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Real Humans of the Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2019

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The 422 students who make up the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business Class of 2019 are a record-setting bunch. For starters, their average GMAT score was 716, an eight-point jump over last year’s, which was itself a record. But they also set records for their diversity. Forty-three percent of the class is female—3 percent more than last year. And 23 percent are underrepresented minorities. This is a 14-year high for the school and a staggering 13 percent increase over last year, though we should note that this figure includes Asian Americans for the first time. International enrollment, too, was up slightly, with students from outside the United States comprising 34 percent of the incoming class and representing 45 different countries. Here again, the Ross Class of 2019 broke the prior record. Last year, international students drawn from 33 countries made up 31 percent of the class.

As for what they did before Ross, the Class of 2019 is split fairly evenly between economics/business majors, at 36 percent; science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), at 32 percent; and humanities, at 32 percent. In terms of pre-MBA industry, almost one in five (19 percent) came from finance, but the next largest industry group was “other,” at 15 percent. Consulting was 13 percent, military/government was 10 percent, and the remainder of the class brought experience in technology, healthcare, education/non-profit, engineering/manufacturing, consumer goods, retail, and energy, in that order.

As for the Ross they are coming into—it’s $50 million richer thanks to a recent gift from its namesake, real estate developer and alumnus Stephen M. Ross. This latest gift, announced last month, brings Ross’s lifetime giving to the university to $378 million. The newest funds have been earmarked to “support career development programs for students, innovative action-based learning experience such as student-run investment funds and new business ventures, and resources for attracting and developing junior faculty,” the school reports.

In other news, Ross this fall added six new professors, five of them women. Over the last five years, the school has made a point of hiring an equal number of men and women as part of an effort to retain a faculty that is at once centered on excellence and reflective of the school’s own diverse community. This most recent set of hires is the largest group of women to fill tenure and tenure-track positions in the past decade.

While all of this news provides a sense of the diversity and dynamism of the current Ross campus, nothing truly brings it to life better than getting to know the students themselves. So without further ado, let us introduce you to some of the Real Humans of the Ross MBA Class of 2019.

Marquisha “Kris” Franks, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Age: 26

Hometown: Mountville, SC

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Marquisha “Kris” Franks, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Miami, applied mathematics

Pre-MBA Work Experience: Procter & Gamble, category development manager, 2 years; United States Postal Service, mathematical statistician, 2 years

Why business school? Why now? Having worked in two extremely different industries, I felt that I had gathered a great sense of what my transferrable skills were. However, I was less confident about how to use those skills to shape my leadership style. I knew in business school I would receive some of the best leadership training available.

Why Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? I wanted to gain more than an excellent education out of the business school experience. I wanted business school to be transformational. Every student I interacted with at Ross showed me how I could realize that goal.

I talked to students who came to Ross nervous about public speaking but by the end of the program had earned top leadership positions on campus. I watched their classmates cheer them on as they delivered inspired speeches about their journey and the impact they’ve had at Ross. Other students shared how the combination of unique experiences like MAP, student-run venture funds, the Leadership Crisis Challenge, and access to other University of Michigan graduate schools expanded their resumes immensely in just two short years. They were able to successfully show employers how they had truly learned by doing. My conversations with students made me extremely confident that I would leave Ross better than I came.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? I really value mental stewardship. I try to operate in a state of positivity and authenticity every day. So, I hope to help my classmates kill self-doubt and the fear of missing out.

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Moonlighting as a make-up artist for Charlotte Fashion Week

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I absolutely love make-up! I moonlighted as a make-up artist for Charlotte Fashion Week—completing looks for more than 30 models.

Post-MBA career interests? I think that education is one of the biggest forces available to drive social change. Education has been a significant contributor to the positive outcomes I have had in life, and I want others to have the same opportunity. So, after business school I plan to be a part of providing technology and data to consumers that allows them to make educated decisions. I want to accomplish this goal in the healthcare or technology industry.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

  — One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? I would continue to value self-discovery in the application process. I dedicated time before starting my applications to become an authority on me. When I really knew who I was and what was important to me it made essays and interviews so much more authentic. It also helped me make informed and genuine connections with the schools I was evaluating.

  — One thing you would change or do differently? I would take better care of myself during the process. Because I was so busy, it was harder to keep a regular exercise routine and a balanced diet. If I had made personal fitness a bigger priority, I would have been a lot better at stress management.

  — Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? I didn’t naturally enjoy networking. I changed my perspective on it when I realized it was something I could get more comfortable with and better at with practice.

