2022 has drawn to a close. It was a momentous year for graduate business education (yes, we know we say that every year, but that’s because every year it’s true!). It was a year of war in Europe and weary pandemic recovery worldwide. Even as business schools continued to grapple with the societal repercussions of the ongoing health crisis, they felt the undulations of a graduate business education market in a downturn — yet 2022 saw them respond to the ever-evolving demands of the marketplace with another collective step toward gender equity and a variety of innovative academic offerings. 2023 promises to continue these ongoing stories, and we will continue to cover them in depth and in detail.
But first let’s look back at the best stories of the nearly-finished year: Poets&Quants‘ Favorite MBAs of 2022. Find them below, beginning with selections from our ongoing coverage of the Ukraine-Russia war and how MBAs in the United States and Europe have responded. We also have stories of MBAs helping refugees and the sick and disadvantaged, striving for equity, overcoming odds, innovating, disrupting, blazing trails, and generally working to make the world a better place. And of course, MBAs who were such superstars that they gained admission to multiple elite B-schools, then shared the secrets of their success.
We’ve written these stories for more than a decade. They have universal appeal, so don’t just check out the best stories of 2022. Click here for our favorite MBAs of 2021, here for 2020, and here for 2019.
WAR: From Ukrainian MBAs, Harrowing Stories & Vows Of Support For A Homeland Under Attack
While much of North America and the West woke up February 24 to work emails or class assignments, hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians living abroad awoke to messages from family and friends in their home country who were huddled in bomb shelters or basements, listening to air raid sirens, trying to stay safe amid sudden war.
As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began, Poets&Quants reached out to dozens of current and former Ukrainian business school students, many now working around the world. We spoke and emailed with many, reporting their reactions, fears, and hopes, learning what it’s like to watch from afar during an unprecedented attack on their native land — and most importantly, what their friends, colleagues, and fellow MBAs could do to stand with them.
As the war weren’t on, our coverage evolved to include stories of Ukrainian professors in the country and around the world and how the war impacted their curricula. Here is a list of the top stories from 10 months of reporting on the impact of the war on the world of graduate business education.
Stanford MBAs Collect Millions’ Worth Of Medical Supplies For Ukraine
Ukrainian B-School Prof: ‘The World Should Make Sure That Russia Fails’
Johns Hopkins MBA & Husband Organize Effort To Help Individual Ukrainians
What It’s Like To Run A B-School In A War Zone
Michigan Ross Prof Brings Lessons From Ukraine War Into The MBA Classroom
‘We Felt Like Superstars’: First Wave Of Ukrainian Students Join Ivey MBA Program
These MBAs Are Raising Funds To Bring Emergency Supplies To Ukraine
‘From A War Zone To An MBA’: Stanford Students Successfully Deliver Equipment To Ukraine
‘Russia Has No Chance Of Winning This War’: Zelenskyy Talks With Yale MBAs
From A War Zone To Oxford’s Hottest Degree Program: One Ukrainian Student’s Journey
Through Her Family Business, This MBA Is Helping To Empower Women Refugees
When Hawa Sultani turned down medical school, she took a year off to do some serious soul searching.
Growing up as a first-generation Afghan immigrant in Queens, New York, Hawa’s dream had always been to help people like her. She had grown up without health insurance, and she wanted to help others get the care they needed. But after some experience in the healthcare industry, she realized that the inequities she wanted to fight were systemic.
“I learned that there are many larger factors at play in terms of why certain populations aren’t getting healthcare,” Hawa tells Poets&Quants.
Celebrating International Women’s Day: Meet The B-School Female Founders
Female-founded start-ups and female-led businesses are becoming more commonplace, though their numbers are still disproportionately low. According to Statista, only 20% of start-ups globally had at least one female founder at the start of 2022.
But business schools around the world are playing their part to drive change, helping a growing generation of female graduates from their MBA, Masters, and Exec Ed programs to pursue their entrepreneurial ambitions. This International Women’s Day, we spoke with a number of female business school graduates that have successfully started a business.
Meet The Cornell MBA Bringing Equity To VC
There’s a lack of diversity in venture capital, and a distinct need for solutions. According to recent data, in 2020 Black and Latinx founders received just 2.6% of overall funding, while women-founded teams got almost 30% less funding than they did the previous year. Progress, says Marlon Nichols, isn’t happening fast enough — where it is happening at all.
Nichols, a 2011 MBA from Cornell University SC Johnson Graduate School of Management, says the problem is not that there aren’t enough people from under-represented communities with great ideas. It’s that they never get an audience with the connected and deep-pocketed folks who can help them.
“Talent is everywhere,” Nichols says. “But access to capital isn’t.”
This MBA Candidate Overcame Impostor Syndrome To Win Admission To 6 Top B-Schools
When Daniel Figueiredo applied to seven elite business schools across the United States, he didn’t expect to get accepted at all of them.
He didn’t. He got accepted to six.
