Kaylee Ewing is a survivor.
On the surface, she might not seem like one. At the University of Georgia, Ewing majors in Management Information Systems and Marketing, along with serving as a school ambassador and peer mentor. Outside school, she is the reigning Miss International, a platform she uses to help victims find their voice and heal – just like she did.
Ewing’s story is one of turning ruin into renewal. As a teenager, she endured a sexually abusive relationship with a boyfriend. Ashamed and confused, she hid the events, terrified it might tarnish her reputation and disappoint her parents. Eventually, she came out of the shadows, soon discovering many women had suffered the same abuse. This inspired her to found BRAVE, a nonprofit with a mission of “empowering courageous choices in life-altering events.” Her organization now offers self-defense training, grief workshops, and mentoring. BRAVE has even spread into government, partnering with U.S. Representative Jody Hice on legislation to protect sexual assault victims.
For Ewing, her greatest achievement remains “enduring pain and cultivating it into a passion.” However, her genius stems from turning that passion into an organization – one that brings purpose as much as solace. While she intends to continue building BRAVE, Ewing plans to open a new chapter after graduating this spring: serving as a risk advisory consultant at Dixon Hughes Goodman. For her, business isn’t really about the technical formulas she learned in class. Instead, it is a story – one that requires the courage to commit to choices and improve every day.
100 FEARLESS CHAMPIONS AND GIFTED CATALYSTS
“Business is about connections and relationships. It is about growth and opportunity. Business is a daily challenge and a daily choice to work harder, be smarter, and improve who you and your company were the day before.”
The Class of 2019 has made this same commitment to working and improving. As freshmen, many wondered what they should do and whether they truly belonged. As they prepare to launch their careers, these business majors can look back in awe and how far they’ve come and who they’ve become. Mature beyond their years, these students are difference makers who champion causes and elevate everyone around them. They are fearless forces of nature who refuse to play it safe, always challenging themselves to learn more, do more, and be more. Living the ‘work hard, play hard’ mantra, these tireless go-getters aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and tackle the issues that most shy away from pursuing.
In short, they are role models, the ‘Best & Brightest’ who embody the spirit of their school, demonstrate the possibilities, and set the standard for classes to follow. Since 2016, Poet&Quants has honored 100 of these students who majored in business-related fields. This year, P&Q invited business schools from the top 50 undergraduate business schools in 2018 to submit two students who fit the Best & Brightest profile. Chosen by the schools, these students set themselves apart by their “academic excellence, extracurricular leadership, personal character, innate potential, striking personal narrative, and overall impact on the program.” Overall, 48 of the Top 50 programs submitted representatives for the Best & Brightest, with just the University of Texas and Texas A&M declining to participate.
AUTHORS, ATHLETES AND SO MUCH MORE
What stands out about the Class of 2019? Like classes before them, you’ll find plenty of Best & Brightest who are graduating summa cum laude, chairing committees, organizing events, and playing in rock bands. However, many displayed academic chops more in line with faculty than students. Georgetown University’s Julia Hyman, for one, has already authored a book: Universal Housing: How to Revitalize Cities and Rebuild the American Dream. By the same token, the University of Minnesota’s Lucas Bagno published an article in Brazilian economics in Business Insider…as a freshman! What’s more, several Best & Brightest collaborated with their professors. Take Boston University’s Katherine Cui. She co-authored a Harvard Case with BU and Harvard faculty members that will be studied by undergraduate and graduate students alike. Then again, Dipak Kumar has already tasted rarified academic air. At Wharton, he served as a research assistant for Adam Grant, a New York Times best-selling author.
Outside the classroom, several Best & Brightest excelled in sports. At Carnegie Mellon, Daniel Levine captained the men’s tennis team, where he was a two-time ITA Scholar-Athlete, four-time All-American, and national singles runner-up. Ashley Daniels boasts a similar resume in swimming and diving as an NCAA All-American and Scholar All-American. Her big accomplishment? She was captain of the Emory University team that won its ninth consecutive Division III Championship. Levine and Daniels aren’t alone in filling the athletic center’s trophy case. As Coxswain on the Rowing team, Zoe Bhargava helped the University of California-Berkeley notch a Division I national championship in 2016 – and a second place finish the following year (along with being a Pac-12 All Academic too).
“I have never felt such overwhelming pride and joy as I did in being a part of an effort much bigger than myself,” Bhargava explains. “There is truly something special about being surrounded by a group of women all working together toward one common goal, day after day, sharing highs and lows in an extremely competitive environment, all while sacrificing personal glory for team achievements.”
