Meet Stanford GSB’s MBA Class Of 2023

MBA students gather outdoors. Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova

LIVING THE DREAM

Dreams come true at the Stanford GSB. Just ask Anthony Kayruz. Two years ago, he was deeply influenced by Humor, Seriously: Why Humor is a Secret Weapon in Business and Life – a book authored by GSB professors Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas. Now, he is teaching alongside them in their “Humor: Serious Business” course. During his first year, Mohammad Jama joined his co-chairs in bringing back the GSB Black Business Student Association Leadership Conference and Gala after a two-year absence as an in-person event. By the same token, Sowa Imoisili was elected co-president of the student body, while Pedro Gonzalez was named the class ambassador to Colombia.

“It has become a mission in my life to show others that there is much more to my country than the existing stereotypes,” he tells P&Q. “I have taught salsa classes on campus, along with directing the salsa performance in the annual GSB show, and I have felt so much pride by seeing others sing and dance salsa on the dance floor. Along with the other two Colombians in my class, I brought 200+ classmates to Colombia to experience our delicious local cuisine, Latin music, and emerging startup ecosystem.”

Still, no one will have more spotlight on them than Nik Nayar. Next fall, he’ll be shouldering the most pressure-packed role of any class member. “I‘m managing the GSB’s music playlist next year (Yes, I am to blame for whatever plays on the outdoor speakers in Town Square),” he jokes.

MBA students gathered together. Photo Credit: Kelsey Doyle

SOME PLEASANT SURPRISES

Looking back, the Class of 2023 agrees: the GSB experience came with surprises that didn’t light up the message boards. Perhaps the biggest is the amount of time that professors devote to advising students outside of class, notes Robert DeWitt.

“The approachability of GSB professors and practitioners has definitely surprised me. Professors give a pretty ridiculous amount of their time to students, from casual lunches in Town Square to advising student startups, and I’ve really enjoyed having the chance to form relationships with faculty outside of the classroom. Students also enjoy a pretty amazing amount of access to the practitioners that teach courses. I took a couple classes with Scott Brady, who’s also an entrepreneur and partner at VC firm Innovation Endeavors, and it still blows me away how far out of his way Scott would go to help and support students.”

Those interactions extend well beyond the faculty lounge adds Sowa Imoisili. “Stanford provides an extraordinary level of access to leaders and organizations – far beyond what I expected. It’s not uncommon to have to decide between hearing a talk by a Nobel Laureate and having a small group lunch with a serial unicorn founder. The GSB network is incredibly powerful and the faculty members proactively help connect the dots, whether that’s making an introduction or leveraging their networks to help launch new ventures.”

That doesn’t include the larger GSB community, current students or alumni alike, who make themselves available to support their MBA peers. “During my time at Stanford, members of the community have helped me prepare for interviews, taught me about interesting topics, offered career and life advice, and introduced me to their own network,” explains Laura Calderon. “The GSB community has supported me in a way that I’d never witnessed before, and I feel like I have thousands of people in my corner helping me to get wherever I want to go.”

GETTING OUT OF THE “BUBBLE”

Those thousands aren’t always faculty, classmates, alumni, and friends of the GSB. Mohammad Jama points out that 20% of his classmates are earning joint or dual degrees. At the same time, he adds, nearly everyone takes a class “across the street” – or outside the business school.

“One academic highlight of my first year has been taking CEE 250, a product management class taught in the School of Engineering,” he notes. “I worked on a quarter-long project with two designers and a CS student to develop a browser extension that helped librarians quickly identify the right expert to address a patron’s query. It was such a fun learning experience, and I enjoyed getting out of the business school bubble every week.”

The bubble isn’t necessarily the Knight Management Center. For Nik Nayer, maybe the biggest surprise about the MBA experience was just how much of it has been spent outdoors. “The GSB campus itself is a stone’s throw across the street, and at all times of year people are sitting outside in the main Town Square reading, working on side projects, and hanging out. This open environment is really unique and I think is a factor in developing an inclusive and tight-knit community – and really helps us take advantage of the year-round blue skies and sun!”

MBA students enjoying free time together. Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova

LESSONS LEARNED

It is conducive to reflection too. Many times, when people look back on their lives, they gravitate towards times where they connected to a purpose, met new people, or took risks. From these moments, they come away with epiphanies that resonate for the rest of their lives. Since arriving at the GSB last fall, Anthony Kayruz has learned not to defer his dreams, adding that there is no shame in going for it and missing the mark. For Taleha Aftab, the takeaway has been “vulnerability is not equal to weaknesses” – that opening up can inspire change and deepen relationships. Despite studying alongside highly accomplished classmates, Laura Calderon has committed to defining success on her own terms.

“At Stanford, I have realized that success is thriving in the path that you choose to become the best possible version of yourself to generate the most meaningful impact,” Calderon writes. “There is not a single one-size-fits-all model of what a successful person’s life should look like, because success is different for every person. The GSB’s deeply rooted culture of introspection helps us to identify who we are, what drives us, and what success means for each one of us.”

