Data tells a story. You’ll find a setting and a point of view. The plot will be driven by characters and conflict. Over time, themes ill emerge, as patterns reveal hidden connections and deeper meanings. In data-driven dramas, you don’t divide the universe into simple protagonists and antagonists. Each are flawed forces, operating in gray areas, driven by experiences that are open to interpretation.
Data is destiny, as the saying goes. Like stories, a data set’s value hinges on the storyteller’s choices. That boils down to how data is collected, cleansed, mined, and analyzed – the hypotheses developed, tools chosen, models applied, and resources budgeted that turn abstractions into insights. With data, you can filter, narrow, correlate, and forecast to answer “What if” or “Why should”. Whether data stories are posted on dashboards or decks, they serve the same purpose as any tale: connecting people and inspiring action.
MEETING THE NEEDS OF BUSINESS
These days, decisions are driven by data. Whether companies are predicting consumer behaviors or removing network inefficiencies, decision-makers demand evidence. More than that, they seek storytellers who can simplify trends, set expectations, and justify investments. That’s how the University of Rochester’s Simon Business School differentiates itself from the rest. The program’s “notoriously rigorous quantitative program” is designed to teach MBAs to tell leaders both “why” and “how” – using data to show where to invest resources and how to track results. In other words, Simon MBAs can tell anyone – CEOs to custodians – what success looks like in a way that’s as clear as it is compelling.
This distinct approach was also the marquee attraction for Simon’s MBA Class of 2024. Whether they were quants or poets, the incoming class recognized the value of being able to dissect, interpret, and convey their findings. Most recently, Hannah Mathieu worked as a data engineer at Raytheon, where she worked on “raw data and code relationships.” With a Simon MBA, her plan is to move “further down the data pipeline” so she can become more of a “storyteller” in product management and marketing. Jasurbek Tursunov, a banker and “numbers person”, believes Simon will provide him with a “competitive edge” by expanding his “analytical” toolkit. By the same token, Jeong Kim earned his undergraduate degree at the University of Rochester before returning to South Korea to work at KPMG. From his experience, the Simon MBA was the degree best positioned to keep him in step with business as a whole.
“Analysis, interpretation, and adaptation of data is becoming more important as the world gets more connected and digitalized – it is creating and changing industries (i.e., emergence of data centers around the world or targeted advertisements that we could not have imagined years ago),” he writes. “I’m also drawn to Simon’s STEM-designated option. Simon’s focus on quantitative analysis will help improve my data analysis, interpretation, and decision-making skills.”
CLASS NUMBERS REFLECT EXCELLENCE
That’s not to say you need to be a quant to excel at Simon. Just ask alumni like Andrew Black, a P&Q Best & Brightest MBA from the Class of 2022. He jokes about how Simon’s brand – “Unabashedly Analytical” – is found on its glass doors in big lettering. Still, he didn’t see poet classmates like teachers struggle with analytics because of their background. Instead, he noticed a “growth mindset” and a “desire to learn” correlated more closely to success than a quantitative background. Before Simon, Khushi Vijayakumar (’21) bounced between being a banker on weekdays and a theater artist on weekends. For her, the Simon MBA elevated her abilities to “think through numbers” and “be expressive through words.” Those sentiments were echoed by Gabriela Pacheco, who worked as a marketing manager for Starbucks before joining Vijayakumar in the Class of 2021.
“One of the biggest myths about Simon is that the program is mainly focused on finance or analytics,” Pacheco adds. “While our program has indeed an unmatched analytical approach – which I consider as one of the program’s biggest strengths – Simon also covers a wide variety of fields. An example of this is the fact that Simon is the first business school in the country to offer a STEM MBA option regardless of a student’s specialization. In my case, this allowed me to learn from the most quant-heavy courses related to marketing, such as Predictive and Causal Analytics with R or Pricing Analytics. From there, I combined them with other courses more focused on building on my soft and leadership skills, such as Interpersonal Persuasion and Professional Communication.”
