Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2024

How do you know that you are doing a great job?

Your customers will tell you – and they’ll tell everyone else too!

In education, your ‘customers’ are students and alumni. With social media, they can make their voices loud-and-clear. The same can be said of rankings surveys – platforms where schools can be compared side-by-side. In the case of The Princeton Review survey, the ‘customers’ have given their stamp of approval to Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management


Last fall, The Princeton Review surveyed MBA students and alumni in 18 dimensions for satisfaction. Most times, you’ll find Owen near the top of the list. With Professors – the measure of teaching excellence and faculty accessibility– Owen ranked 2nd. The same was true for Administration – defined as “how smoothy the school is run and the ease with which students can get into required and popular courses.” At the same time, Owen posted the second-highest scores in Campus Environment – a key measure that gauges how happy students are with their peers, activities, campus, and surrounding city.

One reason is “personal scale” says Alex Jean, a Nashville engineer who joined the Class of 2024 last fall. Thus far, he has been struck by the “personal access” he has enjoyed with faculty – an outgrowth of a school where graduate business is the focal point of resources and attention. Jean’s classmate, Mackenzie Murray also attributes this spirit to the school’s small size, just 147 students in the 2024 Class

“[This] really appealed to me in choosing a business school,” Murray admits. ”The moment I stepped onto campus, I felt uniquely and individually supported by the faculty, staff, and second years, which I don’t think I would have felt as quickly in a larger program. I also feel lucky to get to know so many of my classmates on a personal level due to the small size of our classes and clubs. Owen truly feels like home.”

Vanderbilt Owen Graduate School of Management, Management Hall, its main building on campus. Courtesy images


The small class size – and the personal attention intimate spirit, and deeper connections that come with it – is just one differentiator of the Owen MBA. The school also ranked 6th for the Most Competitive Students according to The Princeton Review. Normally, this measure might turn off applicants, even if part of it involves academic demands. However, Owen is designed to channel students’ natural competitiveness into something that fosters the greater good.

“One of Owen’s taglines is, Competitive not cutthroat,” notes Lisa Moskowitz, a 2022 P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “I think some people see that as meaning Owen MBAs are not driven or ambitious and more relaxed than other business schools. That can’t be further from the truth. My classmates push to be the best versions of themselves. We want each Owen student to be successful as that reflects positively on them and all of Owen. We are competitive with ourselves to be better when we leave than when we arrived.”

The Princeton Review isn’t the only ranking where Owen earned high marks in student and alumni surveys. In the latest Financial Times survey, the school ranked among the 20-best for Career Services. At the same time, it produced one of the world’s 15-highest scores for the Alumni Network. The latter may seem counterintuitive, as Owen’s network is smaller than most Top 25 graduate business programs.  However, size doesn’t necessarily correspond to enthusiasm and engagement, notes Kacie Ryan, a ’23 alum and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. She has found that Owen’s “personal scale” also translates to an alumni base that is always looking to connect with current students. It was an instinct also noticed by Joe Payne, a ’22 grad who was impressed by the “passion” exhibited by alumni.

“Owen alumni never fail to answer an email or accept a request for a call,” Payne told P&Q. “More often than not, they are willing to go the extra mile to introduce you to their personal network. So while we are in fact a smaller school, the quality of our people produces an impact that rivals any program.”


The small but mighty aesthetic would describe the Class of 2024 to a tee. Take Christian Sanders Aspillaga. At the Central Bank of Peru, he was responsible for managing its largest portfolio — $45 billion dollars in assets under management. Campbell Liles is earning his MBA while working as a medical resident…in neurosurgery. By the same token, Chi Okafor put Nigerian bonds and treasury bills on Africa’s currency exchange. And how is this for an entrepreneurial success story from Ngoc Thi Duong?

