Meet The Stanford GSB MBA Class Of 2025

There is something about Stanford MBAs. Call it the X-Factor: remarkable and rare, possessing something equally undefined and captivating. They are risk-takers and rule-breakers, the forerunners and originals, always questioning and never satisfied. Somehow, they fuse divergent experiences and passions together, creating a distinctive story and vision.

Before becoming the President of Stanford University, Jonathan Levin witnessed this dynamic first-hand as dean of the Stanford Graduate School of Business. While Levin enjoyed running a business school with an iconic brand, deep resources, and world-class know-how, he relished working alongside difference-makers whose imaginations and commitment were re-framing conversations, models, and organizations across the globe.

“What gets me excited about coming to work every day is seeing students and faculty wrestling with really big issues facing the world and getting excited about discussing them and debating them and trying to come up with solutions,” says Levin, P&Q’s reigning Dean of the Year, in a 2023 interview. “Stanford is a very solutions-oriented place. People are problem solvers here. Even though we have faculty who do basic science research, people like solving problems around climate change, inequality, the direction and pace of technology, and the future of markets and institutions. We are focused on how we are going to come up with productive solutions that make people better off. That’s a great contribution that Stanford can make.”

Bass Library Global Lounge

THE “UP FOR ANYTHING” CLASS

The GSB’s mission is to “Change lives. Change organizations. Change the world.” This statement reflects the core of the Stanford MBA experience. In admissions, the school craves differences, those unexpected collisions of backgrounds, interests, and ideas that ultimately create game-changing innovations, new markets, and richer lives. Even more, the Stanford GSB embraces transformation, the awareness of the self and the larger world that leave MBA graduates more curious and engaged – afraid of neither trial nor error and steadfast in pursuing the greater good.

This is the mindset that the GSB amplifies over two years. You’ll find it across the board in the MBA Class of 2025. Six months into the program, Avis Chan, a Bain & Company manager, would describe her classmates as “proactive” – the kind of people who’d “take the initiative to create [an opportunity]” if it didn’t already exist. Kailash Sundaram has come away inspired by his classmates, even as he wonders how they have time to seemingly do everything. For Catherine Lacy, a Yale Economics major, the quality that stands out is that her classmates are “up for anything.”

“I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve seen a random request or proposal in a group chat that is met with a couple dozen enthusiastic yeses,” she writes. “Whenever it comes up in conversation that I’m a rock climber, the most common response I get—usually from folks who have never climbed before—is, “Can I join you sometime?”. People here chase new experiences and are always thrilled to share those experiences with their classmates.”

Stanford GSB Classroom

“RUNNING THEIR OWN RACE”

Rakiya Cunningham, a finance manager from Shell, has been struck by her classmates’ independent streak. Rather than collectively gravitating towards particular industries or purposes, Cunningham observes, her classmates are “running their own race” with wildly divergent goals. Her classmate, Mubarak Alliyu, also worked in the energy industry and noticed this same instinct.

“Everyone seems to have a unique vision for their future, unconstrained by conventional paths,” he observes. “They challenge the status quo, evident in the diverse career paths they take. Even within popular career themes like entrepreneurship, there’s a spectrum of aspirations, from startups to search funds to early-stage ventures. This diversity of thought and interests fosters collaboration rather than competition, creating a supportive environment and driving innovation and creativity within the community.”

More than independent, the Class of 2025 is flat-out interesting, adds Nicholas Tobin, a West Point grad and U.S. Army Ranger Intelligence Officer who worked counter-terrorism in Afghanistan. He says he could listen to his classmates’ stories all day, whether they involve DC lobbying, playing pro sports, or performing around the world. Some of that may stem from the class’s “hunger to make an impact” in the words of Stefano Schiappacasse, a Chilean engineer-turned-investor. This “hunger” turns into a force multiplier when Stanford MBAs get together, adds Salome Mikadze, an entrepreneur from the Ukraine.

“Everyone here is committed to making a change, creating an environment where we’re all moving at light speed towards impactful goals,” she writes. “It’s as if the collective energy and ambition fuel our drive, pushing us to not only dream big but also to take tangible steps towards realizing those dreams. This shared passion for positive change is what makes the community truly exceptional.”

GSB students studying

FROM BANKER TO NEWS ANCHOR TO ACTRESS

Most of all, says Patricia Fernandez de Castro, the class is down-to-earth, despite their jaw-dropping achievements. “From the athletic heights of a former professional soccer player and an Olympian skier, to the intellectual rigor of a NASA engineer, and the entrepreneurial spirit of numerous founders—they share the same basic human desires: to connect, enjoy life, and belong. From the outset of the MBA program, we were all eager to make new friends, learn about and from each other, party, study, and connect. We embrace vulnerability as a strength both inside and outside of the classroom. We ask each other about our greatest fears with the same ease that we discuss a class project. No matter how extraordinary their pasts or how ambitious their future plans, my classmates are, at their core, relatable individuals with the same desires for friendship, enjoyment, and belonging as anyone else.”

Fernandez de Castro would certainly qualify as one of the most versatile and interesting members of the class. After earning degrees in Business, Economics, and Film, Television, and Theatre at Notre Dame, she decided to take the safe route: a Wall Street job at Citi. After two years, the itch to enter media and storytelling was too much to resist.

