The 100 Best & Brightest MBAs: Class Of 2024

Maddie McPhail, Georgetown University (McDonough)

BRINGING AI TO EDUCATION

Another area where the Class of 2024 shines is entrepreneurship. Before launching a Human-Centered Design (HCD) team at Deloitte, Georgetown University’s Maddie McPhail helped start a female-run footwear company – one that was featured on Shark Tank and the Today Show. McPhail’s classmate, Dumi Mabhena, has built three companies from scratch in three different continents. Not surprisingly, he claimed first place in the 2023 Georgetown Entrepreneurship Rocket Pitch. Across the Atlantic, Echika Obijiaku, a student at Oxford University’s Saïd Business School, is building Mwanga, an ethics-driven loan recovery firm.

“Building a completely bootstrapped business as a solo female founder in Africa has been one of the most difficult yet rewarding things I have ever done,” Obijiaku tells P&Q. “It’s been over 5 years, with a team of over 70+ members engaging over 300,000 customers weekly. It has been an incredibly difficult and lonely journey, but it’s also one I’m incredibly proud of what we were able to achieve given incredibly limited resources and funding.”

At the University of Chicago’s Booth School, Athena Saldanha found a co-founder and launched Owler AI. Think of it as an AI-driven grading system – one that can spit out feedback in less than 45 seconds. The process hasn’t been easy, between soliciting faculty for technical advice and teachers for user feedback. With graduation approaching, the solution is up-and-running.

“What keeps us going are the emails from teachers like this one – “I might cry from the relief I feel in using this product. From the bottom of my teacher’s heart, thank you for making a product such as this.” OwlerAI’s mission is to help educators leverage A.I. to save time on repetitive administrative tasks, so they can focus on creating effective and engaging classrooms. We are in the process of selling to middle and high schools around the country to help more teachers who need some relief!”

A CLASS THAT GIVES BACK

The Class of 2024 brought this same entrepreneurial spirit to their student communities. At the Cambridge Judge Business School, Juliet Powell co-founded an AI Special Interest Group that hosted speakers and conducted clinics to help build expertise and networks in the area. Basu Parasar did the same with product management at Fordham University’s Gabelli School. Tess Sussman actually designed and taught an eight-week course on presentations to 30 international students. At the same time, Akbar Arsiwala developed the curriculum for the Ross School’s youth mentorship program in Detroit.

“I had the privilege of working with the Jalen Rose Leadership Academy (JRLA) to construct a year-long leadership education program that focused on identifying values, leadership styles, and communication techniques. It was fulfilling to see my classmates embrace their roles as mentors and cultivate authentic relationships with these future leaders. Also, it was just plain fun! The kids brought so much energy to each session, and I always left feeling more whole.”

Nura Smadi, IESE Business School

The Best & Brightest also includes many sources for inspiration. Before enrolling at IE Business School, Erica P. Santana had returned to her native Puerto Rico to help rebuild its economy. Eventually, she joined the territory’s premier financial institution, Banco Popular, and created its AI unit – becoming one of the bank’s youngest leaders in the process. Staying in Spain, IESE Business School’s Nura Smadi centered her pre-MBA work around humanitarian aid, starting with Relief International.

“My first role in 2017 was that of a Technical Writer in Za’atari Refugee Camp in Mafraq Governorate in the north of Jordan. This was my first field-based post, supporting a community-based protection program for the nearly 80,000 Syrian refugees living in the camp at the time. In the years that followed, I took on grants and project management roles at a regional level to support the implementation of humanitarian projects across the Middle East, including education, health, nutrition, water, hygiene and sanitation projects in Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Turkey, and Yemen.”

THE CLASS “DAD”

An attorney by trade, Vladyslav Bandrovsky worked in international disputes before joining the Warwick Business School. Outside of class, he is tracking the damages accrued by Russia’s invasion of his native Ukraine. Now, he has enlisted a team of volunteers to document the homes and businesses lost through the invasion.

“As a result of our efforts, my team has documented damages totaling 10.3 million Euros suffered by both businesses and individuals, and this figure continues to rise,” Bandrovsky writes. “These documents are valuable evidence that can be used in courts. I believe our efforts will help bring justice to those affected by the war by pursuing litigation and holding responsible parties accountable for the damages they caused.

Another inspirational figure is Luke O’Banion, affectionately known as the class “dad” at the University of Tennessee’s Haslam College. Before business school, he served in the U.S. Air Force as a “Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE) Specialist in the special warfare environment”, which required him to operate in areas ranging from South Korea to Iraq to Mexico. His efforts, however, did not go unnoticed by his colleagues in the military and business school.

