Meet Chicago Booth’s MBA Class Of 2024

When you picture the Booth School of Business, what impressions come to mind?

Chances are, you might start with the Magnificent Mile, Gold Coast, and Sears Tower. Beyond that, you’re probably thinking quant jocks immersed in data sets. Of course, you’ll remember the rock star faculty that includes Eugene Fama, the “Father of Modern Finance, and Richard Thaler, a “Founding Father” of Behavioral Economics – both Nobel Prize winners. Booth’s alumni roll is even headed by Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft – and their graduates have run companies as diverse as Evercore, Domino’s Pizza, Zip Car, Hyatt Hotels, and Cargill.

Top leaders are required to think big and dive deep. And at Booth, intensive analysis is a cornerstone of the “Chicago Approach” – a multidisciplinary framework that teaches MBAs how to think beyond cookie-cutter and band-aid solutions. At Booth, students use hard data to formulate the right questions; identify interconnections between variables and tradeoffs between options; and craft holistic solutions that defy conventions. This mindset is all the more valuable in a space where the Booth School is becoming increasingly prominent: Entrepreneurship.


Last year, a third of Booth electives were devoted to startups. The course list is long and diversified: Commercializing Innovation, New Venture Strategy, Accounting for Entrepreneurship, and Entrepreneurial Selling – among others. That doesn’t even count options like career treks, clubs, or even a VC boot camp headed by top Chicago venture capitalists. Such programming falls under the Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Founded in 1998, the Polsky Center has evolved into a startup hub. It houses an array of accelerators and labs, including the 34,000-square-foot Polsky Exchange incubator, to support students, alumni, and even local startups. It also sponsors famed competitions and events like the New Venture Challenge and the BPOC Private Equity Conference. At the same time, the Center provides workshops, speakers, experts, scholarships, and funding to the University of Chicago startup community.

Not only does the Polsky Center help MBAs turn ideas into ventures, but also connects them to industry leaders and investors. Janice Tam, a 2022 Booth alum, personifies the Booth entrepreneurial journey. As a student, she founded TrueToForm, an AI-driven apparel platform that provides made-to-measure custom clothing. Before her first-year classes had started, Tam had already participated in the Polsky Center’s Startup Summer Internship program, where she learned the basics of tech product development. In her first quarter as an MBA, she completed a venture capital internship where she was handling due diligence on deals. Her coursework, she says, taught her how to raise funds, build financial models, pilot programs, and scale operations. At the Polsky Center, Tam took advantage of every conceivable resource.

“I worked closely with the Innovation Clinic to build out my equity incentive plan and with the Corporate Lab Clinic to refine our privacy policies and data protection strategy,” she tells P&Q. “I leveraged the Polsky I-Corps program to accelerate our customer discovery efforts and launched our beta while participating in the Polsky Build Accelerator. We used the accelerator Demo Day to kick off our first fundraising round and successfully closed $260,000 in external capital from industry veterans in fashion and entertainment. I became the very first Founder Programming Chair of the Booth Entrepreneurship and Venture Capital (EVC) Group at Booth, where I was able to build community through the creation of EVC “founder families” and develop programming on tactical topics such as legal basics and the use of digital tools. In June 2022, we placed as finalists in the Polsky New Venture Challenge, winning $35,000 of investment.”

Charles M. Harper Center The designers of the 415,000-square-foot building—completed in 2004—took their inspiration from Frank Lloyd Wright’s world-famous Robie House and the university’s iconic Rockefeller Chapel, each across the street from Booth’s Hyde Park campus. The building features a continuous band of windows, providing the interior with an abundance of natural light, as well as the six-story Rothman Winter Garden in the center of the building, which is topped by curved steel beams that form stunning Gothic arches.


Booth entrepreneurs also benefit from its Chicago digs. In 2021, startups raked in over $7.9 billion dollars in funding 5th-best in the United States. That same year, Chicago produced 12 unicorns – which doesn’t count the combined $1 billion dollars in funding that Lanza Tech and Project 44 received in 2022. Overall, the Chicago ecosystem is best known for developing food-tech, healthcare, and logistics startups. It is also home to the famed 1871 Innovation Hub, which has spun out 17 unicorns over the past decade.

As a Booth MBA, Matt Shieh raised $1.8 million dollars in pre-seed funding for Canopy Aerospace. A provider of heat shields to the space industry, Canopy Aerospace has already formed partnerships with NASA and the U.S. Space Force. For Shieh, Booth wasn’t just a place to sharpen his skills and grow his network. It was also a place to practice what he’d learn and build his confidence.

“I took the business idea through New Venture Challenge (NVC), Chicago Booth’s startup accelerator class that has helped launch companies such as GrubHub, Braintree/Venmo, and Simple Mills,” Shieh told P&Q. “I was building the business case for this company during the school year and NVC helped me translate this into an opportunity for investors. We knew there was a big problem in the industry and we had a solution for it. Pitching a startup manufacturer in a highly technical field is difficult. However, we were able to pitch in front of VCs from a variety of industries who provided candid feedback, which was critical to honing our story in with the right audience. We ended up placing 3rd out of 60+ teams and received substantial funding that launched the beginning of our pre-seed round.”


Entrepreneurship is also a popular path for the Class of 2024. After serving as a supply chain manager at E & J Gallo Winery, Thomas Logan spent the summer working on a friend’s e-commerce startup. Looking ahead, Logan can’t wait to take Booth’s Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition, which digs into the fundaments of choosing, growing, and selling an existing business.

“I’m looking to pivot from a corporate to an entrepreneurial role, and I see ETA as somewhat of a bridge between the siloed structure of an established business and the flexible ambiguity of a new venture,” Logan explains. “I’m excited to contribute from the perspectives of both an established CPG company (E&J Gallo) and a rapidly growing eCommerce aggregator (Aestuary) while learning how to apply new concepts myself.”

