Think of a resort. All-inclusive. Activities and amenities galore. Always leaving you wanting more. The same could be said for the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. All your needs in one place – always something happening with something for everyone. There may never be a dull moment, but Ross is no vacation. That’s because Ross matches any program in energy and ambition.
That’s because the Ross team brings that Marriott mentality: ever responsive, always evolving, never satisfied. This commitment to doing has produced an MBA program that continually adds new programming designed to help students to build their resumes and make an impact – long before they start an internship or walk the stage.
ALWAYS ADDING AND TWEAKING
Want to know what it is like to run a business? Ross MBAs can join the Living Business Leadership Experience (LBLE), where sponsoring companies give student teams entire divisions to run: sales, finance, supply chain – everything! Want to support the underserved? Join a Detroit-area Impact Project to help a nonprofit – and gain consulting and project management skills along the way. Want to tackle complex social issues like climate change and poverty? That’s the +Impact Studio, an interdisciplinary, team-driven program where students use design tools to bring new ideas to the forefront.
This experiential learning – or “action-based” – approach has proven popular with MBAs past and present. Deb Xavier, a 2021 graduate who joined McKinsey & Company, loved how partnering with Amazon helped her develop the communication and teamwork abilities to take that next step. At the same time, Avery Waite – who studied public and health policy before coming to Ross last fall – appreciates how engaging in real world projects serves as a great equalizer for someone like herself.
“Coming to business school from a less traditional background, I am excited to have the opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills that I am learning in the classroom to relevant projects and assignments. At Ross, there are countless opportunities to engage in hands-on learning opportunities. Personally, I am most excited about the Social Venture Fund, Sling Health, and the Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAP).”
EARNING PRESIDENT TRUMP’S IRE
MAP is perhaps Ross’ signature experiential program. For over 30 years, Ross MBA teams have traveled the globe on MAP projects. In recent years, MBAs have worked with firms like 3M, General Motors, Microsoft on projects ranging from devising market entry strategies to implementing digital frameworks. At the graduate level, Ross publicizes that students can choose from nearly 75 projects, with nearly half involving international travel and nearly all requiring a presentation in front of c-suite leaders. Such experiences are invaluable for students like Adam Brewster, who was previously a political reporter for CBS News.
“Coming from a non-traditional background, I was looking for a school that offered exceptional experiential learning opportunities,” he tells P&Q. “MAP set Ross apart from the other schools I was considering because it offers a chance to tackle a real business problem before starting my internship. I know that this will provide a valuable opportunity to apply skills from my previous career and learn new skills from my peers that will help me be successful during my internship and beyond. It also offers a chance to gain experience in a different industry or with a different company than the one I do my internship with, creating a more well-rounded MBA experience.”
Brewster himself earned a bit of notoriety before joining the Class of 2024. He was once quote-tweeted by then-President Donald Trump, who called his reporting “wrong.” In 2019-2020, he was also part of history, spending eight months in Iowa covering the caucuses. In fact, Brewster was on the ground in the 2020 Democratic primary, when their mobile app collapses and prevented the party from divulging results.
“My Iowa-based colleague and I spent months interviewing voters and candidates, talking with sources about strategy and mapping out where the candidates traveled,” Brewster writes. “When caucus night came, we expected to use months of on-the-ground reporting to explain the results. Of course, the story drastically changed around 9:30 p.m. that night when there weren’t any results, but our ability to quickly piece together accurate information for the entire network provided a tremendous sense of accomplishment. We woke up that day expecting to cover the first step in the 2020 presidential election, but when the story turned on a dime, our months of preparation helped us tell CBS News’ audience what went wrong in Iowa.”
THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED
Camren Kaminsky also made headlines as a Formula racer from 2012-2014. Here, she won the Silverstone Circuit in front of 30,000 people. Since then, she has built a Tik Tok following to over 100K people by helping them accept who they are.
“Being able to connect with people all around the world, especially the LGBTQ+ community was truly incredible,” she says. “I shared my journey publicly from my race car driving days to the present so fellow LGBTQ+ people who are going through the same struggles I went through would not feel quite so alone. I wanted them to see another LGBTQ+ person living their life with all of its ups-and-downs in a way that would give them confidence to embrace their true self.”
Some class members also made equally impressive transitions in their careers. Sara Ford has performed in both Carnegie Hall and Disney Hall, studying French Horn as both an undergrad and graduate student. Since then, she has transitioned into the nonprofit sector, handling development and then executive leadership for an organization that uses arts to heal abused and impoverished children. Along the same lines, Raam Charran left a lucrative three-year stint at JP Morgan to join the One Acre Fund, a social venture supporting small farmers in East Africa.
“Despite changing industry, function and geography, I settled in quickly and I was able to leave my mark on a variety of different projects all of which improved the lives of farmers and significantly enhanced the impact created by the organization,” Charran notes. “Leading core-activities for a 500-member field team, I was also able to significantly hone and develop my leadership and management skills.”
