The Best & Brightest Business Majors Of 2019

Georgia Tech’s Shane Phillipps


Think that’s obsessive? Across town at Boston College, Isaiah Cyprien struggles with commitment: He can play seven instruments, but can’t stick with any for more than a year! Maybe he could get some tips from Purdue’s Sydney Keenan, who has been a competitive Irish step dancer for 14 years. Speaking of numbers, Christopher Newport’s Elissa Britt has donated her hair three times; Northeastern University’s Mary King has moved 21 times, and the University of Virginia’s Jyotika Chandhoke marched 33 kilometers across the Himalayan Mountains…when she was 14. That’s a long trek, but maybe not as rugged as the one embarked on by the University of Massachusetts-Amherst’s Adriele Almeida. She managed to squeeze all nine seasons of The Office into a three-day binge.

That said, Villanova’s Shivani Vora would probably call Almeida’s milestone child’s play. “I have watched the Friends series over 20 times start to finish and can recite every episode,” she says.

Of course, you won’t find the Best & Brightest lounging around campus much. As a whole, they are a well-spring of endless energy and inspiration, driven to explore, create, and make an impact. Heading up Georgia Tech’s student investment fund, Shane Phillipps outperformed the S&P 500 – a feat that eludes many hedge funds. At Seton Hall, Carolina Weeks presented research alongside Dr. Penina Orenstein at the Decision Sciences Institute Conference. During his internship at Capital One, Washington University’s Andrew Bower went from SQL novice to ninja – and made a name for himself in the process.

“Through a combination of watching online tutorials, reading over past queries, and learning by trial-and-error, I developed proficiency in SQL and created a fraud defense that is expected to save the company more than $1 million annually.”


Many of the class’ biggest achievements took root on campus. At Boston University, Meghana Dwaraka founded 180 Degrees Consulting, which enabled her to serve socially-driven enterprises while mentoring aspiring consultants and social entrepreneurs following in her footsteps. Not to be outdone, the University of Minnesota’s Lucas Bagno was a co-founder of Atland Ventures, which he describes as the “first independent, for-profit student venture capital firm in the country.” The firm has already raised $300,000 – and expects the fund to top a million dollars soon. At the same time, Hannah Ahluwalia started the Empowerment Closet as president of the Women in Business Association. Here, Michigan State students can rent professional clothing in all sizes for 48 hours.

“This enables all students to have an equal opportunity to attend professional events,” Ahluwalia explains. “I truly believe that all Broad students have the business acumen and professional skills that companies are looking for, and the Empowerment Closet serves as a helping hand to students.”

Brigham Young University’s Nika Noun

Alas, just finishing college is a life-changing achievement for some Best & Brightest business majors. That was true for Nika Noun, a Cambodian student who was raised by her 18-year-old sister after her parents left them. Despite her struggles with poverty, Noun justified her sister’s faith in her, ultimately landing a coveted spot in Dell’s two-year rotation. “With so many struggles and challenges focusing in class, I dropped out of school multiple times growing up,” says the Brigham Young University senior. “I never thought I would make it to college. For me, finishing college is a big deal and a significant personal achievement.”


In fact, family often steered the Best & Brightest towards business – they just didn’t know it at the time. In middle school, Tanisha’s Gupta’s allowance came with a catch. The Elon finance major had to track her expenses on Excel! Kyle Pandiscio’s dad taught him the 4 P’s by debating the merits of various television commercials and grocery store packaging. Sure enough, the Massachusetts-Amherst senior majored in marketing. Not surprisingly, Chelsea Racelis’ resourcefulness can be traced back to her mother, who used a tax refund to start a business – one she grew into a million dollar enterprise.

“Her beauty product has been featured on QVC and Rachael Ray and sold at Target and Bed Bath & Beyond,” writes the University of Michigan senior. “Watching my mom run this one-woman show while raising kids has taught me more about business than any case study ever could.”

Andrea Goldstein didn’t receive the pleasure of her grandfather’s company. He passed away a decade before she was born. Despite this, his shadow looms large in this Tulane University marketing major’s life. That’s because he left a legacy – a family culture – that Goldstein attributes to her success. “Growing up, my family constantly reminded me that my grandfather would accept nothing less than perfection in everything that he did” she explains. “I was pushed to challenge myself, set the highest standards, and to never put my name on anything of which I was not proud. I believe that my knowledge of his success, both in business (as the Chief Marketing Officer of Procter and Gamble) and in his family life (where integrity reigned supreme), his legacy has always served as the gold standard in my mind.”

