Meet The Michigan Ross MBA Class Of 2025

Everyone has a story.  There are the arcs that took them from there to here; the people who influenced them and the turning points that transformed them. More than a character study, every story is a quest, a kaleidoscope of themes underlying their impulses, coloring their perspectives, and guiding their choices. Ultimately, these actions build toward a destination – a resolution – that ends one phase and lays the foundation for another.

For 379 full-time MBA students, that new chapter started this fall at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. New setting, new characters, new possibilities – new opportunities to pursue their passions, increase their value, and discover their mission. And stories are a big part of the Ross MBA experience. During the Story Lab, a staple of the Sanger Leadership Center, Ross MBAs devote their time to understanding their narratives. Through personal reflection, individual coaching, and class workshops, MBAs explore their lives. In the process, they deepen their awareness of how various forces brought them to that moment. More than that, the Story Lab teaches MBAs how to tell their stories. Call it a communications primer on creating voice, crafting message and establishing rapport – building a trusted brand and becoming a charismatic leader who people follow.

“I am eager to take advantage of the possibilities at Ross that will allow me to enhance my in-person communication and relationship-building skills,” explains first-year Olivia Harris, who once hiked through the Amazon Rainforest. “My ideal work environment is a hybrid model, as I enjoy meeting new people and feeling a part of an in-person community. After years of working remotely, I plan to leverage the Story Lab at the Sanger Leadership Center to refine my storytelling, leadership, and executive presence, preparing myself for the transition back to in-person work.”


Not every story is told in a linear fashion. Many times, storytellers advance the plot through flashbacks – returning to the past to provide a larger context and pertinent details. To understand what the Class of 2025 hopes to do, it helps to see where they’ve been. Sure enough, some of their exploits aren’t just worth a novel, they are the stuff of legend.

Harshvardhan Joshi

Take Harshvardhan Joshi, an engineer and entrepreneur from India. He led a climb up Mount Everest featuring climbers from 14 countries. This role, he says, involved “organizing logistics and communications between climbers, Sherpa guides, base-camp staff, porters, and government ministries.” Even more, Joshi ‘s climb had a unique purpose. He wanted to summit Mount Everest sustainably – without bringing generators that “deposit carbon on the glaciers.”

“Collaborating with solar engineers and non-profits, we customized solar power packs and panels to work at 18,000 feet in sub-zero temperatures – which we carried, and later donated – electrifying an off-grid mountain hamlet” Joshi explains. “Our campaign reached 20 million people, inspiring them to make sustainable choices.”

Joshi adds that “the only thing tougher than climbing Mt. Everest is getting back down.” In Joshi’s role, job number one is safety. In this climb, he had to contend with leading during a brutal weather season whose challenges were exacerbated by COVID outbreak and “deadly hurricanes.” Despite the obstacles, this story protagonist beat the odds and cemented himself as a true leader.

“I had to make decisions for the team’s safety in stressful, high-stakes situations in the death zone, where organs slowly shut down and one cannot think clearly,” he reminisces. “I balanced leading people through treacherous terrain, encouraging them to give their all but knowing when they were spent, and it was wise to pull back. After a lifetime of preparation and weeks of climbing, people get removed from reality within striking distance of the summit. It took all my influence to convince an under-prepared influential tourist climber from attempting the summit, as that would jeopardize team safety. Despite the challenges, my team summited at 6:20 am on 23-May 2021 and returned without casualties during one of the most hostile seasons in the Himalayas.”


As a Ross MBA student, Joshi is hoping to build on this experience. “I am really passionate about making outdoor experiences accessible to all while enhancing adventure safety, and uplifting the lives of remote mountain communities. Post-MBA, I plan to take up a general management role to gain some organizational experience before returning to my company Elev8 Expeditions, so that I can transfer my leadership experiences from life and death situations to the business side of things while learning how to run businesses sustainably.”

Looking for another David vs. Goliath story? Meet Rachel Hain, who grew up in the family hardware business before majoring in Theater Management. Eventually, she was elevated to being the head of annual and individual giving at the Chicago Children’s Museum. Now seeking to transition from the nonprofit to corporate sector, Hain faced the brunt of the COVID pandemic, seeing the museum staff whittled down from 100 to 20 employees during the first two quarters of 2020. Despite the physical museum being shut down for 16 months, Hain stepped up to the moment at hand.

“During the 16-month closure of the physical site, I worked in collaboration with the VP of Development to raise $3.25M in contributed income. This effort included a successful pivot to a virtual fundraising gala that was free to the public and netted 130% of the income goal. Working on this small team amid mounting uncertainty was one of the most challenging periods of my career but the collaboration and support we provided one another in the toughest of times made the day that the museum reopened to the public one of the most rewarding moments of my career.”

Ross School Exterior


The best stories expose us to worlds we might not otherwise encounter. That’s true of Brennan Dougherty, who jokes that he has a “license to navigate any size ship in the world.” Before Ross, Dougherty worked for the U.S. Coast Guard in New York, where he was the operations deputy for safety and security. Here, his team was responsible for inspecting roughly 2,400 containers, with half containing hazardous materials. His legacy, however, will be a soon-to-be-implemented container targeting program designed to reduce shipboard fires. Coming to Ross, Dougherty is looking to innovate further in the maritime industry. When he graduates, Dougherty will head to Coast Guard headquarters for a four-year hitch

“I have had the opportunity to review and regulate multiple projects involving alternative fuel sources for commercial vessels and have seen offshore wind farms on the eastern seaboard expand over the past 10+ years. The maritime industry is rapidly evolving, and I hope to learn more about new technologies and opportunities within the energy sector that could make it operate more efficiently.”

