Meet Chicago Booth’s MBA Class Of 2025

Been there, done that.

That’s how some first-year MBAs view the core curriculum. They took these courses as undergrads. They applied the concepts on the job. And they know what they want to do – and what they need to learn to get there. Time is short and tuition is pricey – why spend time lumbering through the same terrain when you can immediately pursue your goals or experiment with your passions?

That’s where the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business differs from its peers. Forget the one-size-fits-all, we-know-best educational model. Booth is founded on individual freedom and independent inquiry – a don’t-tread-on-me, have-it-your-way MBA. That means the program is customized to each student’s personal goals. For example, prospective founders don’t have wait to take entrepreneurship courses during the second half of the year. Instead, they can use coursework to lay the groundwork for their ventures right when they arrive on campus. Similarly, first-years can load up on courses related to their career aspirations, making them more marketable and prepared for summer internships.


“Booth’s flexible curriculum allows students to follow their interests and aspirations with minimal required coursework, says Dean Madhav V. Rajan in a 2023 interview. “The institution has always valued independent thought: We do not prescribe a set leadership style but instead prepare students to develop their own.”

In other words, Booth treats MBA like adults, professionals capable of making decisions for themselves. Technically, LEAD (Leadership Effectiveness and Development) is the only required course in the core. Exercise-driven and taught by second-years, LEAD modules take deep dives into the fundamentals: self-awareness, interpersonal communication, teamwork, and conflict management. Through intensive coaching and practice, MBAs embrace discomfort and grow their capabilities. In the process, they become authentic leaders with executive presence.

After LEAD, first-years must complete a course from each of the three foundational areas: Financial Accounting, Microeconomics, and Statistics. For example, in Microeconomics, they can choose from a general, accelerated, or advanced Microeconomics – or two price theory courses. In addition, Booth offers eight functional areas, where students must choose a course in seven. In Marketing, for example, first-years can select a course among a dozen options, ranging from Marketing Strategy to Consumer Behavior to Brand Management to Digital Marketing. Even more, students can take up to 60% of their electives outside the Booth School.

That doesn’t count 14 distinct concentrations and over 70 student groups.

Harper Center, University of Chicago (Booth)


Enrique Rodriguez Chernilo, a first-year who comes from managing medical project, calls it a “tailor-made approach” where he can “target my weakness while amplifying my strengths.” His classmate, Caitlyn Mason, frames it as a “choose your own adventure” proposition, unencumbered by strict requirements. If anything, the flexible curriculum prepares students to make critical choices for themselves.

“I value the ability to create my own academic path,” says Rachel Cohen, a private equity associate before joining the Booth School’s Class of 2025. “Everyone enrolling at Booth is in a different stage of their career and has different skill sets that they want to develop. Booth allows us to take responsibility for what classes will lead to the greatest growth, both personally and professionally.”

Ask Booth alumni and they’ll tack on another advantage to flexible curriculum: the ability to take risks and make mistakes without wrecking their career paths.

“What really made me determined to earn an MBA from Chicago Booth was the autonomy provided to students to tailor their course loads,” explains Saron Strait, a ’23 grad and P&Q Best & Brightest MBA. “As a “non-traditional” candidate coming from the entertainment and advertising industry, I had limited quantitative and business fundamental skills, and I believed Chicago Booth’s flexible curriculum, coupled with the grade non-disclosure policy, would allow me to take advantage of Chicago Booth’s renowned analytics courses without the fear of underperforming – something that precluded me from seeking such classes in undergrad.”


The first-year class is certainly versatile. After successful stints in eCommerce and inventory at Walmart and Williams Sonoma respectively, Folasade Runcie joined DoorDash’s new verticals team to scratch businesses from scratch. Think of it as perfect preparation for the health wellness startup she hopes to eventually launch.

“One of my biggest accomplishments during my time at DoorDash was launching the fresh meat program at DashMart, DoorDash’s first-party grocery business. This required me to source and onboard key food distributors; work with local operators to create a SOP on the best meat handling practices; train hundreds of associates; and cultivate relationships with cross-functional partners across every level to bring this to life. Launching this program paved the way to launch other fresh categories and changed the way we currently order items from vendors.”

Looking for results? At Nigerian Breweries, Akindamola Akinola digitized their supply chain-finance recovery process. Not only did her work cut their distributors’ asset conversion cycle by 14.5 days and increase value chain efficiency by 55%, but Akinola also “unlock(ed) nearly 3 million euros a month.” By the same token, Phil White, a US Army Executive Officer, created its first working dog unit, combining 7 organizations across 3 European countries.

“I felt like I was doing a startup from moving desks into an empty room to creating and delivering marketing materials to commanders throughout Europe on how dogs could serve their organizations from law enforcement to combat operations,” says White. “We drastically increased operations and at the same time, improved the quality of training so Soldiers and their 4-legged partners could respond to any and all challenges.”

First Day at Booth


In Chile, Enrique Rodriguez Chernilo taught graduate level coursework in project management and information management. Outside work, Rachel Cohen leads a mentorship program for college-aged women looking to enter finance. Once a product manager at Goldman Sachs, Alexis Serra is pursuing a dual JD-MBA, serving as a summer associate at Skadden earlier this year with the plan to eventually become a transactional attorney. Before starting a company, Lilli Wang lived the dream of many men and women by making a living in the arts.

