Meet Duke Fuqua’s MBA Class Of 2024

Work as a team?

Can’t we just do it ourselves?

That’s how undergrads think. For many, collaboration is associated with covering for slackers. The process is slower and more convoluted. While you get a say, you don’t always get your way.  After graduation, teamwork becomes a fundamental. Operations are too expansive and projects too complex for one person to shoulder. At this point, the real value of teams become clear: ideas, purpose, accountability, and support.

Every MBA program exalts “The Team.” They assign group projects, conduct group coaching, and hold group events. Question is, is teamwork woven into every corner and every moment by every stakeholder? That’s the Team Fuqua difference at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business. Call it a way of learning, working, and living. It is a daily commitment to bringing out each other’s strengths to maximize potential, realize solutions, and nurture community.


To the skeptics, Team Fuqua is a myth or a gimmick. Technically, the school has never defined what it means. Ask alumni and they’ll tell you that you know Team Fuqua when you see it. “There isn’t one definition of the term, Team Fuqua, as it can have different variations for different people,” explains Audrey Dotson, a 2022 Fuqua graduate. “Ultimately though, Team Fuqua is the idea that Fuquans, whether current students or alums, are all on the same team and when one of us succeeds, we all succeed… The sense of camaraderie and ambition, rather than competitiveness, is what makes this community so special and its one I’m proud to be a part of.”

The Class of 2024 experienced that same spirit in their early days in the program. When Kandasi Griffiths was re-locating to Durham, a second-year conducted a FaceTime tour of a potential location and even spoke to the landlord on her behalf. When Al Corvah planned to skip a party to build furniture, a classmate joined in to help him finish. When Keerthana Rao Balusu emailed current Fuqua students to learn more about the program, the response rate was more than she could handle.  

“One such student, Julia S. (Fuqua MBA ’22), took out hours of her time to learn more about me, guide me, and assist me through my application journey,” she writes. “I didn’t know her before this, and yet she came forward to speak and help. This is not a one-off situation – everyone I contacted provided similar guidance: they reviewed my essays, conducted mock interviews, and provided genuine career advice. This spoke a lot about #teamfuqua and I knew in my heart that this is the place I’d like to be in.”

This sense of being home – among people who’ll go out of their way and onto a limb for him – was palpable to Vann Emmanuel Vicente from the moment he arrived in Durham. “It’s the best community I could’ve asked for,” he asserts. “I’ve already met over a hundred of the most interesting, engaging, and energized people. In fact, during my first day of orientation, I looked around me in genuine awe at how diverse my class was – a truly international class that represents a variety of backgrounds, nationalities, and walks of life.”

And Vicente’s best memory so far? “[It was] rapping “Lose Yourself” by Eminem in front of my classmates over karaoke as they hyped me up. Absolutely unforgettable.”

Breeden Hall at Duke University’s Fuqua School


Team Fuqua culture may produce a supportive and tight-knit community inside the Fox Center, the credentials make them formidable as individuals. As the top marketer on a startup online spirits distributor, Vann Emmanuel Vicente added over a thousand new products to its portfolio in just a few months. By the same token, Sean Perkins – an English Literature major who became a senior corporate development analyst – built a successful business case for an investment projected to generate over $100 million dollars in revenue. Speaking of transitions, Keerthana Rao Balusu studied architecture before moving to hospitality. After her firm dumped its digital marketing staff after COVID, she became the company go-to in that area.

“Despite having no prior expertise in this field, I spent hours every day learning the necessary skills,” she tells P&Q. “I established cross-functional collaboration with the Brand, Technology, and Operations teams, as well as partners such as Google, Facebook, Appsflyer, and others. In the process, I implemented effective efficiency improvement processes and revamped marketing campaigns, resulting in an over 50% reduction in customer acquisition costs during the critical COVID time.”

Al Corvah describes himself as a “Connector and energizer of people.” His friends, however, call him “Cash Money Corvah” – “for my natural salesman’s flair and infectious energy.” A Harvard grad, Corvah served as a vice president and senior branch manager at M&T before joining Team Fuqua. His claim to fame: He earned M&T’s Business Excellence Award for banking sales in 2021. This honor stemmed from turning around a Baltimore branch that was dogged by failed audits, and poor customer service.

“I prevailed by earning the trust of my staff and learning about what motivates them to succeed,” he explains. “I would come in early and leave late every day to make sales calls and handle administrative work, and meet with business owners every Saturday to get new leads for sales and bring new business customers to M&T. By the end of June 2021, I had already surpassed my annual sales quotas for loans, business credit cards, credit card machines and business accounts, which led to my being given the Business Excellence award in my first year of eligibility.”


