Meet INSEAD’s MBA Class Of 2023

France’s INSEAD is the first international business school to top our list of the funded MBA startups of the year. Courtesy photo


What has the Class of 2023 experienced since they arrived on campus? Tamerlan Vahabzada, a portfolio manager for Shell, joined INSEAD’s Startup Bootcamp, which exposed him to the potential inherent to diverse thought and teamwork.

“Within 48 hours, each team took a different business idea from a concept on paper to a pitch to angel investors. The amount of learning in those two days has been nothing short of exceptional. I was amazed by the wealth of knowledge and experience that each participant brought to the table and felt privileged for having the opportunity to collaborate with such a diverse group of people.”

Indeed, you’ll find all kinds of people roaming INSEAD’s campuses. Tamuna Andguladze still chuckles over how one classmate rode horseback to get from Austria to INSEAD’s Fontainebleau campus in France – “very environment-friend,” she adds. Such characters make INSEAD what it is: one of the most distinctive MBA experiences on the planet, one you need to live in order to truly understand.

“Truly – and I say it’s hard to understand the weight and extent of this unless you experience it for yourself – you can learn so much from each person you meet at INSEAD, adds Melloney Daye Awit.”


By the numbers, the August batch features 404 students who encompass 65 nationalities. The class averaged a 705 GMAT, with the highest score being 770. As a whole, women account for 34% of the class.

Academically, the class skews toward business and STEM backgrounds. 35% of the class majored in Business-related fields, while another 15% hold undergraduate degrees in Economics. By the same token, 27% studied Engineering, followed by Sciences at 8%. The remainder of the class includes students from Humanities and the Arts (6%) and Law and Political Science (5%). Professionally, the class boasts 5.7 years of professional experience.  30% of the class last worked in consulting compared to 24% who held positions in Financial Services. Retail and Consumer Goods and Manufacturing professionals each accounted for 8% of the class. The remainder includes students from Education, Corporate Services, Healthcare, Public Sector, Transportation, eCommerce, Information Technology, and Media and Entertainment.

Every year, INSEAD hosts a big costume party called “The Dash.” It’s a great opportunity for students to dress up… or down! CREDIT: Carlos Duque


Not only is INSEAD trademarked as “The business school for the world”, it ranks among the top MBA programs in the world. In the newly-released Financial Times MBA ranking, INSEAD climbed a spot to 2nd, buoyed by high marks in international experience, ESG, faculty research prowess. ESG has gained increasing prominence in the INSEAD curriculum. In a 2022 interview with P&Q, Dean Ilian Mihov noted that the school offers 19 courses on ESG and sustainability, not counting the 12 of 15 core courses that integrate sustainability. That comes on the heels of INSEAD’s 2021 roll out of its new San Francisco hub in 2021, which goes along with its full-integrated network of campuses in Fontainebleau, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.

Like any business school dealing in contrasts, INSEAD carries some conflicting reputations. By virtue of its 10-month curriculum, some may consider the workload to be too intense and demanding. However, ’22 alum Joel Garrido Gallardo assures potential applicants that “there is time for absolutely everything.” In contrast, INSEAD has sometimes been described as a “party school” where academics take a back seat. For Xi Kang, another ’22 INSEAD alum, the opposite has been true.

“You know what? It is NOT the case. It requires a lot of effort to take up six core courses, finish them in one period (approx. two months), and balance everything with case preparation and job interviews. It is particularly true for someone like me who is not from a business background. If you are someone who longs for intellectual challenges and excels at multitasking, you should come to INSEAD.”


There are more reasons than that to come to INSEAD. Last fall, P&Q reached out to Katy Montgomery, associate dean of degree programmes and Virginie Fougea, global director of admissions, financial aid and scholarships. From signature experiences to underrated aspects of student life, here is everything you need to know about INSEAD for the coming year.

Virginie Fougeau, global director of admissions and financial aid at INSEAD

P&Q: If you were giving a campus tour, what is the first place you’d take an MBA applicant? Why is that so important to the MBA experience?

VF: “I would take this applicant to “Freddy’s”, which is the Fontainebleau campus’ cafeteria. Not just to grab a coffee, which might be welcome after a long trip to visit us, but also to offer this applicant a glimpse of the vibrant community that is INSEAD.