“For me, dancing professionally was always a childhood dream; when faced with a “When I grow up I want to be…” worksheet in primary school, every time, without fail, I’d draw a ballerina. As I grew up, giving up on this dream became tempting as my body moved away from the specifications of the industry. Shaping your body to do things that are fundamentally unnatural takes extreme discipline over time, but allowing yourself to be emotionally and physically vulnerable in your profession takes a different type of determination. Fulfilling a childhood dream of mine was a simple accomplishment. Through the process, learning who I am as an artist, and as a human being, has been a far greater honor.”

Besides ballet, you’ll find a violinist in Folasade Runcie. Not only has she performed alongside artists like Tai Murray and Rachel Barton Pine, but also choreographed hip hop dance pieces. Caitlyn Mason once made the National US youth judo team. Enrique Rodriguez Chernilo has already visited 25 countries and 80 cities. And how is this for impact at a young age?

“I wrote a bill when I was 17 that was signed into law for the State of Texas by Governor Rick Perry,” explains Phil White.


“Pay-It-Forward” is a popular phrase around the Harper Center. More than a mantra, it is a commitment to look out for first-years and applicants – no different than the second-years and alumni took care of them. Akindamola Akinola experienced this “supportive” spirit at his pre-MBA startup internship – at a company launched by a Booth alum. It was reflective of how “deeply committed to reciprocating the support they’ve received by extending it to other members of the community.” Vanessa Abundis Correa, a strategy and product manager from Mexico, witnessed a similar dynamic.

“I got my pre-MBA summer internship from a referral given by a current MBA student. I met him at a Bar-B-Que organized by first years for admitted students—even before I was officially enrolled in Booth’s MBA program. Minutes later, he had introduced me to Booth’s alumni from a Mexican Search Fund. His genuine interest to get to know me as a person, resulted in an internship that influenced my career path decision, and a mentor-mentee relationship that I value a lot.”

Among alumni, Jeff Yao (’23) was impressed by how committed his classmates were to making the MBA experience for all, be it organizing the Winter Formal in Union Station or even crafting a student government that was fair to all. His classmate, Samuel Ramil, was equally struck by how remarkable his classmates were in the class discussions.

“I was most surprised by the quality of class discussions. It speaks to the quality and diversity of Booth students’ work experiences and backgrounds. I appreciate learning from my peers and their perspectives on the subject matter. In some case discussions, I was surprised to find out that people in my class had actually worked at the companies involved and were able to add an insider’s context to the course materials.”

Booth Classroom


By the numbers, Booth sports its largest class over the past eight years – 637 full-time MBAs total. The class is also tied for the highest percentage of women – 42% — over that same period. At the same time, U.S. minorities make up 49% of the class, with the percentage of underrepresented minorities nearly doubling in size to 22% over the past two years. As a whole, 54 countries comprise the class, with 36% of students hailing from overseas. Military veterans account for 11% of the class, a point lower than the percentage of LGBTQ students.

Collectively, the class averaged a 728 on its GMATs, with scores ranging from 600-780. 29% of the class submitted GRE scores, which came to a 325 average. The class’s 3.60 undergraduate GPA average has remained unchanged for the past six classes, while the average GPA hitting the 2.4-4.0 range for the second straight year. Together, the class matriculated at 277 undergraduate institutions, with 19% of the class holding graduate degrees. Half of the class – an even 25% split – majored in Business and Economics as undergrads. Another 24% hold Engineering-related degrees, followed by Liberal Arts (13%) and Physical Sciences (9%) majors.

In terms of professional experience, Financial Services replaced Consulting as the top segment in the class. 19% of the class last worked in Financial Services – the same percentage as the previous class – as Consulting dropping from a 25% to 18% share. Tech and Non-Profit/Government each hold the percentage of seats – 14% — followed by Private Equity and Venture Capital (7%), Healthcare (7%), Consumer Products (3%), Manufacturing (2%), and Energy (2%).


Beyond its flexible curriculum, the Booth MBA is distinguished by the “Chicago Approach.” Think coursework driven by an empirical, fact-based mindset, steeped in data science, economics, psychology, and statistics. Call it the ‘prove it’ process – where MBAs are expected to collect, organize, parse, and find the patterns and stories within data. That includes removing biases and assumptions, formulating questions, testing hypotheses, evaluating options, and framing takeaways so they are both understandable and actionable to leadership. In the end, the Chicago Approach trains MBA to act as devil’s advocates, to use frameworks and models to put their first impressions and gut instincts to the test. While the goal is greater certainty and predictability in decision-making, the Chicago Method provides a reference to never stop testing as conditions change and innovations emerge.

Data confers credibility – when filtered through the Chicago Approach. Many first-years have come to Booth to repeatedly practice this evidence-laden method to problem-solving. In Phil White’s experience, gathering data is just the start. The beauty of Booth, he believes, is training potential leaders in interpreting data and predicting outcomes. Rachel Cohen echoes White’s sentiments.

“Booth’s focus on quantitative analysis appeals to me as the ability to synthesize information is critical in the business world,” she explains. “Throughout my career, I have found that the most successful CEOs embrace data as the source of truth. In order to make the most informed decision possible, CEOs gather relevant data to formulate conclusions, and to construct the best path forward based on supported and researched facts.”

Next Page: Interview with Deputy Dean Star Marcello

Page 3: Profiles of 12 MBA Students

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