Alumni Perspectives

For more in-depth reflections from MBAx1 Fellows on their experiences, see the “Looking Back on MBAx1” series of posts on the MBAx blog.


Stefanie Web Stefanie Thomas, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in her second year at Ross Business School

MBAx has been one of the most amazing and transformative experiences for me. It was definitely filled with challenges, apprehension, struggle, and sometimes feelings of defeat, but I learned a ton about myself, my team, and this country. I walked away feeling empowered, inspired, and excited for what’s to come in the years ahead, and I think that many students will gain a tremendous benefit from exposing themselves to business on such a grassroots level. It is the type of learning that you won’t find in a classroom no matter how prestigious the university or sincere the intentions of the faculty. This is a very entrepreneurial endeavor and a unique experience that you will be hard pressed to find anywhere else. Do it! Take the leap! You will forever be a better person in business and in life for it.

Screen Shot 2014-10-09 at 1.56.36 PMGuillaume Cazalaa, MBAx2 Fellow, Columbia Business School Graduate, Currently at McKinsey & Company

Everyone should join MBAx. Nowhere else in the MBA curriculum will you get a 6 week crash course in problem solving tough and really relevant questions, visiting some of the most outlandish and remote places in the US, and grow so much as an individual and as part of a team. To steal one of the many pearls of wisdom we earned along the way: “This is what real education looks like” – Aaron Hill at Fargo Brewing Company




Rachel Witalec, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in her second year at Stanford Graduate School of Business

I wanted to participate in MBAx to do something a bit different with my summer that allowed me to gain a different perspective on leadership and business than I’d learned in my previous roles at Google. What I got was a transformative 6-weeks that connected me with amazing people that are truly catalystics for change in their own communities. It was a great experience to see what it truly takes to be a small business owner and how lonely, challenging, and rewarding that can be. What I didn’t expect but really enjoyed is that I found the experience to be a great application of many of the things I learned in the first year of my MBA, such as having to help a farmer’s market think of a more systematic way to deal with inventory and sourcing from farmers, to using managerial accounting skills to figure out the real cost of menu items, to using lessons about marketing to help a restaraunt create a communications plan that embodied their values. I recommend it to anyone looking to get his/her hands dirty and spend time with small business owners in America.

 Meghan Sherlock, MBAx1 Fellow, Harvard Business School Graduate, Currently at Bain & Company

MBAs Across America was a fantastic experience. It’s hard work, but I felt like I learned even more during my summer with MBAs Across America than I did in my teamwork experiences at school. The chance to explore new areas of the country and meet so many inspiring people is really unique, and I really loved the social enterprise angle since it’s something I’m interested in.



Mayank Arora, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in his second year at Babson 

MBAxAmerica was the best hands-on experience I could get out of my MBA journey.  I participated in MBAxAmerica to solve real world problems by using what I have learnt in the classroom, but I got a lot more out it.  Not only did I get to travel to some of the most beautiful and breathtaking parts of the country, I also got to meet a very diverse set of people, including entrepreneurs, in a very short span of time.  By meeting the entrepreneurs and hearing their stories and struggles, I understood what really works and what does not.  It was the quickest learning ever possible.  You are physically there, you hear their story, you prioritize their problems, you plan and act to solve it and you have to deliver – all in five days!  It is the closest an MBA student can come to playing Marcus Lemonis.  In retrospect, I think that if I did not go on this amazing journey, I would have missed out on a very important and enjoyable learning opportunity that has changed my perspective towards life!


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Atif Qadir, MBAx1 Fellow, Columbia Business School Graduate, Currently at Extell

In one sentence, MBAxAmerica was the best thing I did during my MBA.  Part roadshow for changing perceptions of MBAs, part last hurrah before the real world, and part private equity style due diligence exercises, part road trip, part summer internship with an elite consulting firm, packed into one week, done 6 times over.  It turned out that by going to places that were so far off the beaten path for even the most entrepreneurial MBAs, it was perhaps me, not the entrepreneurs I worked with, that were the most profoundly impacted by my time with MBAxAmerica.


