2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Daphni Sawyer, Rutgers Business School

Daphni Sawyer

Rutgers Business School

“Empathetic team player with a detail-oriented approach; a perfectionist dedicated to achieving goals individually and collaboratively.”

Hometown: Burlington, New Jersey

Fun fact about yourself: A fun fact is in high school I was featured in my town’s newspaper as a “Great Kid Going Places.”

Undergraduate School and Degree: Cornell University: Bachelor of Science, Policy Analysis and Management

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Penn Medicine, Care Partner. I assisted 30+ daily patients with social care, medications/supplies, psychological care, and appointments | Created resources for physicians to improve patient care outcomes and their workload.

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? Merck, Rahway, NJ, MBA Finance Summer Intern

At Merck, I developed standardization of forecasting processes for the three vaccine franchises in the Global Human Health Vaccines division using Power Query, Excel, and Thinkcell. I also was able to assist the finance team with individual projects, as needed.

Where will you be working after graduation? Merck | Rahway, NJ | 2024 MBA Finance Rotational Program

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School: For 2023, I was honored to serve in the role of president of our school’s esteemed Black and Hispanic MBA Association, where I arranged several events. There are two events that I want to highlight. I executed a Black History Month networking panel of prominent Black leaders to discuss their experiences in their industries and offer key career and professional advice. The panel included the president and CEO of a Private Equity firm that is currently focused on the $170 billion global vacation rental home market. We also had the chief of policy and external affairs for the African American Chamber of Commerce and CEO of her own consulting firm. Additionally, we hosted the president and CEO of a PR/Marketing firm who is also an MSNBC Commentator. The other event, I spearheaded that I am very proud of was a corporate informational session with the director of Diversity Attraction at Emerson, Early Career Program Lead at Copeland, and the manager of Early in Career Programs and Diversity Recruiting at World Wide Technology which are companies in the manufacturing, energy management, and technology industries looking to expand diversity hiring.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I am most proud of winning Best Speaker in the Case Competition at the annual National Black MBA Association Conference. This achievement was special because this conference is renowned and well attended by both prominent companies and other MBAs.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? The achievement I am most proud of is having the largest caseload when I worked at Jefferson Health as a Health Coach in the DSRIP program. The New Jersey Department of Health gives incentive payments for hospital systems that both demonstrate a reduction in emergency room admissions and implement healthcare initiatives that show measurable clinical improvements in patients. The goal for those working in DSRIP is to enroll more patients so the hospital system can see improvements in patient metrics. I was able to enroll the most patients in the DSRIP program with 120 patients. I was following up with them weekly or bi-weekly in person (in the hospital or at home) or telephonically, helping them access resources in the community and achieve their health goals. Having more patients enrolled whose numbers had improved (i.e., blood pressure, blood sugar) meant better performance measures for the hospital.

Why did you choose this business school? After receiving my undergraduate degree, I went into care management working for the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University hospital systems. During my career, I realized there was limited room for upward mobility and to advance I needed to go back to graduate school. At that time, my goal was to be in hospital management, and I believed the best way to prepare for this would be to get both an MBA and a master’s degree in public health. When I saw that Rutgers had a dual-degree program, it felt like the perfect fit. As a native of New Jersey, I knew all that Rutgers had to offer as an institution, but I was especially excited about the MBA. Rutgers Business School is the #1 Public MBA in the Northeast as of 2021 and they have the #1 Top MBA program in Healthcare/Pharma/Biotech as of 2021. Given my background, I thought the emphasis on pharma and healthcare in the MBA program would work well for my goals.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? My favorite course as an MBA was Integrated Business Applications Team Consulting with Professor Doug Brownstone. The MBA Team Consulting course is a capstone course that serves as a culminating experience in the MBA program, offering students a comprehensive fieldwork opportunity. Students are divided into teams where we choose a client who we work with to consult on a project. Professor Brownstone leveraged his many years of consulting experience to advise us as we pulled together material for our clients. I thoroughly enjoyed the project I worked on, which was consulting with a large New Jersey developer regarding movie studios for major streaming platforms in New Jersey. I had the chance to delve deep into an industry that very few people have exposure to and from the perspective of a developer, as opposed to a TV viewer. This was also a great networking opportunity. I had the privilege of engaging with seasoned professionals in the industry and getting the chance to exchange insights and establish meaningful connections. This course allowed me to address genuine business challenges and explore tangible business opportunities for our client. Integrated Business allowed us to address real life problem-solving and critical thinking while also working on skills like communication, teambuilding, and project management.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? The one thing I wish I had done differently would be to spend more time discovering Newark and what the community has to offer. For example, I know there were some local poetry meet-ups that I wished to attend but I never got the chance to. There were several events being held around the business school that I would have attended if I wasn’t studying. I did have the opportunity to feed the homeless at the local YMCA – I wish I had gotten the chance to do more of that.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about RBS is that there are only opportunities for students in pharma. This was much different than what I experienced because the school is constantly posting available opportunities and there are multiple career fairs. Rutgers Business School also supports students through the multiple corporate presentations where companies interested in recruiting from Rutgers come in and talk to the students about what they have to offer. I had a great experience with the corporate presentations as that is what led me to my internship at Merck.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? What I love the most about Newark was the proximity to New York City. There was a NJ Transit line that was a 5-minute walk from the business school. I’m originally from South Jersey so it would normally take me much longer to get to New York City, so this was a welcomed change. Newark is also a very diverse city with a huge immigrant population. Because of that, there is access to a lot of different cuisines. For example, there is a section of Newark known as Ironbound which is a multi-ethnic neighborhood that is a popular location for Portuguese and Spanish food. Ironbound also has multiple festivals throughout the year like the Brazilian Day Festival.