Greatest highlight so far at Ross? The greatest highlight so far has been MTrek. MTrek is a Ross program where second-year MBA students lead incoming first-year students on treks around the world. It was so fun to come back and hear the stories from all my classmates about the different experiences they had internationally.

One thing about Ross that you didn’t expect before arriving? I didn’t expect to learn so much in the first week! I failed at a million things but I succeeded at a lot more. The beautiful thing was that regardless of the outcome I was learning about my classmates, myself, and making an impact on the business world. I owe that experience to the Ross culture. Everyone wants to see you to succeed and is willing to do whatever they can to help.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? I’m anxious about managing my Google calendar. I have totally become a “Let me check my calendar” person. The calendar helps me manage my commitments, but I also have to balance that with the spontaneity that will keep me open to new and fun opportunities.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? I’m the most excited about making lifelong friendships. Getting a full-time MBA is a once in a lifetime experience that I’d love to still be talking about with friends 30 years from now.

Ricky Wozniak, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Ricky Wozniak, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Age: 26

Hometown: Chicago, IL

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Northwestern University, economics and psychology

Pre-MBA Work Experience: 3.5 years, e-commerce retail

Why business school? Why now? I knew business school was the right step for me when I discovered a problem that I am passionate about solving: a lack sustainability in the food system. Approaching this problem, it was clear to me that an MBA would build the skills I need to effectively lead organizations to solve it, building collaborative teams and working across functions to deliver more impactful results. I also saw business school as an incredible opportunity to learn from fellow students and industry leaders addressing similar issues and playing a role in creating a more sustainable and nutritive food value chain.

Why Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? Ross students both embrace and put into action the value of making a positive difference in the world. After attending the Ross admit Welcome Weekend, I knew I found the right community, one full of supportive, energetic, down-to-earth people who are driven to make a unique impact through business.

I was particularly inspired by student groups that contribute to this culture, like Social Venture Fund, the first student-run impact investing fund, in which students invest in innovative, for-profit businesses that place social and environmental impact at the core of their business model.

Speaking with current students also proved that Ross would foster learning in ways that would best prepare me for success after business school. My professional experience taught me the value of learning through doing and building effective teams. At Ross, you have the chance to work in many groups, learning from one another’s perspective and learning how to collaborate across different working styles. From the very start, your groups are engaged in action-based learning, tackling a range of real business problems. Our Multidisciplinary Action Projects (MAPs) are a great example of this: At the end of your first year, you spend seven weeks developing solutions to business problems at leading companies across the globe.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? In groups, I work to create a culture of openness to ideas that I think helps to facilitate discussion and creative camaraderie. I find that my peers value my ability to laugh at, and learn from, bad ideas to find the good ones.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I love to nerd-out about coffee and will happily talk about tasting notes of single-origin beans.

Post-MBA career interests? Contributing toward long-term sustainability goals at food and agribusiness companies.

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Wozniak on his MTrek to Italy.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

  –One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? Spend time connecting with alumni and ask questions that help you assess whether the school they attended will set you up to achieve your short- and long-term personal and professional goals. I asked for examples of how they have supported the personal and career development of their business school peers while at school and as alumni. Joining a community that celebrates and contributes toward one another’s success was of huge importance to me.

  –One thing you would change or do differently? It took me a few drafts before I opened myself to write essays that reflected what makes me unique. Start with deep self-reflection on your life and what excites you about your future—there’s a good chance that will help admissions teams get excited about your future, too.

 –Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? Allocating less time to GMAT studying—it’s important, but it’s also important to just finish and move onto the depth of your application.

Greatest highlight so far at Ross? I have been incredibly impressed by the community’s dedication to actively foster a diverse, equitable, and inclusive school. From a class-wide unity photo after the events in Charleston to a block-long line of students signing up as LGBT Allies during National Coming Out Week, Rossers create the change we want to see in the world.

One thing about Ross that you didn’t expect before arriving? I heard there would be a huge number of groups in which to participate and events to attend, but it’s tough to grasp the sheer amount until you start to fill your calendar. Prioritization is just as important to achieve business school goals as it is to achieve business results.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? Finding a balance, fitting in hobbies, and going to the gym while also achieving my business school growth goals.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? I’m excited to continue building bonds with my peers, supporting each other as we work toward our goals, and celebrating the many wins along the way.

