A DAY IN THE LIFE
Looking for a great story in the class? Well, it might be hard to top Lennart Funke. He played a part in building the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) particle accelerator. “When I was in 7th or 8th grade, I thought black holes were super cool. Thus, I interned with my local university’s Nuclear Physics department. They were involved in the research at CERN [European Organization for Nuclear Research], which is why I got to build parts of the detector. While this story does make for a fantastic fun fact, I did not turn out to be a great physicist.”
Instead, he ended up at Stanford, where he says he wrestles with the “paradox of choice” every day. Just look at his daily schedule.
“In your first class in the morning, you learn about the intricacies of psychological biases in hiring decisions taught by one of the most cited researchers of the past year. In your second class, a former Federal Reserve Governor joins as a guest lecturer to explain the Fed’s current actions to fight inflation. Over lunch, a company tries to recruit you for their CEO-in-Training program. They legitimately want to put you into a CXO-role for one of their companies as soon as possible. In the afternoon, you work on a group project with your fellow classmates – an Olympic gold medalist, a Y-combinator-backed startup founder, and a former White House employee. Thereafter, you listen to a speech by the US Secretary of State, which your parents will mention to you the next day because it is being featured on National Television News in Germany. At night, one of the world’s most renowned VC funds hosts a mixer to get early access to your startup ideas. Prioritizing and being able to say “no” are two crucial skills here.”
Katie Deal has enjoyed similar experiences. In particular, Deal admires the faculty, which she describes as “renowned CEOs, field-defining scientists, former public servants, and founders who have disrupted entire industries.” And her classmates are equally extraordinary, she adds. “The potential to have paradigm-shifting, life-changing conversations at any moment is totally surreal, and I strive to never get used to it—even though you could call it “normal” at a place like the GSB.”
A FONDNESS FOR FAILURE
In the Class of 2024, you’ll find plenty of ground-breaking insurgents and risk-taking visionaries. While the imaginations, networks, and stamina can be intimidating, Gabriela Gonzalez has taken away an important lesson from her first months at the GSB.: Everyone believes they aren’t good enough and “crave” acceptance. Even more, the GSB carries a certain spirit – an assurance that comes with being around the best.
“I can’t believe how much being here can make you believe in your ability to achieve anything,” Gonzalez adds. “It is not because they explicitly tell you so, but because you are in an environment that is so inspiring and full of resources that you start believing it. It generates a huge responsibility to decide thoughtfully what you want to pursue.”
It also instills a certain joy – a love of the process and lesson as much as the final result. In his Lean Launchpad course, Dara Canavan isn’t sure his venture will become a serious pursuit, but he relishes his new-found ability to “rapidly test and adapt my hypothesis.” And he has learned to accept failure as a natural and necessary part of his journey.
“I think most cultures teach you that mistakes are a natural part of learning, but no institution embodies this more than the GSB. It was a real culture shock for me to see that failure is more than just tolerated – it’s downright celebrated! I have never felt so empowered to take risks and, in the least cliché way possible, to chase my dreams.”
MISSION-DRIVEN AND HUNGRY
Stacy Blackman, an admissions consultant, calls this mentality the “X-factor” that makes Stanford MBAs different: a passion for answering a question and a commitment to fulfilling a mission. They are willing to take risks and create impact – all driven by a tenacity that overcomes setbacks, criticism and doubt. These are qualities that Class of 2024 members have noticed in their peers. And “mission-driven” is one virtue that Katie Deal associates with her peers.
“When you ask a GSBer about their next job, they don’t name an industry or position. Instead, they’ll likely start explaining the critical problem they want to address and how they’ll use their career to help find a solution. That impact-oriented, people-first ethos is the common thread that unites students across the GSB, and it creates a culture that’s always in pursuit of “what matters most.”
“Hungry” is another quality found among the GSB – an insatiable impulse to connect, learn, and build according to Nikhil Gupta. “You may not pick it up at first – on the surface, most classmates present as pretty laid back and easygoing. But once you get to know them, you’ll uncover a deep motivation to solve the world’s biggest problems in industries ranging from climate change to tech to healthcare to civic engagement. And once my classmates set a goal, they go after it with indefatigable energy. They’re bold, chaotic, a little naive–and completely inspiring.”
…and not too wrapped up in their ambitions to lend support. For Yukiho Ishigami, Stanford GSB was the first time she lived in the United States. Coming from a culture that valued modesty and restraint, Ishigami struggled in her Leadership Laboratory course, where her classmates’ natural confidence and decisiveness sometimes felt unnatural to her. Rather than leave Ishigami behind, her squadmates practiced with her and gave feedback – and always celebrated her progress.
“I saw true inclusive leadership in my squadmates,” Ishigami tells P&Q. “I come from a culture where humility is a virtue. I still believe that way and don’t want to be arrogant, but I realized that humility sometimes prevents me from moving forward. Humility makes me think that I don’t deserve it or I’m not capable of doing it. However, people here believe in my potential much more than I do and encourage me to step or even jump forward. The support of my classmates has helped me to be bolder and more confident. I feel this is what GSB is all about.”
