Meet Chicago Booth’s MBA Class Of 2023

You can learn a lot from a book. In business school, that includes concepts like the product life cycles and asset pricing models. At its heart, you master business by experiencing its nuances. Take trial-and-error. That’s how MBA students learn how to set priorities and manage time. They hone pitches over repeated delivery and rapid revision. Making an impression and building a network? You better practice soft skills. When it comes to tackling problems and making decisions, business students learn the most by listening to their peers.

Like carpentry or plumbing, business is grounded in apprenticeship. That starts with second-years who don’t sit back and watch the newbies take their lumps and pay their dues. At the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, they go out of their way to make life easier for first-years. After all, Booth is known for demanding academic requirements and a dizzying array of options. Amid the demands, it is comforting for first-years to have peers who are committed to their growth and success. At Booth, this is called ‘Paying-It-Forward’ — a tradition and expectation that’s handed down between classes as an act of gratitude that extends far beyond graduation.


“I thought that everyone would be super self-focused and competitive, but that’s not at all how it is,” admits Gabriela Arismendi, a 2021 graduate. “Students at Booth are kind to and generous with one another. Whenever a student needs people for surveys, focus groups, or one-on-one calls for a class or professional project, other students always step up to help. Students celebrate one another’s successes and just genuinely enjoy spending time together. It’s rare to see anyone standing quietly, alone at an event, or even in the hallway because students are so open to engaging in conversations with everyone they meet.”

Marketing puffery? Hardly, says Booth’s Class of 2023. For Anna Li, who majored in Public Policy as a University of Chicago undergrad, the Pay-It-Forward culture is more of the same, where second-years are happy to address questions “ranging from classes to careers to clubs to restaurant recommendations.”  Jaron Hite, a senior restructuring associate from nearby Rockford, would add apartment suggestions to Li’s list. Thus far, he appreciates how open his classmates are to sharing their perspective and experience.

“I believe that Boothies frequently go above-and-beyond to assist others and that there is truly no question or problem too big or too small to ask a Boothie for help with.”

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business


You could describe Booth as a mix of ‘Old School’ academics and ‘New School’ flexibility. The former is called the Chicago Approach. Starr Marcello, deputy dean for MBA programs, frames the method as “answer[ing] questions and question[ing] answers.” Think of it as the constant collection, testing, and deployment of data in response to ever-changing variables and demands that disrupt patterns and relationships. That means being evidence-driven, forever altering the assumptions and systems in place. In the process, the Chicago Approach enables students to turn the enigmatic into the evident and abstract into the actionable.

Ashley Fields is another University of Chicago undergrad who returned to Hyde Park after helping to launch two lines at Goldman Sachs Asset Management. She describes the MBA program as “analytical,” a place that “teaches students how to think.” Fields’ classmate, Emma Lawler, uses a different term: “rigorous.”

“I knew the school had a reputation for quantitative curriculum,” she notes. “I’m looking forward to learning the hard skills I’ll need to be a business leader throughout my entire career. Yes, maybe I could learn some of these skills over years of hands-on experience, but I believe this two-year program will give me a stronger foundation to achieve my ambitious goals and make a bigger impact.”


Alas, Booth has always been known for teaching excellence. Its faculty roster include Nobel Laureates like Lars Peter Hansen, Richard Thaler, and Eugene Fama — with the latter labeled as the “Father of Modern Finance.” With such quant power, coupled with the school’s traditional strengths in finance, accounting, and analytics, students are occasionally dismissed as “nerdy.” That impression would be mistaken, notes Theodore Lim, another 2021 alum.

Boothies aren’t all about the numbers; one of the most popular classes is Interpersonal Dynamics, where we uncover more about ourselves, our feelings, and our relationships with others. Boothies also love to socialize, as any Thursday night around Chicago (pre-COVID) would prove.”

Of course, as the joke goes, MBAs come to Booth “to learn something.” That always comes in handy says Michael Xu, a 2020 grad who operates out of Bain & Company’s Shanghai office. “Booth had a well-established, data-driven approach to curriculum design. We applied data analytics in almost all subjects, such as marketing, new product development, operations, and even organizational behavior. The practical training I’ve had in applying data analytics to business problems has allowed me to speak intelligently in my current project, in which I helped our client select the best Consumer Data Platform vendor and conduct precision marketing campaigns.”