Stef Rubinstein, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Rubinstein with then President Barack Obama

Age: 25

Hometown: Northbrook, IL

Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Michigan, political science

Pre-MBA Work Experience: Most recently, I spent two years at the New York Times as the project manager for NYT Cooking. Before that, I worked at the White House for a year and a half on internal-facing technology in operations.

Why business school? Why now? As a political science undergrad, I thought I’d work in the public sector my whole life. At the Times, I discovered my passion for consumer-facing digital products. I wanted to work in product management, but felt my education and experience up to that point hadn’t provided me with the tools I needed for continued success. I thought business school would help me fill the gaps.

Why Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? For me, Ross’s main differentiator was the community. Most top business programs provide students with excellent educational and professional support, as Ross does. I realized that what mattered most was who I would be surrounding myself with. Support and inclusivity are integral to Ross’s culture. I was looking for classmates who would challenge and better me, not undercut me. In my first few months here, I’ve been so inspired by the passion, brilliance, and humility of my fellow classmates.

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Rubinstein at the January 2017 March for Women in Washington, DC

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? I’ve been fortunate enough to work for two unique organizations. At the White House, I learned operations and technology at a place where everything is mission-critical. At the Times, I contributed to an organization going through tremendous change. I will bring those experiences and a unique perspective to everything I do.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I attended a Pitbull concert on the South Lawn of the White House for the staff Fourth of July party. It was one of the best and weirdest nights of my life.

Post-MBA career interests? I want to work in digital product management on a consumer-facing product that moves society and progressive causes forward.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

 –One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? I was very intentional about where I applied. I chose places because they fit with my values and what I hoped to achieve, not solely for rank or reputation. I never felt like I had to lie or embellish about who I was. I stayed true to myself throughout the entire process.

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Traveling in Iceland

 –One thing you would change or do differently? I wouldn’t have stressed so much about the GMAT! I got so caught up on “being bad at math,” but I actually just lacked confidence in my abilities. I sacrificed everything that kept me sane—cooking, exercise, sleep, yoga—to study. Those sacrifices worked against me; on the real exam, I scored 80 points below my best practice test.

Fortunately, I’d signed up for a second GMAT 16 days later at the advice of a friend. I relaxed and took practice tests over those 16 days and scored 150 points higher on my second exam. Investing in my health and relaxing was the key to a good score, not incessant stress and studying.

 –Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? I wish I could’ve fast forwarded the whole decision waiting period. I was incredibly anxious. I let myself indulge in a limited (or not-so-limited) amount of Clear Admit stalking but tried hard to trust in the process.

Greatest highlight so far at Ross? Ross organizes a 10-day trip called MTrek, which helps you get to know classmates and experience the world. I went to the south of France and Spain and loved my experience. I appreciated the time to decompress after orientation and had a great time, but the best part was the people. I made close friendships and started off my Ross experience with 13 awesome new friends.

One thing about Ross that you didn’t expect before arriving? Everyone tells you that business school is busy, but I did not realize just how crunched for time I’d be. There aren’t enough hours in the day to do everything, so I’ve been learning to prioritize what’s important.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? I did not come to school with so-called traditional business experience, so I’m not used to using phrases like “synergies” or “capital expenditures.” Though I’m beginning to master these concepts, I may have a steeper learning curve than some of my classmates.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? One of my primary goals for business school is to start my own business, and I’m excited to hit the ground running during my first year. Ross offers an abundance of opportunities and support to students pursuing entrepreneurship, and I plan on taking full advantage of those resources.

Chima Mbadugha, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Chima Mbadugha, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Age: 30

Hometown: Lithonia, GA

Undergraduate Institution and Major: University of Georgia, psychology

Pre-MBA Work Experience:  I have seven years of experience in education/non-profit organizations before Ross. Previously, I was a sixth-grade math teacher for two years in Houston, TX, and spent the last five years working in recruitment. Most recently, I was managing director of recruitment for the Mid-Atlantic region at Teach For America.

Why business school? Why now? I reached a point in my career where I changed my focus from simply getting a promotion and moving up the organizational ladder to focusing on skills I wanted to develop to have a larger impact on society. The dreams, aspirations, and legacy I wanted to leave behind could not be fulfilled from the constraints of the organization I was in, so a change was necessary. Over my career I have developed skills from managing teams to creating strategies to achieve goals. However, I’m confident that business frameworks and analytical skills I will develop in business school will accelerate my leadership to another level. Most importantly, I feel business school will help me more effectively leverage my skillset to create change in businesses and communities.

