Meet Notre Dame Mendoza’s MBA Class Of 2023

Excellence, Respect, Integrity, Teamwork, and Accountability.

The bedrock values of the University of Notre Dame. Timeless and inalienable – the highest of expectations and the deepest of promises. It was founded by underdogs seeking to meld Catholic values with Enlightenment rigor. Over time, Notre Dame became a journey, a refuge for seekers who wanted to develop the habits and judgment to became forces for good. That meant embracing their potential – and the demands needed to reach and sustain it. Even more, it required students to tackle issues with a mix of curiosity, reasoning, and love that ultimately produces action.

Faith, Family, Academics, Service…and Football.

Call them the hallmarks of the Notre Dame experience. Students come to Notre Dame, to paraphrase Coach Lou Holtz, to ‘become someone as much as learn something.’ Every year, business students heed a call, to pursue careers with a higher purpose – a spirit defined by elevating others over enriching one’s self. This “Growing the good in business” philosophy guides the MBA program at the Mendoza College of Business. Here, you’ll find servant leaders looking to make their world better; they may not yet know how, but they understand the what and why behind it. So they come to South Bend with a mission – one that is intimately tied to their beliefs, experiences, and identity.

The Hesburgh Library with its famed “Touchdown Jesus” mural is a favorite place for students to study and gather on campus. (Photo by Peter Ringenberg Photography)

A CLASS SHARES ITS MISSIONS

That has certainly been true for Nicaragua’s Napoleón Astorga Solano, previously an in-house counsel who joined Mendoza’s MBA Class of 2023. “I have seen first-hand from past and current experiences in my home country how businesses determine the faith of a society (for better or for worse),” he writes. “This motivated me to do good business – not only in terms of profitability, but also in terms of contribution to employees, clients, suppliers, and ultimately to society as a whole…I didn’t know how to put my ideas into practice; thanks to the Mendoza program I have been able to understand how businesses impact society, what better practices can be implemented in the business setting to make everyone better off by the existence of your business, and how to get other people as motivated as you are about an idea.”

Big picture: the Notre Dame legacy is building up students who fan out after graduation, inspiring by example and making a difference in ways great and small. For Annie Crider, a theology teacher from the Jefferson City diocese, that means developing her talents to achieve the greater good. In Solano’s experience, it boils down to always be seeking out a better way, to harness communities around causes and outline a vision that motivates people through setbacks and doubts. These drivers make Mendoza MBAs all the more formidable after graduation.

“As a financial professional who is going to work in health-care industry, my mission is to make medication and treatment more affordable for patients,” notes Chloe Yang, previously a private wealth advisor. “Mendoza is preparing me with the right knowledge — both financial and moral — to contribute to humanity.”

MBA Fall Social at the Zoo 031 Social activities such as outings to the local zoom and other area attractions allow students, faculty and staff and their families to have some fun and get to know each other. (Photo by Peter Ringenberg Photography)

A DIVERSE CLASS

This mission isn’t tethered to any cultural or religious traditions either, adds Songee Barker, a 2022 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “Because Notre Dame is a Catholic university, I think some might think that there is not much diversity here. In my time at Mendoza, I have been fortunate to work with and get to know individuals from all different religious backgrounds, geographic locations, and professional backgrounds. Notre Dame attracts the best talent from so many different places, which creates a diverse experience in many ways.”

Diverse? Now, that’s an understatement. Just look at what the Class of 2023 does outside the classroom. Funmi Owopetu – a self-proclaimed native of Nigeria, Calgary, and Houston – already holds four degrees. Speaking of well-traveled, Christian Montgomery has visited 43 countries (and owns 300 pairs of shoes). In terms of contrasts, Temitayo Ade-Oshifogun is the author of over 60 poems, while Natalie Kvochak is an environmental specialist who has been part of a capella groups (and currently sings in Notre Dame’s Liturgical Choir).

And you could say that Dan Chapman was destined to someday reach South Bend. After all his first tattoo read “Play Like a Champion Today” – the locker room slogan made famous by Notre Dame football. By the same token, you could argue that business school was undoubtedly in the cards for Napoleón Astorga Solano.

“As a child, I used to pretend play to be a banker,” he writes. “I would put on my blazer (the only one I had) along with my most professional-looking shorts, grabbed an empty cardboard box to use as a desk, and served my only imaginary customer – Ms. Vortex (inspired by a character from the Jimmy Neutron cartoon show).”

