Meet Harvard Business School’s MBA Class Of 2025

Harvard Business School Classroom

A LOOK AT THE CASE METHOD

Maybe the signature experience of Harvard Business School is the case method. Over two years, MBAs can expect to read over 500 cases. Think of it as exposing students to 500 different issues with 3,000 (or more) different options – rarely with a right-or-wrong answers. After class, student will often be assigned a case. Poring over a reading, students identify the knowns and unknowns, evaluate data, weigh options. risks, and tradeoffs, and formulate solutions designed to promote the greatest good amid the uncertainty. In other words, students play the role of a CEO, assessing real world dilemmas and making decisions with long-term repercussions. The real benefit of the case method, however, is repetition. With each case, MBA simulate an intensive decision-making process grounded in research, reflection, appraisal, and testing until it becomes second nature.

More than that, the classroom discussions hammer home the most important point of all: You don’t know everything, so listen more than you speak. Even more, says Cecilia Liu, the case method trains students to present their ideas in a clear, succinct, and persuasive manner. Along the way, there will be questions from classmates, all designed to strip away assumptions, misconceptions, and gaps that ultimately undermine strategies. Micah Holmes likens these case discussions to a boardroom, where a collision of differing backgrounds and perspectives ultimately produces the best solutions.

“My favorite part of the case study method is entering into a discussion with a certain mindset, and leaving with a completely different view of the topic thanks to the diverse perspectives of my section mates,” Holmes adds. “With over 32 countries represented in my section alone, we all bring so much wisdom with us to the classroom each day.”

More than that, Mireya Iglesias Ayala believes the case method lays bare student biases. “The case method makes you a better manager as it serves as a powerful tool for recognizing and mitigating managerial biases. Through various cases, we learn to critically evaluate our own preconceptions and inherent biases, fostering self-awareness. We develop this self-awareness by considering alternative viewpoints in the ongoing discussion and learning to appreciate the importance of diverse perspectives in decision-making.”

AN INTERVIEW WITH RUPAL GADHIA

At Harvard Business School, the case method is practiced by some of the best minds in business. In the 2023 Thinkers50 ranking, Amy Edmundson was voted as the top mind in business management. The list also includes HBS faculty like Tsedal Neeley, Frances Frei, Heidi Gardner, Ranjay Gulati, and Linda Hill. Classroom prowess naturally merges with research excellence, with HBS ranking 2nd in Faculty Research according to The Financial Times. When U.S. News surveyed business school deans and MBA directors on their peer programs in various disciplines last year, Harvard Business School ranked among the best. When The Princeton Review conducted a similar survey of alumni, HBS again garnered high marks across the board in various disciplines. When The Financial Times asked recent alumni to score their satisfaction with their alma mater, HBS notched a 9.636 average on a 10-point scale – one of the FT’s highest survey scores.

In September, HBS named ’04 alum Rupal Gadhia as its new director of admissions and financial aid. That’s not the only news on the horizon at the school. Last fall, P&Q reached out to Gadhia to gain insights on what current and future HBS students can expect and what matters. Here are her thoughts…

Harvard business School admissions

Rupal Gadhia, managing director of MBA admissions and financial aid

P&Q: What have been the two most important developments in your MBA program over the past year? What type of impact will they have on current and future MBAs?

Gadhia: “There are two areas that I would love to highlight here.

We continue to make a Harvard Business School MBA degree more affordable to a wide range of students. In 2022, we announced that we will provide fellowships covering the total cost of tuition and course fees for 10 percent of our student body—those with the greatest financial need. Additionally, our application fee waiver is now automatically applied to any applicant whose annual income at their current or most recent place of employment is $65,000 USD or less. If one does not automatically qualify, they may still submit a need-based waiver request.

We also continue to invest in international programming as we believe that today’s business leaders must be ready to work in a global context. As part of the FIELD course, all first-year students travel to one of 15 international locations for 10 days to develop new product or service concepts with local companies. Additionally, in the second-year elective curriculum, students can enroll in an Immersive Field Course (IFC) in the fall, leading up to a 10-14 day immersion during the January term. Locations vary each year based on the IFC portfolio, ranging from Tokyo to Accra to Milan.”

P&Q: Give us your one-minute pitch for your business school. What makes you unique?

Gadhia: “Our mission statement is the foundation of everything we do at HBS: We educate leaders who make a difference in the world. We believe that business can and must play a critical role in addressing today’s unprecedented challenges and opportunities.

It all starts in the classroom, where our students discuss up to 500 cases over their two years on campus. At HBS, content and community go hand-in-hand. Case method teaching and learning —in all its various forms— is about the respectful debate of ideas. HBS brings together amazingly talented people from diverse backgrounds and puts their experiences front and center. Students do most of the talking (and lots of active listening), and their job is to better understand the decision at hand, what they would do in the case protagonist’s shoes, and why. They leave the class thinking differently about the case than they did coming in. That’s the beauty of the case method. Our powerful learning experience, combined with a residential campus and deeply supportive alumni network, creates a community of bold thinkers and collaborative learners energized to test new ideas and solve problems.

