Best & Brightest Online MBAs: Class Of 2022

Whitney Graham, ’22 graduate of Auburn University’s Harbert College of Business


As professionals, the Class of 2022 also racked up an impressive series of achievements. While completing her MBA at Auburn, Whitney Graham earned the Valvoline V Award, an honor given to just five employees company-wide each year for innovation. Know someone with an Abbott next-generation Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillator?  Well, Santa Clara MBA Anthony Bonvino designed much of it. Warwick’s Jamie Patton, a deputy director in the British government, takes pride in how his team distributed ventilators across the UK before COVID-19, noting that “no one died for want of a ventilated bed.” At the same time, Ross’ Manuel Herrera served as the Master Planner for Ford Motor Company’s new corporate campus in Dearborn. And Shir Zalzberg-Gino kept herself plenty busy when she wasn’t working for Salesforce or studying at IE Business School.

“I founded a professional community of UX designers in Israel,” she tells P&Q. “Today, it is the biggest UX community in Israel, with more than 17,000 members. The community hosts several initiatives including a free mentorship program, monthly meetups, salary surveys, and more. My work in the community has led me to be recognized as a Forbes Israel 30 under 30.”

Outside work and school, Zalzberg-Gino collects Pez dispensers – over 400 in all. That’s just one of the unique facts about the Class of 2022. Carnegie Mellon’s Sveta Vodicka can speak four languages: Ukrainian, Russian, French, and English. Nearly 40 years ago, Harini K. Kataria’s face appeared on baby bottles in India. When Ross’ Brad Kohlmeyer married, he catered the reception through Chipotle Mexican Grill – a perk of being one of the firm’s finance managers. And Peter Franzen wasn’t the only member of his family at N.C. State these past two years.

“While getting my MBA, I was “classmates” with my two oldest daughters,” he notes.  “I would meet them on “our” campus and have them buy me coffee.  While we didn’t have any actual classes together, I did drive down to celebrate at the Belltower at midnight after our football team beat the in-state rival on a last second touchdown.  Go Pack!”


Anthony Duellman, ’22 graduate of the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

For many Best & Brightest, the online MBA represented a major transition. After all, many hadn’t seen a classroom over the past 10-20 years. They were working professionals heading online to gain an edge. As undergraduates, they had dreams and deadlines, not employees and expectations. As adult learners, many had to contend with entirely different commitments.

“I had my first baby (Benjamin) during my first year in the MBA and my second baby (Julia) during the second year,” notes Eduardo Martins Rocha, a University of Illinois iMBA and global business manager at Schlumberger. “I managed to graduate within two years while having a full-time job in a foreign country and parenting my two newborns.”

For Martins Rocha, the online MBA required a 30 hour a week commitment. However, he also doubled up on coursework to graduate earlier. On average, the Best & Brightest found that they averaged 15-20 hours a week on business school work.

“Variable, but usually 17-20 [hours],” observes the University of Florida’s Joseph Arrunategui, a product manager for Amazon. “School from 7-10 PM Monday-Thursday, rarely Friday. 4-6 hours combined Saturday and Sunday.”

“We were told to anticipate spending an hour or two each night and then one of our two weekend days working on the MBA,” adds the University of Maryland’s Anthony Duellman, a senior systems administrator at Marriott International. “To me, that was very accurate, so I’d estimate about 12 hours a week.”


Brad Kohlmeyer. ’22 graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

That meant flexibility and convenience for the Class of 2022. They spent less time traveling to campus (or finding parking). They could sneak in study during lunches, breaks, evenings, and transit. And they didn’t need to give up one or two years of work momentum to earn their MBA. Arizona State’s Matthew Kirby Galliger, for one, puts in 55-60 hour work weeks, often not returning home until 8:00 a.m. He appreciated how lectures were “right there waiting for me” instead of fretting about missing out if his schedule couldn’t accommodate class. This flexibility enabled Kiza Miller to have what she calls a “choose your own adventure.”

“With my schedule, I cannot guarantee for 2 weeks to be available at the same time – let alone 2 years,” she tells P&Q. “You are able to select your classes and work on them when it fits into your schedule. My job is quite unpredictable and with Eller I knew that I would have the option to make school fit alongside my career.”

For Brad Kohlmeyer, one of the best parts of the online format was being able to tuck his children into bed every night. From there, he could head to his home office, log in, and learn from some of the best faculty and student peers at the University of Michigan – the kind of lessons that can be applied the very next day at work.

