Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class Of 2025

Owen MBA students in front of Nashville skyline

A BUSINESS MECCA

Beyond campus, MBAs can tap into a growing business ecosystem. The area boasts 10 Fortune 500 companies, including FedEx, HCA Healthcare, Dollar General, International Paper, AutoZone, and Estman Chemical. That doesn’t count the presence of name organizations like iHeart Radio, Cracker Barrel, Nissan North America, and Bridgestone. Amazon also maintains roughly 3,000 employees in its Nashville Yards hub. Despite employing 700 professionals in Nashville, Oracle is increasingly moving towards making the city its international headquarters, spending over $275 million dollars on River North land over the past three years.

While Nashville is synonymous with country music, it is a stand out in the healthcare industry. The city has been described as the “healthcare capital of the US.” In fact, 900 healthcare companies and 400 professional services firms supporting healthcare are based in Middle Tennessee. This accounts for over 360,000 jobs. More to the point, Nashville is home to 18 publicly-traded healthcare firm that employ a half-million people worldwide and produce nearly $100 billion dollars annually. To put it another way, Nashville firms manage over 50% of public hospital beds in the United States. And that doesn’t count the Vanderbilt Medical Center – just a half mile from Owen – which ranks among the world’s top teaching and pediatric hospitals in the world, generating over three million patient visits per year.

Not surprisingly, Owen’s Healthcare concentration is highly popular among MBAs. That includes Masala KeAnne Thomas, who completed a Healthcare Immersion during the fall. “I was able to meet so many amazing healthcare leaders within Nashville, and I got to sit it on a surgery within the hospital. It was a lifelong dream of mine to be a doctor within an operating room.”

Beyond business, Nayab Liaqat recommends Centennial Park, which includes everything from the Classical Greek-inspired Parthenon to wartime weaponry. And the park even earned a mention in one of Taylor Swift’s songs! Naturally, Brianna Dacey hypes the live music scene – and Ifeloluwa Adefolaju does the same for the food scene. For Simran Shroff, Nashville balances the best of two worlds.

“My favorite aspect of Nashville has been its dynamic blend of a friendly small city vibe and the vibrant energy of a larger metropolis. The music scene is undoubtedly a standout, contributing to the city’s lively atmosphere. Exploring different neighborhoods has been a highlight, with Broadway offering a distinct experience compared to the trendy vibes of the Gulch. It’s the perfect mix – the warmth of a small city coupled with the endless opportunities and excitement that come with a bigger urban setting.”

Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management

MOLDING LEADERS

At the program level, the Class of 2025 fetes Owen for its supportive ethos, a nod to its “competitive, not cutthroat” mantra. At the same time, Owen is known for bringing Southern Hospitality to the fore. It is a place where classmates don’t just know each other’s names, but also their stories and ambitions. For Megan Manno, this dynamic stems from Owen’s relatively small class size.

“With 160 students comprising the Class of 2025, we have been able to bond and to get to know about each other beyond name, hometown, and career aspirations. Given the class size, course sections are smaller, which allows for strong engagement. Yet, balancing the smaller overall class size are countless opportunities for both professional and personal growth supported by passionate faculty, dedicated staff, and involved alumni.”

Owen is also renowned for its two-year Leadership Development Program (LDP). Operated in partnership with Korn-Ferry and Hogan Associates, the LDP operates like a corporate executive development program. Starting with a personal assessment, the program provides group activities, individual reflection, and one-on-one coaching from seasoned executive coaches. Customized to each student’s needs – with 9-in-10 Owen MBAs participating in the program – the LDL enables MBAs to gain self-awareness. In the process, they can adapt their communication and leadership styles and develop an effective executive presence. Even more, the program trains students on some of the most difficult scenarios in business, such as giving feedback and leading diverse teams.

“As my leadership skills development was one of my main goals with the MBA, being part of a personalized program that mapped my critical aspects to be improved with the assistance of renowned coaches of the market bringing a realistic opinion about how to approach my weaknesses was fundamental for my professional growth,” says Rafael Braga.

