Meet Vanderbilt Owen’s MBA Class of 2023


Music City, USA. Southern Athens. The Bible Belt Buckle.

Nashville can be anything you want. Are you planning to break away? There’s neon lights, honky tonks and woo hoo bridesmaids on Broadway. Country fans can visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame, or jam at Robert’s Western World or Bluebird Café. For students, Nashville has more than 30 institutions of higher education. And you haven’t really lived until you gnaw hot chicken at a “Smashville” hockey game.

Nashville is not shy. And it’s growing like crazy, as evidenced by the cranes that dot the downtown skyline. Overall, the region includes a dozen Fortune 1000 headquarters, ranging from HCA Healthcare to Dollar General. And that’s not counting the big corporate footprints like Nissan, Mitsubishi and Bridgestone — or Amazon which is striving to double the 2,500 business and tech positions it maintains in its Nashville Yards digs. Health ranks among the city’s biggest calling cards. Businesses in the region manage more than half of all beds in private hospitals, with health care accounting for 168,000 jobs and $13 billion in regional personal income. Unsurprisingly, music is a nearly $16 billion industry here, run by 182 recording studios and 80 record labels.

Owen MBA students in front of the Nashville skyline


Brandon Valentine grew up in Austell, Georgia – population 7,205. Now a first-year MBA student at Vanderbilt University’s Owen Graduate School of Management, Valentine was drawn to “the growth and excitement” of the town.

“I want to be in the ‘room where it’s happening’ and where stuff is happening in Nashville,” he said. P&Q. Nashville is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States, attracting people from all over the country. AllianceBernstein headquarters moved from New York to Nashville. Oracle Corp. builds a second world headquarters in Nashville. Nashville is the healthcare capital of the United States. More concretely for me, Vanderbilt Owen is in the midst of a $55 million renovation and expansion…Whether I’m in the mood for a brewery, a waterfall hike, a dive bar, a rooftop restaurant , an art gala or a startup community, I can find what I’m looking for.”

Valentine’s classmates cheat on another underappreciated aspect of life in Nashville: the food scene. Kenan Gebizlioglu, an engineer who grew up in New Jersey, promotes Five Daughters Donuts. For Rinji Kassem, an account manager from Nigeria, the venue of choice is San Antonio Tacos (SATCO). And Ba’Carri Johnson loves everything that is offered to her.

“The way to my heart is food, and Nashville won,” the Duke graduate wrote. “Growing up in Miami, the cultural melting pot, diverse food options are a must. There’s never a shortage of amazing restaurants to try in Nashville. In fact, for every new restaurant I discover, three more are recommended. Nashville’s food scene continues to exceed my expectations.

Mild winters… job opportunities… there’s always something going on – a mix of contemporary and pre-war where the people are friendly and the food is fried. It’s Nashville. Despite its increasingly ephemeral nature, the city retained its southern hospitality, a quality adopted by the Owen school. Embracing a “competitive, not cutthroat mindset,” the school has created a community dedicated to openness and personal attention. In a 2021 Princeton Review survey of MBA students, Owen had the second highest scores for family friendliness and campus environment. The program also lives up to Vanderbilt University’s reputation as the “Southern Ivy” and “Harvard of the South.” In the same survey, students ranked Owen 4th for teaching excellence and 2nd for administration – and among the top five MBA programs for human resources and operations. These numbers align with other student and alumni surveys, such as Bloomberg Businessweek (Top 5 for Teamwork and Collaboration) and The Financial Times (Top 10 for overall student satisfaction).

Ba’Carri Johnson attributes this success to what she calls the school’s “personal scale.” “Since my first introduction to Owen as a prospective student, I have felt at home,” she writes. “Vanderbilt Owen’s program size fosters a close collaborative community, provides mentorship from Owen alumni and faculty, and provides a tailored MBA experience through unique inside and outside opportunities. of the classroom.”

Owen’s atmosphere may be personal, but the student body has a wide range of backgrounds. Exhibit A: Taylor Rasmussen, who studied philosophy as an undergraduate and later earned a master’s degree in professional performance. Now Rasmussen’s passions have been channeled into writing – with a distinct point of view.

