The Best & Brightest EMBAs Of The Class Of 2016

best & brightest 2016

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Dunbar was a major contributor to the UCLA community outside business school, too. Last summer, he founded The ETHOS Project, a student-led social enterprise designed to reduce sexual assaults on campus. The project has since spread to other campuses. It is a project close to Dunbar’s heart; he has four daughters, the eldest of whom recently turned 13.

“The biggest lesson I gained from business school is to follow your passion in work and business and to ‘do what moves you’,” Dunbar tells Poets&Quants. “Business school has emboldened me to make career-changing decisions with confidence and a great deal of personal gratification. I will be retiring from the military soon and continuing my life of service in the social responsibility enterprise sector and the life learning experiences garnered from business school have been nothing less than life-altering.”


MIT’s Abeel Mangi’s resume is equally impressive. An associate professor of cardiac surgery at the Yale University School of Medicine, Mangi has performed over 2,500 heart surgeries and ranks in the 90th percentile of cardiac surgeons globally. He has pioneered several surgical techniques and manages a team of 60 and a budget of $30 million between two of his programs. Not to mention, his research has been published in peer-reviewed outlets like Circulation and The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. But in the case of Mangi, forget the God complex stereotype sometimes attached to surgeons. Like Dunbar, Mangi is revered by classmates and faculty alike for his humility and focus on giving back.

For Mangi himself, the EMBA curriculum was an eye-opener. “I enjoyed learning that teams resolve difficult problems far more effectively than individuals ever can,” he explains to Poets&Quants. “This is a very different mentality from that of a surgeon … I cherished interacting with, and learning from, my peers and classmates. Frankly, I enjoyed learning again.” Mangi’s MIT experience even brought a joyous by-product: two sons born during his time in B-school. “My wife and I figured that what the heck, we are up all night anyway … why not have a couple more babies?!”

In fact, “Why not?” is the mantra for almost every MBA student, young or old. It was undoubtedly a guiding principle for McGill’s Martin Carrier when he pitched Warner Brothers to come to Montreal — and promptly built their video game studio from four to 500 employees. You’ll find that same spirit with Emory’s Isabel Lowell, who launched a clinic for transgender patients during B-school to help the often-underserved population. No doubt, Carrier’s classmate, Louise Richer, said “Why not?” when she enrolled as an MBA after turning 60.


To construct the Best & Brightest list, Poets&Quants reached out to 40 of the highest-ranking EMBA programs in the world. Each was asked to submit two nominations for EMBAs who “epitomize excellence in your program.” As part of the nomination process, selected students answered questions related to their biggest academic and professional accomplishments, along with sharing their favorite courses and professors and the high and low points of their experience. Schools could also include an optional faculty or student recommendation to provide a deeper look into the candidates’ contributions.

Overall, P&Q reviewed 70 submissions from 36 schools, with nominations evaluated on the candidates’ achievements, insightfulness, and distinctiveness. Our mission had three components. First, we wanted to recognize many top EMBAs (and the people who supported them) for their excellence. Second, we hoped to expose future EMBA students to the caliber of colleagues they’ll encounter in programs — along with sharing the big takeaways they gained, which are covered both student profiles and a separate series of articles over the summer. Finally, we wanted to humanize these students, who are often the brightest minds and best leaders in the organizations where they work.


Without a doubt, this year’s class is an unusually gifted and accomplished collection of professionals. While she attended the University of Virginia’s EMBA program, Univision’s Mayra Rocha earned an Emmy for her reporting on 43 missing students in Mexico. At the same time, London Business School’s Jo Buckross nabbed the 2015 International Bank Manager of the Year Award at Lloyds Banking Group. This year, McGill’s Richer was appointed to the Order of Canada after running the revered École nationale de l’humour (National Comedy School) for nearly three decades. Before becoming EMBAs, Cornell’s Salas earned a Civilian Meritorious Medal for her work at the U.S. Africa Command, while Notre Dame’s Ruth Riley won an gold medal in basketball at the 2004 Olympics (to go with two WNBA championships).

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg: USC’s Daniel Tarbutton was once a Marine One helicopter pilot who transported both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. Before taking the reins at Las Vegas’ Nobu Hotel, Arizona State’s Gaman Guadagni oversaw the renovation of 2,500 rooms at the acclaimed Harrah’s Las Vegas. In between classes at the University of Toronto, Adrian Fung was an executive producer and performer on the album Spin Cycle, a mix of hip-hop and classical music that was nominated for a JUNO Award (Canada’s answer to a Grammy). As a Rhodes Scholar, UC-Berkeley’s Mark Gorenflo, a former nuclear submarine commander, once teamed up with Newt Gingrich at an Oxford Union debate. And let’s not forget UCLA’s Linda Liau, a top neurosurgeon who developed the first cellular vaccine for brain cancer. At 19, she had already graduated from Brown University, then sold houses on commission to pay her way through Stanford Medical School. As you can guess, she was debt-free upon graduation.

Others savored more personally satisfying victories. Duke’s Kirsten Castillo and the University of North Carolina’s Ryan Carfley led their long-time family businesses into the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing firms. At Columbia Business School, Andrew Asnes helped author a successful strategic marketing plan for Paul Taylor’s American Modern Dance — where he had launched his career as a performer 25 years earlier. As the seascapes director at Conservation International, Laure Katz, a University of Virginia EMBA, raised $38 million to protect Indonesia’s Bird’s Head Seascape, which she describes as “the single greatest reservoir of marine species on the planet.” And Emory’s Major Patrick Henson, who studied for his MBA alongside his wife Meegan, takes pride in “amazing professional accomplishments” of the members of the platoon he commanded during the Iraq war.

Next Page: Advice From the 2016 Best & Brightest EMBAs (Find 50 Student Profiles on Page 4)