That journey, observes Mohammad Jama, will last a lifetime. “I won’t be anywhere close to a finished product as a leader and business thinker when I graduate from the GSB, but I’ve gained access to incredible research, teaching, and speakers and an opportunity to put theory to practice through experiential courses and extracurricular opportunities. As much as I’ve grown and learned here, there’s so much more to be learned after I graduate. My time at the GSB is only the beginning of a lifelong learning journey on leadership and business.”

A CLASS PROFILE

Last year, Stanford GSB received 7,367 applications for a spot in the Class of 2023. Ultimately, it accepted an estimated 6.4% of applicants, ranking it as the most selective full-time MBA program in the world. This year’s class features 426 students, with 44% being women and 47% hailing from overseas. Overall, the Class of 2023 features students from 63 countries. Among American students, 30% of the class is Asian American, with African American and Hispanic students accounting for 12% and 10% of the class respectively.

This class also brings a 738 average GMAT to Palo Alto. That’s five points better than the previous class (and five points higher than the Wharton School as well). Here, scores ranged from 610-790. The average GRE came in at 330 – three points higher than Harvard Business School and six points better than the Wharton School. As undergraduates, the Class of 2023 posted a 3.78 average GPA. There, 25% of first-years majored in Engineering. This edged out Economics majors, who account for 22% of the class. The remainder of the class includes MBAs who majored in Business and Commerce (15%), Social Science (15%), Math or Science (14%), and Arts and Humanities (8%). As professionals, the largest segment of the class last worked in Investment Management, Private Equity, or Venture Capital (20%), 19% of the class held Consulting positions, followed by Technology at 16%. The class also includes students with experience in Government, Education, Nonprofits, Healthcare, Arts, Media and Entertainment, Consumer Products, Energy, and the Military.

Come graduation, the Class of 2023 will be in demand. Last summer, one Stanford grad commanded a million-dollar signing bonus. Overall, the GSB set school records for starting base pay ($161,831) and average expected performance bonus ($78,373). In a white-hot employment market, you can expect this class to rake in the rewards as well. What else can Stanford MBAs expect in the coming year…and beyond. In May, P&Q reached out to Paul Oyer, Senior Associate Dean For Academic Affairs. From the launch of the Doerr School for Sustainability to popular events like TALK, here is a look inside life at the Stanford GSB.

GSB Classroom. Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova

AN INTERVIEW WITH PAUL OYER

P&Q: What are the two most exciting developments at your program and how will they enrich the MBA experience for current and future MBAs?

Oyer: “We believe that today’s leaders face an increasingly complex landscape that will require a deep understanding of the relationship between business and governmental institutions as well as the effect business can have on society. Over the past several years, we’ve integrated more of these concepts into the GSB educational experience. A few examples include Professor Brian Lowery’s course and speaker series titled Leadership for Society, and Professor Anat Admati’s new course that explores the complex interactions among governments, businesses, and other institutions.

Another exciting development is the launch of the Stanford Doerr School for Sustainability, the university’s first new school in 70 years. Starting in September 2022, the Doerr School will work closely with GSB to accelerate solutions to the global climate crisis. Most importantly, incoming MBA students will have the opportunity to take classes, participate in new school initiatives, and engage in the new sustainability accelerator, which will bring together students from different institutes throughout Stanford.”

P&Q: What are two biggest differentiating features of your MBA program? How do each of these enrich the learning of your MBA students?

Oyer: “Our comprehensive approach to business education goes beyond building students’ capabilities for the next step in their career – students at the GSB go through a transformational experience that pushes them to become responsible, impactful leaders who motivate, inspire, and lead with empathy and compassion. We do this by providing students with a one-of-a-kind combination of rigorous academic foundational courses, along with offering classes and experiences focused on leadership and personal development.

Another unique aspect of the GSB is our tight-knit, inclusive culture. It fosters creativity, innovation, and collaboration across the institution and provides students with a strong foundation of community and values. Our students have unparalleled access to world-class faculty around the institution as well as the opportunity to engage with prominent leaders around the world through the dean’s speaker series and guest lecturers in class. Students also build strong bonds with each other through clubs, activities, and academic experiences – and these connections stay with our students well beyond their time on campus.”

Paul Oyer, senior associate dean for academic affairs

P&Q: In recent years, there have been several areas that have gained increased prominence in business school programming, including STEM, analytics, artificial intelligence and digital disruption. How does your full-time MBA program integrate these concepts across its curriculum?

Oyer: “Many of our faculty members conduct cutting edge research on these issues and often create courses based on their research and findings.  The strong relationship between teaching and research at the GSB allows students to explore topics such as AI, augmented reality (AR), and new technology, as well as their business applications, through evidence-based inquiry and experiential learning.

Some courses we have on these topics include: Professor Amir Goldberg’s People Analytics course that discusses the theoretical and practical challenges of how big data, machine learning and AI informs human resource management processes; Data and Decisions, a first-year MBA course enhancing student understanding of how to use data to make better decisions; and Professor Susan Athey’s course on Machine Learning and Causal Inference, which shows students how to employ machine learning and causal inference methods to estimate the effects of counterfactual policies.

Faculty members who teach topics such as business ethics have also written new cases involving artificial intelligence and the effects of new technology.”

Next Page: Profiles of a dozen members of the Class of 2023

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