Meet Toronto Rotman’s MBA Class Of 2025

Creative Destruction Lab

Former International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield speaks at the Creative Destruction Lab Super Session this summer at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management. The Super Session showcases the top CDL startups from business schools around the world. It attracts nearly 800 mentors, investors, scientists, entrepreneurs, policy makers, and business leaders. In addition to the opportunity to engage with graduating CDL ventures, Super Session also offers programming on more macro issues concerning technology, economics, and society. Courtesy photo

CREATIVE DESTRUCTION LAB

The Creative Destruction Lab is another game-changer at Rotman. Founded in 2012, the CDL, as it is known, is a place to scale seed-stage, science-driven startups. Think of it as a platform for commercializing research. Here, founders and inventors are connected with scientists, experts, investors, prospective partners, successful entrepreneurs, and MBA students. Call it a community of mentors who, in a true integrative thinking spirit, cover every base that could potentially sink a startup. In meetings, the community shares their expertise and experiences. This enables founders to understand the technical demands of their solution to gauge viability. Even more, the group delves into the big picture and devises strategy, so ideas can get off the ground more smoothly and bring real value to the marketplace. Over 10 months, these communities assess a venture’s progress, always looking at what needs fine-tuning – or an all-out pivot.

In the CDL, MBAs act as strategic advisors, getting their hands dirty in real world market research and financial analysis. They are exposed, in real time, to how every role in the startup ecosystem thinks and intersects – all while gaining a network for high level contacts who can provide guidance and opportunities to them. For Busayo Ladapo, the CDL offered a front row seat to how startups develop – the demands involved and the pitfalls to avoid.

“As an entrepreneur passionate about innovation and technology, the opportunity to engage with one of the world’s fastest-growing venture labs was a major draw,” she tells P&Q. “CDL’s unique model of pairing MBA students with start-ups and seasoned entrepreneurs offers a rare, hands-on experience in the world of entrepreneurship. This was crucial for me because it aligned perfectly with my aspirations to lead a black-owned conglomerate. The prospect of directly applying academic learnings to real-world business challenges, while receiving invaluable mentorship from successful entrepreneurs and investors, made Rotman an irresistible choice for my MBA journey.”

Since its founding, the CDL has franchised to 13 business schools worldwide, spinning out nearly 3,000 companies that have produced $28 billion dollars in revenue. The Rotman CDL focuses on areas that play to the Toronto metro’s strengths: artificial intelligence, quantum computing, space travel, and healthcare. In a 2023 interview with P&Q, Professor Ajay Agrawal, the founder of CDL, distinguishes it from a typical accelerator or incubator. In the CDL world, stakeholders gather every eight weeks to set priorities and establish steps. In fact, Agrawal harkens back to the image of a symphony orchestra in describing the CDL – even in its physical setup. 

“In the first row are the operators, in the second row are the VCs, in the third are the corporate partners, and in the fourth are the MBAs. The founders are sitting in the middle, and the scientists are sitting at the ends. And you’ll see as the conversation moves around the room, exactly when the scientists are called to speak, when the VCs are called to speak, when the MBAs are called to speak. It’s all kind of carefully orchestrated.”

Dean Susan Christoffersen meets with student representatives.

SELF-DEVELOPMENT LAB

While the CDL may not be an accelerator of ventures, Rotman’s Self-Development Lab could be considered an accelerator of people. Grounded in faculty coaching and peer feedback, the SDL is designed to help students reflect on who they are, what they want, and how they come across to others. Sakshi Lahori says the sessions have been invaluable for her in honing her communication skills, including executive presence. Her classmate, Seren Yazici, has been equally beneficial to her career prospects.

“This lab offers a range of activities, assessments, and coaching sessions designed to help students develop self-awareness, leadership skills, and a deep understanding of their strengths and areas for improvement with the help of experts in psychological science. For me, utilizing the Self-Development Lab is about cultivating not only strong business acumen, but also fostering the qualities necessary for effective leadership in the global context.”

Home to over 17,000 alumni, the Rotman School ranks among the Top 20 business research schools in the world according to The Financial Times. Along with students being exposed to cutting edge ideas, they will soon enjoy a new Real Estate Center, thanks to a $15 million dollar gift from David and Angela Feldman. That’s just one exciting development at Rotman. This spring, P&Q reached out to Joseph Milner, a Professor of Operations Management and Rotman’s Vice-Dean of MBA Programs. From leadership development to sustainability to Toronto as a whole, here is what to expect at the Rotman MBA.

 

Joseph Milner

AN INTERVIEW WITH JOSEPH MILNER

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?

