Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2023

Something for everyone” can come across as a carny shtick. Enter the big tent in Ann Arbor and the bottom line matches the bluster. Hands-on experience and all-around excellence — matched with a premier research university and Norman Rockwell college town. That’s the Ross School of Business difference. And it’s just 45 minutes from a major metro too!

Experiential. Action-packed. Learn-by-doing. Those terms have all been applied to the Ross curriculum. Here, MBAs work in teams to reinforce what they learn. In the process, they build a network of influencers and a resume filled with brand name, high-stakes projects. Want to devise pricing for Amazon or content strategy for the NFL? You can choose from over 100 projects with the Multidisciplinary Action Projects (aka MAP). Wondering what it feels like to be a c-suite executive in a real-time crisis? There is the annual Crisis Challenge, a simulation that puts your poise and prowess under the microscope. Want to run your own operation? That’s the Living Business Leadership Experience, where Ross teams run divisions of existing companies. That doesn’t count the usual class projects, student-run investment funds, and conferences, startup accelerators, dual degrees, or industry-specific institutes.

A BIAS TOWARDS ACTION

After spending a decade in Puerto Rico’s social impact sector, Gabriela Alvarez-Estades hopes to expand her reach into consulting, philanthropy, and corporate social responsibility. For her, Ross’ action-driven approach will provide the real-world experience to ease into this transition.

“Michigan Ross motivates and supports its students to not only dream, but do,” writes the Ross first-year. “Whether you’re interested in starting your own entrepreneurial or social impact venture, managing millions of dollars in investment capital, or offering strategic consulting to real-world companies and organizations, Ross will offer a platform to start doing that from day one. Back in my college days, I discovered that I learn best by doing, and the school’s bias towards action is just another one of the many reasons I knew it would be the right fit for me.”

Completing these projects requires teamwork. And that is one unsung benefit of the Ross experience. Every day, MBAs practice how to communicate ideas. Integrate differing perspectives, delegate responsibilities, build trust, and resolve conflicts — or the basic foundations of leadership. That made the Ross MBA all the more appealing to Vu Nguyen, who experienced teamwork plenty in the U.S. Navy.

“The idea that I would be a part of 25 to 30 teams over two years quickly sparked my interest and is a key part of why I chose Michigan Ross’s MBA program,” he tells P&Q. “In my jobs and all the organizations I’ve been a part of, success was measured by what teams can accomplish. Of course, there are individual contributions, but teams accomplish more than any individual. Working in multiple teams is important to me because the bonds, experiences, and stories that I will gain from being on those teams will be very valuable after graduation.”

Ross MBAs together at dinner

A GREAT PLACE TO LEARN AND LIVE

Another differentiator is across-the-board excellence. In a 2020 U.S. News survey of MBA deans and directors, Ross ranked among the 20-best full-time MBA programs for every specialization measured, ranking among the ten best in Marketing, Management, Finance, Accounting, Entrepreneurship, Operations, Supply Chain, and Non-Profits. While MBAs enjoy a well-rounded education, they can also tap into the school’s multidisciplinary ecosystem to fuels a sense of innovation across the campus in general.

“I recently learned that Ann Arbor, where Michigan Ross is located, is the most educated and smartest city in America,” points out Yasmin Abdulhadi, a financial literacy instructor joined the Class of 2023 this summer. “With so many people gathering from different backgrounds and areas of expertise at Ross and across the university, there are many opportunities to cross paths with people and create/do something impactful in different fields.”

It’s not just the potential synergies that make Ann Arbor a great place to live adds one Ross alum. “Although Ann Arbor is a small little city, it is one of the coziest places to live in,” writes Neha Tadichetty, a 2021 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “It has something for every kind of person. From river walking to rock climbing, from a quick 45-minute drive to Detroit to a four-hour road trip to some of the most amazing skiing resorts, Ann Arbor has access to a wide and exciting range of outdoor life. At the heart of it all, Michigan Ross provides ample opportunities for students to engage and thrive in this all-rounded experience through its clubs and social events. Contrary to popular belief, the winters open up a range of new activities that we Wolverines look forward to every year.”

More than the comfort and convenience, observes Gabriela Alvarez-Estades, it was the community and mission that set Ross apart.

“Ross truly lives by its mission of building a better world through business and developing purpose-driven leaders who can make a positive difference. Through my research and exploration, I learned there are 100+ ways to make an impact while at Ross. As someone coming from a social impact background, this alignment in purpose and values signaled a strong cultural fit.”

University of Michigan, Ross School of Business

A SOCCER STAR AND AN EDUCATION GURU

What types of students fit at Michigan Ross? It certainly isn’t Excel ninjas and idea gurus from generations before. Take Foster Langsdorf. At Stanford, he was part of three NCAA National Championship teams in soccer. In his spare time — the off-season — he worked in commercial real estate investment. Come spring, you’d find him playing forward with Minnesota United.

