2024 Best & Brightest MBA: Maximilian Kneis, Wharton School

Maximilian Kneis

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

“Proactive, collaborative, and outgoing community builder striving to make impact while also having fun.”

Hometown: West Chester, PA

Fun fact about yourself: I’m a dual citizen (born in Germany).

Undergraduate School and Degree: University of Pittsburgh, B.S. in Finance & Accounting

Where was the last place you worked before enrolling in business school? Boston Consulting Group, Project Leader

Where did you intern during the summer of 2023? University of Pittsburgh doing strategic planning within the Office of University Relations

Where will you be working after graduation? Returning to BCG as a Project Leader

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • William P. Lauder Wharton Leadership Fellow
  • Admissions Fellow
  • MBA Pub, President
  • German Club, President
  • Wharton Hockey League, Vice President of Social
  • Cluster Board, Vice President of Finance
  • Joseph Wharton Fellowship
  • 1st Year Award for Building Connection & Community (selected by peers)
  • First Year Academic Honors (Top 20% of class)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Leading the revitalization and growth of one of Wharton’s biggest traditions – MBA Pub – has been my most rewarding experience. I’ve had the honor of serving as Co-President this year and have been actively involved from my earliest days at Wharton. Pub presents a unique community building platform for our program: it provides an opportunity for all sorts of students to come together weekly for fun and fellowship. It celebrates the diverse interests and programming of many student groups and connects additional stakeholders to our class.

My role involves setting the forward-looking strategy, driving engagement via membership signups and weekly attendance, and collaborating with those who run workstreams ranging from marketing, operations, finance, and external engagement. This year, we worked to design new signature Pub events with large student groups who had not previously participated (e.g., Startup & Innovation Pub with Founder’s Club and Casino Night with the Private Equity & Venture Capital Club). We also worked with the school to include a Pub during Wharton’s signature Pre-Term experience, through which we welcomed the Class of 2025 to this tradition in their very first week. Pub attendance is up roughly 25% (averaging 250+ attendees weekly) since last year, and memberships have now hit pre-pandemic levels. One of the highlights for me has been getting more administration and faculty participation this year (such as regular appearances by the vice deans). Furthermore, we’ve worked to ensure the interests of all classmates are better represented, including creating a space for the young children of Wharton students and making the event more accessible and fun for those who do not drink.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? While part of a large BCG team supporting a Fortune 100 retail client, the CEO remarked to our senior partner, “I think we as a company are trying to do too much.” A week later I had been tasked to lead the leadership team of the company through an initiative prioritization exercise to create next year’s plan. Over the course of just a few weeks, we captured all planned or considered projects, developed a framework for scoring and timing initiatives, and facilitated robust debate amongst the leadership team.

Less than four weeks after that initial conversation, I led a workshop, chaired by the CEO, of the top twenty leaders of the firm, where final tradeoffs were discussed and decisions were made. The collaborative nature of this work allowed it to be truly a company-owned decision, which was one of my favorite aspects of this project. While my consulting team helped shape and guide the process, it was the clients who owned the decisions and ultimate output, and we received great feedback from the CEO on challenging the team to get to difficult but necessary decisions. Experiences like these motivate and excite me to return to consulting after graduation and further support clients working through similar challenges.

Why did you choose this business school? Wharton’s focus on relationship-building and community is an asset of the school, which aligned well with my motivations and is something that cannot be quantified after graduation. At Wharton, there is a strong emphasis to engage with peers, faculty, staff, and alumni, and it is something that I’ve really enjoyed. Wharton enables this in both formal – through faculty and student lunches, alumni dinner series, and teaching assistant opportunities – and informal ways – second year students mentoring first year students and clubs inviting alumni back to attend events.

What was your favorite course as an MBA? MGMT 7820: Strategy Implementation with Claudine Gartenberg

This case-based management course applies many of the concepts I have learned in other courses during my studies as it focuses on “the tools to turn good strategy into successful reality.” Each session, Professor Gartenberg balances drawing out student input with case examples and proven concepts, allowing us to discover the right answer without it being obvious at first. The thoughtfulness in topics, companies, and class structure make of a fruitful learning environment. This course also features the best guest speakers in any class I’ve had at Wharton, all having senior executive experience across a variety of industries. Engaging with current CEOs of Fortune 100 companies in open and honest conversations makes for intellectually stimulating and extremely practical class sessions.

Looking back over your MBA experience, what is the one thing you’d do differently and why? I wish I had prioritized going on a leadership venture. These outdoor trek experiences are designed and administered through the McNulty Leadership program with the goal of pushing participants out of their comfort zones to test both physical and mental stamina. Furthermore, there is a strong focus on self-discovery, team dynamics, and leadership development.

What did you love most about your business school’s town? The passion and grit of the city from rallying around sports teams to supporting local businesses to enjoying the historical sights. As a native Philadelphian, it’s been fun to share my city with my peers and watch them discover their favorite neighborhood, restaurant, team, or coffee shop.

What surprised you the most about business school? I was very surprised by how busy we all are here, even though we are not working and don’t have professional responsibilities. While serving on a panel for admitted students last year, a peer remarked that “they have never been busier, but never felt more fulfilled or had more fun.” That quote has stuck with me since. A lot of people outside of the program may view an MBA as relaxed, unscheduled free-time, but I have learned it is critical to prioritize my time (even without a job!) and learn how to be okay with saying no – more so than I was expecting.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? Loyd Bradley Jr. ‘24.

After securing an impressive summer internship (which converted to a full-time offer) at Goldman Sachs, Loyd took on the challenging burden of becoming the CFO of our Wharton Graduate Association (WGA). Our WGA is an independent 501(c)(3) that serves as a parent organization of all 120+ MBA student clubs. The executive team, of which Loyd is one of the four leaders, has complete oversight of this 501(c)(3). Loyd and his team took courageous steps this year to uncover and resolve several years of financial mismanagement, making decisions that were not always popular with students but were necessary for stability going forward. He was not afraid to make the right choice and never let criticism from his peers get the better of him. Whenever I see Loyd on or off campus, he has a calm, cool demeanor, and a smile.

On top of this over 20-hour per week commitment, Loyd is involved in many other aspects of Wharton. He serves as a Nonprofit Board Fellow, supporting the work of Rebuilding Together Philadelphia, and is an active member in various other student organizations including AAMBAA and the Wharton Hockey League. He has already been recognized for his servant leadership and ability to make an impact – the U.S. Air Force Academy awarded him with their prestigious Young Alumni Excellence Award in 2022. Perhaps most importantly, he balanced all of his academic, professional, and extracurricular responsibilities with getting married this past year. I really admire Loyd, and I am grateful to have gotten to know him through my MBA experience.

What are the top two items on your professional bucket list?

  • See an employee I manage get promoted.
  • Serve on an organization’s Board of Directors.

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

“Many students aspire to balance the myriad opportunities for engagement at Wharton that Max seems to navigate with ease. He makes an effort to engage beyond the bubble, working closely with McNulty Leadership as a Leadership Fellow, the Office of Student Life and Pub. He is a constant, positive presence in the Office of Student Life. His leadership at Pub has seen improved communication with WGA, continued support for non-drinking memberships at Pub, new collaborations and co-sponsorships, and a more fiscally responsible and sustainable partnership with local vendors. He is hoping to leave a legacy of greater engagement between Wharton and the Philadelphia communities.”

Rhina El-Amin
Associate Director
MBA Office of Student Life


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