Why Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? My decision to come to Ross came down to three things: 1. International opportunities 2. Experiential Learning/Academics 3. Authenticity. I learn best by doing! I don’t think any other business school has better experiential learning opportunities than Ross. Coming from the education sector, I wanted a safe place to put my newly acquired skills into action as often as possible. Theory, lectures, and cases are constrained to the constructs of a four-wall classroom, but the opportunity to create solutions for a business through the Multidisciplinary Action Project (MAP) was unparalleled. Ross is a safe space to fail forward fast, but to learn and improve quickly! I embrace failures because of the lessons I have learned and aim to never experience the same failure twice.

Secondly, most people discuss the importance of culture, and being in an environment where I could be authentic was really important to me. During my university visits I kept hearing very similar buzzwords of “collaboration” to “community,” but Ross’s differentiating factor for me was its authenticity. Throughout my career one thing all of my managers have allowed me to be was “Me.” I believe when we are truly authentic in our daily lives we give agency, power, and courage for others to do the same. I am at my best when I don’t subscribe to societal norms of operating but rather shift what may be considered normative behavior in a way that lends itself for me to be my true self. Ross was a place where I knew from day one I could spend less time having to worry about how I was perceived and more time thinking about ways that I could step up and lead. Take risks! Grow! Two years is a really short time, and I don’t want to waste a second of it.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? My background in education and recruiting has involved a great deal of tapping into individuals’ motivations and barriers and leveraging them to help achieve transformative results. This is where I get the most energy in relationships. I always think about how I can help my peers achieve their goals. I serve as a capacity builder who is inspired by generating new ways to empower my peers and classmates to tap into their strengths and leverage them for personal growth while remaining authentic to who they are.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I’m a first-generation Nigerian-American with a very big family. I have 60 first cousins!

Post-MBA career interests? I want to leverage the skills I gain from Ross to devise strategies that enable mission-driven companies to tackle their most pressing challenges.

Michigan Ross MBA Class of 2019
Mbadugha deejays at the tailgates for Ross home football games.

 Advice to current prospective applicants:

  –One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? I visited every school I chose to apply to, and it was worth it. You can read beautiful brochures and view as many websites as you want, but if you have a chance to see a school, go! There is an intangible perspective gained by just being in the atmosphere of a place you will potentially call home for the next two years.

  –One thing you would change or do differently? Given that I am a “nontraditional” student, I would have taken more courses online or at community colleges to ramp up my knowledge a bit more before school. I put “nontraditional” in quotation marks, because at a school like Ross with so much diversity in industry backgrounds, I don’t believe there is a “traditional” student.

  –Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? Hands down—the GMAT! What helped me get through it was acknowledging I have faced bigger challenges in my life than a test. Additionally, as a former teacher, I spent so much time inspiring my students to defy what they thought was not possible. Preparation and confidence will beat a test any day. Create a plan, stick to it, create an error log, hone in on weaknesses, and lastly remember it is just a test. It’s the first one of many you will take over the next two years.

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Mbadugha shows Ross pride at Bali temple.

Greatest highlight so far at Ross? Before classes started I took a 10-day trip to Bali, Indonesia, with 15 peers during our MTrek (pre-orientation trip). While there, we visited temples, waterfalls, and I even snorkeled for the first time. The coral reefs I saw were absolutely breathtaking. If I told myself a year ago I was going to Bali, I likely would have called myself a liar. I am already selecting my next international opportunity through Ross to top that!

One thing about Ross that you didn’t expect before arriving? At Ross you hear so much about the culture, community, and experiential opportunities. However, it is also academically rigorous, and adjusting to the pace of school after being out for seven years was a bit challenging.

 Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? “Winter is coming!” I have lived in the south my entire life. I spent the last seven years in Houston, where it never snowed. The thought of a true winter actually gives me a bit of anxiety.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? Change and growth! We’ve only been in school for three weeks, but I have felt extremely challenged in a good way. The core classes have given me a new perspective on businesses, and as a newly selected member of the Social Venture Fund (SVF), I will spend the next year evaluating how for-profit enterprises balance the dynamics of profit and impact, specifically in the education sector to explore whether or not to invest. I look forward to the opportunity to invest real money to positively impact a business!