“In 2019, realizing that China was a potential market to start a trading business due to its excellent trade and transportation-related infrastructure, competitive international logistic cost, and goods price, I relocated there to analyze the market and connect with suppliers,” Thi Duong writes. “A half-year later, with a co-founder in Vietnam, I successfully launched GI Trade Co, which specializes in medical supplies and consumer goods. Despite the negative effect of the pandemic, our company not only survived but grew by 150%. I also feel overjoyed that over 2 years, we were able to deliver thousands of medical supplies to help people in Vietnam fight COVID.”

Making bourbon is a long and intricate process akin to producing art. And its storage – from barreling to racking – can have a profound impact on its aging and flavor. That’s one reason why Alex Jean took a data-driven approach to warehousing at one distillery. At Cognizant, Avani Gangavelli developed a payer product that boosted efficiency by 20% for hospitals and insurance providers. Moving on to Eli Lilly, Ishan Desai used analytics to shore up a fledgling consulting function.

“I was one of the starting members of my unit and helped bring in associates and, coach and mentor them on various aspects of consulting for pharmaceutical brands. This allowed us to set up a cost-efficient internal consulting function that Lilly’s brands could reach out to and receive data backed insights and strategies to some of the most diverse and complex business questions.”

Vanderbilt Owen students taking notes in a marketing class


Sam Turner learned leadership as a U.S. Army Staff Intelligence Officer, where her role  included “insider threat prevention” in Afghanistan. In contrast, Samuel Ederle comes to Nashville after working as a professional actor – including appearing in 8 of 10 episodes of HBO’s Love Life in season 2. However, it wasn’t necessarily the art that become his best moment in the field.

“My biggest accomplishment in my career so far was gaining access to and joining the Screen Actors Guild. Joining the union is a pivotal moment in many actors’ careers, as it legitimizes/recognizes your previous efforts and opens the door to several new opportunities. Although I have moved on from my acting career, I am proud of having achieved that important milestone.”

Now, Ederle is achieving new ones, including being part of a team that won the local round of the Deloitte Case Competition and competed at nationals. Since starting his MBA, Campbell Liles has co-founded the the Vanderbilt Policy and Cost in Surgery (VPaCS) research group, which he says integrates MBA techniques to help enhance medical care and lower costs. And then there is Chi Okafor, who was already living the MBA dream last fall.  

“[I landed] three amazing summer internship offers before the normal recruiting cycle officially began.”


Nashville has emerged as an “It” city for students and professionals alike. Described as a ‘Town of transplants’, the area’s population has jumped by 15% in the past 10 years alone. The city has attracted major tech players like Facebook, Dell, Amazon, and Oracle – with the latter two projected to eventually produce 14,000 jobs combined. The area is also home to a sizable automotive footprint, including Nissan, Ford, and General Motors. Even Napster is moving its headquarters to Nashville – hardly a bold move consider the region’s fame for music and entertainment. And that doesn’t count tourism, either (Hello, bridesmaids).

Yes, Tennessee is business-friendly, with no state income tax, a flat corporate tax, and lower-than-average property taxes. Ask the Class of 2024 about what makes Nashville so distinct and they’ll talk about something more ineffable. For Mackenzie Murray, Nashville is all about the energy – a place, she says, where “everyone around me is trying to better themselves.” Alex Jean is equally bullish about the region.

“I think Nashville is a great fit for 20- and 30-year-olds in the growth phase in life who want to continue to grow, have fun, and make friends in a place where the city experience and the romanticism of its southern charm both thrive.”

And it’s a great place to stay in shape too, adds Olivier Kanicki, a consultant who grew up in Michigan. “As an avid runner from Chicago, I was spoiled with stellar running routes along Lake Michigan. So naturally, I was nervous about moving to Nashville, unsure of the running trails and city layout. However, I was pleasantly surprised that Nashville is packed with greenways and plenty of running options. One of my favorite early morning running routes is right down Broadway by the Honky Tonks. Nashville’s mild winter weather also makes training for my next race that much easier.”