STEM certified and data-driven. Forward-thinking and global-minded. A program that sharpens analytical skills and promotes soft skills to produce well-rounded students. Diverse in makeup with a small class size that nurtures a supportive culture and tight-knit community. That’s the Simon System – and the Class of 2024 has bought in fully to it. For a program known for mathematical prowess, here are a few numbers to consider. As a school administrator in Houston, Pablo Santiago Conchos cut office referrals for suspension by 48 percent by implementing a behavior management system. At Raytheon Technologies, Hannah Mathieu reduced airline delays by 30% and unscheduled maintenance by 20% through spearheading the launch of a ground-breaking prognostic health management tool. At the same time, Salar Malik, previously an associate portfolio manager at BMO Wealth Management, was responsible for $1.3 million in discretionary assets. And that’s not the only big number that Malik racked up.
“I created an Excel model that helped isolate dated fee discounts and allowed my colleagues to re-price portfolios, unlocking an overlooked revenue stream. Over the time span of three months, I hosted training sessions to spur internal adoption and implemented changes, which led to the bank collecting an additional $100M in recurring revenue. Following my pitch to the director of investments, the spreadsheet was published on our intranet site and is used to taper inflated discounts to this day, enabling the bank to benefit in perpetuity.”
THE GOAL: SOAK UP AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE
Malik wasn’t alone in leaving a long-term mark with his employer. Jasurbek Tursunov spent three months of his free time building an interest rate calculator with help from peers. His work was applauded by his CEO and now used across the entire bank. He can share his strategies for creating something-from-nothing with Olga Ivanishchuk. The chief of staff at Sparkloft Media, she developed an onboarding program designed to “instill” agency culture for a team where half of its members had been with the firm for less than a year.
“Many of the processes helped bring increased efficiency and ease to strained departments and supported the directors whom I worked with, allowing them to focus on building their departments and growing the agency as we brought in new clients and expanded to target industries,” she writes.
Connor Hutchison considers earning a spot on the U.S. Navy’s bomb squad to be his biggest achievement – an event made all the more special when his dad pinned his badge on his chest at graduation. That said, Priya Chapagain struggles to settle on just one achievement to celebrate. “There are a few: winning three international level District Championships in Toastmasters; winning Rookie of the Year in both the organizations I worked in within a span of one year; and being recognized as a Forté member and a Fielding Leadership Fellow.”
Outside of work and school, Pablo Santiago Conchos hits the Renaissance Festival circuit, dressing up in his “garb” and “stepping into a fantasy with laughter, merriment, and mead!” Salar Malik runs a textile business with his father that exports fabrics across Europe. Connor Hutchison plays violin, while Hannah Mathieu does a little bit of everything.
“I love trying different sports of all types,” she tells P&Q. “I recently got into slacklining and free skating, but some of my other favorites include boxing, Bollywood dancing, and surfing.”
What does the Class of 2024 hope to achieve during their two years in the Simon MBA. Strangely enough, their goals are more intangible than quantifiable. Jasurbek Tursunov wants to remain open to “new ideas, experiences, cultures, connections, and challenges” – all while building a lifetime network with students, alumni, and faculty alike. In contrast, Olga Ivanishchuk will focus on becoming a stronger leader by overseeing different “teams, clubs, and events.” While Hannah Mathieu shares Tursunov’s commitment to openness, she also plans to remain humble and flexible in the process.
“I’m trying to constantly grow, but I’m confident these next two years will accelerate my growth to degrees I’m not even aware of. I want to stay mindful, grounded, and adaptable to the people around me, the coursework, the professors, and throughout the recruiting process. I’m basically going to impersonate a sponge these next two years and try to soak up all the information that I can!”
A CLASS PROFILE
During the 2021-2022 cycle, the Simon received 1557 applications, ultimately accepting just 17% of candidates. The 112-member Class of 2024 consists of 43% women and 35% underrepresented minorities. International students account for 46% of the class, up three points from the previous year.
As a whole, the class boasts 5.7 years of work experience and hail from 27 countries. In terms of test scores, the new class averaged a 678 GMAT and 318 GRE, with just 19% submitting a GRE score.