COVID BROUGHT OUT THEIR BEST
The class also gravitates towards service. In the Houston Independent School District – the largest in Texas – Carlos Delfino Sotelo stepped out of his comfort zone to embrace leadership. In the end, he oversaw a team of over a dozen people to build new initiatives around supporting Latino, immigrant, and LGBTQ students, including founding first-ever Hispanic Family and Pride summits. In Chicago, Alex Perez-Garcia launched Disability Lead, a nonprofit geared towards promoting leadership opportunities for individuals with disabilities. Across town, you’ll would’ve found Akbar Arsiwala, who once ran a marathon dressed as Scooby Doo. During COVID, he organized 19 nonprofits to launched a mobile food pantry program.
“The operation distributed thousands of pounds of groceries each month while keeping everyone safe. With tenacity, resourcefulness, and a tight-knit team, the pantry distributed 100 tons of fresh food to over 4,600 families during the height of the pandemic. After leaving the military, I searched for ways to continue serving others. This experience demonstrated that there are so many ways to make a difference and opened my eyes to broader social impact.”
Avery Waite built her career at USAID and the Clinton Health Access Initiative. She was also a member of the first Obama Foundation Community Leadership Corps and became the featured speaker at its summit later that year. Over her career, she has worked on outbreaks like Ebola and Zika. However, she truly rose to the challenge when the COVID-19 pandemic hit.
“In collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and other partners, my team and I helped introduce simpler, safer sample collection products for COVID-19 testing,” Waite explains. “We negotiated with Chinese manufacturers to offer these kits at a price point almost 70% cheaper than those on the market in low- and middle-income countries. These efforts led to countries being able to test more people at a reduced cost, saving close to $0.5B through the first two years of the COVID-19 response.”
STRONG AS BAMBOO
At the same time, Robin F. Baker oversaw the launch of Ghana’s first community occupational therapy center – one that has delivered over $150K in services thus far. For her, Ross made a strong impression from the beginning – a consortium webinar. Here, Baker recalls, a Ross alum offered 30 minutes to any prospective applicant to review their resumes and essays – and demonstrated what the program was really like.
“I took him up on his offer and was blown away by his sincerity and willingness to assist me with my application process,” Baker explains. “Our 30-minute chat easily turned into a 90-minute discussion, where he helped me master my elevator pitch, brainstorm career aspirations and prepare for interviews. Time-and-time again, the Ross community has proved to be eager to help and gracious with their time and resources. This is simply the Ross way!”
The Class of 2024 shares similar stories. Alex Perez-Garcia received calls and emails from alumni after she was admitted – and heard “Go Blue” bellowing through an airport when she was wearing a UM t-shirt. Hana Tomozawa, most recently a strategy intern at frog, was stunned when she received a hand-written note from a second-year after she joined the class. Since then, the Hawai’i native has compared the Ross community to bamboo.
“It grows fast, and while its roots may be shallow, they are long-lasting and form a fibrous underground network that holds the soil steady in place on a solid foundation, much like Ross’s community values and expansive alumni network.”
A PLACE TO TAKE RISKS
That foundation will carry on past business school. After all, as Avery Waite observes, her classmates are seeking impact by pursuing a purpose using “business-minded approaches.” After graduation, Alex Perez-Garcia plans to continue her work to “dismantle the stigma surrounding mental health issues.” As an occupational therapist and business founder, Robin F. Baker also expects to ramp up her mission: “reduc[ing] health disparities among marginalized communities at the systemic level.” With an MBA in tow, Forrest Cox intends to return to his tribe to spur economic development.
“I aim to learn technical skills in finance and management to help contribute to my tribe’s economic development and revenue diversification efforts, as well as to support other tribes and their communities,” he writes. “In my previous work with Cherokee Nation, my role was focused on political strategy and economic development to help identify potential resource overlaps and goal alignments where coordinated development would make sense to pursue with area businesses.”
Two words often associated with the Ross are action-based and multidisciplinary. With the former, MBAs enjoy an array of activities designed to help them put classroom theory into real world practice. With the latter, Ross offers dual MBA degrees in Law, Public Policy, Public Health, Medicine, and Environment and Sustainability. Even more, students can pair their MBA with a wide range of disciplines, including Education, Social Work, Manufacturing Engineering, and International Studies. At the same time, the school maintains the largest portfolio of student-run investment funds, including the Wolverine Venture Fund, Real Estate Fund, International Investment Fund, Zell Lurie Commercialization Fund, Social Venture Fund, Maize and Blue Fund, Zell Founders Fund, and the Climate Venture Fund. All told, these funds account for $10 million dollars in funds under management. For Adam Brewester, they represent an opportunity to gain experience with a no-risk safety net to support him.
“I don’t come from an investing-oriented career, but these funds offer a chance to do the due diligence that’s required before deciding whether to invest in a business,” he says. “Being able to understand these questions and to anticipate them in the future will provide a more holistic understanding of what makes businesses successful. Working with a student-led venture fund not only allows me to understand the rigor and analysis that goes into an investment, but provides a chance to stretch myself and try something new.”
Next Page: Interview with Ross Administrators
Page 3: Profiles of 12 Members of the Class of 2024
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