What surprised you the most about business school? What surprised me the most about business school was how the environment fostered camaraderie and a collaborative environment. I am a dual-degree candidate, graduating with a Master’s in Public Health and a Master’s in Business Administration. Before starting my MBA, I was in the Public Health school completing the required coursework. Coming into the business school, I expected it to be similar to my experiences in the Public Health school where people were more individualistic, all assignments were completed entirely alone, and most people kept to themselves. In the business school, the success of the group meant the success of the individual. The experience was much livelier. Students spent more time together outside of school hours, and they were always willing to share knowledge when it came to assignments or their professional experiences.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? The MBA classmate I most admire is Aman Sheth. Aman received his undergraduate degree from Rutgers University majoring in Genetics. His work experience is in consumer goods and electronics in B2B and B2C markets, dealing with many global brands in the United States. Aman and I had several classes together because we both concentrated in finance. Aman has a strong work ethic and always excelled in his coursework, but that’s not all that impressed me about him. He was always willing to lend a helping hand to other students. Aman and I took a Hedge Funds course together and he had experience in trading, so he helped those of us without the experience to better understand the material by breaking down the concepts. Aman is a kind person who is always friendly and approachable. In the spirit of business school, he was also very collaborative and willing to have study sessions with other classmates.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list? First, I would love to get the opportunity to take a leadership position in a cross-functional team that is impactful to the end-goals of the company and their bottom line. This would give me the opportunity to strengthen my leadership skills and expose me to a broader range of perspectives and strategies. It would provide me with the opportunity to manage diverse talents and skill sets and foster collaboration. I would love the opportunity to contribute to the organization in such a tangible, visible way.

Second, I would love the opportunity to represent my company at an industry conference. I have seen mentors who are great public speakers go out and represent the company at multiple conferences and I really admire this ability. Impressive presentation skills command attention and show that you have mastery of a topic. I would love to hone my skills in this area while making a meaningful contribution to the reputation of the company. This would be a great personal achievement.

What made Daphni such an invaluable addition to the Class of 2024?

“Daphni has been an invaluable member of Rutgers Business School’s MBA Class of 2024 in many significant ways. From her inquisitiveness in the classroom and meaningful and thought-provoking conversations with classmates, to her leadership as president of the Black and Hispanic MBA Association (BHMBAA), Daphni has been a natural leader both formally and informally and enhanced the learning of many students.

Daphni was a student in my Organizational Behavior class last year. As one of 30 MBA and dual master’s degree students taking the course, Daphni stood out due to her intellect, curiosity, emotional intelligence, and overall engagement with the course material. Regardless of the lecture topic, Daphni always tried to connect each week’s learnings to her previous work experience in healthcare as well as her personal experiences. Among all the students who took the course, both last year and in all my years teaching the course, I believe that Daphni was unique in her introspection and exploration of the course topics, pondering the lessons well beyond the three hours we spent together each week. She wrote weekly memos to me where she would reflect on the lecture and contemplate how she could apply and grow from her enhanced understanding of each week’s management topic. Beyond that, and equally significant, Daphni was constantly challenging herself, as well as her fellow classmates, to deeply explore the course concepts, their relevancy for today, and their applicability as future managers and leaders. Her curiosity also fostered an open-mindedness to consider the perspectives and opinions of others. She was always listening to understand others’ points of view. She also showed great openness and honesty when discussing some of the more sensitive topics in the course. Overall, her actions and engagement were a model for her fellow classmates, and she greatly enhanced the class discussion and created an environment where everyone felt comfortable speaking up.

For the past year, Daphni has been president of the BHMBAA at Rutgers Business School. She has been an influential and effective leader focused on inclusion and engagement. Under her leadership, the BHMBAA has run several networking and company information events. The goal of these events was to expose undergraduate and graduate students to prominent black leaders who shared their experiences in various industries and offered career and professional advice. Daphni was very focused on achieving high turnout for these events. Not only did she want as many students as possible to benefit from hearing and interacting with the speakers, but she was eager to showcase RBS and its students to the panelists. In her role as president, Daphni attended the National Black MBA Association conference and received the Best Speaker Award. Daphni is a great ambassador for Rutgers Business School and embodies its values.”

Sharon Hellman
Assistant Professor of Professional Practice
Rutgers Business School


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