“My writing peeks between well-known and beloved story lines – think Shakespeare, for example – and seeks to ask questions about the characters, themes and ideas they contain. One of the most memorable moments of my professional life was the night a group of amazing actors read my play. Before Arden, which develops the notions of identity, queer self-discovery, grief, love and otherness presented in Shakespeare As you like it. I will take every chance I have to question and reverse our anticipated conclusions, especially when I can do so with intention and from a place of love and respect.

Vanderbilt MBA Learn about Clubs and Organizations


Savannah Weatherell also operates from a place of love in his career. More recently, she treated patients at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital. In contrast, Ryan Leadbeater was responsible for 84 men and women as second in command of a US Army unit. In the Peace Corps, Marina Klecha served in a local government of the Georgian nation. Here, she secured a grant to build a high-tech conference and workshop space for the local community to spur economic development.

“After renovating and furnishing the hall, I was then able to conduct various technology training sessions to educate government staff with the technological knowledge needed to manage the hall and its equipment,” she says. P&Q. “The room continues to be used for community meetings, workshops and presentations to this day. He has also been a particularly important resource due to Georgia’s social distancing practices during the current global pandemic. This room has enabled the local government to participate in meetings virtually, hold press conferences and hold high-level remote social events when needed.

How accomplished is the Class of 2023? Mary Jesus Silva, for her part, was already teaching undergraduate at age 23, making her the youngest professor at the Universidad de Los Andes. Rinji Kassem helped bring two drugs to market, while Libby Crowe did the same for the Bloomberg New Economy Forum, a platform aimed at bringing together public and private sector leaders from East and West to create dialogue that bridges economic gaps and political divides. At the Pilot Company, Ba’Carri Johnson won a trophy as one of his company’s youngest product managers.

“I led an amazing team in the redesign and launch of the company’s mobile app, which delivered record numbers and provided a unique digital experience for customers when they were in stores and traveling around. across the country. That same year, Pilot’s myRewards Plus application received the “Best Retail Mobile App” and “Best Transportation App” awards from the Mobile Web Awards and the Highly Commended “Most Effective App” and “Most Effective Mobile-first Service” awards. of the Effective Mobile Marketing Awards.

Vanderbilt University Owen Graduate School of Management


The class is also aware of the obstacles ahead and intends to thwart the odds. Brandon Valentine earned a CPA business school, although only 13,400 of the 669,000 CPAs are African American. With an estimated 90% of startups failing, Neil Granberry was undeterred. In fact, he runs his own business as a student.

“I made my first entrepreneurial leap about 4 months before Day 1 in Owen by buying an existing small business in Nashville. I am now running that business on top of the class requirements and getting a crash course in what it is takes to hire, manage, sell and market Nashville Bubble Ball.

In addition to work and school, Granberry was part of a team that won a marketing case competition for E&J Gallo. And Libby Crowe has already picked up two case competition victories. “It’s easy to say winning was the best part, but in all honesty, those are the lessons I’ve learned from all of my teammates and other competitors, plus the many jokes you make being locked in a room. team for hours on end,” she jokes.

The class of 2023 has been very busy so far. Marina Klecha devotes her energy to the Women’s Business Association (WBA) after being named its president. As Owen’s largest club, my involvement with the WBA has been especially meaningful as I work to close the gender gap in business and support my classmates who identify as women. on the campus. From hosting alumni networking sessions, bonding events, impostor syndrome workshops, and final exam sessions, I am honored to serve as executive officer of the club and to make the Owen experience more inclusive for my classmates.

Taylor Rasmussen even collaborates with Professor Luke Froeb to edit the 6th edition of his Managerial economics textbook. “My job is to increase accessibility in the manual itself and in the online resources that accompany it, and to ensure that any new and revised material complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act. I will also suggest updates of any outdated or alienating language, and help with editing for general clarity.

Next page: Q&A with Sue Oldham, Associate Dean

Page 3: In-Depth Profiles of 11 Owen MBAs


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