A CALLING TO SERVE
Sports weren’t the only extracurricular activities where the Best & Brightest devoted their time. At Elon University, Max Pivonka volunteered for the Special Olympics, while his classmate, Tanisha Gupta, focused on teaching area children how to read as part of the university’s Village Project. Instead of crashing the beaches (and bars) of Fort Lauderdale or South Padre, the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Kyle Pandiscio took an “Alternative Spring Break” in New Orleans and El Paso, working on flood recovery and immigration education. For the University of Minnesota’s Simran Mishra, who was named the school’s Student of the Year in 2018, service started with her fellow classmates. She was elected to be the student body president, a job that consumes over 40 hours of her time each week. In this role, Mishra has honed in on student-centered issues like affordability, mental health, and safety to make the college experience better for her classmates. It was a mission deeply rooted in her upbringing.
“When I first immigrated to the U.S. as a young child, I felt displaced and voiceless for years,” she explains. “Developing confidence to advocate for myself took a considerable amount of time. Now, I have the opportunity to advocate for 30,000 students like me, including students who continue to feel displaced and voiceless in our community.”
Mishra isn’t the only 2019 graduate who has come a long way in a short time. At 15, Notre Dame’s Emma Wernecke was already living alone in New York City while training with a professional ballet company. Impressed? Just wait until you meet the University of Georgia’s Chip Chambers, the homeschooler who became homecoming king – and scored in the 100th percentile of the medical school entrance exam. Of course, Jeshua John literally came a long way to make it to California…as in 8,447 miles from his hometown of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Let’s just say he truly paid his dues, eventually becoming a two-time recipient of the Cal Alumni Association’s Leadership Award.
“I worked nine shifts a week at restaurants and bars, saving for two-and-a-half years before enrolling in community college, and eventually gaining admission to my dream school – Berkeley Haas. I am proud of overcoming these life circumstances and continuing to fulfill my life-long commitment to remain compassionate regardless of my own circumstances, never neglecting or forgetting those around me.”
BEST & BRIGHTEST LAUDED BY FACULTY
Not surprisingly, faculty treat many of the Best & Brightest as equals, singing their praises and looking forward to learning what they do next. Larry Chavis, an assistant professor of strategy and entrepreneurship at the University of North Carolina, calls Dylan Brooks a “rock star” – but not in the traditional sense. “My emphasis would be on the term “rock,” Chavis notes. “Dylan is a humble leader that makes other students around him feel valued and part of the team.”
Indeed, faculty were generous in paying out compliments to the Class of 2019. At Indiana University, Simona Stancov is described as “indispensable” by the dean herself! You could call Wake Forest’s Laure Epps the modern day equivalent to E.F. Hutton: “When she finally speaks up, everyone listens.” That includes faculty. Just ask Carl Ackermann, one of Notre Dame’s most decorated professors, about Niko Stjepan Marinovic.
“The questions he asks in and out of class may be the most sophisticated I’ve ever received. And that includes conversations with top academics.”
“I RUN ON COFFEE AND CHAOS”
In their own words, the Best & Brightest are a bit more reserved in how they perceive themselves. Well, sort of. In the world of Erica Hackett, a marketing and management major from the University of Illinois, she is a cross between Parks & Recreation’s Leslie Knope and Brooklyn 99’s Amy Santiago. Ohio State’s Max Wasserman, a U.S. Marine Corps veteran, dreams of becoming “this generation’s Warren Buffet.” In the most Wharton comment ever, Dipak Kumar frames himself as “a blue-collar farmer and political junkie who likes white collar shirts and spreadsheets.”
The class also lives by certain maxims. The University of San Diego’s Becca Lancaster, for example, is “fueled by waffles [and] driven by my need to pay off student loans.” Georgetown’s Julia Hyman follows a specific daily routine: “Get up. Be Awesome! Go to Bed. Repeat.” Looking to bring out the best in Boston College’s Julianna Marandola? Just add pressure. “If I’m not stressed, I’m not happy,” she asserts. Whatever you do, stay out of the way of Miami of Ohio’s Lauren Nobile:
“I run on coffee and chaos.”
Make no mistake: the Class of 2019 has it all. Looking for the craziest hobby? Well, Adam Kershner has everyone beat. “I really enjoy writing syllabi and planning courses in Blackboard,” writes the Babson College business major who is actually teaching a course on the airline industry this spring. “Throughout high school and college, I’ve written several syllabi for fun, and during my time at Babson, I’ve re-designed two of our core undergraduate syllabi. It’s always fun to look at a friend’s syllabus and know that I wrote it.”