Milner: “Rotman and our Full-Time MBA students have co-created a new schedule for the courses in the first year of the program. The new program spreads out the courses over the first year, reducing the considerable hours of class in the first term while increasing some hours later in the year. The revised schedule provides a greater balance at Rotman between academics, career search, and networking, and self-discovery that is the hallmark of an MBA education. Student response has been great – more time for students to think about their next step, to have coffee chats with alumni and employers, and to compete in case competitions and special programming. Plus, there is more time for well-being, relaxation, and hockey (it is still Canada).

This year, we launched StartUp Rotman, a platform that focuses on nurturing the entrepreneurial instincts of Rotman students through supporting their efforts to move their business ideas from conception and ideation to execution and validation. The program features thought leadership, funding and coaching by Rotman Alumni and industry experts, and growing connections through Rotman’s considerable network in Toronto and globally. The program complements our offerings in Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Business Design, including the Creative Destruction Lab, our global startup program for seed-stage, science-based companies, and our Business Design Initiative, our education centre that brings together students, researchers and industry to tackle real-world business challenges to advance innovation practice and learning. Future MBA’s seeking to build their ventures, whether while in the program or in the year’s following, have a home at Rotman.”

Rotman student at work with Toronto in the background

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

Milner: “Located in Toronto, Rotman is at the heart of business in one of the most progressive and diverse cities you can find, where different traditions of culture, race, and knowledge converge. You will learn from our internationally renowned faculty through quantitative and social approaches to problem-solving; experiential learning focused on specialized skills; and personal development programs that prepare aspiring leaders, innovators and entrepreneurs like you to change the way we think about business and management. You will explore topics such as artificial intelligence and the future of work; market disruption and risk management; behavioural economics to help organizations better understand how real people act; and gender inequalities and how they can be remedied in a global economy. Students at every career stage study with and from each other to gain the knowledge, agility and confidence demanded by a rapidly changing world. And at Rotman, we create the opportunities for students to make the connections that move them forward in their careers. Join us at Rotman, where you will learn to create value for business and society by designing more resilient organizations, by driving innovation and analytical rigour, and by helping build more sustainable societies – the key to long-term prosperity.”

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?

Milner: “We have integrated sustainability broadly in our core and electives program. Each area of the school (Finance, Strategy, Accounting, etc.) has taken a SMART approach to increasing sustainability in our courses – defining what sustainability means within the discipline, setting measurable goals in coverage, and measuring content as we expand our coverage. Following this approach, we have increased our courses, and have developed an emphasis (major) in Sustainability and Society with courses across all areas. We have developed new courses over the past several years in Sustainability Strategy, Impact Investing, Social Entrepreneurship, Sustainable Finance, Business Operations for Sustainability, Clean Energy, Building Businesses for Sustainability, Leading Social Innovation, Environmental Finance and Sustainable Investing, and a course on examining the perspectives of all organization stakeholders, Corporation 360.”

Convocation Day always starts with a process across the university campus

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?

Milner: “Leadership is at the heart of Rotman’s curriculum and co-curriculum. Upon entering Rotman, students take Leveraging Diverse Teams and Leading People in Organizations. At the same time, they begin their personal journey in the Self Development Lab (SDL), a fabric of intensive feedback-based learning activities aimed at developing and nurturing in all students the communicative, interactive, and interpersonal skills essential to the high-value added collaborative problem solver and decision maker in contemporary organizations.

As students progress to electives, they study with renowned researchers on leadership in courses such as Effective Leadership, Power and Influence, Negotiations, Leading Teams, and Aligning People and Strategy. Students get access to leaders from business in courses such as OnBoard (our course placing students on non-profit boards), C-Suite (investigating challenges of executive leadership), Getting it Done® (a management approach to executing your vision and delivering results effectively), and Top Manager’s Perspective (developing skills and tools while learning from over a dozen CEOs from global companies).

Further, they can take advantage of Rotman’s unique Leadership Development Lab (LDL), a learner-centric, real-experience-based pedagogy that is more facilitative than instructional. Distinguishing the study of Leadership from the practice of Leadership Development, the LDL provides aspiring leaders the opportunity to inquire and understand their underlying belief systems under the idea of ‘leadership’ and allow them to adapt, adjust and progress those beliefs to ones more consistent with the demands and desired outcomes of their current or anticipated Leadership context.”

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?

Milner: “In the past two years, we have created an emphasis (major) in Data Analytics and Modeling. The emphasis provides students with a means of learning and signaling to the market their skills in topics such as Data and Information Management, Management Analytics, Analytical Insight from Financial Accounting Data, and Digital Marketing. Further, we are expanding where we teach artificial intelligence and machine learning in our program including in Financial Statement Analysis, Machine Learning and Financial Innovation, and in our Creative Destruction Lab Course.”