Jennifer Web Jennifer Odera, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in her second year at Babson

For someone who loves to travel and is passionate about entrepreneurship, this is a natural MUST-DO! We got to see and experience the parts of America they don’t show you on tv and met such unique characters along the way. We were privileged to learn from the lessons, the mistakes, and the successes that each entrepreneur had survived in order to sustain their businesses. Being welcomed to look into the lives and businesses of fellow entrepreneurs and trusted to apply my newly acquired business acumen and actually see some results has been a truly inspirational process and one that I will carry with me as I forge my path ahead.


Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 4.41.17 PMElizabeth Pfeiffer, MBAx1 Fellow, Columbia Business School Graduate, Currently at Deloitte

MBAx is one of the most rewarding experiences. It’s a great way to spend 6 weeks and get back into the swing of work and an amazing way to give back to communities across the US. I learned a tremendous amount about entrepreneurship, teamwork, and running businesses. The MBA is a great way to learn about business – MBAx is actually doing it. I have enough friends that are still in school that I will definitely tell them about it and encourage them to do it.



Alvaro Web

Alvaro Valdez, MBAx1 Fellow, Babson Graduate, Currently at Duraplast

When I first heard about MBAx I had no doubt in my mind that I wanted to be a part of this movement, and now I couldn’t be happier I was able take on the most real challenge to put into practice everything I learned during my MBA. The best part was that I was working and creating meaningful impact in amazing projects, working with the most inspiring entrepreneurs we could find, while traveling across the country with 3 friends who helped create one of the most memorable experiences of my life!



scottSamuel Wollner, MBAx1 Fellow, Columbia Business School Graduate, Currently at Deloitte

MBAx is a transformational experience. I left Detroit, our last stop, humbled and exhausted by the many challenges we faced alongside our intrepid entrepreneurs. And yet, few experiences have been so inspiring and formative in my career. In hindsight, the real “victories” in our adventure were the personal connections we made. Take the time to have a meal, see a concert, or float down a river with the people you meet along the way, and you could very well get a glimpse into the hopes and fears of your entrepreneurs and the communities they impact. I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see so many incredible American cities and get to know so many inspiring Americans. MBAx is not easy, but it is worth it.



Nydia Web

Nydia Cardenas, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in her second year at Ross Business School

The question I keep getting from friends and classmates is do you really think you had an impact with just one week. My answer is unequivocally yes. For one entrepreneur, impact could be building a costing model so they could make better production and pricing decisions. For another, impact came from our questions and challenging of assumptions about what was working well and what needed improvement. Above all, this summer I had the unique privilege of learning from business leaders who wake up every day to a challenge and are constantly taking risks and learning.  A case study in class cannot compare to the action-based learning opportunities all across America. Don’t miss out!


Jai Web

Jai Popat, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in his second year at Stanford Graduate School of Business

MBAs Across America was a fantastic experience for me! As a Brit who has never seen any parts of America between the coasts it was a great way to see parts of the country I would never have seen and work with businesses that I would never have worked with otherwise. However the best part of the experience was working with people who really cared about their businesses and their communities and wanted to make a difference in people’s lives. It’s not your traditional MBA internship, but it’s just as educational if not more so!


Peter Cherry, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in his second year at Babson

This program pushed me beyond what I thought I was capable of accomplishing. It forces you into the results oriented mindset of successful entrepreneurs. The passion and openness of each entrepreneur we worked with motivated us to deliver our best work each week. If you choose this experience, you’re going to bring new life to many of the concepts you’ve discussed in the classroom. Sometimes you won’t be able to predict what will happen next and to develop an ability to manage this uncertainty is one of the most important skills you will take away from this experience. But most importantly, you will experience this journey with a team who you can count on and with the incredible support of the growing MBAx community.



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Joanne Yuan, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in her second year at Stanford Graduate School of Business

I loved my experience in MBAxAmerica and could not be more supportive of the organization and its mission. It truly changed my perspectives about businesses, working in teams and helping the community, and we formed some extraordinary bonds with entrepreneurs in the short weeks we had.



Ariel WebAriel Avila, MBAx1 Fellow, Harvard Business School Graduate, Currently at Sears

MBAx was a great way to spend a summer – professionally and personally. It provides an opportunity to give back by using the education you just received to help others and learn a ton about entrepreneurship, the communities entrepreneurs live in, and yourself. I truly believe I had a unique summer experience that has changed the way that I think about entrepreneurs and smaller American cities. Many MBAs have worked in large corporate environments and MBAs Across America provides an opportunity to work in environments that are the opposite of those. I think it’s really important that MBAs know first-hand (not just through cases) how tough if it is to be an entrepreneur or small business owner. There’s no better way to do that than on-the-ground in real time.