Figueiredo was admitted to Harvard Business School, The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, MIT’s Sloan School of Management, New York University’s Stern School of Business — which offered him a full-ride scholarship through the Consortium Fellowship program — and Cornell University’s SC Johnson College of Business. He was waitlisted at Columbia Business School.
2 Wharton MBAs Hope To Pave Way For More Women In Real Estate
While women make up nearly 65% of residential realtors, women at the front end and investment side of the industry are much less visible. According to the Urban Land Institute, the oldest and largest network of real estate and land use experts in the world, women make up just 25% of its membership and only 14% of its CEOs. Further, 93% of female CEOS lead small firms with fewer than 100 employees.
Reaching gender parity in real estate investing, development, and private equity is not just about the numbers, say Nicolle Lee and Kayla Weismuller, two Wharton School MBAs who will work in real estate investing and private equity after graduating this month. It’s about impacting decisions at the very beginning of the real estate process.
A New MBA Platform Rides A Tidal Wave Of Interest In Ed-Tech
Hailey Carter knew there was huge unmet demand for information about MBA careers in ed-tech. She just had no idea how huge.
The Northwestern Kellogg Class of 2022 MBA found out when she launched a student initiative dedicated to ed-tech, which is the integration of emerging technology into education platforms, and exploring how MBAs can pursue a career in it. About six months after the launch of EdTech MBA last fall, the platform has nearly 500 members from over two dozen top business schools in the United States and Europe. It has hosted 20 CEOS for a series of virtual “fireside chats,” staged panels, held networking events — and made, in Carter’s words, “hundreds of connections” for those looking to work in the space.
It’s definitely the start of something big, Carter tells Poets&Quants.
Celebrating Working Mothers: The Kellogg MBA Changing African Women’s Lives
Sahar Jamal’s mission is to empower mothers so they don’t have to choose between a career and their family.
Jamal’s Kenya-based company, Maziwa, offers the first ever custom-made breast pump in East Africa, designed to help women balance working and breastfeeding. Maziwa caters to women in developing markets.
Since Poets&Quants spoke with Jamal last year, the 2019 Northwestern Kellogg MBA’s company has made significant steps forward: The company’s hired six part-time employees in Kenya and two technical contractors in Chicago, launched the Wema breast pump in August 2021, and expanded the product to South Africa in January 2022, with plans to grow across the continent.
Meet The Surgeon & Entrepreneur Who Became A Last-Minute Columbia MBA Student
Paige Finkelstein lost count of the number of times her life was put in danger.
A surgeon at a Miami hospital when the coronavirus pandemic broke out in the spring of 2020, Finkelstein was tasked with cutting open sick patients who could no longer breathe — literally making incisions to release trapped Covid air from their bodies. “It was my job to walk around on wards, and I would carry a chest tube and a scalpel in my pocket because so many patients were put on vents,” she recalls. “And when you’re on a vent, and your lungs are very sick, they lose their compliance, and you can develop something called a pneumothorax (collapsed lung). So it was my job to literally run from bed to bed, to put chest tubes in these patients. And sorry, the unfortunate situation is that nobody really survived.
“It was really morbid.”
A Stanford-Harvard-Wharton Admit Describes His Application Process
It was the second week of December and Ray Temnewo was beginning to worry. The Emory undergraduate and McKinsey alum had applied to the full-time MBA programs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School, and the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania — three of the toughest business schools in the world to get into — but he hadn’t yet heard from any of them.
Stories of acceptances — and rejections — were beginning to trickle in to Reddit and other websites where B-school applicants share stories. Temnewo exchanged texts and calls with friends who had also applied to grad school, and with family members who were almost as anxious for news as he was.
Then his phone rang. It was a San Francisco number. Stanford on the line?
These Twins Do Everything Together — Even Their MBA
It’s no exaggeration to say that twin brothers Nishul and Nakul Juneja — recent MBA grads of the University of Toronto Rotman School of Management — do everything together.
Not only did both get their bachelor’s degrees from Georgia Institute of Technology, both worked for the same company — Hershey — following graduation. Both moved home to India, then moved to Canada to get their MBA — in fact both Juneja brothers even had the same internship at Amazon in their final year at Rotman.
“There have been instances where companies have said to us, ‘Your resumes are identical, you went to the same high school and college, and you’ve had the same internships. How do we differentiate the two of you?’” Nishul tells Poets&Quants.
Trailblazer: Meet The First Out Transgender MBA President At A Top-10 B-School
Growing up in Seattle, Jude Watson found a passion for community organizing by working with queer youth to find spaces to meet, hang out, and access social services. Watson (they, them, theirs) helped start the first youth-led LGBT community center in their hometown. Later, as a chef who largely learned their trade by working in Seattle kitchens, they co-founded Cooks for Black Lives Matter, a community-supported agriculture enterprise that has raised more than $100,000 to date.
Watson, now an MBA ‘23 at UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business, didn’t always picture themselves in business school. But their success with Cooks for BLM made them realize that they could claim entrepreneurship — and social entrepreneurship in particular — as part of their identity.
