Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2025

Where does business get done?

It happens where relationships are built. You don’t make friends in board rooms or Zoom calls. They happen over long layovers and late-night dinners – on golf courses and stadium suites. These bonds are sealed over tales of crazy pranks, wacky pets, and idiot bosses. There are laughs shared, drinks guzzled, and confidences given. Over time, you understand that these people are just like you. That’s why you’d never do business with anyone else.

At Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, relationships are built over time during Closing Bell. On Thursday evenings, MBAs gather to celebrate the end of classes for the week. For over 45 years, MBAs stream to the Courtyard for drinks and meals. There is no agenda. Just a consistent time and space to relax, away from the classroom, to let your guard down among students, faculty members, families, and even alumni. For many members of the Class of 2025, Closing Bell has become the highlight of their week.

 A DIFFERENT THEME EACH WEEK

“This provides us, as a collective, with an opportunity to unwind from the week’s activities, savor each other’s company, and delve deeper into personal connections beyond the classroom, encompassing both students and faculty members,” says Ifeloluwa Adefolaju, an account manager from Nigeria.

Yes, weekends start early at Owen. Fridays are set aside to fiish readings, build networks, and pursue passions. That way, the weekends are free to travel, relax, or live it up in Music City. For MBAs – present and past – Closing Bell means something different. Ishan Desai, a 2024 Best & Brightest MBA, describes it as a time to “catch up”, while first-year Simran Shroff has found it to be the place to make “meaningful” connections. That starts with the “real conversations” that happen at Closing Bell says “24 alum Rushikesh Jere. More than that, the event never gets old, as clubs change its themes.

“Each week, a different club hosts and brings their own theme to the table. The Diwali one was epic – students dressed up in Indian ethnic clothes and munched on some tasty Indian dishes. Plus, after the Bell, we often roll out to spots like Red Door and Losers for some live music with great company. Some of my favorite memories were made at Closing Bell and I will miss this tight-knit, community-oriented tradition once I graduate.”

Vanderbilt MBAs Connecting at Orientation

AN ACCOMPLISHED CLASS

The Class of 2025 still has another year of Closing Bell to bond. Among the class, you’ll find Rafael Braga, a former professional swimmer from Brazil and Brianna Dacey, a blackbelt from New Jersey. As an undergrad, Robert Rickard played D1 golf on scholarship, while Simran Shroff’s athletic pursuits include “skydiving, scuba diving, and cliff diving.” And Megan Manno, who once came within 10 feet of a grizzly bear, also got up close to a bull (market).

“I participated in the bell-ringing ceremony at the Nasdaq!”

Manno, who last worked at Oracle, comes to campus with certifications as both a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) and Project Management Professional (PMP). Brianna Dacey previously managed a 13-member team as a retail banker. At one stop in Rafael Braga’s career, he designed an interactional chatbot that was integral to a startup’s growth to 100,000 clients. By the same token, Ifeloluwa Adefolaju, who studied pharmacy as an undergrad, helped five major Nigerian hospitals access plasma therapeutics.

Before business school, Eddie Hole served as a captain in the U.S. Army’s 101st Airborne Division. After graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy, Logan Burchett spent eight years an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) Officer.  As an Emerson strategist, Robert Rickard enhanced the firm’s customer success operations through his research and pilot programs across eight countries. At the same time, Simran Shroff made a major impact in one of the world’s top beauty brands.

“I worked on the introduction of The Ordinary, a renowned global skincare brand, to the Indian beauty market—a significant milestone for Nykaa. This marked the platform’s largest-ever brand launch, amplifying our presence in the beauty industry. Steering the strategic planning, coordination, and execution of such a large project required intricate market understanding and precise navigation of challenges. The success of this launch not only expanded Nykaa’s product portfolio but also solidified our position as trendsetters in the ever-evolving beauty landscape in India.”

Owen MBA students

CASE COMPETITION SUCCESS

Masala KeAnne Thomas comes to Nashville after working as a recruiting manager, where her team once onboarded over 100 employees in a few months to meet a government contract. Nayab Liaqat also operated in the human resources space. Her passion revolved around boosting female applications to tech companies in Pakistan.

To address this issue, I proposed and implemented various initiatives,” she writes. “Initially, I launched a women-centric podcast where female developers from my company and I openly discussed concerns related to the gender gap in the tech industry. Following the same trajectory, I moderated an exclusive event for women in development, bringing together female professionals from different organizations to share their experiences in the Pakistani tech sector. The event highlighted the challenges faced by women developers in this predominantly male-dominated industry, fostering discussions on strategies to overcome these issues and create more inclusive workplaces.”

The first year has brought out some special moments for the Class of 2025. Masala KeAnne Thomas was part of a case competition team that finished 2nd in the National Black MBA Association. Such competitions have also been a highlight for Megan Manno.

“I treasured the opportunity to compete in the Deloitte Case Competitions. The local competition was held amongst first-year Owen MBA students. I recall the 12 Owen teams being huddled in the team rooms in the wee hours of the morning. While we were all sleep deprived and anxious for our presentations, there were bonds formed in being in the experience together. My team was fortunate to win the Vanderbilt local competition and to proceed to the Deloitte National Case Competition to compete against 15 other teams from across the country. Taking place at Deloitte University, the competition itself was an incredible experience. The experience was made even more memorable considering that our team took home 4th place nationally!”

For Simran Shroff, the best moment – so far – has been the Holiday Party.The lively atmosphere, festive decorations, and the collective spirit of celebration made it a standout experience. The party not only marked the culmination of the semester but also provided a perfect opportunity to unwind and forge stronger connections with my MBA peers.”

A CLASS PROFILE

As a whole, the Class of 2025 features 160 students, who range in age from 23-39. This includes 33% women and 9% U.S. underrepresented minorities. 29% of the class also hails from overseas, with the class’s 19 home countries including Bangladesh, Cameroon, Dominican Republic, United Kingdom and Vietnam. Military veterans account for 16% of the class. While Owen is sometimes considered a “southern” school, just 39% of American first-years come from the region.

The class also boasts a 687 average GMAT, with scores ranging from 640-730 in the mid-80% band. Among students taking the GRE, the average scores were 159 (Verbal) and 158 (Quant). As a whole, the class also averaged a 3.5 undergraduate GPA.

Combined, the class graduated from 122 undergraduate institutions. Before starting business school, they had also worked for 48 employers, including Amazon, Johnson & Johnson, Deloitte, PwC, and Ernst & Young.

Next Page: An interview with the admissions director and profiles of 10 members of the Class of 2025.

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