100 Best & Brightest Undergraduate Business Majors Of 2024

“Lots of people say they want to cure cancer. But I believe that Jacob Williams can actually do it!”

Call it the ultimate compliment paid by Dr. Matthew Grennan, an Associate Professor at U.C.-Berkeley’s Haas School of Business. In his experience, Jacob Williams, a senior majoring in Business Administration and Molecular & Cell Biology, is a phenom – a graduate destined for big things due to his talent, passion, and potential.

“Jacob is a natural leader –- he has an ability to quickly assess a situation and create solutions that are strategic, inclusive, and effective, uplifting others and catalyzing substantive change,” writes Emma Hayes Daftary, MSW, Assistant Dean of Undergraduate Programs.


Jacob Williams, UC-Berkeley (Haas)

Williams has certainly kept busy during his time at Haas. As a student, he has conducted original cancer immunotherapy research in the DuPage Laboratory and completed internships at the Mayo Clinic, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, Chan Zuckerberg Biohub, and McKinsey & Company. He has collected awards from the National Science Foundation, American Association of Immunologists, and American Society for Microbiology. On campus, he has volunteered as an EMT and a CPR instructor, along with serving in student government. He has even founded a student-run consulting firm, Atlas Strategy Group, to support biotech companies – an effort Williams considers to be his most impactful achievement as a student.

“Serving as co-president for the past year has taught me the power in simply facilitating opportunities for others and the value of community when the culture it’s built within is composed of mutual respect, ambition, and an aspiration to be nothing short of excellent. Every student who has joined has become a leader within our community. From client feedback, they have provided an incredible value-add and asset.”

Long-term, Williams intends to earn an MD-PhD, conduct clinical trials in cancer immunotherapy, and eventually launch a biotech startup. In the meantime, you’ll find him in McKinsey & Company’s New York office after graduation. Here, he’ll continue to draw on the wisdom of his mother – the first person to recognize his immense gifts.

“When I was younger, my mom told me “Jacob, you can be anything you want to be in life, as long as you’re the best at it,” he tells P&Q. “I believe it instilled in me an undying passion and mindset that allows me to be the best version of myself in anything I commit to. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, and why you’re here – it only matters that you relentlessly fight for what you believe in, coupled with a genuine intention to do what’s right.”


Williams is one member of this year’s 100 Best & Brightest Business Majors from Poets&Quants. Now in its ninth year, the Best & Brightest honors seniors whose infectious energy and unrelenting commitment to personal growth represent the best of their cohorts. To compile this list, P&Q invited each of the Top 50 undergraduate business programs to nominate two seniors, with participating schools ranging from the Wharton School to the University of Michigan’s Ross School to USC’s Marshall School. Like previous years, business schools chose their nominees using their own selection process and criteria (though P&Q urged schools to weigh factors like academic excellence and extracurricular leadership). As a whole, women account for 60 members of this year’s Best & Brightest class, including seven students from outside the United States.

You’ll find this year’s class in every corner of campus. They acted as ambassadors, teaching assistants, orientation leaders, and peer coaches. They raised funds for startups, led winning teams in case competitions, lived and studied abroad, and volunteered at food pantries and human societies. They were podcasters, athletes, and Excel ninjas who were voted into the homecourt court, performed in chorales and dance crews, and taught yoga and Pilates. In some cases, they were first generation students. In others, they were tapped by school leaders to serve on advisory committees. After graduation, they’ll start their careers at Microsoft, Goldman Sachs, Bain & Company, and Procter & Gamble – if they aren’t starting a business or entering graduate school. While the Best & Brightest majored in business-related fields, they also delved deeply into areas like fashion design, theology, creative writing, and inequality studies.

Jenny Rodriguez, Marian University (Byrum)

What makes a Best & Brightest student? To start, they were the ones who could always be counted on – the constants who were first to arrive and last to leave. On campus, they didn’t just get involved: they were the leaders who held their communities together. They commanded attention with their confidence and enthusiasm, eventually becoming role models who set the bar and inspired others to be their best. Along the way, they always took time to listen and learn, leaving classmates feeling supported and part of something bigger. Starting classes online at the height of COVID, the Best & Brightest understood they would spend their next four years playing catch up. In response, they never took opportunities or classmates for granted. Even more, they adopted a results-driven mindset. These seniors may have reveled in the journey, but they always watched for the possibilities and never lost sight of the destination. When they set their minds to something, nothing could stop them.


This spirit left an impression on their professors. At Marian University’s Byrum School, Dr. Lori Rumreich marvels at Jenny Rodriguez – a senior she says makes the faculty better “by challenging us to give our best, stay relevant, and laugh at ourselves when we admit that we do not know everything.” Shimul Melwani, the associate dean of undergraduate programs at the University of North Carolina’s Kenan-Flagler School, describes Andy Jin as both a “deep thinker and a proactive doer” – the kind of student who is “so well-read that I sometimes feel like I am talking to a faculty peer.” To Jim Bryan, associate dean of undergraduate programs at Southern Methodist University’s Cox School, Mohan Desai is a walking advertisement for the school

“No matter where he goes after graduation, I want Mohan wearing SMU Cox gear,” says Bryan. “There can be no greater advertisement for SMU Cox’s student body than Mohan Desai. We have been proud to have him as a student, and we will be proud to call him an alumnus.”

Together, the Best & Brightest have been great ambassadors for their business schools – both on campus and beyond. Take the Wharton School’s Xavier Shankle. He was elected as student body president at the University of Pennsylvania, where he represented 10,000 undergraduate students. Hult International Business School’s Tom Kinast organized four TEDx events that sold out and attracted speakers such as the Head of UN Women UK. At the same time, he won multiple awards from the Model United Nations for his “exceptional debating, public speaking, and negotiating skills.” Kinast wasn’t alone in collecting awards, Marian University’s Jenny Rodriguez led her team to top three finishes in the National Team Selling Competition, Amazon Prime Student Case Competition, and the Wall Street Journal Case Competition. Similarly, Paige Parsons earned the MVP Award at the National Team Selling Competition.

