Meet Toronto Rotman’s MBA Class Of 2023

MBA Boating Excursion Overlooking Toronto

P&Q: Another popular feature of the Rotman MBA experience is the Self-Development Lab. Tell us about the Lab and how it enhances students’ preparation for their careers…and life in general?

Milner: “In today’s competitive job market, students need more than just hard analytical skills. To thrive in their careers and attract the attention of top employers, students must develop empathy, self-awareness, and the ability to inspire others into action. At Rotman, we have built a unique laboratory wholly dedicated to students’ personal and interpersonal development: The Rotman Self-Development Lab (SDL). Rotman’s SDL uses personalized feedback-based learning activities to develop students’ communication and interpersonal skills, helping them become more effective collaborators, decision makers, and leaders. Each year more than 1,000 Rotman graduate students participate in SDL.”

P&Q: Rotman admissions sometimes talks about an applicant’s “Spike Factor.” What exactly does that term mean at Rotman and what are some examples of Spike Factors with students who’ve been accepted into the program?

Milner: “Admission to the MBA program is made on a holistic basis. We look for intellectual horsepower, experience and impact, communications and presence, and a spike factor – something that prospective students see as defining themselves uniquely. All of these are looked at and weigh in the admissions decision. Students do not need to run a marathon or sky-dive to be spiky – knowing who they are and communicating it clearly demonstrates their spikiness. With the stronger applicant pool, prospective MBA students should be sure to let us know why Rotman is the right program for them. We have much to offer – and would love to have applicants let us know how they would benefit from the program.”

Recreational area at Rotman


1) Creative Destruction Lab: “The most important factor in choosing Rotman’s program was the CDL. CDL is the seed-stage program for startups that is now offered in many MBA schools around the world, starting with Rotman. This program gives MBA students the opportunity to learn about and experience real startups beyond the classroom cases. I have a goal to tackle social issues by contributing to next generation urban development and mobility services with the help of technological advancement and through collaboration with entrepreneurs. CDL is a great way to gain experience and learning that will leverage me towards this goal, and I think it is a unique curriculum that Rotman offers that no other program can offer.”
Yuta Takeuchi (’23)

2) Self-Development Lab: “The program includes a series of small-group activities in which focus on soft-skill improvement. Three to five students participate in interactive activities with an expert and get feedback right at the sessions, both from their peers and the event host. Feedback is timely, detailed, straightforward, customized, and quite counter-intuitive. The comments are sometimes eye-opening, with many psychology-based insights.
Long Cao (’23)

3) Integrative Thinking: For me, integrative thinking is zooming out to see relatively big picture, comprehending the concepts and designing creative solutions even in very challenging situations. It is indeed a very important skill in today’s fast-changing world and Rotman provides various important tools to exercise it. At Rotman, we always have up-to-date, real-world problems to be solved both quantitatively and qualitatively. The curriculum is constructed in a way that, even in the orientation week, we were exposed to bring our ideas to tackle issues connected with managing people and diverse teams. Every day, we analyze different frameworks to learn structuring our thoughts, for example we already have strategy classes focused specifically on innovative outcomes and challenging each other’s ideas.”
Keta Pavlenishvili (’23)

4) Toronto: I would have to say the food! There is so much diversity out here that you never really run out of options to try something new. Outside of that, Toronto has been a great place for pursuing my MBA with the sheer number of career opportunities – the market is definitely growing and Toronto’s proximity and connection to the rest of the regions is definitely beneficial for those who are exploring different career paths. Most importantly, I’ve really learned a lot from being surrounded by people from so many different cultures and backgrounds. It’s hard to believe it until you truly experience it. However, Toronto is so rich and diverse in its culture that you really do get that holistic learning experience – both in the classroom and outside! I’ve enjoyed every bit of it.”
Arpitha Krishna Mohan (’23)

5) Traditions: “After the last exam of each term, all the students go to a nearby pub to blow off steam — and the revelry goes well into the evening! Walking over en masse after getting through an intense week is such a joyful, cathartic feeling. Often faculty tags along for a bit too. After one notoriously hard final, a professor bought pitchers of beer as a peace offering. It was hilarious — and all in good fun.”
Andrea Poile (’21)

