Meet Wharton’s MBA Class Of 2025

A dream school, a destination, a gateway. Vast, elite, global. A pioneer in analytics, healthcare, entrepreneurship, and international business. A household name, with over 100,000 alumni in 153 countries.

That’s the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, an Ivy League powerhouse deep in resources, rich in tradition, esteemed in reputation, and wide in scope. The Financial Times has ranked the Wharton School as the world’s #1 MBA program 11 times – more than Harvard Business School and Stanford GSB combined. Chief executives surveyed listed it as the best MBA program too – and its undergraduate program has earned the same distinction. Beyond its brand, Wharton is, in many ways, still an ’everyman’ school. After all, it was the first school to bring its programming to the masses by investing heavily in MOOCs. This spring, Wharton became the first top business school to market an online hybrid MBA program too.

FROM HEART SURGEON TO RAPPER

Alas, there is no ‘type’ or ‘recipe’ for getting into Wharton. The stereotype is financiers and cutthroats, the old money crowd with all the connections and every box checked. Reality is, Wharton is designed for the first-generation graduate pursuing the American dream; the teacher or actor looking to change their path; and the dreamer formulating a plan to make a difference. Take Nkozi Stewart, a member of the MBA Class of 2025. Growing up in a gang-plagued, low-income Queens neighborhood, he became the first in his family to earn a college degree and serve in the U.S. Air Force. Thus far, he has been struck by his class’s diverse set of experiences.

“I have met people from all over the world – individuals who owned their own companies prior to Wharton, not to mention people in finance, consulting, and nonprofit sectors,” Stewart writes. “I am excited about being surrounded by such a wealth of experience, as I know it will be an incubator for dynamic discussions and growth.”

His classmate, Medha Sharma, jokes that she has “met people from Cambridge, MA and Cambridge, England, the country of Georgia and the state of Georgia” in her class. Lordson Zeng was stunned to learn the class included a rapper, while Monica Tuñez’s favorite Wharton story involves a classmate who worked on technology policy for Congress and once flew on Air Force One. The class even includes a heart surgery resident.

“He told me about how he aspires to combine his medical experience and business education to create medical devices related to heart health,” writes Shaan Bhatnagar, a Booz Allen senior consultant before business school. “I was impressed not only by his background but how thoughtful and precise he was in terms of the future impact he wanted to have. I told him whenever he starts a company, I’ll be there!”

Wharton Graduate Association (WGA) Fair

MAKING BUSINESS PART OF THE SOLUTION

At Wharton, MBAs are going to be among the elite and they’re going to learn a lot. At first, this can be intimidating. Some students wonder if the lift is too heavy and the return too uncertain. So many opportunities and so much talent around them. At Wharton, the real question is not whether the stage is too big, but rather if the student is too small. Fact is, Wharton knows talent. They’ve been harnessing for it 120 years. And they’re seeking students who think outside the box and initiate action – ever resourceful and determined – unafraid to get out of their depth and go up against the best.

No, Wharton isn’t for the privileged. Rather, it is the place for those humble enough to understand the privilege of the Wharton experience. And there’s no ethereal secret behind the success of its MBAs. Just hard work, passion, and teamwork. “There is no competition there, just a bunch of smart people in a room, brainstorming and problem-solving,” says Maud Chifamba. “Daily, students find ways to collaborate on different interests and projects.”

That’s because they’ve learned that their classmates simply elevate their abilities, adds Liz Ostertag, particularly in the classroom. “You can also learn so much from the students sitting next to you during these discussions. Professors often encourage students to bring in insights from their past work experiences, which brings nuance to the conversation. We have students in the class who have come from many different types of backgrounds, like the military, entrepreneurship, entertainment, and teaching. This diversity sparks the engaging classroom discussions.”

At the same time, you won’t find Wharton MBAs focused on first-world issues like PE vs. VC career earnings. Instead, Wharton encourages MBAs to get off the sidelines and tackle big issues like poverty ad climate change using commercial tools. That makes the program all the more exciting for leaders like Nicolaj Siggelkow, Wharton’s vice dean.

“There is a realization that the biggest problems that society is facing will not be solved without businesses getting involved,” Siggelkow told P&Q in 2022. “Businesses have to be part of the solution, otherwise, we’re not going to get where we need to be – be it environmental, equity and inclusion, or otherwise. Wharton takes that really seriously and is making it part of our mission: To really create leaders that have a positive impact on the world.”