Roger WebRoger Breum, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in his second year at Stanford Graduate School of Business

MBA’s Across America was an incredibly inspiring experience, from the day we formed our team to the last day on the road of our MBAx1 journey.  Not only did I form friendships that will last a lifetime with my teammates, but I was able to form lasting bonds with social entrepreneurs and community-minded business owners across the South.  But our journey wasn’t just about meeting each other, it was about sharing ideas and values.  Where our team brought ideas and business knowledge from our studies and previous work, the entrepreneurs brought lifetimes of knowledge and insights into how communities work, thoughts on “doing business for good”, and inspiring tales of how they’re changing lives of their employees and the local community every day.  This experience will challenge you both mentally and physically, but it will absolutely be worth it!

Renee WebRenee Frantz, MBAx1 Fellow, Columbia Business School Graduate, Currently at Boston Consulting Group

This summer, I learned that entrepreneurship is difficult, and can even be terrifying at times. But more than anything, I was inspired by how these small businesses have been able to impact the lives of their employees, customers, and people in their communities – often having limited resources and limited time. Our MBAx journey motivated me to try to have a similar impact on a community during my career, with hopes of being able to achieve even a fraction of the impact these entrepreneurs have.



Phillip Lachman, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in his second year at Babson

MBAx provides a non-traditional MBA internship experience, allowing participants to have an intense adventure across the USA, and the ability to channel their business education directly into a start-up or small business. This not only allows one to see the business and all of its moving parts at the ground level, but understand how all of these moving parts move together and how the value-add you provide the entrepreneur can positively impact the business. This real world experience is invaluable and further trains you to be comfortable with the unknown, which is what entrepreneurship is all about. Being able to step into the unknown, make sense of it, and then provide value is a quality highly in demand in today’s economy.



Gary Mao, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in his second year at Stanford Graduate School of Business

Absolutely amazing experience. For every business we went into we were able to jump straight into the fire and see the business from all its most important angles. We were able to see a variety of organizations from a booming tech startup out of New Orleans with national success to a Chocolate shop willed into existence though the entrepreneur’s love of chocolate. Not only that but we were able to get to know our entrepreneurs on a personal basis and walk away not as consultants but as lifelong friends. Practically speaking we were also able to see many of our suggestions already take effect even before the summer was over.


Annie WebAnnie Koo, MBAx1 Fellow, Columbia Business School Graduate, Currently at Mckinsey & Company

MBAxAmerica was an eye-opening experience. Whether dining with generations of shrimpers in NOLA or rafting with clients in Montana, it was incredible to be welcomed into the lives of our entrepreneurs. The personal growth and team learning from six weeks on the road are also irreplaceable. Perhaps the most lasting impression of my MBAx time, however, is the a-ha moment that entrepreneurship could one day connect the dots between my own passions, professional skills, and social impact goals”



Alex Gart, MBAx1 Fellow, Currently in his second year at Stanford Graduate School of Business

MBAx was challenging, rewarding, enriching and just plain awesome. In school our education is skewed toward the global economy, and MBAx provided a wonderful counter perspective and opportunity to apply our knowledge and skills on a local level. We got to work hand-in-hand with entrepreneurs and small business owners to help them define what success means to them and then devise a strategy for achieving it!



Jorge WebJorge Gutierrez, MBAx1 Fellow, Babson Graduate, Currently at Falco Latinoamericana

MBAx truly impacted my life personally and professionally. From the professional perspective, I found it to be the perfect experience to close my MBA loop. Living and creating the cases with real actions, rather than reading like crazy  to articulate imaginary solutions was the best part of it. Personally, I started the journey with 3 friends; after 6 weeks, I came back home with 3 new brothers, an many more friends all over the United States. I saw the most incredible mountains, rivers, forests, deserts, lakes, roads, towns, cities, and so on, but most importantly, I met the most amazing entrepreneurs that will always be sources of inspiration to use entrepreneurship as a tool to make a difference.



For thoughts from entrepreneurs who have worked with MBAx teams, check out our Entrepreneur Perspectives page.

First and second year MBAs: apply with a team of four by Janaury 30th , 2015 and join the MBAx Movement!