The class was also touched by examples outside their family lives. Cornell University’s Marissa Block was inspired by Duff Goldman, a pastry chef and star of Ace of Cakes. He showed her that she could pair her passion – baking – with a business. For Julia Mahterian, a high school teacher – Deborah Frank – was her source of inspiration. Mahterian still remembers a nugget of wisdom that Frank shared: “There are two types of people in this world: those who go fifty yards and stop because they think they’ve done enough, and those who go the full one hundred yards before stopping.” Maybe that message is why Mahterian never stopped, always lifting up others on her way to Wall Street. Most likely, that message resonated because of how Frank lived, embodying the hundred-yard ethos by teaching through wrenching pain from a third bout with cancer.

“Her example and legacy of being a true hundred-yard person inspire me daily.”

University of San Diego’s Becca Lancaster


Although many Best & Brightest had family ties or direct experience in business, they still encountered surprises in the business school. Northeastern University’s Mary King, for example, didn’t anticipate how appealing the major could be to such a wide swath of personalities. “Whether you are extroverted, introverted, risk-averse, risk-seeking, creative, or quantitative, there’s a niche for you,” she says.

That same flexibility applies to careers, says the University of San Diego’s Evie Blackburn. Her biggest epiphany after four years of business? There’s simply no “clear, concise, and straight forward path” to success. Then again, that was the big appeal of business for Blackburn’s classmate, Becca Lancaster. She didn’t expect the major to be so fun, let alone tap into her creative side…to a point.

“I thought classes were going to be stiff and serious,” she admits. “Instead I was met with professors and peers who pushed me to think outside the box and explore creative alternatives. Except for accounting class. You should not make creative solutions in accounting because you will go to jail.”


Fraud fetters freedom wasn’t the only lesson absorbed by the Class of 2019, of course. For Wharton’s Dipak Kumar, business school hammered home a critical – yet often overlooked – truth. “I learned that facts, data, and evidence matter,” he writes. “One’s opinions need to be grounded in these things, and one’s assumptions need to be tested and not just in a business context but in one’s own life.”

His classmate, Carolina Zuluaga, came away with a far different takeaway. “There is more than one way to solve a problem,” she observes. “No matter the issue…there is no use in getting stuck on a particular solution or way of doing things but instead there is power in tackling a problem from different angles. Ask more questions, play devil’s advocate, or ask for advice. No matter how large the problem may be, the most important part is to keep on trying.”

Never slack. Never surrender. It is this little extra – this passion and grit – that Zane Homsi has found separate the leaders from the moguls from the minions. “Hard work beats talent every single time,” asserts the University of Virginia finance major. “When I reflect on my major and think about the students that did the best in the classroom and professionally, it was almost never the smartest student, but the one who wanted it the most. Business taught me to stay hungry.”

University of Wisconsin Anders Larsen


It taught Andrea Goldstein to be proactive. That is advice she would give to future business students: don’t wait around – create your own luck and make your own breaks. “If you don’t see immediate opportunities for yourself to excel, be a leader, gain new skills, demonstrate your worth—create them,” she writes. “Very rarely in the business world are you going to be handed opportunities for advancement.”

This rebel spirit also infuses the advice of Jerome Smalls, who urges students to shun the status quo. “The typical notions of business as the world once knew them are shifting,” observes the Georgetown University senior. “You no longer need the backing of large scale institutions (both corporations and universities) to validate your credentials. With the current digital age, you have the capacity to create your own signal. Use a business degree to learn the technical and the logistics, but never feel the need to conform. In today’s age, the tradeoff between work and passion does not have to be your reality.”

For students who wonder if business is a good fit, Anders Larsen offers a simple rejoinder: Take that leap of faith and join him. “Do it! Studying business is one of the most transformative experiences you will have,” writes the University of Wisconsin marketing major. “Business teaches you how to think critically, comprehend complexity, and act responsibly.  You learn markets, you learn strategy, and you learn how to be a business leader. After four years, you look back and are left with a sense of awe in all that you accomplished.”





To read in-depth profiles of 100 of the Best & Brightest business majors, go to pages 3-4.

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