How I Did It: First-Generation Student Of Immigrant Parents Earns Booth MBA At 22
One of the few times that age was a factor for Talha Siddiqui was when he was checking in for Welcome Week at his first real job after undergrad. Siddiqui had joined Wells Fargo as part of an early talent program in project management but, at just 19, wasn’t old enough to check into his hotel room.
“I had to tell my manager to sign for me so I could stay,” he tells Poets&Quants.
Born and raised in Los Angeles, Siddiqui is the son of immigrant parents, the first in his family to go to college and the first to work in a corporate environment. He’s also almost certainly the youngest of his classmates to walk on any of his commencement stages: He graduated high school at 16, from UC-Berkeley at 19, and on June 4, at the ripe old age of 22, he will graduate from the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business with his MBA.
Meet The MD-MBA Who Turned Down A Medical Residency To ‘Help People Have Babies’
There are fewer than 500 fertility clinics in the United States. Millions of American women either don’t have access to fertility treatment or can’t afford it.
Giuliana Zaccardelli wants to change that.
“By the time many women make their way to a fertility clinic, it can be months or years after they’ve started trying,” says Zaccardelli, a 2022 graduate of Northwestern University’s MD-MBA program. “Even then, it’s not a straightforward process.”
The Big Pivot: From College Football To The Military To An MBA At Stanford
When David Harris was 6 years old, his family asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. He replied, “A manager.”
“I remember my uncle bursting into laughter,” Harris tells Poets&Quants. “My mother’s a teacher, and my family was expecting a more scholarly response. But my answer was simply that I wanted to be a manager.”
It wasn’t simple precociousness: Seeing how his family had been affected by racial discrimination in the workplace, Harris says, he had internalized much of these experiences.
“I figured that if I was a manager, I could control what goes on at work and provide a safe space for my family,” he explains.
‘No One Left Behind’: MBAs, Working To Evacuate Afghans, Aim To Keep America’s Promise To Allies
Late last August, Jeff Phaneuf’s phone started ringing. It didn’t stop for seven or eight days.
As the budding entrepreneur prepared for a move across the country to attend Stanford Graduate School of Business, his Marine friends from the Infantry Officer Corps were trying to manage an increasingly desperate crowd outside of Abbey Gate at Kabul International Airport as the date of the U.S. evacuation from Afghanistan approached. The crowd grew as the Taliban advanced, begging the Americans to save them, to let them into the Kabul airport and onto a plane.
Phaneuf’s friend called to tell him that the situation at the gate was much worse than what people were hearing back home. Hundreds of times a day, the Marines were forced to make life and death decisions on who got in and who didn’t, often based on lost or destroyed documentation as the population fled.
How I Got In: Every MBA Consultant Said He Didn’t Have A Chance At Stanford GSB. He Just Graduated
It wasn’t one MBA consultant that told him not to waste his time applying to Stanford Graduate School of Business in Round 3. It wasn’t even two.
In all of the initial calls he had with consultants to talk about his background, Jason Buchel heard different versions of the same theme: “You don’t have a shot. Consider waiting until next year.” He figures he had four such calls in January 2020 after deciding a) he was ready to apply for an MBA and b) he wanted to earn it at Stanford GSB, one of the hardest business schools on the planet to get into.
It’s not like he didn’t understand the consultants’ points: At 31, he was on the older side in terms of work experience. At 640, his GMAT score was on the lower side–nearly 100 points below the latest class average of 738. Plus, he wanted to apply in Round 3, which has fewer class slots available than Rounds 1 or 2.
Why An Already-Successful Indian Entrepreneur Chose Babson For His MBA
Rakshit Nadiga Hanumantha Reddy is, by any measure, a wildly successful entrepreneur.
Reddy is a founding team member of Waycool Foods, one of India’s largest agri-tech startups, which has received more than $80 million in funding since 2015. The social impact company works with thousands of Indian farmers to help them sell produce at a fair price. Waycool has more than 4,000 employees and boasts about $50 million in annual revenue, and has recently expanded operations to Dubai.
So why would Reddy — who serves as chief growth officer for a company that has done nothing but grow — want to go back to school to get an MBA? And why choose a school, Babson College’s F.W. Olin Graduate School of Business, that is best known for its entrepreneurship programs?
What A Family! 4 Siblings, 4 Elite MBA Programs
The pressure was on Lawrence Osai.
In a family that boasted MBAs from Northwestern Kellogg School of Management, the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Duke Fuqua School of Business, the electrical engineer-turned-consultant knew all eyes were on him to make it four-for-four.
Challenge accepted — and met. Osai set his sights on the top tier of U.S. B-schools and gained admission to most of them, including the Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, NYU’s Stern School of Business, Columbia Business School, Duke Fuqua, and Northwestern Kellogg. Most offered him full-ride scholarships. A long-time New York resident, Osai chose Columbia, joining the Class of 2024 this fall.
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