100 Best & Brightest MBAs: Class of 2022

Hannes Harnack, Stanford Graduate School of Business


Many Best & Brightest had made sizable impacts on the world’s top brands — and long before they started business school. At Procter & Gamble, CEIBS’ Raffaele Ragini launched one of the firm’s most profitable European brands. Looking for scale? Try Harita Byluppala, who worked as a digital manufacturing engineer at Nestlé. The IMD MBA pushed her firm to move their factories — over 400 in all —to a higher digital standard for automation. After pitching to the executive team, she mobilized a team to roll out the changes across the globe, a transformation that has cut manufacturing costs by millions of dollars. At Germany’s premier automaker, Hannes Harnack helped frame its top’s brand long-term identity.

“Working at the strategy department of Mercedes-Benz gave me the opportunity to redefine how we will move from A to B in the future,” explains the Stanford MBA. “I coordinated all the corporate functions involved in the new product development process and learned how to lead a large project team without having formal authority. Drawing on the expertise of my team members, I defined the cornerstones of a Mercedes-Benz vehicle architecture and the drivetrain electrification strategy for 2025 and beyond. In an intense three-hour presentation to the CEO and the board of Mercedes-Benz, I finally succeeded in getting approval for our proposal.”

Ellis Odynn, Queen’s College

Strategy is also Kaumudi Tiwari’s forte. At Edelman she worked on public relations campaigns for brands like Royal Dutch Shell. Eventually, the IIM Ahmedabad grad moved to Lufthansa Group Airlines, where she became the youngest person to run point on social media for a market as big as India. Fast forward to Nupur Gadkari, a Warwick MBA who most recently headed up marketing and strategy for All Sports, an arm of Star Sports-Walt Disney India. During her 15 year career in marketing, Gadkari has earned awards around products as disparate as Barbie Dolls, ICC Cricket World Cup, and Castrol Oil. While Tiwari and Gadkari may have toiled in anonymity, Ellis Odynn of Queen’s College has grabbed the spotlight. She is a highly regarded speaker who has presented at events held by organizations like the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation (APEC) and PayPal. When Odynn wasn’t on stage, she was busy signing speakers from Google, YouTube, and Uber for the Women In Leadership Summit that she organized.

“Her list of accomplishments is simply breathtaking,” observes Len Anderson, an accounting lecturer at the Smith School. “She’s a speaker, journalist and podcaster. She has a passion for all things technology-related and she’s constantly exploring opportunities at the forefront of FinTech and AI. This energy and vitality is apparent in all that Ellis does.”


So too is the commitment to service among this year’s Best & Brightest. In college, Yale SOM’s Kelechi Umoga started a health clinic, elementary school, and several businesses in a Nigerian Village where he grew up. And he is still operating these organizations from afar. Adam Cochran enjoyed a comfortable living at JPMorgan Chase, where he spent eight years at project and team management roles. However, he felt a calling to be something more. That impulse led him to South Africa’s Hope Schools, which caters to impoverished children suffering from HIV.

“During the five-and-half years I was there, we experienced incredible growth – both with the campus and the children and staff,” Cochran writes. “I grew a lot as well. We built 12 classrooms, a Skills Development Center, admin buildings, a 1,000-seat hall, a hiking trail, an obstacle course and more.

Ryan Hall, University of Chicago (Booth)

My role constantly evolved as we grew. You name it, I did it…It was life-changing to play a role in building Hope from a small, growing school up to Grade 5 in one 60-year-old building to a fully-fledged campus up to Grade 12 with almost 300 children.”

The military is synonymous with service. The Class of 2022 didn’t disappoint in this measure. Before Georgetown, Richard Williamson had attained the rank of Company Commander in the U.S. Army, where he managed a 180-person team and equipment worth nearly $90 million dollars. Before that, he was awarded a Joint Services Commendation Medal for leading a multi-national team that provided services like food and shelter to 300,000 Syrian Civil War refugees. The University of Chicago’s Ryan Hall participated in similar operations in Afghanistan. Last August, the Navy veteran worked to evacuate Afghan allies. His involvement in “The Digital Dunkirk” became a testament to his past perseverance.

“I was rejected by various Navy commissioning programs four times over seven years. Every time I got rejected, it just hardened my resolve. On my fifth try, I got picked up for Officer Candidate School in 2007. Every day, I remind myself that I’m the kid that grew up to get to do his dream, and it’s a big part of the passion and energy in my leadership style.”

At Rutgers University, J. David Wiessler held mock interviews with 230 undergraduates — which equates to four work weeks…minimum. However, his real legacy will be the courage he showed in his second year.  A former explosive ordnance disposal officer, Wiessler suffered serious burns across his hands, arms, and face last summer. His response: Stay focused and push forward.

“I spent a month in the ICU and was released the same week that classes started,” he remembers. “Instead of taking time off, I decided to remain a full-time student. I’m thankful to the university administration and my support network for accommodating for my condition. I maintained a 3.8 GPA despite having limited function in my arms and hands. Enrolling in classes while recovering will allow me to graduate on time and finish the MBA program without issues.”

Emily Aguilar, USC (Marshall)


Between COVID-19, political unrest, and economic downturn, the Class of 2022 faced adversity like no other. That said, business school also brought some pleasant surprises. USC Marshall’s Emily Aguilar, for one, watched her connections and opportunities expand as she invested more time in coffee chats and extracurricular activities. Similarly, Torrey Mayes learned that business school valued far different outcomes than undergraduate programs.

“The biggest surprise was the full focus on experimenting and learning,” writes the UC-Berkeley second-year. “Up until business school, it always felt like GPA and test scores were the most important criteria to be a successful student. Once I got to Haas, I learned that what matters most is learning and growing. I was encouraged to take the classes that were difficult and interesting because it mattered more that I challenged myself than to maintain a certain GPA.”

More than anything, it was the diversity of thought and experience that MBAs cited as the most surprising aspect of their experience. Amelia Parlier didn’t expect to fit in at the Katz Graduate School of Business. After all, she describes herself as a “queer artist” who dresses unconventionally, and supports unions and higher corporate taxes and greater regulation. Despite that, Parlier says, her perspective was welcomed in the community.

“I don’t necessarily support a lot of the practices of the companies that we study, and I can be quite loud about it. I was fully expecting to be rejected or shut down by students and professors, but my experience has been the exact opposite of what I was expecting. My viewpoint has been treated as an asset and a value in discussions. Professors have seemed interested to hear my thoughts and I have had productive and engaging discussions with other students — some of whom have similar ideas to mine and some of whom have very different ideas. My cohort is incredibly diverse, and I don’t even represent the most radical viewpoints.”

What’s next for the 2022 Best & Brightest MBAs? They carry a wide range of ambitions. Many hope to run their own business, live overseas, write a book, support a cause or even return to business school to teach. In the end, most plan to follow the career path blazed by MBAs before them: impact, autonomy, service, and connection.

“I want to be able to use my passion for servant leadership and ethics to lead and positively influence employees, customers, and a community for good,” explains Adam Cochran. “I want to be a leader of people: someone that people say he got in the trenches with them, got his hands dirty, brought everyone together, and led them to do more than they thought they could.”

See pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs. 









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