01 Jun 2006
Profiles from the Class of 2006
Diversity & Ambitionby Garry Emmons;Margie Kelley;Lewis I. Rice;Roger ThompsonTopics:
Photos by Webb Chappell
At first glance, the MBA Class of 2006 is an interesting collection of data points: 897 students from 67 countries, 34 percent women, 32 percent international, and 21 percent minorities. But look again, deeper this time, and you begin to see an astonishing array of talent and experience, hopes and aspirations. Some students arrived two years ago directly from college. A significant number had served in the military. Many brought years of on-the-job experience with private-sector and nonprofit organizations. Whatever their paths to HBS, this year’s MBAs all leave Soldiers Field with a common bond to the School and to each other. To mark their collective achievement, here’s a look at six who represent the diversity and the varied ambitions of the Class of 2006.
Immigrants’ daughter, venture capitalist, rising star
A self-described “small-town girl” from the hills of Jamaica, Sacasha Brown moved with her parents and two younger brothers to Delray Beach, Florida, when she was 10. “My parents made many sacrifices to educate and support us, and they always told me I could be whatever I wanted,” Brown recalls. “And since Bill Clinton was president and had attended Georgetown, that’s where I set my sights.”
Brown soon established herself as a student leader at Georgetown. One of the university’s board members, Lloyd Campbell, then a managing director at Credit Suisse First Boston (and currently a managing director and global head of Rothschild’s private placement group), took an interest in her and became a mentor. After graduating, Brown worked at CSFB in New York for four years in real estate and private equity before enrolling at HBS. Last summer, she worked in London at Bridges Community Ventures, a community-development venture-capital firm founded by Sir Ronald Cohen (MBA ’69).
Grateful for the Red Cross’s assistance to her own family after Hurricane Gilbert ravaged Jamaica in 1988, Brown has volunteered for years in various Red Cross programs. At HBS, she chaired the student-run Education Committee and volunteered at a Cambridge shelter for abused women and children. In addition, while working at CSFB, Brown began mentoring and supporting a high-school girl, Mary Sessoms, and continues doing so now that Sessoms is in college. “I’ve received significant blessings and opportunities,” Brown explains, “so I see this not as giving back but as ‘giving in turn.’ Volunteering keeps me balanced and rooted in the real world.”
Of her immediate future, Brown says, “I am interested in providing capital and resources to entrepreneurs to build compelling businesses.” For the longer term, she intends to continue making her life “a credible example of how an individual, with faith, hard work, love, and support, can achieve her purpose.”
Inner-city school founder, social entrepreneur, dreamer
Brendan Kennealey began to hone his skills as a social entrepreneur right out of Boston College when he signed up as a volunteer teacher with Nativity Prep in Boston, a tuition-free Jesuit middle school for boys from low-income families. After just two years of teaching, he moved to New Bedford, Massachusetts, to cofound and serve as principal of a Nativity Prep there. Looking back, Kennealey says the experience allowed him to help people who were motivated to help themselves. “It was exactly the mission I wanted,” he reflects.
In the aftermath of 9/11, Kennealey decided in the spring of 2002 to put his career as an educator on hold to pursue a long-standing dream of serving in the U.S. Marine Corps. He volunteered for service only to be rejected because of a childhood medical condition. Unsuccessful in an appeal to overturn his disqualification, Kennealey returned to education, cofounding a Nativity Prep in his hometown of Wilmington, Delaware, where the school opened in September 2003.
The experience of starting two inner-city schools fueled Kennealey’s interest in applying to HBS, where he has focused on developing skills in finance, strategy, and operations. “I realized that the fastest, most effective way to achieve my career goals was to develop my practical business skills,” he says.
Kennealey hopes one day to apply those newfound skills to creating Nativity International, a network of tuition-free schools in Third World countries, or by launching an online high school. More immediately, he is considering prospects for getting involved with community development in New Orleans, where he traveled with other HBS students earlier this year to assist with the Hurricane Katrina recovery effort. Kennealey is also interested in working in politics and maybe holding elective office. Whatever he is involved with, he says it will be something he is passionate about.
Risk-taker, investment strategist, go-getter
Growing up in Armenia during the waning Soviet years, Ripsy Bandourian was well on her way to becoming a medical doctor, like both of her parents and two of her grandparents. But the choice was hardly her own. “Life was centrally planned for you,” she says. “I took a test when I was 10 that showed I was good in science, so I was put into a science high school. Nobody ever asked me if I wanted to be in science.”
When it was time for college, Bandourian did something unexpected. Applying to Brigham Young University in Utah, she was accepted with a full scholarship to study molecular biology and dance. Suddenly, a pre-planned life became uncharted territory. From that one big decision to pursue an education in the United States, she says, came many “small choices that have changed my life.”
When she took a freshman economics course, the premed student — whose third language is English, after Russian and Armenian — was instantly heading in a new direction. “I just fell in love,” she says. “I did some research on education policy and its impact, and to me, it was right there. Real, concrete decisions could be made from that research. I felt that through economics, I could really make a difference.”
With medicine off the table, Bandourian soon discovered the world of finance and landed on Wall Street as an investment strategist with Goldman Sachs. But two years later, she was hungry to learn more.
