Meet The UC Riverside School Of Business MBA Class Of 2023

They’ve closed million dollar deals. Started companies. Spearheaded multi-national projects. They are high potentials with successful track records. As they return to campus, many experience a sense of déjà vu — the same uncertainty they felt as college freshmen or corporate newbies. Streaming into their MBA orientation, they ask themselves the same questions:

Can I do this?

Will I matter?

The answers are a definitive “Yes” at the UC Riverside A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management (AGSM). Here, MBA students are quickly swept up with new people, new ideas, and new opportunities. It is a program that mirrors the larger Riverside institution: a program designed for first generation, international, and minority students. The AGSM differentiator: intensive personal attention to each student’s needs and goals. An hour outside Los Angeles, the school taps into the region’s diverse business ecosystem, with recent grads landing jobs in companies as diverse as Google, Tesla, Amazon, Disney, JPMorgan Chase, Hulu, and PepsiCo. For alumni, an AGSM MBA has been their ticket to the next level: authority, prestige, and security. Along the way, they enjoyed Riverside’s sunny and breezy climate (with a whole ocean just a modest drive away).

A PERSON, NOT A NUMBER

The AGSM MBA program also consists of a carefully-constructed community, one that values a variety of educational backgrounds, cultural traditions, and professional experiences. That means admissions looks far beyond the usual measures. Jordan Greene learned that first-hand before joining the MBA Class of 2023. An inside sales representative who’d studied Environmental Business as an undergrad, Greene wanted to be more than “just another test score.” Instead, she insisted on a learning community that made her “feel seen and valued.” That’s exactly what she found at AGSM.

“UCR looked at me as a whole person,” she tells Poets&Quants. “I have dyslexia and auditory processing learning disabilities. On paper, sometimes schools and companies don’t see me as intelligent because they don’t know the whole me. I am smart, but I show it in my own way, and UCR sees how capable I am.”

A sense of family: That’s what the Class of 2023 has found since they kicked off Welcome Week with a sunset hike up Mount Rubidoux and a tour of Knott’s Berry Farm. For Camila Chaves, an entrepreneur from Colombia, the program’s diversity has been AGSM’s most striking feature. It is these differences that have brought her classmates closer to each other.

“Most of my close friends at UCR are from cultures other than my own,” she writes, “which has expanded my world view and gives me the added benefit of having friends to show me around amazing places. All the students I have met are also very supportive, and we try to help each other as much as we can. It really feels like a community. I am making great connections during my time here. In my Organizational Behavior course, we studied in a group during the entire quarter. Having worked on so many projects together, we built strong connections. One of my friends from the team encouraged us to apply for teaching assistant positions. Thanks to his advice, I am now a teaching assistant.”

Ye Li, who was named a Poets&Quants 40 Under 40 Professor in 2020

PULLING EACH OTHER UP

Families are often associated with homes — and “home” is the word that Stephanie Moya associates with AGSM. A tutor by trade, Moya has found that the Class of 2023 provides a “sense of belonging in a safe and welcoming environment.” To David Cooper, a UCLA-trained tax accountant and consultant, his classmates also bring a sense of drive.  That has inspired him to elevate his performance to match theirs.

“They have energized me to do more and be better,” Cooper explains. “When I hear my classmates’ stories about coming from foreign countries or what they had to do to make it here, it helps me realize the importance and value of where I am and the opportunity that I have. It provides me with a stronger sense of purpose during times that I’m juggling a lot or feeling stressed.”

It is during those stressful times, adds Jashan Meet, when the Anderson community pulls together to provide a safety net. “The students and alumni I have met have been kind to me and very welcoming,” observes Meet, who managed a Google-run literacy project in his native India. “When [I was] considering whether to pursue a concentration in information systems, I contacted our student association president for support. In less than an hour, he connected me to six members, all of whom were responsive and helpful. They shared course materials and curriculum, referred me to additional learning opportunities, and made recommendations for internships.  After this, I felt assured in my choice and more comfortable with the supportive UCR culture at AGSM.”

PURSUING THEIR DREAMS

Careers are extensions of passions. You learn much about a class by what they hope to achieve someday. Stephanie Moya, for one, hopes to become a program manager at Google or Meta after earning her MBA. A first generation college student, Moya is accustomed to beating the odds. To her, these companies represent a platform where she can harness her leadership abilities into making a deeper impact.

“I want to gain a deeper understanding of the market, competition, and user requirements. I also want to help launch new products and features while testing their performance. I like being part of a team and working collaboratively to create the best products.”

You could describe Franchesca Jefferson a Renaissance woman. A Human Biology major with a black belt in tae kwon do, Jefferson veered into social media. In her spare time, she became a filmmaker. With an MBA from AGSM, she plans to carve out a career where she can unleash her artistic passions while enjoying financial stability.