Before business school, Trevor Fabian was part for one of the world’s most legendary teams. He served as a Special Tactics Officer for the U.S. Air Force. In contrast, Brandon Yip – a nurse by training – became a missionary. After growing up in rural China with limited access to education, Ruoxi Shi experienced a similar call to serve.

“I have been eager to eliminate disparities in education quality between urban and rural areas. In my recent role, by implementing new work processes, convincing teachers who were resistant to change, and training a new set of school administrators, I helped a kindergarten in Jingmen, an underdeveloped area, become China’s first education sector ISO-certified kindergarten. This institute is now setting new standards for educational quality for the whole country. I feel that I have created real social changes and built a better future for the people of my country.”

The same can be said for Kandasi Griffiths, an Atlanta native and Princeton graduate. Five years ago, she was overseeing deployments of medical equipment to Benin and Guinea. Since then, she has been running a social enterprise that provides coaching to women of color. Annie Forrest headed up program growth for the One Love Foundation, a non-profit focused on “educat[ing] young people about the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships to prevent abuse, mostly using short, emotionally engaging films.” Her crowning achievement was landing a $375,000 grant to support LGBTQ+ and filmmakers of color. At the same time, Jessi Aguilar has already managed to live his dream. Growing up, Univision was the only news source for Aguilar’s Spanish-speaking family. Fast forward 15 years and Aguilar was closing deals “with some of the world’s largest brands” at Univision.

“It was great to work with brands that saw the value of the Hispanic community, but it was especially rewarding to use data and storytelling to influence brands to connect with their Hispanic consumers through advertisements. Growing up, I recognized the disparity in the number of brands that decided to advertise in the general market but not in Spanish. My work at Univision was valuable to me because I felt like I was able to advocate for my community which I believe was often forgotten about by brands.”

Students reconnecting between classes at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business in Durham, North Carolina, Wednesday, October 12, 2022 (Justin Cook for Audubon)


Outside Univision, Aguilar also moonlighted as a coach to ACT, SAT, GRE, and GMAT test-takers. Sean Perkins once completed in the World of Dance finals. Ruoxi Shi has already published 200 articles, while Annie Forrest is one state short (Alaska) of visiting every American state. For class members with pets, they may want to check in with Clara Rigou, the CEO and GM of her family firm. She has already fostered 183 dogs and 22 cats.

Looking ahead to graduation, the Class of 2024 carries some big dreams. Annie Forrest, for one, plans to return to rural Southwest Virginia to launch a social enterprise to boost education and economic development. Similarly, Trevor Fabian hopes to expand his non-profit, LifeCampUSA, to a national organization supporting military families and victims of trafficking. For Ruoxi Shi, a Fuqua MBA will position her to launch healthcare solutions into the Chinese marketplace.

“I’ve built strong knowledge in understanding Chinese consumer behavior and working mechanisms of Chinese government, so I want to switch to a strategy marketing position to learn more about the business strategy,” she writes. “So I would like to make this cause my career goal. Utilizing my understanding of the Chinese consumer and knowledge of Chinese marketing practice, I want to bridge the gap between patients and information.”


Technically, it is difficult to pin down an exact definition of the Team Fuqua dynamic. Still, students follow a series of Paired Principles – values that reflect how opposites often attract and enrich each other. Together, these values reflect a belief system, a code that sets expectations and guides decision-making. Among the Class of 2024, Supportive Ambition is particularly popular. The principle is a pushback against the cutthroat ethos that has infected many companies for generations. With Supportive Ambition, success is only achieved when it is enjoyed by everyone. That means working to elevate everyone and leaving no one behind.

“If you support one person, they have the potential to empower 100 more,” observes Keerthana Rao Balusu. “Throughout my interactions with current students and alumni, I have realized how much everyone believes in the concept of shared success – a reason why I chose Fuqua.  At Fuqua, we believe that success isn’t success unless everyone around you is successful too. As a Fuqua MBA, I’m not “competing” with my fellow classmates, but rather collaborating with each other to be collectively successful.”

Clara Rigou describes the Supportive Ambition principle as a “virtuous circle” where students pay forward their blessings. For Al Corvah, that means using his industry experience to help his peers prepare for opportunities. “I see part of my mandate to uphold this principle as helping other students who are recruiting for investment banking with their preparation and spreading information about certain banks or recruiting timelines that I believe would help my fellow finance-minded Fuquans so as many of us can land jobs in the field as possible,” he explains. “I also need to discuss with my classmates lessons I have learned in my previous line of work that may help everyone in their intended endeavors.”

Next Page: An interview with Russ Morgan, senior associate dean.

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