The well-known “God, Country, Notre Dame” plaque is installed above the doorway to Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which serves the spiritual needs of the students, faculty, and staff of the University as well as members of the greater South Bend community. (Photo provided by the University of Notre Dame)

MAKING AN IMPACT

Not surprisingly, Solano ended up at a bank – the Central American Bank for Economic Integration (CABEI) – after earning his Master of Laws from Harvard Law School. Before that, he ran a program designed to provide credit loans that enhanced the farming practices and technological capabilities of small and mid-sized farms.

“We achieved outstanding results for this program that would open channels for similar programs in the future: The program had more than 3,000 beneficiaries with an average loan of six-thousand dollars, significant improvement of productivity indicators, and a default rate lower than the average in the national financial system for the industries financed.”

Ms. Vortex would be proud!

And so would James Harden…of Christian Montgomery. Most recently, Montgomery served as a senor product manager at adidas, where he focused on football apparel. However, he made his biggest impact in basketball, designing country-specific shoes for players in China and Japan. Staying in Asia, Raghav Agarwal co-founded a non-profit, Rise for Humanity, in India. For eight years, this organization funded empowerment programs, such as education, for women. Education is also Annie Crider’s passion. Now a McKinsey intern, she recently built an entire curriculum for her junior high students.

“The content required earning the trust and respect of my students, as well as their parents, by building meaningful relationships,” she tells P&Q. “Creating a culture where my students felt valued and wanted took time but was the most rewarding aspect of my career because students started coming to me with their struggles and trusting me to help them. They also were more willing to do what was asked of them because they trusted I had their best interests at heart.”

Stonehenge on a misty morning..Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame

CHANNELING A PASSION INTO A VENTURE

In a school that seeks difference makers, several class members truly fit the bill. Dan Chapman made partner on his capital markets team at CBRE. Funmi Owopetu helped her firm double its client base by spearheading a global certification process. At IG Wealth Management, Chloe Yang managed a team that catered to high-net-worth clients.

“My typical clients were successful business owners who had immigrated from China to Canada. In 2020, my team’s net cash inflow ranked number 1 in whole Quebec region in my company. The asset under management reached $50 million before I joined Mendoza.”

Temitayo Ade-Oshifogun has made his name in cryptocurrency. Laid off in the advent of COVID, he turned to God, which led him to a crypto startup, where he doubled the number of investors. Since starting at Mendoza, he has launched a crypto strategy startup of his own. “It brings me so much joy seeing people learn about crypto and the many use cases of the technology driving the space,” he tells P&Q. “It’s only the beginning, and I am very grateful for the lives I have had the privilege and honor to positively affect!”

Mendoza College of Business Dean Martijn Cremers chats with students at the orientation breakfast for incoming 2-year MBA class (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

“HONOR GOD, SERVICE OTHERS, AND BE A FORCE FOR GOOD”

Ade-Oshifogun wasn’t alone in notching some impressive accomplishments this past year. Tanique Philogene, a wine enthusiast and former Morgan Stanley associate, was elected to be a representative in student government. For Napoleón Astorga Solano, earning the highest grade in his Finance and Financial Accounting courses were his best Mendoza moments – that and receiving congratulatory emails from his professors on his performance. And Raghav Agarwal’s efforts will reverberate far outside South Bend.

“I collaborated with a student entrepreneur and helped him pitch his startup for $3 million funding in a silicon-valley competition. The pitch resulted in interests from various investor groups.”

You could describe the Class of 2023 as catalysts, each with a personal mission that deeply resonates with their ideals. Kyle Fiebernitz, a father and U.S. Navy veteran, sees his MBA as an extension of his vocation to empower others to grow both personally and professionally. “Mendoza is enabling me to continue that mission outside of the military by helping me reframe my previous experiences to apply them more appropriately in the business world and equipping me with the relevant tools and skills required of a business leader.”

Natalie Kvochak is pursuing a similar path, only one with a profoundly spiritual element.My mission in life is to honor God, serve others, and be a force of good in both my professional and personal pursuits. Notre Dame is helping me with this by teaching me the nuts-and-bolts of business and how to be a quality leader. Mendoza’s focus on ethical business and the plethora of spiritual opportunities at Notre Dame are also helping me deepen my relationship with God, use business to serve others, and learn how to be a force of good in the world.”

Next Page: An exclusive interview with the academic dean

Page 3: Profiles of 12 members of the Class of 2023

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