Erica Amatori has always beaten the odds. Born with APD, a disorder where children struggle with processing auditory information, Amatori was told that she might never graduate from high school. But the naysayers could never imagine her steadfast and inventive spirit. By high school, Amatori was already running her own eCommerce site. At the College of William and Mary, she became a nationally-ranked conference champion in cross country. In the process, she launched (and sold) a cloud-based startup, published music on iTunes, and even skydived over Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Oh…and she earned her school’s highest award – the Anderson Memorial Scholarship – for her academic excellence, campus leadership, and impact in the local community. Come spring, this marketing and psychology major will earn her degree, with the dream of someday becoming an angel investor.
Amatori isn’t the only business major to dream big and make a difference. Penn State’s Katie Mailey has spent the past year overseeing the THON Dance Marathon, the world’s largest student-run philanthropy initiative which last year required 15,000 volunteers and ultimately raised over $13 million dollars to fight childhood cancer. Indiana University’s Ashley Martinez, founded a community service organization that logged over 25,000 volunteer hours when she was in high school – and is still thriving today. And the University of Illinois’ Alison McAuliffe had to miss a few classes so she could open the first Chamber of Commerce in Nicaragua.
These are just four stories from Poets&Quants’ new feature on the most decorated business majors from the Class of 2016. This fall, we reached out to the top undergraduate business programs to share those seniors who reflected the best of their school in terms of “academic performance, extracurricular leadership, personal character, and innate potential.” Based on the students selected by administrators and faculty, the business world can expect a wave of highly gifted, value-driven disruptors to enter their ranks shortly.
A CLASS OF VOLUNTEERS, MENTORS, LEADERS…AND A HIP HOP ARTIST
As you’d expect, these business majors shine in the classroom, notching scholarships and consistently landing on the respective dean’s lists. Some, like Boston University’s Jose de la Puente, take it a step further by acting as research and teaching assistants for their professors. But it is their involvement on campus that makes them so special. This year’s best-and-brightest are prolific volunteers like USC’s Murali Joshi, the unsung heroes who manage the dirty, dizzying details so others can thrive. They follow the example of the University of Illinois’ Monica Chen, who is driven to tutor and mentor her peers. They are trusted ambassadors like the University of California-Berkeley’s Jessica Mersten, who personify the spirit of the school to potential students. Like the University of Wisconsin’s Vanessa Mariscal, they apply classroom lessons by running fund-raising campaigns, clubs, student government, residence halls, and orientations. Or, they journey overseas like SMU’s Sabrina Janski to teach reading over their spring breaks. Indeed, they are praised by faculty and administrators alike for their “poise,” “passion,” “self-awareness,” “empathy,” and “warmth.” In practicing servant leadership, they are recognized by their peers as the go-to people on campus.
Forget the suit-swagging, suitcase-swinging Alex Keaton caricatures of yesteryear. These top business majors defy any easy classification. Penn State’s Malik Elarbi, who’ll be joining Amazon after graduation, writes and produces his own hip hop music that he posts on YouTube. Wake Forest’s Ryan Janvion plays a mean tenor saxophone – and captains his football team. Georgia Tech is represented by Nick Cardamone, a future Google staffer who backpacked solo across eight European nations and trains police officers on urban horseback riding. New York University’s Teri Tan recently walked the runway at New York Fashion Week. USC’s Larissa Purnell plays a ukulele. The University of Virginia’s Ben Cunningham once had Jennifer Lawrence as a camp counselor (archery, anyone?). Notre Dame’s Ethan Muehlstein won a national championship in wool judging in high school. And Carnegie Mellon’s Rachel Fowler once broke a karate studio record for delivering kicks without putting her leg down – as a first grader.
And their early business prospects are equally promising. Blake Chasen, a basketball-playing novelist at Carnegie Mellon, has already received $25,000 in seed money for his startup (flagtag) from AlphaLab, a leading accelerator in Pittsburgh. The University of Texas’ Chirag Agrawal has developed a NBA contract exchange to freshen up fantasy sports. At the same time, many of the best-and-brightest business majors have already landed jobs at the most prestigious brands. Emory’s Brandon Walker interned at Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and Google before choosing the Boston Consulting Group. Thanks to her management consulting work with area grocers and non-profits, Boston College’s Marissa Giannetto landed a position with Deloitte. After graduation, Cornell’s Alex Muchoki will cross the pond to work in Goldman Sachs’ London operation. Looking for brains? Check out Indiana University Jalen Walker, who interned at both NASA and McKinsey (ultimately choosing the latter). And Notre Dame’s Cristina and Carolina Gutierrez – yes, twins – will both be joining Bain as associate consultants in Chicago branch after graduation.
STUDENTS DRIVEN TO BUSINESS BY DESIRE TO MAKE AN IMPACT
For many 2016 graduates, their business degree will be the culmination of a long journey. Some were tempted to become engineers, teachers, writers, actors, or (gasp!) law students. And they would’ve been successful regardless of their major. For some, like Georgetown’s Sarah Long, the decision to major in business came from an epiphany. “While I loved doing the actual community service work,” she writes, “I realized that I could do more good through data-driven decision-making and organizational leadership.” For others, such as Ohio State’s Amjed Osman, it was a deeply personal mission. “I knew I wanted to major in business,” Osman confesses, “when my father told me that he did not know anything about retirement and that no one in his family or my mother’s family knew how to invest or manage their own money.” Others developed a taste for business from mowing lawns and selling candy bars as kids. For a few students, like Brigham Young University’s Tanner Stutz, majoring in business became a necessity. “I fainted while giving blood and thought, “I guess I can’t study medicine, maybe I will enjoy business.”
Beyond these, business also appealed to both these students’ imaginations and idealism. “Business-related majors combine many of the quantitative and qualitative lessons that are offered in a liberal arts curriculum,” writes Emory’s Walker. “I also really enjoy learning from and studying with people that recognize opportunity. Most people can do what they are told; I think business-related fields attract people looking to develop the vision to do more than what is expected.” At the same time, it also offers a practical outlet, adds Georgetown’s Long. “Everything I’ve learned is applicable to opportunities I see in the real world. I never struggle with the question, “So what are you going to do with that?”