At HBS, Bandourian dove into her studies, earning first-year honors, and then spent her summer in London working for McKinsey advising a health-care provider on development strategy. She plans to return to McKinsey in New York upon graduation.
“I never expected to go into consulting, but opportunities presented themselves, and I go with my gut,” says Bandourian. “You’ve got to live your life in a way that you don’t regret anything.”
Civil engineer, soldier, investment banker
An unexpected tour of duty in Iraq may have delayed Alex Andreichuk’s graduation from HBS a year, but it opened his eyes to a new career path.
As an Army ROTC scholarship student at Notre Dame, Andreichuk majored in civil engineering and anthropology and, after graduation, expected to be commissioned as a reserve officer and serve only part-time. But the Army thought differently, calling him immediately for active duty. Andreichuk managed to delay his service for a year after receiving a prestigious Luce Scholars fellowship, which took him to Hong Kong where he worked with an engineering firm designing the city’s tallest building.
Once in uniform, Andreichuk served as a captain in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and traveled the globe, spending time in South Korea, Egypt, and Bosnia. By the time he returned home, Andreichuk knew that his time in the Army had transformed him “from an officer into a leader.”
Back in the United States, he landed an engineering job in New York City, where he worked on rebuilding subway tunnels at the World Trade Center disaster site. Intent on adding business management skills to his tech-nical tool kit, he applied to HBS. To his dismay, midway through his first year, the Army called him back for a year of active duty in Iraq.
Making the most of his return to service, Andreichuk advised on a number of energy infrastructure rebuilding projects and came away acutely aware of how critical these systems are to society’s well-being. “I was exposed to a whole new world of power generation and energy economics,” says Andreichuk. He returned to HBS inspired to make energy development the focus of his career, not as an engineer but as an investment banker. Upon graduation, he will join Credit Suisse in London.
All-American, passionate catalyst, avid listener
When she was two, growing up in rural Danville, Pennsylvania, Sarah Sommer abruptly experienced profound hearing loss. But with a hearing aid and intensive therapy, she went on to become an Academic All-American in golf at Princeton and winner of the Spirit of Princeton Award for contributions to the campus and community.
During a Fulbright year at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, in addition to her studies, Sommer was a catalyst for improved ser-vices nationwide for students with disabilities. “Effecting national policy on an issue so close to my heart was a terrific experience,” Sommer says. “I found that sensitivity, passion, and belief can take you a long way.”
The following year, at the Alexander Graham Bell Association for the Deaf (AG Bell) in Washington, D.C., after illness and death struck top executives there, Sommer managed key tasks and projects so well that she was elected to AG Bell’s board. She then worked from 2002 to 2004 at Outdoor Explorations, a nonprofit that brings together people with and without disabilities for inclusive outdoor adventures. She spent last summer doing marketing for Advanced Bionics, a Boston Scientific–owned manufacturer of cochlear implants, high-tech devices that send sound signals directly to the auditory nerve.
Sommer, who with her deaf husband, Paul, also mentors hearing-impaired children, was preparing to enroll at HBS when, in March 2004, she suddenly lost the remainder of her hearing. Tests revealed congenital malformations in both her cochlea. “I was fortunate enough to receive double bilateral cochlear implants,” Sommer says. “Now I can hear a golf ball hitting the bottom of the cup or the sound of rain on the window, all the little things that make this an amazing world to be part of.” Sommer plans to pursue a career in medical devices, to ensure that others with chronic diseases and disabilities are similarly provided with access to a world of possibilities.
Irrepressible entrepreneur, optimist, global dealmaker
On his 12th birthday, Arnaud Karsenti’s mother asked him what he wanted for a present. “I said I wanted a factory, and she just burst into laughter,” says Karsenti, who was born in Paris and raised from the age of three in Miami by parents who were both entrepreneurs. “I just loved business. I remember going on a family vacation and being outside a bakery and counting the number of people walking in, then extrapolating how much it was making. I’d say, ‘This bakery is making $4,000 today! Why aren’t we doing that?’ My parents were like, ‘That is ridiculous!’ ”
Maybe so. But Karsenti grew up to become an irrepressible entrepreneur who loves to make a deal — “the hairier the negotiation, the better.” He launched his first company, Collegeboxes, a storage service, as an undergraduate at Duke University. The business almost went bankrupt, but he turned it around and sold it for cash just as he arrived at HBS. Karsenti launched his second venture, a real estate development company called 13th Floor Investments, in 2003. A third company, Cityboxes — a service for city dwellers that stores, tracks, and delivers items to and from storage upon request — is already in the development stage.
“I love all businesses and get involved in all sorts of ventures,” says Karsenti. “My rule is, if I understand it, then I’ll look to take it on.”
While Karsenti says he got his “first MBA” by going through the near-failure and ultimate success of his first company, he came to HBS to learn how to manage expectations, expand his perspective to a global view, and meet other entrepreneurs. He’s done just that, having met his new business partner, classmate Nadeem Meghji, who has helped him to expand his real estate ventures to both China and India. Those will be his primary focus upon graduation.
Says Karsenti: “For me, my new partnership is what HBS is all about — finding the people and resources to broaden your perspective.”
Class of MBA 2006, Section E
Class of MBA 2006, Section H
Class of MBA 2006, Section A
Class of MBA 2005, Section F
Class of MBA 2006, Section J