In addition, the average undergraduate GPA came in at 3.53. As undergraduates, 35% of the class majored in Business and Commerce, beating out Math and Science (24%), Engineering (20%), and Humanities and Social Science (17%). Economics majors represented another 4% share. In terms of professional experience, the largest class segment – 22% – last worked in Consulting. 18% and 17% of the class held positions in Finance and the Government and Non-Profit sectors, respectively. The remainder of the class come from Technology (11%), Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, and Biotech (9%), Entertainment, Leisure, and Sports (7%), Consumer Packaged Goods (6%), and Manufacturing (6%).
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE MBA DIRECTOR
Simon’s quantitative approach, which integrates technology, math, and economics, is just one of the Simon MBA’s unique wrinkles. Four years ago, Rochester Simon made headlines by becoming the first full-time MBA program to be STEM designated. Not only has the STEM program equipped students with skills and experiences coveted by employers, but also made them more competitive in the American market by extending their student visas by 24 months. Two years ago, Simon also became one of the first MBA programs to require an internship as part of the curriculum. While the program maintains a strong quantitative bent, Simon teaches concepts through a FACt framework to guide students through problem-solving. Organized into Frame, Analyze, and Communicate, the model enables MBAs to quickly identify the ‘real’ issues and the underlying interrelationships feeding the problem. In the process, they can devise long-lasting solutions over futile band aids. And then there is Rochester itself. Known as the “Flower City,” Rochester boasts affordable rents and short commutes, not to mention an abundance of parks and trails.
What are other aspects of the Simon MBA to consider? For one, it hosts the country’s top Pricing program. For another, it maintains a renowned leadership development program, Simon MBA Edge, that addresses everything from communication and teamwork to self-reflection and cultural awareness. That’s just the start. This fall, P&Q reached out to Ravi Mantena, Faculty Director for MBA Programs. From new developments to signature experiences, here are Mantena’s thoughts on what MBAs can expect at the Simon MBA.
P&Q: What are the two most exciting developments at Simon and how will they enrich the MBA experience for current and future MBAs?
Mantena: “There’s been a significant shift in the career choices of Simon MBA students in the last few years. While financial services, consulting, and brand marketing are still popular, the tech industry is now the favored destination for Simon MBA graduates with more than a third of our students taking up jobs in the tech sector. Our “unabashedly analytical” curriculum makes the school an attractive source for tech industry talent. Moreover, the investments that we have made over the last few years in our analytics and product management offerings, including experiential components such as a required first year project, have helped build critical skills for careers in this fast-innovating industry. These are supplemented by programming by our product management, data analytics, and tech clubs, which host industry speakers, skills workshops, and other career prep activities.
Leadership development is another key focus area at Simon. This year, we are excited to launch the Simon Leadership Accelerator to strengthen our offerings in this area. This innovative program brings together the officers of student organizations and clubs to foster an intentional approach to leadership development through purposeful experimentation and reflection. Program modules track officer responsibilities throughout their year-long tenure and support activities such as setting a vision and goals for their organizations, planning for results, managing accountabilities, and planning for succession. Beyond leadership development, we expect the accelerator to also improve the quality and consistency of programming delivered by these clubs and organizations to the rest of the student body.
P&Q: What are two most differentiating features of your MBA program? How do each of these enrich the learning of your MBA students?
Mantena: Since its founding over sixty years ago, Simon has had a vision of management education and research grounded in the discipline of economics but focused on solving real management problems. That is what our global reputation continues to be built on today—a rigorous application of economic theory and analytics to seek clarity on issues confronting business, and developing data-based solutions to business problems. This economics and analytics-focused curriculum has naturally meant that we were the first, and still one of the very few, business schools to have a STEM designation for all our MBA specializations.
The rigorous curriculum is complemented by a diverse, intimate, and supportive community that provides an exceptional MBA experience to our students. We’re probably the smallest MBA program to be ranked in the Top 25 in the Businessweek rankings, and certainly among the most diverse. The small class size, coupled with a wide set of extracurricular offerings, enables most of our MBA students to gain meaningful leadership experience while in the program. The diversity of perspectives, our emphasis on equity and inclusion, and the collaborative nature of our community all come together to also support significant personal and professional growth for our students.”
Next Page: Profiles of 12 Rochester Simon MBAs
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