Vanderbilt MBAs Learn about Clubs and Organizations

THE MOD SQUAD

Another popular wrinkle in the Owen MBA: The “Mod” structure. Rather than taking semester-long courses, the courses are divided into quarters. As a result, students can study more topics over their two years.

“The coursework is extremely in-depth despite the shorter course durations, giving you a solid learning experience,” explains Simran Shroff. “Together with the strong community, the unique academic structure makes the MBA program at Owen truly special!”

It’s not just the structure that makes Owen special. In a 2023 MBA student survey conducted by The Princeton Review, Owen earned the 2nd-highest marks for the quality of its faculty and the family friendliness of its program (ranking 6th for its campus environment and consulting programming). Fast forward to 2024 and Owen continues to earn high marks where it matters. In the 2024 Financial Times survey of MBA graduates and students, Vanderbilt Owen produced the 15th-highest score worldwide for the quality of its alumni and 21st for the effectiveness of its career center. The school also climbed 7 spots to 20th in the 2024-2025 U.S. News MBA ranking. On top of that, overall starting pay increased from $166,435 to $180,860 for the Class of 2023. However, the biggest news came in April, when Owen announced that it would open a campus in downtown West Palm Beach, Florida. Call it a game-changer for Florida, the country’s third-largest state, which only has one Top 50 full-time MBA program (and one that only houses roughly 120 students between its first- and second-year cohorts). It is also an ambitious project for Owen, which expects to enroll 1,000 at its satellite campus.

AN INTERVIEW WITH THE MBA ADMISSIONS DIRECTOR

What else is on the docket at Owen? Earlier this year, P&Q reached out to Bailey McChesney, Director of MBA Admissions at Owen. Here are some new developments happening at the program, along with a look at its sustainability, leadership, and STEM programming.

Bailey McChesney, Vanderbilt Owen Director of MBA Admissions. Vanderbilt photo

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?

McChesney: “The year 2023 marked two milestones for Vanderbilt Business with the opening of our newly renovated building in the heart of Nashville, Tennessee, and a new Dean, Tom Steenburgh. The new Management Hall was intentionally designed to bring the community together through learning and gathering spaces, including Café 96, a coffee shop right inside the front door. We sit in an area of Nashville called Midtown and have created a space where academics and business collide, aligning with the goals of the school.

We were thrilled to welcome Dean Tom Steenburgh in July. Tom came to us from the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, where he served as the Richard S. Reynolds Professor and Senior Associate Dean of the Full-Time Program. At Vanderbilt, he plans to develop stronger connections with the Nashville community, through leveraging strengths in entrepreneurship and health care. He also intends to elevate the student experience and Vanderbilt Business brand. We are excited about the momentum Tom brings and are looking forward to seeing what’s next for Vanderbilt Business.”

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

McChesney: “Pursuing an MBA is one of the most transformative experiences a student can have, but also one of the most grueling and intense two years students go through to achieve their goals. Having every resource for success is crucial – world class faculty and dynamic classrooms, life-changing career opportunities, immersive experiences and surroundings, and faculty, staff and peers that care about your success. The Vanderbilt MBA program has all of those things, but what differentiates us is that our small size, extremely close-knit community and incredible setting in Nashville, Tennessee mean that all of those resources are readily accessible and the people behind them all know your name. Within a one-minute walk in our building, a student could see their Leadership Coach, Career Coach, Academic Advisor and professors, and will walk by dozens of their classmates gathering together. Our community cares deeply about not only the outcomes students achieve, but their experience and growth in the program, and success well beyond business school.”

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?