“The biggest accomplishment in my career has been playing 67 minutes in Major League Soccer,” he jokes. “Albeit a small amount of time to play when spread over 3.5 seasons, it was more than I ever dreamt I would play as someone who walked on the Stanford University Men’s Varsity Soccer team. I now plan to take my talents to the intramural soccer team at Ross. Hopefully, I make the team.”

Abhimanyu Vashistha calls himself a “motorsports nerd” — not surprising given his background in mechanical engineering. He later became a consultant who helped build an online learning package for millions of students in India’s most impoverished states to prevent students from falling behind during COVID.

“I realized that compelling digital content made accessible through technology can substantially enhance classroom learning,” he explains. “I developed a web-based tool for students to discover these “packages” and teachers to access teaching material. My platform –www.digischoolindia.com – has since become a source accessed by millions of learners and has become a mainstay of the learning continuity strategy and the long-term digital learning vision.”

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

The class even includes its own celebrity, Juan Rogelio Lemarroy Montanaro. “In 2017, I became the first Mexican DJ to secure a record deal as an official Sony Music Mexico artist,” he notes. “As a result, I was able to collaborate with world-renowned artists, such as Alan Walker, and do shows worldwide alongside top DJs such as Tiësto.”

Why leave a spot that many people dream of holding? For Montanaro, it was all about timing. “During these chaotic times, I came to understand that my role as an artist had come to a halt, and it was time for me to transition into the business world. To successfully reinvent myself, I needed preparation, the one only an MBA could give me. As a people person and leader, I hope to become a product manager or general manager in tech after graduation.”

Rebecca Leder also hadn’t planned to enter business. After earning a psychology degree at the University of Chicago, she moved into the nonprofit sector, eventually becoming the first volunteer for the Obama Foundation, eventually moving into the role of engagement analyst.

“My most meaningful professional experiences were as part of the team working to bring the Obama Presidential Center to the south side of Chicago. I joined the Obama Foundation in 2017 and loved building something from the ground up. As a member of the public engagement team, I was responsible for ensuring that the voices of a diverse set of community members and stakeholders—from ordinary citizens to community activists and business leaders—were incorporated into the building and design process. A couple of years ago, this meant I held a key role in designing the Obama Foundation Summit, which gathered leaders from Chicago and around the world to exchange ideas and build relationships.”

Class of 2023 attending a session on DEI at Full-Time MBA Orientation

BUILDING “PLATOONS” ACROSS THE COUNTRY

Indeed, non-profits were a popular starting point for the Class of 2023.  Gabriela Alvarez-Estades, for one, worked for Grupo Guayacán, which she describes as “Puerto Rico’s leading entrepreneurship development and small business support nonprofit organization.” Along the way, she raised millions of dollars to help organizations with everything from emergency cash relief to technical assistance. At Nonprofit Finance Fund, Janet Genser helped to edit and publish a book on “financing mechanisms” in the social sector. Vu Nguyen even launched a program, The Mission Continues, so veterans could continue their service.

“I grew the group from myself to 180 members in under a year. From there, I was hired to help The Mission Continues grow their “Platoon” program across the Northeast. I helped to launch and grow efforts in New York City, Newark, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Orlando, Tampa, Miami, and Puerto Rico. It’s my greatest accomplishment because I’ve left a positive impact in various communities across the country and have left an enduring mark of service on this generation – the Post 9/11 generation – of military veterans that will last for decades to come.”

Finance was another avenue where MBAs made a difference. Over four years, Chisom Uche went from the third employee at a venture fund to building two additional funds that invested in over three dozen companies. Christopher Meyer designed portfolios with ESG-focused funds that were able to “outperform their conventional benchmarks in the sudden COVID-19 market crash and whipsaw recovery of 2020.” As a director in New York City’s Small Business Services, Eden Berdugo ran programs that served over 1,000 businesses owned by minorities and women during the pandemic.

“I spearheaded the first consulting project between SBS and Deloitte to create a reopening playbook for businesses recovering from and growing beyond COVID-19. I also managed a team of four to pilot the City’s first mentorship programs for Black and low-income entrepreneurs recovering from COVID-19 as part of the Mayor’s Racial, Inclusion and Equity Taskforce. Lastly, I launched NYC’s inaugural cohort-based entrepreneurial boot camps for Black entrepreneurs and Black women entrepreneurs.”

Pages 2-3: Interview with Soojin Kwon, Managing Director, MBA Admissions and Student Experience

Page 4: In-Depth Profiles of 12 Michigan Ross MBAs

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