Meet Minnesota Carlson School’s MBA Class Of 2024

Picture Minnesota.

Frigid and snowy. The people talk funny, wear flannel, and dine on cheesy casseroles. It is the land between the oceans, flyover people, all flat – a mix of farmland and forest. Nothing changes and nothing to do.

Think again. Picture four distinct seasons – swimming, fishing, paddling, hiking, camping skiing, snowmobiling, and skating – natural resources galore. 10,000 lakes in the Twin Cities? Maybe 10,000 breweries too.  Think Mall of America and The State Fair – the land of Paul Bunyan, Bob Dylan, and Prince. Picture Minnesota Nice – people known for being courteous to neighbors and open to refugees. Imagine forward-thinking mixed with traditional – a state that lives up to its region as a “North Star.”


This mindset – coupled with a surplus of recreational activities – make the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management a popular destination for MBAs. The Twin Cities itself is home to 15 Fortune 500 headquarters: 3M, Target, Best Buy, General Mills, US Bancorp, Cargill, United Health Group, Land O’Lakes – to name some. That concentration of opportunity appealed to Nida Yamin, who made the transition from physical therapy to sustainable development before she joined the Class of 2024.

“With Fortune 500 companies headquartered in the Twin Cities and a flourishing tech and med-tech start-up community, it is an apt place to learn, collaborate and grow while earning an MBA,” she explains. “The flare of innovation and strong commitment to social impact is driven by the fantastic education system embedded in the Twin Cities. Throughout the semester, I have interacted with a wide range of businesses from large-scale corporations and consulting firms to small business start-ups. With each interaction, I learned more about the Twin Cities ethos of innovation, sustainability, resilience, and impact.”

In 2022, there were 57 Twin Cities companies grossing a billion dollars or more each year. However, the city also boasts a vibrant startup ecosystem The region ranks 7th in patents per capita in the United States. It also placed 1st in medical device and 2nd for both food and water treatment patents per capita according to the state – even boasting the country’s largest health technology cluster. Add to that data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which shows the state produced the 5th-lowest business failure rate over the first five years. Morgan Kerfeld has started a business in the Twin Cities after working as a product manager at UnitedHealth Group. She appreciates the startup community that has embraced her, while also looking towards the “amazing resources” provided by the state to entrepreneurs. By the same token, Ryan Denenberg, a U.S. Marine Corps Captain, lauds the deep network that Carlson has built with large firms across the Twin Cities.

“There is no other school in the country that does a better job of giving its students opportunities at Minnesota’s largest employers. The Carlson School graduates have a leg up at places like General Mills, Target, Cargill, and Ecolab.”

View of Minneapolis from the Carlson School


That said, it is the quality of life that sets the Carlson School apart. Just ask alumni. Neville Williams, a ’23 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA, fell in love with ice mazes and the Lumniary Loppet, which he describes as a “celebration of ice and light” on frozen ice at night. After the event, you could head to Rectangle Pizza – the best pizza in America in Williams’ experience. In summer Sanket Jasanim another ’23 alum, would take long strolls around the lakeshores, while walking across lakes in wintertime.  Among the Class of 2024, Angela Botiba has heard of people running across the Mississippi River. Over the first semester, she would “marvel at the robust parks and recreation system” in the Twin Cities. For Botiba, it was easy to shed her New York City digs for a “cleaner” locale that was bike and scooter friendly. Along the way, she developed a love for ice fishing and waterfalls.

Among Botiba’s classmates, they all found something that excited them about the Twin Cities: Food, theater, recreation, and live music. For Veronica Johnson, a local who earned an undergraduate Landscape Design degree at the U of M, there is “something for everyone” in the Twin Cities. No doubt, Ryan Denenberg agrees with her wholeheartedly.