University of Pennsylvania students on Locust Walk on the Wharton campus. Courtesy photo

BRINGING AI TO NIKE PRODUCTS

That mission is personified by Maud Chifamba. At 14, she was once the youngest university student in Africa. Soon enough, she became the youngest chartered accountant in her native Zimbabwe. When Chifamba was six, she was gaining business experience selling vegetables in the marketplace. Twenty years later, she was conducting audits of top companies in the telecom, tech, and media sectors. At the same time, Chifamba has headed up the Zimbabwe Youth Council, which represents over 5 million young people in the country, and serves as a trustee and finance committee director for the Universal Service Fund.

“The fund undertakes, every year, projects worth about USD 10 million, targeted mainly at improving access to ICT services to marginalized communities,” she tells P&Q. “The projects we get to work on are mind-blowing. They include providing internet connectivity to 1,900 schools in Zimbabwe since 2022; building over 200 computer laboratories; and distributing +6,000 computers to over 200 schools, to facilitate e-learning in marginalized places.”

Monica Tuñez comes to Huntsman Hall from Google, where she worked as a policy specialist and product equity and inclusion lead. Before that, she had joined Teach For America, teaching 11th grade Biology in New York City. Back then, Tuñez says, she deployed technology to boost attendance by 43% and submitted assignments by 35%. In contrast, Nate Foote worked for Nike (Insert dad joke). A former pro football player, Foote managed AI consumer insights, which were used in the design of sneakers and apparel.

“By the end of year 1, the proprietary AI capabilities we built had contributed over $75 million in additional product sales and drove the redesign of some of Nike’s biggest product franchises. If you’re wearing anything with a Nike Swoosh, Jordan Jumpman, or Converse Star on it, you’re almost certainly wearing some of our AI-enhanced work.”

LEARNING TO LEAD IN THE MILITARY

Military veterans are also heavily represented in the class. When 16,000 Afghans were brought to a New Jersey base, Nkozi Stewart led a 180-member squadron in relocating them, earning him an Air Force Achievement Medal. In addition, Stewart collected a Junior Military Officer Award and ranked as the top Lieutenant in the 635th Supply Chain Operations Wing. These achievements were particularly gratifying for Stewart considering his early struggles in the US Air Force Academy with academics and the military life.

“Numerous senior cadets encouraged me to voluntarily disenroll from the school because they believed I wasn’t a “good fit” for the program and the Air Force as a whole. This made being recognized for my leadership and accomplishments by a Wing Commander especially rewarding. This is just a friendly reminder to never give up, keep hurdling the obstacles that pop up on your path and if you do fail, always fail forward.”

Stewart’s classmate, Shaan Bhatnagar, served as a U.S. Marine Corps Intelligence Officer, who has sailed from San Diego to the Red Sea – or 20,000 nautical miles. Like Stewart, Bhatnager also led a team – a 45-member squad who supported Marines in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.

“This assignment was incredibly difficult not only because of the stress of ensuring we are providing quality and timely intelligence to forces in combat zones, but also because I was challenged to lead highly intelligent and experienced Marines as a new, inexperienced Officer. It was a crash course in how to learn complex concepts quickly and in how to build credibility with senior subordinates as a junior manager.”

Lauder Classroom

A DOCTOR AND A VENTURE CAPITALIST

The class also includes Liz Ostertag, an aspiring lawyer and Princeton grad who has twice swum across the Hudson River for charity. At PepsiCo, she partnered with senior leadership to roll out the firm’s first alcohol distribution network. Ernie Rosales, who studied at Wharton as an undergrad, started his career at Oliver Wyman and earned its Firm Building Champion Award for his positive impact. In her last job, Rajlaxmi Adwant led the healthy food and beverages end of the business, adding 70 brands and increasing revenue ten-fold in a six-month period. As a Penn medical student, Medha Sharma has been part of a venture fund supporting startups that work in the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) space.

“Two of the startups I sourced — one in the addiction recovery space and another working to reduce chronic absenteeism in schools – were among the fund’s first portfolio companies,” Sharma adds. “I was so moved by these founders and their mission that I co-founded a Social Determinants of Health Accelerator through my medical school, funding medical students to work as consultants for SDOH-focused startups.”

Outside of class, Monica Tuñez competes in Olympic weightlifting, while Jordan Glasgow was drafted 213th in the 2020 NFL Draft – ahead of stars like Kam Curl, Dane Jackson, and Bryce Huff. Ernie Rosales cycles across the United States to raise funds for affordable housing. And let’s just say Medha Sharma may have a career to fall back on if this MD-MBA gig falls though.

I was a cast member and writer in an all-female sketch comedy troupe in college. If I couldn’t work in healthcare, my dream career would be hosting a late-night comedy talk show!”

Next Page: An Interview with Blair Mannix

Page 3: Profiles of 12 Members of the Class of 2025

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