At Freddy’s, you can stumble upon a bunch of Lebanese MBAs celebrating their national week in full garb, side-by-side with some MIMs raising funds for a Robin Hood scholarship, and perhaps some EMBA participants discussing business ventures with faculty. It is a busy place and a great spot to get a feel of how multi-cultural, inclusive, and entrepreneurial INSEAD is.”

P&Q: What is the most innovative thing you have introduced into the MBA program in recent years? How has it been a game changer for your program?

KM: “In recent years, we’ve introduced Virtual Reality (VR) learning to INSEAD. VR brings immersive learning experiences which allow the students to learn at a much faster rate than when reading traditional case studies.  INSEAD launched its VR Immersive Learning Initiative pre-pandemic in 2019 to boost engagement, retention of knowledge and personalisation of learning. Today, more than 4,500 MBA and executive education participants have experienced VR as part of INSEAD programmes around the world, both remotely and in classrooms at its campuses in France, Singapore, and Abu Dhabi.

In March 2021, 650 MBA’21D students used VR technology to help an NGO, MiracleFeet, scale up their mission of helping 100,000 children a year in 70 countries overcome clubfoot, an entirely curable birth defect that still afflicts lives in lower income countries. Using VR technology, our students were able to share strategic recommendations for the organisation to expand its proven business model from low-income to middle-income countries.”

P&Q: What have MBAs told you is the most memorable, signature experience they’ve had in your program? Why did it resonate so much with them?

KM: “This is a tough question. As I mentioned before, we really value diversity at INSEAD so there is no one “right” answer to this question. Different students are different. However, I think the MBA July graduation at the Chateau de Fontainebleau is an unforgettable experience. The Chateau is one of the largest French royal châteaux that was first a medieval castle and subsequently served as the residence for the French monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon III. It is grand and the special ceremony takes place on the palace grounds with cocktails afterwards. It is a way to leave INSEAD in style and to celebrate the momentous occasion.”

Katy Montgomery

P&Q: At INSEAD, “everyone is a minority.” How does your school leverage the global nature of your students and programming to better prepare students for the careers of tomorrow?

KM: “Diversity is a foundational value of INSEAD and a cornerstone of its programmes. The INSEAD MBA programme welcomes 90+ different nationalities in the classroom annually – no other business school offers such a multicultural experience. Our classrooms are deeply diverse and this enables our students to develop nuanced perspectives on complex global business and societies around the world. They get to understand how people from other cultures live, study and make decisions, as well as becoming more aware of their own biases. They gain appreciation of the viewpoints and debates with their diverse classmates and must forge creative ways to problem-solve, collaborate and innovate.”

P&Q: What is the most underrated part of your program that you wish students knew more about? How does that make your graduates more valuable to prospective employers?

KM: “Each INSEAD MBA student has the special opportunity to participate in the Professional Leadership Development Programme (PLDP).  This unique programme follows and shapes students’ personal and professional development—and runs throughout their time as a student.

The PLDP is founded on the belief that leadership is much more than management. Today’s leaders must strike a balance between reflection and action to help their organisations adapt to the unknown. They must be flexible, aware of their context, and able to adjust their leadership style to the situation. Just as importantly, they must know themselves and understand their impact on others. I believe this programme provides an irreplaceable chance for students to understand what hinders and what enhances their ability to lead well.”

P&Q: Who is a standout in your faculty or administration – the kind of person who graduates talk about a decade after they leave? How does he or she personify your school culture and the best of your MBA program.

KM: “This question is going to get me in hot water! It is very difficult to single out one individual faculty member and I believe our students would say the same. However, I would like to note that this year, we celebrated six outstanding female faculty members who were nominated for four MBA Teaching Awards presented at the MBA July Graduation, and three of them won. Also, for the first time all three nominees for the best elective in Europe campus were female, too. The six female faculty members are: Lin Shen, Ivana Naumovska, Claudia Zeisberger, Sujin Jang, Kaisa Snellman and Lin Tian.”

Next Page: Profiles of 12 INSEAD Students

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