LEADERS AT META, STATE FARM, AND MCDONALD’S
The class also holds influential roles in big league companies. Working out of Dubai, IESE Business School’s Cynthia Obioha Marcus leads Meta’s product growth and insights division covering the Middle East and Africa. Deon Johnson has built her career in insurance. While earning her MBA at Purdue University’s Daniels School, she worked as the senior vice president of State Farm’s Property and Casualty underwriting operations – a role that encompassed “business transformation, contact centers, data processing centers, training, and operations strategy.” As a HEC Paris Student, EMILIE AFFRE completed projects with clients ranging from Versace to Jimmy Choo. For her, these efforts were an extension of her luxury career as she pursued an “academic reboot.”
“I’m a luxury fashion senior executive, with a merchandising career at Christian Louboutin, Fendi and Roger Vivier. Throughout my career, I’ve become a footwear expert. I had the opportunity to work for independent maison and experience French luxury with LVMH, Italian luxury with Tod’s group, and American management with Capri holding. After spending the last 3 years at Jimmy Choo Ltd in London as VP of Merchandising, I am now exploring different career paths, including start up advisory roles, academic teaching, and consulting.”
Erica Maddox has quickly climbed the ranks over her seven years at McDonald’s. Starting out as a risk analyst, she was elevated to international corporate relations in 2020 before becoming the senior director of global impact in May – roles that required her to relocate from Chicago and ultimately pursue an Executive MBA at the Cambridge Judge Business School.
“This role involved supporting and advising McDonald’s teams in more than 20 countries, which was not easy to do entirely virtually for nearly two years,” she explains. “I’m incredibly proud that I was able to build strong partnerships, a sense of community across the team, and manage seemingly endless geopolitical crises through a webcam. Now that we’re able to travel again, finally meeting these teams in person has been one of the highlights of my job. I traveled to 15 countries last year, and have another full travel docket in 2023.”
GIVING BACK TO THE MOST VULNERABLE
Renowned medical professionals also gravitated toward executive MBA degrees. Take Catherine Moya Krumenacker of Indiana University’s Kelley School. Tshe works as the Chief Physician Executive at the Eskenazi Health Center and an assistant professor at Indiana University’s Medical School. However, Krumenacker’s original claim to fame was discovering a peptide that targeted brain tumor during a PhD thesis project. At the same time, Emory University’s Daniel Refai – whose trophy case ranges from medical teaching awards to the business school Dean’s List – holds over 50 patents, including a popular spinal implant. Not only is Keoki Williams a practicing physician, but he also runs a research center on Genomic Medicine. On top of that, the University of Chicago Booth MBA is a member of the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service – even earning a spot on the American Society for Clinical Investigation.
When it comes to community service, there are few doctors more committed to paying it forward than Will Giordano-Perez. Homeless as a teenager, Giordano-Perez earned his BA and MD at Brown University – and returned to the program to earn his MBA in partnership with IE Business School. Now Chief Medical Officer at the Tri-County Health Centers, his career has been defined by service, particularly in the LGBTQ+ community.
“He created a non-profit (Operation Happy Birthday) to support other [homeless] teenagers in similar circumstances,” notes Brendan McNally, program director for IE Brown EMBA Program. “After college, he was public health director of an orphanage of 600 children in Haiti under the mentorship of Dr. Paul Farmer; after medical school, he helped develop Laos’ first childhood nutrition institute; in the last six years, he has run two federally qualified health centers in RI where they care for patients of all backgrounds regardless of their identity or ability to pay; and over the last few years, he has focused on HIV prevention and caring for LGBTQ+ individuals as the LGBTQ+ physician-consultant for four Rhode Island public school districts, universities and both for-profit and nonprofit organizations, training on anti-LGBTQ+ bullying and how to create safe and affirming spaces for sexual and gender minority individuals…He truly cares and works to improve healthcare and opportunities for disadvantaged and marginalized communities.”
A STUNT DOUBLE FOR TOM HANKS
Indeed, you’ll find the Best & Brightest emerging from al walks of life. Michigan State’s Alec DeLange is a deacon at an Orthodox Presbyterian Church, while Duke University’s Matthew Lutch serves as a MV-228 instructor pilot for the U.S. Marine Corps. For Sean Vasquez, a graduate of USC’s Marshall School, his career has served a deeper purpose: providing greater opportunities for the Pechanga Tribe, including partnering with Goldman Sachs to boost investment options for the tribe. At the Alabama Power Company, Alexia B. Borden became the first woman – and youngest person – to serve as general counsel.
“Two years into my tenure with the company, I was working as the VP for Governmental Affairs when the General Counsel, a mentor and friend of mine, passed away suddenly,” says the MIT Sloan grad. “Even though I was just 38 years old, my CEO and the Board had faith in my ability to do the job. I gave it my all for almost six years before transitioning to the business side of the company during my last EMBA semester.”