“My favourite MBA tradition at Rotman is our monthly Culture Eats. Toronto is a cultural mosaic and Rotman is even more so with a roughly even split between domestic and international students. We have a breadth of diverse cultural clubs at Rotman and every month one would put on an afternoon of food, entertainment, dancing, and trivia from their culture. We would all sit in one of our atriums while the cultural clubs shared their favourite dishes from home, sang, dance, taught us to dance, and put on fashion shows, games, and trivia. I never missed one and we have even continued the tradition virtually. I have a very fond memory (and video) of our then academic director, Professor Joe Milner, up on stage trying to learn Afro-Caribbean dance moves. This tradition was not only delicious and entertaining but was also an excellent way to promote and celebrate diversity.”
Caley Laxer (’21)

“In my first year during orientation, we were introduced to the concept of “The Reciprocity Ring”, where the Rotman community pays it forward. The tradition emphasized building relationships and was supported by an online platform where members can make requests and provide offers of help. It was really interesting meeting new people during this activity and it made me more comfortable networking. It made me realize how supportive the community was at Rotman and how the power of diversity in experiences and professions was being harnessed to the full potential.”
Peter Zhang (’22)

Rotman students celebrating another success.


“It’s a thorough process – so carve out lots of time for self-reflection and to dig into what makes you unique. Focus on your spike factor. Good grades and intellectual horsepower are table stakes, but your spike factor will help to differentiate you from other applicants and make you shine. Your spike factor will illustrate how unique you are and the value that you will bring to the Rotman community. So, get out in the community, make an impact, and use your passion to make a difference.”
Kristy McGregor-Bales (’23)

“I think Rotman’s essay is outstanding from all business schools in the world. Every person has a spike factor, but sometimes we just do not know what it is. Sometimes, we do not have enough time to think of it or simply we underestimate even simple traits that kept us alive and constantly moving. The Rotman essay is not just about writing an admission essay or specific achievements but rather about self-reflection as a person. It is a great opportunity to analyze your traits, what makes you not stand in one place, what pushes you not to hold still and continue studies or perhaps even change your country. There is something that nudges you, so use this process to understand what it is.”
Keta Pavlenishvili (’23)

“I believe the edge I had in applying to MBA programs was being unapologetically myself. When we think of MBAs we often think of buttoned-down, prim and proper, and studious individuals who put on their first suit at 16 and planned to take over Bay Street by 24; but that isn’t my story.

My story is growing up on a dairy farm in rural Saskatchewan. I’m a farmer’s daughter who’s heard all the “Old MacDonald” jokes and stereotypes, and I’ve been underestimated and teased most of my life because of it. It used to bother me, but now I’ve grown to love proving people wrong! I enjoy being the person who reminds those in the business world that we’re not all that different. It wasn’t my undergraduate professors or the workplace who taught me to be a risk-taking, motivated, methodical, and empathetic person, it was my rural community. For example, my family recently built a cabin on our property from scratch, and one of the largest jobs was installing the walls. I watched my father spend months preparing the foundation, building the walls, and planning the installation down to the minute details so the day-of went smoothly. We had 12 family members and friends join to (quite literally) help with the heavy lifting. This is a common sight in rural communities because our way of life requires empathy for others to build camaraderie.

By telling the story of my upbringing, I was able to showcase who I am—my strengths and unique perspectives—in a way that breaks the mold of who we think MBA students should be.”
Cyrena Lockert (’21)

MBA Student Hometown Undergraduate Alma Mater Last Employer
Long Cao Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Wabash College Robert Bosch
Marcela Castillo Tokumori Lima, Peru University of Lima Taekwondo Peru National Team
Renad Elshaer Canada University of Ottawa PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC)
Negar Jeyrani Ottawa, Ontario University of Ottawa Deloitte
Tiffany Leung Hong Kong, China Hong Kong School of Science and Technology Citi Banking
Kristy McGregor-Bales Ottawa, Ontario Dalhousie University Swimming Canada
Arpitha Krishna Mohan Chennai, India SP Jain School of Global Management Mindfields
Funmi Orunmuyi Lagos, Nigeria Federal University of Technology ExxonMobil
Keta Pavlenishvili Tbilisi, Georgia ESM Business School Willis Towers Watson Georgia
Jose Pablo Pecho-Chaves Alajuela, Costa Rica University of Georgia AirHost
Yuta Takeuchi Tokyo, Japan University of Tokyo East Japan Railway Company
Duc Trinh Hanoi, Vietnam Colby-Sawyer College Shutterstock

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