Andre Beda, a product manager from Brazil, also intends to pursue an entrepreneur or investor pathway. He has been impressed by the Polsky Center’s programming. “There are over 20 entrepreneurship-related courses, along with lab programs, mentorship and networking opportunities, and funding and acceleration programs. Booth provides all the tools needed for current and future founders in every aspect of starting and running a business. This is crucial to me as I plan to start my own technology company in the future.”

The University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business ranked first for only the second time in U.S. News’ rankings of the top full-time MBA programs in the U.S.


Entrepreneurship won’t be the first transition that Beda has made in his career. At Loft, he moved from designing products to leading the software developers who made them – all during a time when the company moved from an also-ran to a market leader. “By translating business goals into product vision, strategy, and roadmap, I helped those squads provide Loft’s mortgage operations team with a robust technology stack to allow for sustainable growth and also make possible the speeding up previously lengthy steps for customers, such as cutting mortgage application lead time in half.”

The class is also accustomed to operating at high levels. Before business school, Atsushi Yaguchi worked as a vice president at SMBC Nikko Securities, Japan’s third-largest securities brokerage firm. Bianca DiSanto managed digital marketing and e-commerce campaigns for the Lancome brand at L’Oreal. Her claim to fame: devising guidelines for the brand’s creative digital product assets that have been implemented worldwide. Jason Shain, a dual JD-MBA candidate, spent the summer working in the Major’s Office of the City of Chicago, where he was involved in everything from Monkeypox to the Community Reinvestment Act. Before that, Shain served in the U.S. Air Force as Flight Commander, where he considers his last flight to be his greatest moment.

“It’s an Air Force tradition that when someone completes their final flight on their airframe, they are greeted on the airfield,” he writes. “When I got off my plane, the E-3, for the last time, I found dozens of people I had the honor of serving with over the years. That icy Oklahoma night, and the accompanying champagne shower, reminded me of the great opportunities I had in service to the country. I feel endlessly grateful for being able to serve, to make a positive difference, to lead through COVID, and to act as a mentor. Earning my peers’ gratitude and respect is one of my most cherished accomplishments.”


The Class of 2024 also brings some colorful credentials to the Harper Center. Alonzo Jones III is a former competitive figure skater who is currently a fourth-year medical student at the University of Chicago. Kruti Mehta studied business in the University of Texas’ honors program – before launching a public charter school in New York City. As a USC undergrad, Zach Bindner studied Cinema before becoming a film producer and media company founder – a true mix of artist and entrepreneur.

“The career accomplishment I am most proud of is producing the feature documentary Coming Clean, which is currently available on Amazon Prime,” Bindner tells P&Q.The film was shot over two years around the country and examines America’s opioid addiction crisis. I led a large multi-state production team and collaborated closely with an amazing director, Ondi Timoner. I am most proud of the impact it has been able to make. In addition to our award-winning festival run and wide release, our impact campaign has reached people around the world to help break down stigma and inspire change.”

Since arriving on campus, the Class of 2024 might agree that “Pay it forward” is the defining philosophy of the program. A long tradition at Booth, second years go out of their way to support incoming students as “payback” for the same treatment they enjoyed.

“The commitment to community cannot be understated when it comes to Booth,” observes Bianca DiSanto “Even as an applicant, I was overwhelmed by the “Pay it Forward” ethos of the Booth community. Boothies stood alone in their willingness to meet with me (virtually or in person), answer my questions, put me in touch with other members of their network who they felt might be helpful, and help me determine if Booth was really the best place for me.”

Kennedy Sapp, a Deloitte consultant, echoes DiSanto’s sentiments. “My first impression was that Booth students are both accessible and supportive. Before I applied, during my interview process, and since I’ve committed, Booth students and alumni have been there. In our conversations, they’ve shown genuine interest in getting to know me, understanding my goals, and identifying how they might be able to help. The “Pay it Forward” culture is something you hear about when researching Booth, and the experience definitely lives up to the hype!”

Booth MBA Students


You could say the same about the school’s trademark flexibility – the ‘Have it your way MBA’ as the saying goes. Technically, MBAs are only required to take one class: LEAD. In a nutshell, LEAD is an exercise-driven leadership course centered around teamwork and communication skills – heavy on coaching and reflection. In true ‘Pay It Forward’ style, it is facilitated by second-year MBAs. From there, MBAs enjoy plenty of options. They are required to take a core course each in Financial Accounting, Microeconomics, and Statistics. However, they can choose from 5-7 courses in each area that best align with their skill levels and interests. The same applies to functional areas. Here, students must take a course in 7 of 8 functional areas – with each area including anywhere from 4-17 alternatives.

In other words, Booth treats their students as self-aware professionals, enabling them to tailor their experience to their unique goals right from the start of the program. This made all the difference to Kikelomo Anjorin, a digital marketing executive from Nigeria.

“The opportunity to design my courses to ensure they aligned with my career and personal goals was thrilling and exciting. It gave me a huge sense of responsibility because it simply means my MBA adventure lies solely with me and this makes me very intentional about my actions. In the long run, I will find myself taking courses that I consider very relevant to my growth and with the flexibility I can explore diverse opportunities.”

Bianca DiSanto was equally bullish on Booth’s build-it-yourself approach. “Having already completed an undergraduate degree in Business, I wanted a program that trusted me enough to know what I needed to learn. Booth is unique in allowing me to entirely dedicate my coursework to filling the knowledge gaps I have personally identified for myself and taking classes that build on the academic and professional foundations I have already developed to set me up for success in the next phase of my career.”

Next Page: Interview with Deputy Dean Starr Marcello

Page 3: Profiles of 12 members of the Class of 2024

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