Gunjan Jain, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Gunjan Jain, Ross MBA Class of 2019

Age: 26

Hometown: Dehradun, India

Undergraduate Institution and Major: Lady Shri Ram College, Delhi University, economics (honors)

Pre-MBA Work Experience: 5 years of experience in strategy consulting at Bain & Company

Why business school? Why now? As a consultant, I gained extensive experience in solving business problems while leading a team. As my next step, I wanted to build on two key skills to be able to assume leadership positions in a global marketplace: cross-functional and cross-cultural skills. Business school provided the perfect environment for this. You not only learn from professors and meticulously crafted courses, but also from an excellent community hailing from all over the world and with backgrounds ranging from veterans to bankers.

Why Ross? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend? I believe that each school has a personality of its own and Ross was the best fit for mine. The focus on action-based learning really resonated with me since most of what I learn and retain is a result of my own experience. This is facilitated by a collaborative culture where people are committed to your success. My interactions with Ross students and alumni were far more friendly and helpful in comparison to other schools, with many people going out of their way to guide me. In addition, I wanted to live in a university town to get the opportunity of interacting with students from multiple fields; with UMich’s reputation across disciplines, it was the obvious choice for me.

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Jain in a traditional Indian saree.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2019? This is a difficult question to answer, given how amazing my classmates are! I believe that my most valuable contribution to the class would be my ability to understand business through the lens of various industries and capabilities, owing to my rich work experience. This enables me to help other students coming from non-business backgrounds build a strategic point of view in a structured manner.

Fun fact that didn’t get included on your application? I am a passionate dancer and am trained in five dance forms, both Indian and Western. I gave my first solo on-stage performance at the age 4 and have performed more than 50 times since. One of my best experiences was organizing a summer dance school where I taught kids aged 3 to 10.

Post-MBA career interests? Technology changes the way the world works and holds the power to solve some of the most pressing social and environmental challenges. I want to be instrumental in bringing technology to consumers by facilitating development and business strategy.

Advice to current prospective applicants:

  –One thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process? Frequent self-reflection to look at the big picture. This is something that you miss in the fast-paced routine, and applications really make you think. The essays made me reflect on my life, my decisions, and my accomplishments. When I connected these dots across my 26 years of lifetime, certain prominent patterns emerged speaking about me and my interests, which I wasn’t consciously aware of. This exercise enabled me to identify real personal and career goals by basing them on what had driven my happiness in the past. Self-reflection is vital to strive for success the way you define it, hence now I do it more often.

  –One thing you would change or do differently? Start early! I started the process after the first round was long gone, something that I would not recommend. Starting early eases the pressure, gives you more attempts and a buffer in case you want to retake the GMAT—I had none of these luxuries, which made the process quite strenuous for me to manage, especially with work.

  –Part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it? I would have skipped thinking about the process and my essays without creating concrete results. The application process has many steps to it, hence it is important to start once you have a rough idea of the things to be done. When it comes to essays, I realized that just thinking about my story and trying to refine it in my mind was not helpful. Drafting your story on paper lends clarity and helps you identify gaps. It also serves as a ready framework for essays, making the whole process a lot easier.

Ross MBA Class of 2019
Jain performing Odissi live.

Greatest highlight so far at Ross? Our orientation was organized in the state-of-the-art Robertson Auditorium with the full Class of 2019 looking over the stage where Dean DeRue stole the show. I was mesmerized and hoped to be on the same stage someday. Ten days into the program and I was there with my team, representing my section for the Impact Challenge. To top it off, we won! The journey to the stage was a highlight in itself. This was my first (much-anticipated) experience at Ross, and it clearly exceeded my expectations. I could not have imagined that working on a single project with a team of 30 people with different backgrounds could be that smooth. Working with local entrepreneurs to help develop community-focused business models introduced me to the local community, and it was interesting to see how different the social issues of the developed world were from those in the developing countries.

One thing about Ross that you didn’t expect before arriving? I didn’t expect the transition to be as smooth as it turned out to be. Ross does a great job at bringing current, previous, and prospective students together. Hence, even though I am an international student, I did not arrive in a completely unknown place. The people I had connected with earlier voluntarily helped me to settle in. School started with a bunch of group exercises through which I got to know a lot of people before classes began in full swing.

Thing you are most anxious about in your first year? The winter! I have heard horror stories and am already terrified of the 10-minute journey to school for a morning class in the snow. My local friends are teaching me the art of layering and wearing the right coat according to the weather—it will hopefully help me survive.

Thing you are most excited about in your first year? The fall! Fall is very different in the United States in comparison to India—here the leaves change color to beautiful shades of red and yellow, and the weather is great, too. I love the sight of trees shedding colorful leaves and the sound of them crackling as I walk. It also makes me feel better because I know that winter is not here yet.