The class also features some mind-blowing stories. Not only is Yale SOM’s Jon Roseman a professional surfer, but he also performed as Tom Hanks’ stunt double in Castaway – including all the water stunts. In his professional life, Roseman runs two resorts on the Fiji Islands. On top of that, he organized the World Surfing Championship’s Fiji leg for two decades – along with being featured by RedBull TV last year for big wave surfing. And Roseman isn’t the only class member to brush up against fame. NYU Stern’s Luis Luy played cribbage with Gerard Butler on a submarine, while Cornell University’s Mike Misch once valeted Bruce Springsteen’s “beat-up” Ford Explorer. When Kunal Khatri was 10, he appeared on a television drama. And he may have grounds for a potential lawsuit: his parents turned down a starting role on another series and didn’t tell him until he was 21!
While many Best & Brightest have interacted with celebrities, MIT Sloan’s Philip Rigueur is actually married to one! “My wife [Leah Wright Rigueur] is way cooler than I am – She’s a renowned scholar, author, keynote speaker, and an ABC News Contributor. She was just named 2023 Podcast Host of the Year by the Ambies and the Webbys.”
The Class of 2023 also excelled in athletics and the arts. Before embracing entrepreneurship, Mark Finch worked as a lifeguard in his native New Zealand. Not just any lifeguard – he was the guy who jumped out of rescue helicopters into the all-powerful and unpredictable surf. Over 20 years, Finch says, he has saved over 200 lives too. Emiko FitzGerald has carved out a niche for herself as a commentator for college, pro, and international ultimate disc competitions. Will Giordano-Perez was a competitive ballroom dancer, while Indiana University’s Satchi Hiremath rides Arabian horses in “English Hunting Saddie style” in his spare time. At the same time, HEC Paris’ Birame NDIAYE is both a poet and a quant. Not only did he play professional basketball to help pay for his mechanical engineering degrees, but he also performed Mandarin songs in front of 1,200 people in China.
And how is this for a late bloomer story? “I didn’t follow the traditional path out of high school and instead pursued a career in the arts (ballet, to be specific) before transitioning into healthcare administration,” explains the University of Georgia’s Joshua Lewis. “As a result, I didn’t obtain my undergraduate degree until I was 35, 8 months before starting the executive MBA program.”
“YOU HAVE TO LEARN TO DO HARD THINGS”
The class has also collected several honors over their careers. Ryan Elbert, a Cambridge Judge EMBA, has been listed among the Top 10 Young Australian Business Leaders, Top 30 Under 30 Entrepreneurs of Australia, and as the CEO of a “Top 100 Coolest Companies In Australia to Work For.” Cornell University’s Matthew Lobach made the Philadelphia Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” awardees. Last year, Acacia Reed, COO of the LA Care Health Plan, was named a California Black Women’s Collective Trailblazer Corporate Awardee while she was studying at USC Marshall. Two years earlier, INSEAD’s Ola Osoka was voted Woman of the Year in Solar by the Africa Solar Industry Association.
“I took a wide pivot with no reference point from being a commercial lawyer in one of the leading law firms in Nigeria to being a pioneer member of a team building a start up in renewables at a time where renewables were niche in Nigeria,” Osoka explains. “I am proud that I had the courage to take this step and each step after that, transitioning from law and rolling up my sleeves to learn and eventually becoming the Chief Executive Officer for West Africa. In this role, I oversaw the expansion of the business from Nigeria into Ghana, Togo, Côte d’Ivoire, and Senegal, culminating in an acquisition by Shell.”
When the Best & Brightest EMBA arrived on campus, you could say their classes weren’t the usual lecture marathons, replete with cramped hands and beaten brains. Exhibit A: The Razor’s Edge leadership course at Brigham Young University’s Marriott School. Here, MBAs are sent out into the Moab, home to picturesque red stone spires and arches, for outdoor endurance activities. Sure enough, Brittany Davies crashed her mountain bike into a ravine on day one. Despite the bruises and blood, Davies made it past the same ravine on day two – a lesson in grit that Davies passed onto her nine-year-old son when he asked about all the bumps and scratches.
“I explained to him that I’d just come home from a school trip where I went mountain biking, canyoneering, and water rafting. I showed him pictures of the giant arch that we repelled from and proudly lifted my leggings to show him the gnarly bruises from the mountain biking accident. He was shocked and said, “Mom why would you do those things?” My response was, “Because sometimes in life you have to learn to do hard things.” This statement has become a mantra for me. And I wore those bruises as a badge of honor for several weeks.”
Pages 4-5: 106 profiles of this year’s Best & Brightest Executive MBA grads.
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