“I’m passionate about filmmaking and marketing because both fields allow me a creative outlet in the way that I plan, produce, and present promotional materials,” Jefferson explains. “The artistic freedom and conveyance of messages that capture the essence of people, stories, and brands are what drives me. After graduation, I hope to work in the entertainment industry as a talent or casting agent, or in talent acquisition. I’m excited about the perpetual change in the entertainment industry, and it encompasses many forms of media that require innovative marketing methods.”

The bell tower and sign under blue skies on Thursday, March 19, 2020 at UC Riverside.
(UCR/Stan Lim)

AN INTEREST IN ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Some students are pursuing an MBA to achieve aims bigger than themselves. Case in point: David Cooper. His interests, he says, lie in “health and wellness, food, nutrition.” After graduation, he intends to connect these interests with the business tools he gains at AGSM to support populations that lack access to healthcare that many take for granted.

“I would love to develop the ability to put marginalized people and people of color in positions of influence and power around the world,” Cooper writes. “I would also like to see a dramatic increase in the importance of health and wellness in the U.S. within communities of color. I have seen marginalized communities suffer from health issues, such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiovascular disease. These can be attributed to many factors, but can be traced back to these marginalized communities that do not have the appropriate resources…After graduation, I hope to go into business consulting, preferably for companies aligned with my personal interests, and eventually build a strong business of my own.”

Chances are, Cooper has met with Camila Chaves on how to do just that. With COVID producing a surplus of time, she helped launch homekreate.com, turning her love of digital marketing into an online marketplace. “Along with my team, we contacted small entrepreneurs in Colombia and helped them expand their online presence via our website. We used the dashboard I built, which includes sales, Google Analytics information, Google ads, supply chain, and other areas; I gather information in Excel, take it to SQL, and study it with Tableau and Power Bi. Therefore, our marketing campaigns and the budget have been better allocated.”

GIVING BACK TO WHERE YOU CAME FROM

The Class of 2023 also hails from 12 countries,. Living in Taiwan, Ruby Young majored in Social Work before entering the logistics field working in finance. In contrast, Leonardo Targia moved from Milan to California to earn his undergraduate degree at UC-Riverside. And he loved his time at UC Riverside so much that he returned to AGSM after working as an analyst at one of Italy’s top investment banks. By the same token, Sweta Mulji grew up in Tanzania before earning a degree at UC’s San Marcos campus and carving out a career in technology  — an area where Chang Deng worked as a project manager for HUAWEI.

“I spearheaded a core project for NFV Volte and 5G, and completed it in a short period of time, exceeding quality parameters, which resulted in exceptionally high client ratings by the Unicom group,” Deng tells P&Q. “Consequently, I received the Excellent New Staff of Global Technical Service Award.”

Jashan Meet found his calling in social activism. Growing up in rural India, Meet experienced how underprivileged communities endured a shortage of educational opportunities and supplies. In response, he joined the non-profit sector to boost financial and digital literacy where it was needed most.

“In 2017, I started free coaching for high school students, and I joined the NAANDI Foundation and Sshrishti India Trust in project coordinator positions,” Meet says. “I also started my own organization in the education sector, and our team created engaging, inclusive, and individualized learning experiences for more than 300 high school students. We provided basic supplies to students, including books, school bags, shoes, socks, sanitary pads, and other items.”

Portrait of Elaine Wong, Associate Professor of Management, School of Business.
(UCR/Stan Lim)

MOMENTUM ON CAMPUS

Sure enough, the Class of 2023 has built on these achievements since they started class. Camila Chaves has continued to deepen her analytics skills in the most unexpected place: the student volleyball team. “Sports have always been part of my life, and I was on the women’s soccer team during my undergraduate years at Harris-Stowe,” she explains. “Data analysis for volleyball is a great opportunity for me to combine my new passion for data with a life-long love for sports. I analyze game and practice information in Data Volley 4 to understand trends and advise actions, helping improve decision-making, players’ performance, and team cohesion.”

Franchesca Jefferson has been channeling her energies into the Graduate Student Ambassadors program, where she heads up its marketing committee. “I help current and prospective graduate business students excel during their time at UCR. I lead the ambassador’s marketing committee, providing outreach and resources that help students navigate the bridges between the personal, academic, and professional worlds.”

Alas, some achievements can be bulleted or quantified.  Certainly, that’s true for Spriha Kumari, a dancer, painter, and workout junkie from India. For her, the MBA has been an exercise in building confidence. “I now know how to represent and distinguish myself from the crowd and have become good at what I do. I have excelled in my courses while working a dining shift, participating in programs and dance clubs, and staying healthy. I’ve also been offered a teaching assistant position.”

Next Page: An interview with Dean Yunzeng Wang and Associate Dean Rami Zwick.

Page 3: In-depth profiles of 11 members of the AGSM Class of 2023.

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