FIGURING IT OUT AS THEY GO
With their classmates’ help, the Class of 2024 also gained several epiphanies – fresh insights or worn lessons that have truly hit home. Entering the spring of her first year, Andrea Epelbaum has accepted that everyone defines success differently. Similarly, there is no single path through business school, says Esteban Socarras – everyone has different interests and priorities. Whatever you do, adds Nathan Fewel, don’t expect anyone to have all the answers.
“Everyone is trying to figure out the world as they go. There’s so much room to try new things or to approach old problems in a new way. Don’t take what people tell you as gospel. Listen carefully, and respect others’ points of view, but then you must go out and form your own worldview.”
The value and scale of these ideas has been another revelation for the Class of 2024. In the past, Nikhil Gupta has felt that he should tackle the “entirety of a problem.” After his time at Stanford GSB, he has embraced a new approach entirely: Incrementalism. “How do you make a solution slightly more efficient? How do you get your arms around a part of the problem as a gateway toward bigger change? I think this is something that many businesses do well. As long as you don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, there’s lots to be learned from that approach.”
THE SKY IS THE LIMIT
In true Stanford fashion, Sandy Uwimana has taken away an entirely different lesson: Think bigger. More than that, she has begun asking herself why not me, why not this, and why not now. In other words, she has begun to recognize the possibilities and take action to realize them – the same mindset that Lennart Funke has adopted.
“In Germany, I was mainly focused on overcoming limitations,” Funke admits. “At Stanford, I am learning to focus on possibilities. The only limit to what is reachable is your own imagination. If you can dream it, you can reach it.”
Indeed, Stanford GSB boasts the most ambitious of missions: “Change Lives, Change Organizations, Change the World.” That mantra has spurred nearly 18,000 MBA alumni to be agents of change, who launch companies, spread expertise, and build markets that provide access and purpose as much as livelihoods.
“Stanford is a very solutions-oriented place,” explains Dean Jon Levin, P&Q’s 2022 Dean of the Year. “People are problem solvers here. Even though we have faculty who do basic science research, people like solving problems around climate change, inequality, the direction and pace of technology, and the future of markets and institutions. We are focused on how we are going to come up with productive solutions that make people better off. That’s a great contribution that Stanford can make.”
A CLASS PROFILE
Technically, Stanford GSB reported that certain measures were down with the Class of 2024. However, that obscures two key points. First, a GSB acceptance letter is the most coveted offer among business schools worldwide. During Dean Levin’s tenure, 96% of accepted applicants ultimately chose to enroll in the GSB. Beyond high yield, Stanford GSB also boasts low acceptance rates. Just 6.2% of applicants ultimately receive an offer – half the number at Harvard Business School. When it comes to individual measures, the GSB often sets the bar.
Overall, the school received 6,152 applications during the 2021-2022 cycle. That represents a 16.5% decline. However, that must be factored against an application decline overall, with Harvard Business School and the Wharton School receiving 15.4% and 12.9% fewer applications during the same cycle. Overall, the Class of 2024 features 424 students who hail from 56 countries and speak 77 languages. Aside from 37% of GSB students coming in from overseas, 51% are U.S. minorities, including increases in the African American and Hispanic American populations by 12% and 13% respectively. Women also account for 44% of the class.
The Class of 2024 also brings a 737 average GMAT to Palo Alto, four points higher than the Wharton School. In this measure, the high score hits 790, while the bottom scores falls to 630. The average GRE score comes in at 327: 164 (Verbal) and 163 (Quant) – with scores ranging from 149-170 (Verbal) and 150-170 (Quant). As a whole, the class averaged 3.76 for its undergraduate GPA. In addition, 13% of the class already holds advanced degrees, while 12% are the first member of their family to earn a collage degree. Overall, the class holds bachelor’s degrees from 162 higher education institutions, including 79 from outside the United States.
In terms of class composition, the GSB tends to be welcoming to the liberal arts. 47% of the class hold undergraduate degrees in the humanities, social sciences, and economics, a 3% uptick over the past two years. STEM majors make up 33% of the class followed by Business-related degrees at 19%. Looking at the Class of 2024’s’ most recent professional experience, the largest segment – Consulting and Investment Management, Private Equity, and Venture Capital – each hold 20% of the class seats. Technology professionals comprise 15% of the class, followed by Government, Education, and Nonprofits (8%), Consumer Products and Services (7%), Healthcare (5%), and Arts, Media, and Entertainment (5%). The remainder of the class includes representatives from Financial Services, Cleantech and Energy, and Manufacturing. Another 4% possess military service.
Next Page: Q&A with Associate Dean Paul Oyer
Page 4: Profiles of 12 Members of the Class of 2024
Comments or questions about this article? Email us.