“This award was given to the individual who had stood out against the student competitors in their ability to establish rapport, overcome objections, and lead their team in the competition,” writes the University of Richmond senior who’ll be joining Johnson & Johnson’s sales training rotation after graduation. “I have always aspired to move into upper management in my professional career, and this award reinforced my passion and ability to lead others while being a team player.”


Elizabeth Vaughn, Villanova University

…and balance a heavy workload and a variety of activities too.  At the University of South Carolina’s Darla Moore School of Business, Jordan Fowler co-founded four businesses, including a hedge fund, entertainment company, consulting firm, and online women’s clothing platform. Texas A&M’s Isaiah Thomas, a philosophy minor ticketed to the Boston Consulting Group, founded the Aggie Venture Fund…when he wasn’t busy studying abroad in Southern Africa, completing Harvard Business School’s Summer Venture in Management program, or being a cast member in Amazon Prime’s The College Tour. Not only was Elizabeth Vaughn part of Villanova University’s champion cross country and outdoor track teams, but she also mentored over 30 women pursuing finance careers. On top of that, Vaughn served as the student representative to the OPUS Prize Oversight Committee, which doles out $1.2 million dollars in humanitarian prizes each year.

Wondering which student had the most on his plate? Think Binghamton University’s Daniel Croce. He served on seven student boards – not counting being the CFO, VP, or Director in six more student organizations. Add to that, he founded a business assistance group, worked as a consultant, and completed six internships!  Maitri Ajmera enjoyed five internships at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School, including stints with Microsoft, Lazard, and Ernst & Young. The University of Michigan’s Nicole Lopez spent time as a constituent services director and legislative aide in the Michigan State House of Representatives, while Matthew Hovelsrud worked for U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar as a Congressional intern. At Northeastern University, Samantha Davidson turned to LinkedIn to find alumni members who could help her with the program’s required co-op. In the process of conducting informational interviews, she developed a side hustle.

“I created my own Marketing Lead position with local Boston entrepreneur Mark Ostow,” Davidson tells P&Q. During co-op at his two cafes—Café Zing and Kickstand Café—and photography studio, I identified and created business opportunities based on market analysis, designed marketing materials, built an original company website, printed postcards, and more. While on co-op, I established my own marketing consultant firm with three real-world clients and over 100k views on social media so far.”


The Class of 2024 also possesses a certain talent for building up their campus clubs and communities. As the philanthropy director for her sorority, Georgia Tech’s Kalieann Wetherington raised $39,000 to support the Ronald McDonald House Charities through a silent auction and 5K run. Atharva Mhatre headed up the Finance and Investment Club at Boston University’s Questrom School. Here, he boosted club membership by 50%, increased assets under management to $1.1 million dollars, and produced speaking events whose attendance sometimes exceeded 300 students and faculty. At the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce, Manish Dahal became program director for the Creating Assets, Savings, and Hope (CASH) program, which provides free tax preparation for lower income families in the Charlottesville area. For Dahal, delivering these services in his hometown has been a “bittersweet” experience.

Manish Dahal, University of Virginia (McIntire)

“My first year at CASH, I was able to work closely with an immigrant family and help them receive a $16,000 refund,” Dahal explains. “Throughout the process, I was able to hear about their struggles adjusting to a new community and the language. Hearing their stories reminded me of my family’s own hardships when we first moved to the United States from Nepal…While it saddens me that I will eventually have to step down from my role, I’m excited to implement initiatives that will maximize the impact CASH volunteers have on the greater Charlottesville community.”

Andy Jin was elected by classmates to be undergraduate Consulting Club president. After taking the reins, he organized treks to Charlotte and Atlanta to meet with top firms in-person. Later on, he put together a consulting bootcamp featuring 11 consulting firms and attracting 250 students. For the past year, Kobe Zagon has served as the president of Tulane University’s Green Bull Group, which provides mentoring to underclassmen aspiring to work in finance. Since he joined, the group has mentored over 50 students, while developing a freshman track and instituting an annual networking trek to New York City. When Amber Lao was told the business school wasn’t the best place to find social impact opportunities, she went to work creating Better Business Week, which she describes as the “annual, student-led, social impact career event” at Cornell University’s Dyson School – an event that includes an alumni panel, networking event, and educational series.

“BBW is heading into its fourth year. For the past three years, I have expanded BBW’s influence across Dyson and mentored new generations of leaders to make BBW a self-sustaining tradition. I’ve worked with students and faculty to form partnerships across the school, integrated the event into the syllabi of Dyson courses, and garnered thousands of dollars in funding to elevate BBW’s visibility and programming. It’s gratifying to hear positive feedback from younger Dyson students who feel inspired to pursue a career in social impact after attending BBW events.”

Of course, not every effort is centered around business. Exhibit A: Sarah Ackels, who rolled out Georgetown University’s Survivor Club. “After my friends and I felt discouraged by some of the competitive academic clubs on campus, we decided to start a club that was all about inclusivity and fun,” Ackels shares. “We brought our shared interest in the CBS show Survivor to life by founding the Survivor: Georgetown club. Georgetown students are now on their 4th season of participating in Survivor play, gathering for watch parties, and connecting with other campuses’ Survivor clubs. It is so rewarding to have a vision for something and see it come to life.”

Go to Pages 3-4 for 100 in-depth profiles of the 2024 Best & Brightest Business Majors

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