Networking event presentation at Rotman

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

Milner: “With over 200 current members, the Women in Management Association (WIMA) at the Rotman School allows members to access professional and personal development opportunities. Now in its 8th year, the Annual WIMA Conference provides students access to the soft skills and networking growth they need to progress their careers through vibrant workshops and speakers. This year, the conference team has chosen to focus on the idea of female empowerment starting within. The programming theme, “Harnessing your Superpower” promises to create a dynamic space for women to unite, share their inspiring journeys, and empower one another. The annual conference underscores the strong sense of camaraderie in the WIMA community, and reflects Rotman’s commitment to gender equality, women in leadership, and allyship to support workplace diversity, inclusion and belonging.”

P&Q: What makes Toronto such a great place to earn an MBA? How has Rotman leveraged local resources to provide opportunities to learn and gain work experience?

Milner: “Toronto, serving as Canada’s financial and business hub, offers an exceptional opportunity for MBA students to engage in a thriving economic environment. The city hosts numerous multinational corporations, across a range of industries, providing networking prospects that can significantly bolster a student’s professional connections. Rotman’s extensive alumni network, comprising individuals in influential positions within Toronto’s business community, is a valuable resource for students. The School actively engages with our alumni to facilitate mentorship opportunities, networking events, and insights into various industries. Alumni actively contribute to the curriculum, sharing their experiences and providing guidance to students.

Rotman collaborates closely with Toronto-based firms to organize case competitions and consulting projects for students. Many students take internships during their MBA here in Toronto. Through this hands-on approach, students apply their classroom learning in real-world scenarios, gaining practical experience and expanding their professional networks.

The multicultural environment of Toronto enhances the MBA experience, fostering Indigenous and global perspectives and encouraging cross-cultural collaboration. The diversity extends beyond the student body to the city’s vibrant neighborhoods, creating a dynamic and inclusive atmosphere for many cultural and religious groups, and members of the LGBTQ community. Toronto’s emphasis on innovation and technology is a significant asset for MBA students. The city’s growing recognition as a tech hub provides unique insights into the convergence of business and technology, preparing graduates to navigate the coming decades’ challenges.

With an exceptional quality of life with a high standard of living, excellent healthcare, and a safe environment, Toronto is an ideal setting for MBA students to fully immerse themselves in their academic, career, and extra-curricular pursuits.”

ADVICE TO PROSPECTIVE APPLICANTS

“It is vital to have a clear vision of your MBA’s purpose and its role in advancing your career. It not only strengthens your application but also provides personal clarity on why pursuing an MBA is essential at this point. Moreover, academically and professionally, demonstrating readiness is crucial for navigating the rigorous academic demands of programs like Rotman. Showing preparedness to tackle the challenges of the first year showcases your meticulous approach and commitment to excel.”
Cristobal Zapata

“The positive experience I had with Rotman’s admission process played a significant role in my decision to study at Rotman. The school makes the entire process very comfortable so that you can focus on showcasing what you can offer rather than worrying about jumping through hoops, trying to navigate a complicated admission process. Presenting your “spike factor” is a unique element of Rotman’s admission process – initially, I wasn’t sure how “spikey” I should be, given it’s a business school. In the end, I decided to take a risk and shared my passion for makeup, even including a picture of (slightly bloody) special effects makeup work I’ve done in the past. I don’t think you need to worry about being “too out there” with Rotman. On the contrary, I would say one of the most useful things to think about before applying is what unique experience you can bring to the table and how to communicate it.”
Momoko Ishida

MBA Student Hometown Undergraduate Alma Mater Last Employer
Dare Adeyemo Lagos, Nigeria Obafemi Awolowo University International Finance Corporation (IFC), World Bank Group
Saket Bathla Chandigarh, India Punjab Engineering College JP Morgan Chase and Co.
Yunji Hwang Seoul, Korea University of British Columbia UNICEF
Momoko Ishida Tokyo, Japan University of California, Berkeley The Hoffman Agency
Busayo Ladapo Lagos, Nigeria University of Lagos Dynamite World Empire Ltd.
Sakshi Lahori Delhi, India Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) Korn Ferry
Sepide Saeid Monajemian Tehran, Iran University of Tehran Snapp
Seren Yazici Istanbul, Türkiye Istanbul Technical University Google
Christopher (C.J.) Yoannou Toronto, Canada DePauw University HGR Graham Partners LLP
Cristobal Zapata Santiago, Chile Universidad Adolfo Ibanez LarrainVial Asset Management

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