Students work inside the Rothman Winter Garden at the Charles M. Harper Center, which houses the Chicago Booth School of Business pictured on Friday, May 5, 2017, in Chicago. (Photo by Joel Wintermantle)


The Chicago Approach guides every aspect of the Booth curriculum. However, the program’s spirit is embodied in the “Flexible MBA.” In most programs, MBAs take core courses that cover the entire fall — if not much of the second semester. Booth inverts this model. Here, students are required to take one mandatory course, a student-led experience called LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development), which examines the fundamentals of communication and teamwork. Beyond that, MBAs must take a course in three disciplines: statistics, microeconomics, and financial accounting. As a result, they can begin take electives when they arrive on campus. Translation: they can pursue their passions and prepare for their summer internship sooner.

This design appealed heavily to Jaron Hite, who’d already earned his undergraduate degree in business and worked in finance before Booth. This decentralized ‘Have it your way MBA” has freed Hite to pursue more advanced coursework. Even more, it has enabled Hite to build his network with liked-minded peers.

“Because Booth has Evening and Weekend MBA Programs, students can take classes at night, on the weekends, or even attend the evening and weekend sessions of their class if they have schedule conflicts during the week with personal obligations or recruiting. The additional flexibility in class timing will allow me to have internships during the school year, giving me an advantage during recruitment.”

Even more, Hite adds, the flexibility trains students to make choices that bring the greatest return to their career. “Booth students have to be very thoughtful about course planning for their entire MBA career from the very first quarter. Students here need to think through how to properly allocate course bid points to the classes that they desire in the current quarter, while still saving points for those “must have” classes in future quarters. This aspect of the program forces students to put decisive action into determining what classes matter most for their experience.”


Who makes up the Booth MBA Class of 2023? Hite himself helped lead an engagement that kept a manufacturing company from shutting down, buying time and funding that enabled it to be acquired two years later. He plans to leverage experiences like these to move into private equity. “I hope to invest in minority- and women-owned businesses in the Midwest, a region of the US with comparatively little deal flow compared to the other parts of the country.”

Caroline Hughes is chasing a different vision. A second year at University of Chicago Law, she is earning a dual JD-MBA. Last summer, she provided legal advice to entrepreneurs in the University of Chicago’s Innovation Clinic. And she plans to connect the business-legal divide after graduation too.

“I hope to be a corporate lawyer after graduation, focusing on start-up, venture capital, and capital markets work. My interest in the MBA was two-fold: in the near term, I wanted to better understand the needs and challenges that my clients face. In the longer term, I wanted to develop the skill set needed for leading a team and managing a business.”

Booth faculty member heading to class


Looking for a cool resume? Emma Lawler, an entrepreneur and product manager, notes that she has “worked at Fitbit, theSkimm, and was the co-founder of Moonlight, a remote work marketplace that sold to a competitor in 2020.” Now, she comes with a new plan.

“I learned a lot of lessons from being a first-time founder, and knew I wanted to do it again with more formal business training under my belt. Then the first peak of the pandemic hit in NYC where I was living, and I had a lot of time for reflection. I decided on three things: I wanted to join a startup focused on women, attend a top business school, and eventually launch another startup.”

Looking for an unexpected professional background? Try Andrew Triggs, who notched 9 wins and 155 strikeouts as a Major League Baseball pitcher with stops in Oakland, San Francisco, and Boston. A political science major at USC, Triggs is looking to making a career change…sort of.

“I knew I was likely done playing at the end of the 2020 season and, having given a fair amount of thought to the “next step,” I decided that an MBA would be the perfect platform for transitioning careers. Immediately after Booth, I plan to pursue consulting and, in a perfect world, return to baseball in a front-office/business capacity.”

Page 2: Interview with the Deputy Dean

Page 3: Profiles of 12 members of the Class of 2023

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.