Meet Notre Dame Mendoza’s MBA Class Of 2024

What makes a family?

It can’t be defined as just blood lines chiseled out by parents, siblings, and elders. And being a family means more than living together in the same space too. A family shares – the same beliefs, the same memories, the same mission. In an us-vs.-them world, family members prioritize each other. In good times, they celebrate each other’s growth and successes. When fortunes change, they rally around and comfort each other. At times, they argue, annoy, and disappoint each other, but they always forgive and come back together. That’s because real families understand their sum is greater than the parts, ever faithful that their example will be an inspiration to each other – and the world around them.

At Notre Dame, Mendoza MBAs often describe themselves as family. They come to South Bend to be around people like them – people who value character and accountability and pursue impact through service. Yes, Notre Dame carries a mystique: a belief you can overcome anything – and be anyone – with hard work, teamwork, and faith. Respect and Responsibility, Character and Courage, Attention to Detail and Humility in Victory: they are more than fluff notions at Notre Dame – they are the foundations for fulfilling your individual potential and building purpose-driven communities – families – across the globe.

WORKING TOGETHER TO PURSUE SOMETHING GREATER

Amber May had a front row seat to Notre Dame growing up. An Ernst & Young consultant, May notes that many of her family members graduated from there. Early on, she was exposed to the Golden Dome and Touchdown Jesus, the Basilica and the Grotto, Pep Rallies and Polar Plunges – “God, Country, and Notre Dame.” For May, Notre Dame always symbolized family. After starting her MBA at Mendoza last fall, she finally enjoyed the chance to experience it.

“Mendoza places a huge emphasis on developing Tender, Strong, and True leaders here, and I’ve been so fortunate to meet a number of these amazing people in my class,” May explains. “Notre Dame is a place that fosters community and family, and our MBA class is no different. We each are working together in the pursuit of something greater, and we’re having a lot of fun along the way!”

Jay Brockhoff also encountered the Notre Dame brand long before arriving at Mendoza. Early in his career, Brockhoff was exposed to Notre Dame values through his closest mentors, who were alumni.  He uses “Community” to describe his Class of 2024 peers, a collaborative group always on the look out to help others succeed, be it mock interviews or practice cases. It was this familial approach that stuck out to Ololade Aderonke Odogiyon as well.

“It is not lip service when people mention the amazing network and community at Notre Dame,” she tells P&Q. “I am yet to find an explanation for how people can be so supportive, encouraging, attentive and kind. The Notre Dame network is closely knit and filled with so much support and love. Before arriving at Notre Dame, I spoke to some students and staff to just get a feel of things and I felt so warm and welcome. I imagined what the energy will be like when I physically arrived, and I have never been let down. This support system is truly the backbone of success and growth here at Notre Dame.”

Maybe the biggest benefit of any family is a sense of belonging, an understanding that you’re not in it alone and the people around you have your back. Alongside them, you can be who you are and practice what you believe without explanations or apologies.  “I am surrounded by people who are not only seeking to build a better future for themselves, but they are seeking to contribute to a greater good,” observes Gabriela Yurrita, who enjoys extra support thanks to her husband joining her in the MBA Class of 2024. “Being at Notre Dame is being surrounded by people who are always willing to give you a hand, to teach you, advise you and who want to see you succeed.”

September 28, 2017; Fall foliage over the Main Quad with the Main Building and Basilica of the Sacred Heart bathed in early morning light. (Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame)

CLASS ACHIEVEMENTS

That comes natural to the Class of 2024. After all, positioning others to succeed has seemingly been their calling. In India, Ferdie Larson Dsouza developed an educational solution that enabled students to get accepted into top institutes. Early during COVID-19, Chelsea Reyes moved a behavioral health intensive treatment program online to ensure patients continue to receive support.  By the same token, class members are often top performers in their respective employers. At Suzuki Motors, Bhavya Chawla expanded its network across five Southeast Asian and African companies. During Lawrence Biloni’s first year heading up financial planning and assets at Jumia, he was able to turn a profit on an ecommerce adoption. And how is this for hitting your numbers?