“Despite being a fairly large metro area, it has a small-city feel,” he says. “The culture is very relaxed, and the people are incredibly friendly. Yet, it still has all of the big city amenities, and there truly is something for everyone. The food scene is incredible. There are numerous local breweries and distilleries, and the nightlife is vibrant. In the warmer months, there are great running trails that traverse the many lakes in the area. Minneapolis also has four major professional sports teams, all of which are usually very competitive and have a great game-day environment. From a professional standpoint, Minneapolis gives Carlson students immediate access to Fortune 500 companies and all of the top consulting firms. So, both from the standpoint of personal life and professional prospects, the Twin Cities have a lot to offer.”


Denenberg himself is a U.S. Marine. He helped develop a command-and-control system for aircraft that is expected to become “standard” across the Corps. His classmate, Christian Willman, served as an Executive Officer in the 75th Ranger Regiment and a Commander in the 82nd Airborne Division. And Jill Hancock – who has finished among the Top 3 in the Spartan Obstacle Course Race – credits her service for much of her recent success.

“[I enlisted] in the United States Army’s Special Operations at the age of 34 while working as a consultant for a Fortune 200 company. My military service has made me a better employee, colleague, and student. Serving in the Army has been personally and professionally transformative.”

Hancock also points to Carlson being the #1 most military-friendly graduate program, citing its deep financial support of veterans and large veteran network. Notably, the school offers 19 scholarships for veterans that range from $7,500 to a full tuition ride. What’s more, Ryan Denenberg points out that 40% of the Class of 2024 has served in the military “in some capacity.”

“For me, the veteran community was a significant draw,” he adds. “As a veteran myself, leaving the military and going directly to B-School is a significant leap, so having such a well-established community of military members has helped make that transition seamless.”

Carlson Center Career Center


Charlie Zamastil joined Carlson School with a sports background – cycling specifically. During one training ride, he went head-to-head with Lance Armstrong. Since then, he has become a cycling coach and Kinesiology professor, whose athletes have included a two-time Bronze medalist in the Paralympic World Championships. At the same time, he has served as the race director for the Hotter’N Hell 100, where he battled for equity.

“An achievement of my organization that I played the most direct role in is taking on the gendered differences in pay structure, attendance, and traditions in a major cycling event I managed,” he writes. “I was able to more than double women’s participation by getting rid of pay disparities and other gender-based discriminatory traditions, then going race-to-race doing direct outreach to top women’s riders to invite them to the race.”

Before business school, Celina Her and Angela Botiba worked in financial aid and healthcare advising. As an analyst, Cryspin Kavaarpuo launched Ghana’s highest-performing fixed income fund for both 2019 and 2020. At the same time, Nida Yamin left a mark – globally – working in the digital health solutions,

“One such solution was designed for internally displaced population and people living in conflicting regions and suffering from infectious diseases,” she tells P&Q. “These patients were often not able to get access to continued treatment and medical services. My work on this digital solution was not restricted to conceptualizing, but I also went ahead to formulate relevant partnerships with multi-country UN bodies to adapt the application and deploy at their border sites.”


Since arriving at Carlson, the Class of 2024 has racked up several achievements. Christian Willman has begun his post-military transition by landing an investment banking internship this summer. Cryspin Kavaarpuo is making a similar move from finance to consulting, earning offers from two of the three MBB consulting firms (after declining to interview with the third). Still, for many, just making it through first semester was a major milestone. At times, Celina Her felt like “everything is falling apart” before taking a breath and accepting it just takes time. Veronica Johnson experienced similar lows before bouncing back. An artist who has been commissioned for paintings and drawings, Johnson was initially worried about returning to school. Turns out, she adjusted rather quickly to the pace and demands.

“I rediscovered my love for learning and I surprised myself with how well I did in my classes, specifically the quantitative core classes. This semester was a great confidence boost and a reminder to myself that I am capable of many things. I’m so proud of myself for finally taking the leap to go back to school!”

…and having some fun along the way. Just ask Angela Botiba. Her best memory (so far) has been the pancake and waffle bar brunch she helped to run for the Forté Foundation. “At the Carlson School, all the MBA female candidates are Forté Fellows, and we organize events that bring us all together to sometimes enjoy a meal,” Botiba explains. “These events are designed primarily to share resources and bond over our personal interests. It was fun to see my friends getting excited over pouring batter on a waffle iron or learning how to make French crêpes. Such a trivial act, yet so fun for MBA students whose lives are going 240 miles an hour.”