“The online format breaks down the geographic walls that may have previously kept really smart people from engaging with each other,” he observes. “I would have never had the chance to interact with and learn from the engineers, lawyers, surgeons, data scientists, entrepreneurs, and others brought together by this format. When you allow those people to keep doing their day jobs but come together to learn with other exceptionally bright students, it supercharges everyone’s education.”

Maria Ilundain, ’22 graduate of Arizona State’s W. P. Carey School of Business


Another benefit of the online format is the quality. Unlike a decade ago, when distance learning was sometimes viewed as “MBA Lite,” the online programs feature the same professors and requirements as their full-time and executive brethren. In many cases, online MBAs enjoy similar extracurricular and travel opportunities as well.

“I loved that online students still have access to many of the opportunities that full time students have,” explains Arizona State’s Maria Ilundain, who works in supply chain for Intel. “For example, for me, I loved having the opportunity to Study Abroad in Prague, Czech Republic in March 2022 with classmates not only from the online MBA program but also from the full-time and executive MBA programs. This was an unforgettable opportunity to network with other MBA students and faculty in W. P. Carey’s Schools of Business while learning how to do business in a different country.”

Despite the distance between students, the online format doesn’t produce disconnect. In fact, as Rice University’s Cody Bass points out, online often frees students to take risks.

Leslie Patch, ’22 graduate of the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business

“I enjoyed how the Zoom live sessions are very similar to class, yet folks can message in the background in an encouraging way. I don’t know how many times I would go out on a limb to pose a question or express an idea many felt uncomfortable doing. I would then receive messages thanking me for opening the discussion and helping others get comfortable. That would have been hard in person.”


And students weren’t the only ones benefitting from MBA classes too. “My favorite part of participating in an online MBA program was the example I was able to set for my children regarding study habits and putting in the hard work to achieve your goals,” adds Whitney Graham. “The example I was able to provide to my children was as valuable as any academic knowledge that I gained during my time at Auburn.”

Of course, the cash didn’t hurt, either. Between promotions and company changes, the Class of 2022 saw their pay increase anywhere from 10% to 149%. That was just the start. Herb Bennett uses his MBA lessons to boost monthly cash flow by nearly 40%. Sveta Vodicka notched two promotions, transitioned from finance to marketing, and then joined PwC as a consultant in its healthcare practice – all while earning her MBA at the Tepper School. She wasn’t alone in making a big jump as a student.

“While in the program, I successfully pivoted out of clinical practice into patient safety at a gene therapy biotech,” “Near the conclusion of the program, I was fortunate enough to receive (and accept) an offer to become a Medical Director at Johnson & Johnson Surgical Vision,” adds Leslie Patch. “The Ross program not only helped me transition but accelerate within my new industry.”


Richard Treitley III, ’22 graduate of Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business

What advice would the Class of 2022 offer to future online MBAs looking for similar returns? For Indiana University’s Richard Trietley III, that starts with being proactive and curious. “Own your own learning and development. You will not get as much one-on-one time with the professors unless you seek it out. Take advantage of every opportunity you can to meet and learn from your professors. In addition, you must network. Join every group that you can and meet as many people as possible. Finally, from my personal experience, embrace the impostor syndrome and use it to get as much value as you can out of the content. To this day, I experience the impostor syndrome of working with so many talented individuals. Replacing hubris with an open mind to learn everything possible is the key to gaining the most value out of your online MBA.”

Brad Kohlmeyer offers a different bit of wisdom: set expectations so everyone understands what’s involved and why. “It is exceedingly difficult to thrive in your career, your family life, and your online education simultaneously,” he notes. “When you are focused on one, the others are being neglected in some way. Having open and honest conversations with your employer, spouse, and family is incredibly important. Things will not always be easy – be prepared for that reality and have mechanisms in place to refocus your attention where it is most needed.”

Perhaps the most important advice comes from Shir Zalzberg-Gino. For her, the biggest factor in business school success is the one often overlooked: define what success looks like to you. “Some people want the highest scores, some want to come out with the best networks, and some are looking to have a new experience. So my best advice would be this: ask yourself, honestly, how you want to come out of this program, what success means to you, and what you should focus on. We can’t achieve everything, so focus and precise decision-making would help you achieve your personal idea of success.”

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