“I developed a customer survey and product observation framework at Sterling Bank Plc to assess our digital loan product efficiency,” explains Ololade Aderonke Odogiyon. “I used the data gathered to drive actionable insights and engaged the product managers and technology team in resolving the issues highlighted by the survey, which increased product subscriptions by 113% and customer conversion rate by 10.25%.”

At Utah State University, Weston Hyde created an undergraduate leadership development course based on Stephen Covey’s The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Coming to Mendoza, he maintained that energy, producing an article on building culture and increasing retention through the school’s Deloitte Center for Ethical Leadership. Since starting business school, Lawrence Biloni has landed an internship with an MBB firm, while Kelley Wright has overcome dreading public speaking thanks to her coursework. For Bhavya Chawla, Mendoza has provided a platform to explore her passion: entrepreneurship.

“I was always fascinated by the drive of the entrepreneurs who dedicate most of their time to working on an idea and bringing it to life,” she tells P&Q. “Understanding the entrepreneurial aspects of the business was a key learning objective I came up with when I started my MBA journey. Keeping this in mind, I applied for a student internship program at IDEA Centre, Notre Dame’s Start-Up incubator and accelerator. The application and recruitment process were intensive as there are only a handful of positions, and students from all graduate and undergraduate programs having strong entrepreneurial backgrounds apply for it. After making it through the recruitment process, every day as an IDEA-Centre Insights Analyst intern is a new learning experience.”

AN UNFORGETTABLE MOMENT (UNLESS YOU’RE CLEMSON)

Notre Dame is synonymous with football. Think Knute Rockne imploring his team to “win one for the Gipper” or puny Rudy finally getting a tackle (however meaningless). It is the place where players march to the stadium in their Sunday best and later slap the “Play Like a Champion Today” sign on their way down the stairwell.  Think the Four Horsemen, Paul Hornung, Joe Montana, and Lou Holtz – a team responsible for a half dozen “Game of the Century” honors. While the Fighting Irish have fallen behind Alabama. Georgia, and Ohio State (among others), they can still produce some glorious moments. That magical night came last fall, when Notre Dame knocked off Clemson amid a sea of green.

“After a slow start to the football season, Notre Dame had little chance of beating the No.4 Clemson team at the time,” writes Ferdie Larson Dsouza.Notre Dame manhandled Clemson for 60 minutes to win the game 35-14, one of the biggest victories I have seen. After the game, the entire student section storming the field is a sight I will never forget.”

That’s not the only tradition that brought the Class of 2024 together. True to its Irish roots, the school is known for boxing matches – which Amber May used to raise money for Holy Cross missions in Ugandan schools.

“I trained and fundraised for over 3 months. I had so many of my classmates and faculty come out to support and cheer me on as I advanced to the semifinals! Their yelling, clapping, (and even barking!) spurred me on when I was getting tired in the ring. Having people both literally and figuratively in your corner made me realize just how special this class and this program is. While not everyone is going to come to Notre Dame and compete in a boxing match, my story is a testament to the unwavering and unconditional support you’ll receive here at Notre Dame across all areas of campus.”

Mendoza College of Business Dean Martijn Cremers chats with students at the orientation breakfast for incoming 2-year MBA class (Photo by Matt Cashore/University of Notre Dame)

WANTING TO LEAVE LIFE EMPTY (IN A GOOD WAY)

That spirit left an impression on Ololade Aderonke Odogiyon during the Thanksgiving holiday. “Our Accounting Professor, Michael Meyer, invited all international students to his residence since most of us were unable to go home because we are many miles from home,” she tells P&Q. “Some of us have never even had Thanksgiving before and he wanted us to have a first experience with family and friends. It was the extension of the Notre Dame hand of fellowship and community; it seeks you out wherever you are and offers unwavering support and friendship. It was amazing to meet his family and put faces to all the names from examples in my course packet and I truly went home thankful and tank full.”

The Mendoza MBA is designed to widen the heart and hone the mind. Like past students, the Class of 2024 joined the program with specific ends in mind. Pavel Sorkin has focused his time on finding solutions to climate change. Similarly, Amber May is exploring various energy channels and technologies. While Ololade Aderonke Odogiyon hasn’t targeted a particular issue, she plans to go all in for whatever path she chooses.