McChesney: “The Vanderbilt MBA curriculum is customizable, providing students with the flexibility to select coursework through concentrations, specializations and emphases, that will build their skill set and help them achieve their career goals. We offer a sustainability and social impact emphasis as part of our curriculum allowing students to supplement their traditional management coursework with courses like Corporate Strategies for Environmental, Social and Governmental Issues, Law & Business of Climate Change, and The Future of Energy Markets in a Low Carbon Economy. These courses equip students with the knowledge and skills to navigate complex environmental and social challenges in their future organizations.”

Vanderbilt Owen students taking notes in a marketing class

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?

McChesney: “Leadership development is well integrated into the entire Vanderbilt MBA business school experience through coursework, extracurricular activities and our Leadership Development Program. Leadership curriculum like the Leading Teams in Organizations, Leading Change and Managing Organizational Effectiveness courses are supported by initiatives outside the classroom. Through the Leadership Development Program, students have access to executive-level quality resources, with individual tailoring and a flexible design. Our program incorporates resources like the Hogan Assessment, a top leadership development organization used by Fortune 500 companies, into an individualized design that meets students where they are. We are also intentional about providing students with the tools and skills they need to leverage the leadership skills they develop within the program for career-long application, making them more competitive in the marketplace.”

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?

McChesney: “Over the past few years, we’ve continued to focus on integrating these crucial areas into our MBA curriculum. In addition to recently introducing a STEM-certified marketing concentration, Consumer Psychology and Marketing Analytics, we also have several new course offerings to support student learning in these areas. “Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Business” provides an overview of the role of AI in business transformation from a managerial perspective. “Machine Learning in Business,” helps students understand how machine learning and AI are transforming business strategy and models and discover how various AI technologies are changing business strategy and business models. Outside of courses, our Career Management Center offered to two AI workshops this fall, and our Walker Management Library offers programming on leveraging data visualization tools like Tableau. By incorporating AI, STEM, analytics, and digital disruption-focused content into our course offerings and resources, students can gain a comprehensive understanding of how these areas can enhance strategic planning and decision making, and optimize operations and innovation in their post-MBA careers.”

Owen team working together during Brandweek

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

McChesney: “Our students consistently look for ways to bring the Vanderbilt Business community together, and Cosmopolitan Week is the perfect example of that initiative. The event is an opportunity to use food, stories and learnings to share global perspectives. In the past, the week-long event included faculty panels, student spotlights, and informal chat sessions to broaden the community’s view of the world. The event culminates in the school’s regular Thursday night social event, Closing Bell, with a big celebration of different cultures. We are looking forward to next year’s Cosmopolitan Week in January.

P&Q: What have your employers told you are the two biggest strengths of your graduates and how does your programming bolster these differentiators?

McChesney: “What we hear over and over from employers and our alumni who recruit Owen students is that they are humble leaders, excellent at collaborating with others and contributing to and leading high-functioning teams. We also hear feedback that our students are highly adaptable to change. The size of our program and the accessibility of resources translates to numerous opportunities for students to take on leadership roles, and put into action what they’re learning in our high-touch Leadership Development Program and the classroom. A hallmark of our program is a community that’s “competitive, not cutthroat” and we see that play out in how our students support and empower each other, and how they then become alums who treat others in the same way.”

MBA Student Hometown Undergraduate Alma Mater Last Employer
Ifeloluwa Adefolaju Esa-oke, Nigeria Obafemi Awolowo University (O.A.U.) Pharmasymbiosis Limited
Rafael Braga Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Pontificia Universidade Catolica do Rio de Janeiro Clubbi
Logan Burchett Shelbyville, TN U.S. Naval Academy U.S. Navy
Brianna Dacey Ocean Grove, NJ Lafayette College Wilmington Trust
Eddie Hole Newport, RI Endicott College U.S. Army
Nayab Liaqat Islamabad, Pakistan National College of Arts Growth Levers
Megan Manno Houma, LA Louisiana State University Oracle
Robert Rickard Austin, TX Texas Tech University Emerson Electric
Simran Shroff Mumbai, India University of Mumbai Nykaa
Masala KeAnne Thomas Oklahoma City, OK NA Chloeta LLC

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.