“In July 2019, I was honored with the Non-Commissioned Officer Academy Levitow Leadership Award, a distinction mirroring the gravity of the UTK MBA Dean’s Award, where the collective voice of over 400 classmates and more than a dozen instructors plays a pivotal role in the selection process. This recognition was not only a testament to my leadership, but also a humbling reminder of the trust and esteem held by my peers and mentors.”

NEVER A MOMENT’S REST

Nashad Omar Carrington, Washington University (Olin)

Indeed, the Best & Brightest have stayed plenty busy since arriving on campus. Ben Marshall, a graduate of the Tuck School at Dartmouth College, completed four internships last summer. Outside of leading two clubs at Washington University’s Olin School, Nashad Omar Carrington runs two non-profits and earned appointments to the City of St. Louis Mayor’s Youth Cabinet and the Equity Task Force at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. At Notre Dame’s Mendoza College, Bailey Harrison’s TA demands rivaled her professors’ teaching loads. This past year, she has helped teach six sections, including courses in Business Analytics, Marketing Research, Competitive Growth Strategy, and Automation & AI in Marketing. If you think those demands are crazy, meet Samantha Simon, a USC Marshall MBA who managed to organize 2-3 events per week as president of the Business of Entertainment Association (BEA) – where she led a 35-member board.

“[Samantha] has been a tour de force in enriching the educational and professional landscape for her peers,” writes Scott Abrams, academic director for the Full-Time MBA Program. “Under her guidance, BEA and its board successfully hosted an impressive array of events, including 17 speaker panels, 13 career workshops, 10 job treks, nine social events, four networking sessions, three small group alumni dinners, two case competition events, and a memorable trip to the Sundance Film Festival. These events and initiatives have not only enhanced the learning experience but also fostered a vibrant community spirit and networking opportunities among students.

Alas, the Class of 2024’s contributions extended beyond the business school. Steffan Waters began his career in sports, eventually becoming the associate commissioner for the Atlantic Hockey Association. Here, he rebuilt the organization’s branding and negotiated its streaming rights contract. When he arrived at the University of Florida’s Warrington College, Waters found a way to stay in the game. He became the football team’s official statistician. By the same token, Juliet Powell, a communications consultant, capped off her venture project by conducting a presentation on behalf of her non-profit client, Diversity UK, in front of some of the United Kingdom’s most influential people.

“My team and I were fortunate enough to be invited by our client to present our findings to their key stakeholders in the House of Lords. It was such an incredible experience, and the team and I were honored to give a talk in the heart of the UK’s Government.”

MAKING THEIR INTERNSHIPS MATTER

The Best & Brightest MBAs also found their causes in business school. At Columbia Business School, Jeff S. McClellan became involved in the Re-Entry Acceleration Program (REAP) and Startup Works, where he advised parolees on career development and entrepreneurial ventures. After taking a Wharton course on mass incarceration and business, Nicole Ventrone partnered with two professors to develop and pilot a negotiations curriculum to better acclimate this population to life after incarceration.

Sourya Mukherjee, Northwestern University (Kellogg)

“While I’m not naive to the fact that the negotiating needs of MBA students differ from those of individuals affected by the justice system, I do fundamentally believe in the right to self-advocacy,” Ventrone explains. “Negotiation is a learned and practiced skill and one that is arguably just as useful in our personal lives as it is in boardrooms. There’s simply no reason to restrict this knowledge within the walls of elite business schools.”

The class also applied their business school lessons outside their walls – and racked up big wins along the way. As a Walmart intern, Sourya Mukherjee, an MBA from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School, pitched a global sourcing product that could potentially save the firm $100 million dollars. During a marketing field study, Kellogg’s Dorian Allen worked with the Edtech’s startup co-founder to develop strategies that are projected to more than double sales. When Maija Inveiss crushed her internship and landed her dream job at General Mills, she realized the real story was just how far she’d come during business school.

“If you told me two years ago that I would be speaking in front of leaders of a billion-dollar brand such as Pillsbury, I wouldn’t have believed you,” explains the former journalist and Wisconsin School of Business grad. “Prior to being in the MBA program, I would have worked behind the scenes and begged someone to present for me. Public speaking was my biggest fear professionally, but I spent my first year of the program pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. During my presentation, every slide boosted my confidence. I believed that I could truly be a brand manager and tackle my professional goals. I finally understood how I could make an impact on a brand and what it meant to develop an effective strategy.”

See pages 4-5 for 100 in-depth profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest MBAs. 

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