduation.”
The Class of 2022 has also left a deep footprint across the globe. Loqman Adnane was part of a startup team that funded clean water projects from water bottle sales. At Nielsen, Ngoc Do racked up $30 million dollars in sales opportunities in Thailand and the Philippines. At the same time, Faith Bosom Achangwa, who’ll intern with Morgan Stanley this summer, headed up the finance office of the National Oil Refinery of Cameroon. Industry-wise, Meghan Lally also made a name for herself as a magazine editor – until she lost her job at the outset of the pandemic. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
“In my eyes, success is not merely measured by position and accolades. I believe success is also measured by how your character evolves and improves with time,” Lally observes. “I am ultimately grateful for having been laid off because it brought me here to ND; the fact that I did not have a concrete plan for three months truly tested my faith and the extent to which I am willing to surrender to God. Although the journey was challenging, I feel my character was refined over those couple months.”
BIG INCREASE IN WOMEN
COVID-19 tested every business school. At Mendoza, the pandemic also brought a silver lining. The school received 672 applications – a 57% improvement over the previous year. By the same token, the school was able to increase the class size to 121 students, all while the acceptance rate dropped from 53% to 46%.
Sometimes, growth comes with a tradeoff. In this case, average GMATs dropped by nine points from the previous year to 656 – though average GMAT ranged from 580-720. These numbers also don’t reflect that a third of the class declined to submit a GRE score and an additional 31 students opted to defer their admission. What’s more, the percentage of women in the class jumped from 24% to 38% — a number that was offset by the percentage of international students being nearly cut in half from 33% to 18%.
Academically, a third of the class majored in business as undergraduates, followed by the Liberal Arts (28.1%), Sciences (15.7%), Engineering (11.6%), and Economics (10.7%). Career-wise, Finance and Consulting both account for 12% of the class, with the remainder of the class most recently working in Technology, Healthcare, Government and Public Service, and Media and Entertainment. 8% of the class also completed military service.
TAKING BUSINESS ON THE FRONTLINES DOMESTIC
Ask MBAs about Mendoza’s biggest advantage and many will say the alumni network. In annual surveys conducted by The Economist, Mendoza alumni historically notch some of the highest satisfaction scores from students and alumni. In a similar survey conducted by Bloomberg Businessweek, the school’s alumni network ranked 5th in the world (and 6th for Innovative and Creative programming). One unifying factor is philosophy, with the school adopting a “Grow The Good In Business” branding strategy that reflects Mendoza’s emphasis on the value business brings to the larger society.
This commitment is exemplified by the Meyer Business on the Frontlines (BOTFL) program. A curriculum staple since 2008, BOTFL has taken Mendoza MBAs overseas to war-torn and economically struggling countries like Lebanon, Ethiopia, Honduras, and Sri Lanka. Here, students work with organizations ranging from Catholic Relief Services to General Electric to develop models and strategies that promote peace and commerce. Thus far, Mendoza MBAs have completed 50 of these projects in areas such as fighting sex trafficking, promoting nutrition, and setting up business incubators.
The program has also brought the school’s ever-engaged alumni deeper into the fold. Ken Meyer, a ’66 alum, donated $15 million to BOTFL in 2020. This was complemented by gifts that totaled $6 million dollars. As a result, the school intends to double the number of students who complete overseas BOTFL projects to 100. More than that, Mendoza launched the Frontlines in America program last fall with a dozen students in its initial cohort. In a 2020 interview with P&Q, Viva Bartkus, the faculty director for the Meyer Business on the Frontlines program, describes it as an effort to address issues ranging from addiction to violence – all while working with people “who are very different from ourselves.”
Exhibit A: The Grand Crossing neighborhood of Chicago – one of the city’s most violent. “The life expectancy there for males is a full 10 years less than the average of Chicago,” Bartkus told P&Q. “So it’s a quite a challenging place, but our partner is terrific, and it’s providing youth programming. And also they’ve asked us to help them build businesses that can absorb some of that youth, at least while they’re in high school, so they can learn new skills. And then we’ll see how it goes from there. But it’s a three-year commitment to the Comer Youth Center, because frankly you can’t have all the impact you’d want in the very first year. And this is a partner that can help us gain insight into urban poverty.”
Page 2: Profiles Of 11 members of the Class of 22
Page 2: Exclusive Q&A with Kelli Kilpatrick, MBA Program Director