100 Best & Brightest MBAs: Class Of 2023

Connie Li, University of Wisconsin


The Class of 2023 didn’t just start clubs, events, or programming. Many opened or funded businesses – ones poised to weather the long-term. As the MBA partner of Carnegie Mellon’s 99 Tartans angel investment syndicate, Christopher Elston helped fund 14 deals that totaled $2.4 million dollars. At MIT Sloan, Bruce Crawford’s startup claimed first prize in the $100K Launch – MIT’s largest startup competition. Across the pond, Diego Rojas Arancibia raised $180,000 for his FinTech venture – 90% of whom were connected to the University of Oxford, where he earned is MBA. Ironically, this wasn’t Rojas’ biggest entrepreneurial success story.

“What started with a team of 20 volunteers and $50 in budget [in 2018] eventually became one of the largest NGOs in Bolivia focused on education. We are now a team of over 200 volunteers that directly impacted 10,000 Bolivians through means of tutoring and mentoring, robotics and English contests, and social incubator programs. I am proud of having been the CEO of Tu Beca Bolivia during these 5 years, and of everything we achieved. We organized the largest Robotics competition in the country alongside the National Government, and created the largest pre-incubator program with the help of the US Embassy.”

Outside of their business and academic pursuits, you’ll find Best & Brightest MBAs who are Irish step dancers, ballet dancers, figure skaters, professional volleyball players, Disneyland actors, and stand-up comics. Today, Tyler Knittel is a Carnegie Mellon MBA slated to become a Boston Consulting Group consultant. At 19, he just missed making the 2012 Olympic team for Taekwondo, losing in overtime at the Olympic Trials to a former silver medalist. And then there is the University of Wisconsin’s Connie Li. Aside from completing the MBA curriculum and leading three clubs, they are also raising two children under six. In Connie’s spare time, they are teaching themselves quantum computing and living the life of an adrenaline junkie.

“[I love] skydiving, bungee jumping, hiking in the Himalayan region, island hopping in the Philippines, and practicing Brazilian Ju-Jitsu.”


Yes, the Class of 2023’s interests are varied. The University of Pittsburgh’s Claire Howard is both a first-degree black belt and a classically-trained opera singer. Calvin Tong finds peace outside Cornell University’s Johnson School by shining shoes. In true MIT spirit, O’Shae Bridges owns a patent for a projectorless simulator – one used by Lockheed Martin for pilot training. And how is this for school spirit…

“In December 2022 during finals week, my second son was born, and his name is Luca (an anagram for UCLA),” writes Stephen Jesus Mendoza.

O’Shae Bridges, MIT (Sloan)

What made business school such a game-changing experience for the Class of 2023? O’Shae Bridges, for one, points out how easy it is to be roused by the drive and passion of his MIT classmates. “Whether it’s overhearing conversations at the local YMCA about building AI solutions for mental health or chatting with students at a coffee shop about creating entrepreneurial ecosystems in Kenya, it’s evident that everyone is deeply committed to making a positive impact on the world. Being surrounded by such innovative and motivated individuals has challenged me to think bigger and push my limits. Through these connections, I’ve built valuable relationships that have opened doors to new opportunities and accelerated my personal and professional growth.”


For others, business school was the culmination of a long and sometimes harrowing journey. Just ask Brittany Bolden, who earned her MBA at Indiana University’s Kelley School before accepting a senior consultant position at Deloitte. Raised by her grandmother in a low-income household next to the Mexican border, Bolden grew up angry and cynical, unsure about her purpose or abilities. During MBA recruiting, she wondered if there was a “code to some secret language” that she needed to decipher. Over time, she came to an epiphany. Many times, people struggle to move ahead because they are afraid to take risks like leaving a job. In the end, Bolden embraced her story and tackled the questions – why me, why here, why now – that she had dogged her for so long. In the process, she opened a path for others to follow.

“I’ll never forget when I got my offers (4 with full-tuition scholarships), and my grandma held the letters in her hand like they were the keys to the kingdom. “You got into business school,” she barely said above a whisper. It was like she knew my life was about to change forever. She unexpectedly passed away two months later, and as I was preparing for us both to take on this adventure. I instead had to push forward without her…There was officially no turning back (and no home to go back to). As I wrap up my MBA journey, I am proud to say that my boyfriend and three of my friends and former coworkers were all just accepted into Kelley with a Consortium full tuition fellowship. I had a big part in their embarking on their own business school journey. I hope to continue inspiring others from low-income communities to get out of their own way to get the life they want.”

Allison Wise also deviated from the beaten path – after she started her MBA at Washington University’s Olin School. For most, business school is a time to study, experiment, and network – not hold down a job. Through school, Wise has held down a part-time position at a designer consignment store. Now, Wise is preparing to leave for a corporate role in Starbucks’ Seattle headquarters. Looking back, Wise doesn’t regret any of the time she spent working.

Olivia Glick, USC (Marshall)

“[I] have been able to learn the ins-and-outs of running a small business. As a career switcher into marketing, I’ve also gained hands-on experience with key skills that I will be able to utilize in my full-time role, such as business differentiation strategy, inventory management, and customer segmentation. Many people thought I was crazy for working through business school, but it truly is one of my proudest achievements over the last two years because I successfully balanced both.”


As graduation season arrives, some MBAs are already marveling how they somehow made it through business school.It really is non-stop,” admits Olivia Glick, a graduate of USC’s Marshall School. “Between classes, recruiting, case competitions, club events, leadership positions and socializing with your classmates, it can be hard to catch your breath sometimes…You certainly will never be bored.”

Reflecting on her time at the Tuck School, Carly Wolberg is struck by just how much she has grown over the past 21 months. “I have been able to immerse myself in experiences that have allowed me to get outside of my comfort zone, to discover different strengths and interests, and to understand what my values are and how to be a more empathetic leader, teammate, and friend. I would never have guessed I would be challenging myself hiking at 17,000 ft elevation in Peru (the famous Rainbow Mountain) with my classmates, which I wouldn’t have done without their encouragement.”

For Madeline Davis, the MBA experience has taught her that she doesn’t have to settle or follow the crowd. Joining Bain & Company after graduation, Davis believes she can define her value on her terms – and pursue the passions that resonate with her.  

“Business school reminded me to bet on myself, to challenge the status quo and always keep learning,” adds the Emory Goizueta grad. “I thought I’d be leaving after two years with a new job, great friends and an additional degree, but I’m also leaving with a renewed sense of self confidence, and I’m sure that’s worth the hefty price of b-school admission.”

See pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs. 










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