Owen MBA students in front of Nashville skyline


Nashville is also known for healthcare – as in being the “Health Services Capital of the World.” Home to over 500 healthcare companies, it is headquarters for Fortune 500 behemoths like HCA Healthcare and Community Health Systems. Overall, the industry is responsible for over 350,000 jobs in Middle Tennessee, not to mention $67 billion dollars in revenue. To put Nashville’s importance in context: Over half of all public hospital beds are owned and operated out of Nashville. Not surprising, Owen has emerged as one of the top graduate healthcare programs in the world. Not only do MBAs enjoy access to industry leaders, but the Vanderbilt University Medical Center is less than a half mile down the road.

“I chose to come study healthcare at Owen because Nashville is the mecca of healthcare,” writes Avani Gangavelli. “The education and networking I am involved in at Owen has proven that this was the right place for me to get my MBA. I’m learning about current problems in healthcare in real time, due to our incredible professors, and brainstorming what we can do as future leaders to improve the patient experience. Additionally, the personal scale aspect of Owen that I felt from the first person I talked to until now has been a game changer for me! Whether it be classmates, staff, professors, or alumni, everyone is so willing to chat and support me through the business school process, and that hasn’t let up one bit now that I am at Owen.”

Healthcare isn’t the only area associated with Owen. The MBA program is also known for leadership development. That starts with world class faculty. Like previous students, the Class of 2024 is all in on Tim Vogus – known for being as personable outside of class as he is thought-provoking inside of it. For Chi Okafor, Vogus’ Leading Teams and Organizations was an eye-opener.

“In this class, we discussed leadership principles and some challenges faced when working in teams,” she explains. “It was primarily case-based, and we worked in groups. After taking this course, my perspective on leadership and teams has changed. It also helped me identify some of my biases which I am now unlearning.”


Ranga Ramanujam is another favorite. He builds his Managerial and Organizational Effective course around a central question: ‘What does effectiveness mean?’. From there, this question is applied to everything from organizational design to personal relationships, says Taylor Rasmussen, a ’23 grad. In fact, Rasmussen felt excited to come to class every session – a sentiment Rasmussen shared with classmate Alyssa Patel, who cites Brian McCann as her favorite professor.

“Professor McCann primarily teaches strategy classes, and each class has been planned with extreme precision. From simulations to classroom discussions, he has various active learning tools designed to help his students think through strategy frameworks and their applications. Furthermore, his feedback on assignments is incredibly thorough and timely, highlighting his commitment to each student. His expertise, coupled with his sense of humor and dry wit, creates a classroom experience where you are constantly kept on your toes while critically thinking and problem-solving the entire course.”

Chances are, you’ll find these distinguished faculty members at Closing Bell on Thursday afternoons. A Owen staple, students, professors, and administrators come together for drinks and a meal – and even entertainment like karaoke or themed festivals like Diwali. This tradition provides a chance for everyone to kick back as a community and enjoy each other’s company.

“A different club hosts each week,” explains Alex Jean. “It’s a great way to get to know your classmates, and even professors, who occasionally attend. For example, Latin Business Association club hosted a fun Closing Bell featuring a mariachi band, Latin food, and awesome décor.”


By the numbers, Owen experienced a 5.8% increase in applications during the 2021-2022 admissions cycle, with students ranging in age from 23-43. Collectively, the Class of 2024 boasts a 690 average GMAT, as scores ranged from 650-730 in the mid-80% range. The class also produced a 3.34 average undergraduate GPA, not counting an average GRE of 156 (Quant) and 157 (Verbal).

As a whole, there are 23 countries represented in the Class of 2024, including nearly a third of the class hailing from outside the United States. Women account for 29% of the class, with U.S. minorities making up a 20% share. A number that stands out? Military veterans hold a 17% share of the class.

Together, the class graduated from 108 undergraduate institutions and 111 employers. Among Americans, 35% of the class resided in the South before coming to business school. The Northeast (13%), Midwest (12%), and Southwest (10%) also represent substantial shares of the class.

Next Page: An interview with the associate dean and profiles of 12 MBAs

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