Pei-Hua Yu’s story started in China, where she worked as an independent journalist covering “energy transition and China’s business relations with the developing world.” Her work often appeared in the South China Morning Post and was recognized in 2021 when she collected the Vivian Wu Journalism Excellence Award in International Reporting, considered one of Taiwan’s major journalism prizes.

“I advanced global discussions of China’s overseas investment and Southeast Asia by adding depth and nuances,” she tells P&Q. “First, I contributed my insights into China-Myanmar relations – including perspectives that were previously seldom discussed internationally – as the first writer of The People’s Map of Global China. Furthermore, I developed a reporting style featuring diverse voices from Chinese and host country stakeholders, discussions of energy technology alternatives, and a systemic view of climate and other development goals.”

At Ross, Yu will continue working in the energy field. That starts with joining the student-run Climate Venture Fund. “As a journalist, I reported on the impacts of a given investment project or news event mainly by interviewing people and examining data of faits accomplis. Nonetheless, the climate transition, which I have been focusing on and am passionate about, is also about what futures the present people are opting for. I look forward to enriching my skillset to evaluate impacts and future potentials, advance my understanding of the venture capital ecosystem, and forge ties with students and entrepreneurs who care deeply about building a greener future of the globe by participating in the fund.”


Many Ross MBAs are looking to make clear career changes. Brianna Ross started out earning a Mechanical Engineering degree at Stanford University. Seven years later, she was serving as a product line manager and devising the DEI strategy for the Nike Footwear team. In contrast, Cole Lethebe studied Economics at the University of Calgary before entering a less hyped industry: railroads. Here, he spearheaded the financial planning and analysis for the day one integration projects for the Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern railroad merger. A $30 billion dollar merger, Lethebe’s team built out financial and operational infrastructure required for legal compliance.

“Railroads often use their own esoteric and old systems and processes because the railroads generally built their infrastructure many decades ago,” he explains. “This means that, during the merger, we spent a lot of time rethinking how everything is done between the two companies and combining solutions that best fit both operating cultures. It was an exciting experience working across both organizations in the operations, finance, marketing, and sales groups to build out solutions to the most critical problems on a tight deadline, given the pending approval by the Surface Transportation Board.”

Looking for more first-year success stories? After studying musical theater, Lancer Yuan launched the ITS Center, whose offerings ranged from English language training to a full K-12 curriculum. Eventually, it became one of the most respected training centers in Huzhou City, home to over two million people. Aruj Parajuli, a self-described “tech geek”, built a FinTech app to work with Strip and Salesforce to “facilitate seamless transactions and donations.” At Amazon, Sergio Peschiera helped five of his reports land promotions. For Benedicta Maame Nyarko-Mensah, her story’s climax came when she co-led the funding of an innovative natural gas pipeline and gas processing plant.

“This transformative initiative facilitated a shift for companies from imported, trucked diesel and heavy fuel oil to readily available local natural gas alternatives,” she explains. “The impact was profound, as it made piped natural gas more accessible and affordable for the local community, stimulating economic growth and sustainable development…This deal went on to win the EMEA Finance Africa 2022 Best Energy Infrastructure deal.”

2023 MBA Orientation


Now that the Class of 2025’s stories have converged on Ross, what do they think of the program and their peers? Olivia Harris describes Ross as “all-encompassing.” That’s hardly a surprise for a program known for its versatility and all-around excellence. Notably, in the 2023 U.S. News survey of business school deans and MBA directors, Ross ranked among the five best MBA programs for Management, Marketing, Project Management, Accounting, and Nonprofits. And it finished among the 10-best for Supply Chain, Entrepreneurship, Finance, and International Business.

“When considering various MBA programs, I often had to choose which interests or goals to sacrifice to willingly attend a specific program,” Harris admits. “For example, some schools excelled in tech, but lacked opportunities for leadership development. Yet, with Ross, I didn’t feel the need to make any concessions or limit myself. I valued the freedom to explore diverse opportunities beyond what I had initially written in my MBA application to help me make a well-informed decision regarding my personal and professional goals upon graduation.”

And it’s not just academic programming where Ross excels. In the 2023 Princeton Review survey of MBA students, Ross posted the highest scores for the quality of its Faculty and Administration. In addition, it notched top five averages for its Classroom Experience, Family Friendliness, and Resources for Women. At the same time, survey respondents gave Ross the 2nd-best score for its Consulting programming and resources (and the 6th- and 8th-best scores for Marketing and Management, respectively). This may be one reason why Maya Ambady, a Stanford grad who worked in healthcare, describes the program as “limitless.”  With the program drawing from liberal arts and STEM – and integrating various business fields in each course – Rachel Hain would use a different word for her Ross experience.

“A huge selling point for me is Ross’ emphasis on multidisciplinary learning. As a career shifter from a non-traditional background and a dual-degree student, it is reassuring to know that I’ll be learning and developing new skills while being able to provide a unique perspective to classes, projects, and teams.”

Next Page: Class Profile and Experiential Learning

Page 3: An Interview with the Managing Director and 12 Student Profiles

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