“Venturing into the unknown was daunting. My future filled with uncertainty, but that felt better than staying in a place I already knew I didn’t want to be in. This leap opened doors to work as a news anchor for Televisa, a freelance correspondent for “Real America with Jorge Ramos”, a screenwriter for Amazon Prime, and an actress in several TV shows. My biggest accomplishment is thus embracing uncertainty: pursuing what your heart tells you to might be the only way to achieve true satisfaction and fulfillment.”

Post-class discussion

WRITING SPEECHES…FOR THE WHITE HOUSE

Before moving to Palo Alto, Catherine Lacy headed up a Capital One team that focused on providing services to underserved groups. In contrast, Kailash Sundaram worked in venture capital for Altos Ventures and Detroit Venture Partners. In between, he was tapped to serve as a Special Assistant to the General Counsel for Joe Biden for President before joining the transition team and later the National Economic Council. One of his jobs? Writing White House speeches.

“When politics is done right, it has the ability to bring people together in pursuit of a bigger vision,” Sundaram points out. “A great speech tells a story that gets people to care and rally around a cause.”

Stefano Schiappacasse was also exposed to rarified air in his native Chile. A trader and portfolio manager, he received an engagement alongside Sebastián Piñera, the President of Chile from 2010-2014 and 2018-2022.

“It was a profound educational journey,” he tells P&Q. “Through this experience, I absorbed invaluable lessons about professionalism, work ethic, and the relentless pursuit of objectives, regardless of the challenges faced. I learned about the power of optimism and conviction, teaching that even in the toughest circumstances, maintaining a positive outlook and strong belief in one’s cause can lead to successful outcomes. This philosophy has reshaped my approach to both my professional and personal life.”

Stanford MBA students outside class. GSB photo

DROPPING YOUR GUARD TO ‘TALK’

In terms of impact, you’ll find the Class of 2025’s imprint worldwide. Working in Kenya selling solar energy and clean cookstoves, Kate Adams did well by doing right – driving “significant sales growth” while cutting greenhouse gas emissions. At the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNCP), Mubarak Alliyu transitioned from engineering to auditing to corporate governance and regulatory compliance. In Ireland, Stephen Flynn volunteered to lead operations for a social enterprise startup, which resulted in a 250,000-meal donation for children. As a consultant, Richard Hamrick helped an airline avoid bankruptcy and layoffs by replacing its financial management system. If you want to see a real entrepreneurial challenge, look no further than Salome Mikadze’s Movadex, an IT consulting firm she co-founded at 18 that has grown to nearly 40 employees. While most founders fret over cash flow and deal pipelines, Mikadze had to contend with a Russian invasion (even submitting her Stanford application from a bomb shelter).

“Supporting our army, refugees, and volunteers, amidst crisis, has been at the core of my daily work,” she writes. “This experience not only tested our resilience and innovation but also underscored the importance of community and making a difference during challenging times. It’s been a journey of growth, leadership, and commitment to positive change.”

Avis Chan arrived on campus with three goals: gain experience in entrepreneurship, boost her health, and sharpen her public speaking skills. Since then, she has joined forces with a classmate on a venture, while participating in school-sponsored yoga and fitness classes at least three times per week. For her final goal, she has given a keynote presentation as part of the school’s LOWkey Notes program, along with delivering a TALK, a hallowed GSB tradition where students share their personal life story in front of hundreds of classmates.

“The support and warmth from everyone in the audience made it a memorable experience,” Chan adds. “The TALK not only allowed me to share my journey but also made me somewhat “famous” within the GSB community, leading to many new friendships. In fact, following my TALK, I encountered scenarios where people would approach me with greetings like, “Hi, I’m Avis. I don’t think we’ve met. Nice to meet you!” or “Oh, Avis! Even though we haven’t officially met, I listened to your TALK and feel like I know so much about you already!” This experience highlighted the special and supportive nature of the GSB community.”

MBA students gather outdoors. Photo Credit: Elena Zhukova

MEET THE ALUMN…YOUR JUDGES

Another popular GSB experience, says Kailash Sundaram, has been the Executive Challenge in the Leadership Lab. Working in six member squads, students complete high-profile, role play simulations for a full day. In the process, they are judged by nearly 250 distinguished alumni and faculty members, who pose tough questions and provide coaching on everything from developing strategy to using the right phrases to connect with people. While the event may resemble a boardroom, MBAs say the event is as fun as it is educational.

“It’s not easy to fire someone or successfully raise funding for a startup, but that’s what we practiced through the day,” writes Sundaram. “The six of us became incredibly close over through the Challenge and developed some really valuable leadership skills along the way.”

Alas, the GSB events aren’t all business. Case in point: There is the GSB Show, says thespian Patricia Fernandez de Castro. “The show is a revered tradition that captures the spirit of creativity, collaboration, and community, bringing together first and second-year MBA students to write, direct, and produce a musical parody reflecting the unique GSB experience. My participation in this activity is quite meaningful to me, as it allows me to continue harnessing the power of storytelling to connect, inspire, and entertain.”

Page 2: Interview with Paul Oyer, Senior Associate Dean for Academic Affairs.

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

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