Before Carlson, you would’ve found Morgan Kerfeld camping out in the Amazon rainforest alongside predators big (anacondas and caimans) and small (bullet ants and poison dart frogs). Not surprisingly, Kerfeld entered the one field that demands absolute fearlessness: entrepreneurship. At Carlson, she has found plenty of support, including the Gary S. Holmes Center for Entrepreneurship. Not only does the center train entrepreneurs and accelerate ventures, but also brings together U of M students and Twin Cities entrepreneurs to share expertise and build partnerships. In addition, the Holmes Center sponsors the largest, state-wide startup competition, the MN Cup. In September, Kerfeld’s startup, Telo, placed 1st in the General Division. The $25,000 award will enable Kerfeld to build on the success of her company’s specially-designed walkers.

Kerfeld’s achievement also produced an unexpected response from her classmates. “The day after my company won the General Division in MN Cup, I showed up to school and my classmates surprised me with a unicorn and #1 balloons, tasty gf/df treats, and an extremely kind card to congratulate me. The best part about my MBA program has hands down been my classmates. They are the most amazing humans always thinking about others and supporting everyone in their ambitions. I feel honored to be in the same class as them.”

Carlson School of Management boasts strong ties with the business community in Minneapolis-St. Paul


Entrepreneurship – or “Ventures” – is one of the four Enterprise programs run by the Carlson. A required course that stretches 2-3 semesters, the Enterprise program provides Carlson MBA teams with hands-on experience on real projects with real companies. In the Ventures program, for example, students learn how to devise ideas, conduct research, test concepts, and roll out solutions, all while learning to minimize risks and uncertainties. Such skills are invaluable, whether students are looking to launch a venture or run an overseas operation. For Nida Yamin, the best part of the Ventures Enterprise is how it incorporates Human Centered Design (HCD).

“HCD is not merely a set of processes, but is an overarching approach that enables uncovering different barriers, enablers, and leverages to help develop a highly empathetic, contextual, and variegated understanding of the ecosystem, its key stakeholders, and their problems,” she tells P&Q. To work toward solving real-world problems by applying the lessons learned and continuously working toward improving them is the journey that I am looking forward to pursuing.”

The Brand Enterprise is targeted to students looking to work in product management and strategy. Here, student teams work with clients both local (3M, Target, Polaris, Boston Scientific, Valspar) and national (Delta, Amazon). Similarly, the Consulting Enterprise covers a variety of projects over three semesters so students can hone their problem-solving, communication, and client management skills. The managing director, Siddharth Chandramouli, is a McKinsey and IBM alum who has held senior leadership roles at the UnitedHealth Grop and Zurich Insurance. Even more, his program opens doors, with Consulting Enterprise alumni getting jobs at McKinsey, Bain, BCG, Deloitte, and PwC – not counting Microsoft, Ecolab, and Medtronic.

Angela Botiba is one first-year who chose the consulting route. “I believe that working with managing directors who come directly from the industries and types of companies I am interested in post-graduation will be most beneficial for my career launch. The CCE experience will allow me to hit the ground running having worked as a consultant engaging clients and helping them think about their challenges in new ways.”

Finally, Carlson MBAs can choose the Fund Enterprise. Here, Cryspin Kavaarpuo notes, student teams can work with over $50 million dollars in assets under management – one of the largest student-run investments of its kind.  “The Funds Enterprise operates as a business, with real clients whom we owe fiduciary responsibilities and to whom we report fund performance,” Kavaarpuo adds. “This encourages a very high level of professionalism and diligence because students appreciate the level of commitment they are taking on. The structure of the Enterprise allows students who enroll in it to gain real-world, top-of-the-class investment experience, which is invaluable for MBAs looking to go into finance.”

Next Page: An interview with the Assistant Dean and Profiles of 12 MBA Students.

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