“My mission in life is to have completely emptied myself when I depart from this earth. I do not want to take my gifts or talents with me. I want to offer help wherever I can, serve others, make people laugh heartily, make myself smile, honor God, and be a force for good in my professional and personal pursuits. Mendoza daily reminds me to be a values-based leader, to ask more of myself and to become a force for good not just within my space but also in the world at large.”

‘GROWING THE GOOD’

Not surprisingly, the ethics component of the Mendoza curriculum piques the interest of students like Amber May. The practical business tools are valuable, she admits. However, she wanted to take the learning further, to learn from her classmates how to balance the profitable with the ethical. You can bet that Jay Brockhoff has driven home plenty of insights to his classmates.

The “Grow the good in business” ethos of the Mendoza MBA program is very important to me,” he asserts. “It’s something that resonates with me and who I am and who I want to become as a grow into a future business leader. Notre Dame is providing me the opportunity to do this in building up those around me and live out the values of a “servant leader”. The Mendoza MBA requires two ethics courses to graduate, and I was fortunate to have Professor Chris Atkins for my Foundations in Business Ethics course. Here, we really dove into what it means to be ethical, but more what values we prioritize as leaders and how we give voice to those values through our actions. This has been something I have tried to focus on, living out my values as a servant leader on a day-to-day basis.”

One way Mendoza MBAs can act as a force for good is through experiential learning opportunities. Domestically, MBAs can participate in Frontlines in America course. Here, MBAs step into situations as different as rural Appalachia or inner-city Chicago, working with non-profits to tackle issues like violence and addiction. The course is an extension of Mendoza’s signature experience:  The Meyer Business on the Frontlines program, or BOTFL for short. Here, MBAs travel to war-torn and impoverished nations ranging from Honduras to Lebanon to Rwanda. Working in teams, students work on projects ranging from stemming sex trafficking to fostering entrepreneurship. According to Antonio Aziz Gonzalez, a guitar-playing accountant from nearby Chicago, these frontlines courses enable students to apply what they learn while giving back to their communities.

“The concept of “Business” is often reduced to the practice of capitalism and profit,” adds Chelsea Reyes.  “The altruistic nature of wealth and privilege is forgotten, BOTFL allows my classmates to use their skills and interests to provide value outside of Notre Dame and their professional ambitions.”

MBA Fall Social at the Zoo 031 Social activities such as outings to the local zoom and other area attractions allow students, faculty and staff and their families to have some fun and get to know each other. (Photo by Peter Ringenberg Photography)

TAPPING INTO THE LARGER ALUMNI NETWORK

Maybe Notre Dame’s biggest advantage is their alumni network. 150,000 members strong, the Notre Dame fervently buy into the notion of business being a force for good. Hence, they are more likely to pick up the phone or answer their emails. In the 2023 Financial Times survey of students and graduates, Mendoza alumni were ranked 5th for the effectiveness and responsiveness. Jay Brockhoff has seen this difference first-hand.

“It has been incredible the responses I have received when I reach out to Notre Dame alums to talk about career paths and advice. Everyone has been open to speak, and I think everyone sees it as paying it forward because they were in my shoes at one point.”

The Class of 2024 also relishes the small class sizes. With the class numbering 96 members, MBAs have a better shot at earning leadership roles, along with building relationships with all of their classmates and faculty members. The scale is especially beneficial to international students, says Bhavya Chawla.

“The small cohort size of Mendoza MBA class is its biggest strength. I have always wanted to be a part of a strong community and make lifelong friends in the MBA program. For someone like me who had to move to a foreign country thousands of miles away from my family to pursue my MBA, it is essential to have a social support system.”

Chawla’s favorite course? She lists the orientation’s Leadership Launch, which focused on identifying core values and learning how to stick with them against various pressures. Her classmate, Gabriela Yurrita, was equally enthusiastic about the course.

“I enjoyed the week-long sessions where I was getting to deeply know my new classmates where they came from and how their experiences had shaped them and brought them to where they are today. Also, it was a week of getting to know myself, my leadership style, and beginning to understand how to become a better and great leader.”

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