What I remember most from my experience is how classmates went above and beyond to help one other succeed both in and outside of the classroom. Even today, I continue to be amazed at how connected the alumni network is. Whenever I call on HBS alumni, they still exceed my expectations on how much they are willing to help, even 20 years post-graduation.”

P&Q: Sustainability has emerged as a major attraction to prospective MBA students. How does your full-time MBA program integrate sustainability across its curriculum?

Gadhia: “During the first-year curriculum, our faculty weaves sustainability topics across all classes—such as carbon credits in Finance 1. Second-year students can choose from over 15 elective courses with business and environment content, including Global Climate Change and Sustainable Investing. We also introduced two IFCs focused on sustainability that received rave reviews: IFC Denmark and Netherlands: Decarbonization and Sustainable Production and IFC India: Development While Decarbonizing.

Outside of the classroom, the Business and Environment Initiative (BEI) educates, connects, and mobilizes business leaders at the intersection of business and the environment. The BEI supports incoming MBA students pursuing careers and developing new companies through programming that includes conferences, career panels, coffee chats, mentorship, and networking sessions.

There is a robust community of students interested in sustainability, with three climate-related clubs and an annual student-led Climate Symposium.”

P&Q: What are some key elements in your teaching of leadership? What types of options does your school offer that deepens student experience with leadership and makes them more competitive in the marketplace?

Gadhia: “Leadership is the cornerstone of the academic experience at HBS. The case method is built on the premise that leaders must make difficult decisions, often with imperfect information. Each day, our students come to class prepared to listen to their classmates and to present their own ideas, which are core competencies for leaders across any industry. Like business meetings, the classroom is dynamic, fast-paced, and requires active listening. Over the course of two years, students test their ideas and build decision-making skills on real-world problems. This is leadership in action.

In addition to the daily leadership lessons embedded across our curriculum, all first-year students take two semester-long leadership courses, Leadership and Organizational Behavior (LEAD) and Leadership and Corporate Accountability (LCA). Second year leadership courses are also in popular demand, from Authentic Leadership Development to Leadership Execution and Action Planning.”

P&Q: Two years ago, P&Q asked you to share how you’ve integrated AI, STEM, analytics, and digital disruption into your programming. Since then, what types of enhancements have you made in these areas?

Gadhia: “HBS faculty members work quickly to get cutting edge research and business topics into cases across the curriculum. Our first-year curriculum includes a newly-added course, Data Science for Managers, which provides students with the necessary foundations to make effective data-driven decisions. We are also very excited about our elective courses, such as Building Web 3 Businesses, which explores the ways Web3 and blockchain can create value, and Digital Innovation and Transformation, which equips students to confidently help conceive, lead, and execute digital innovation initiatives and develop new business models.

Outside of the classroom, students can get involved in many clubs focused on these topics, including the Technology Club, Entrepreneurship Club, and Coding, Analytics, and Machine Learning Club.”

P&Q: How many courses outside the business school can MBAs take during your program? To what extent has your business school embraced coursework from other schools and departments at your university? Are students from other schools and departments at the university allowed to take MBA electives?

Gadhia: “We fully support MBA students taking coursework from other schools and departments at Harvard. Second-year MBA students can take six credits per term in any combination of “Long” (full-term) courses or “Short” (half-term) courses across the University. It is also common for students from other schools and departments at Harvard to take second-year elective courses at HBS.”

P&Q: What is your biggest student-run event of the year and what does it reflect about your school?

Gadhia: “It’s tough to pick just one! Our largest student-run conferences are the Venture Capital/Private Equity Conference, the Women’s Student Association Conference, and the Africa Business Club Conference. These are three of more than 20 conferences that our students lead each year.

A favorite from my student experience is the HBS Show, a student-run, full-length Broadway-style musical entirely written, directed, produced, and performed by HBS students. The aim is to encapsulate life at HBS within the context of a popular movie, musical, or television theme. The Show began in 1974 and is still going strong today. Created purely for the enjoyment of the HBS community, the HBS Show celebrates the many different talents and backgrounds of our students.

What amazes me about our students is the extent to which they want to build community and support one another. This is one of the best parts about working on campus every day!”

Click on the links below for in-depth profiles of Class of 2025 members.

MBA Student Hometown Undergraduate Alma Mater Last Employer
Lindsey Chrismon Nashville, TN U.S. Military Academy 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment
Micah Holmes Cleveland, OH Morehouse College KPMG
Cecilia Liu Shanghai, China Georgia Tech Amazon
Juan Sepulveda Santiago, Chile Pontificia Universidad Catolica de Chile Procter & Gamble
Mireya Iglesias Ayala Tucson, AZ Georgetown University PepsiCo

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