Summer 2020

20 Reasons We Love the Class of 2020

How do we love thee, Class of 2020? We couldn’t begin to count the ways.

The Class of 2020 will be cherished forever—not just for its perseverance through unique circumstances, but mostly for the amazing individuals who represented the class with … well, class. For example, there’s a valedictorian with a perfect GPA, a champion of sustainability, a hockey player who turned pro, and “the social glue of the graduate school”—plus, an impressive dance ensemble and the first MBAs from Babson College Miami.

There are countless other examples of inspiration and achievement, but here we offer
just a small sample of 20 reasons we love thee, Class of 2020.

Balancing Act
Second Degrees
The Curtain Rises
Senior Leader
Staying Together
Reaching Out
Turning Pro
The Dreamer
First Generation
Pioneering Class
The Connector
Perfect 4.0
Teammates Forever
Staying Connected
Game On!
Finding Finance
Social Chair
Bridge Builder
Sustainability Solutions
Best & Brightest

READ MORE: The Class of 2020 Is Made for This Moment

The Connector  |  Drishtee Gupta MSF’20

Drishtee Gupta MSF’20 is so adept at making connections among the graduate school community that people just assume she knows everyone’s name.

Drishtee Gupta MSF’20

“I really don’t think I knew everyone. I wish I did!” Gupta says. “There are so many talented, entrepreneurial, and motivated students at Babson. And, if I am sitting next to one on campus, why shouldn’t I make conversation with them?”

Gupta began making conversation and connections even before she began in the MSF program. She created an Instagram account (@babogradstudents), on which she profiles fellow grad students.

“It’s a way of connecting to people who are going through a similar journey and are willing to share it with the rest of us,” Gupta says. “It can be hard to know who wants to help you, and that can make us shy to reach out to them. The Instagram account spotlights make it easier to find these people.”

Connections and networking also helped Gupta find a new career path. As a fashion student and intern during her undergraduate years, she realized the need to bolster her financial skills to boost her burgeoning fashion career. At Babson, though, she discovered private equity and embarked in a different direction.

She now is a private equity and advisory analyst at Elevation Gained Partners. After completing her program this fall, Gupta plans to get into investment banking or stay in private equity.

“I continue to network and learn about other grad students and industry professionals,” she says. “Each step helps get closer to the next.”

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Perfect 4.0  |  Rayan Goyal ’20

Nothing says perfection like “four-point-oh.”

Rayan Goyal ’20 came to Babson from a school in India that had a very competitive and grade-focused environment, yet he insists it was never his objective to achieve the holy grail of grades: a 4.0 grade point average.

Rayan Goyal ’20

“I was frankly tired of trying to compete for grades with my peers. It really was exhausting,” Goyal says. “As cliché as it sounds, I enjoyed the process of learning and questioning things much more than the results. However, I am still honored to be the Class of 2020’s valedictorian, given how talented and intelligent my peers are.”

Goyal’s straight-A marks are just the third 4.0 at Babson in the past two decades—an impressive feat considering all of the challenges and team-based projects an undergraduate must navigate.

“I really do believe that team-based projects helped me in a variety of ways,” Goyal says. “I constantly learned from others’ experiences and perspectives. It was not so much about getting an ‘A’ project but more so about motivating each other to work hard and about learning from each other.”

Goyal, whose concentration was in business analytics, was on the executive board of the Babson Undergraduate Business Analytics Club; the CFO of his Foundations of Management and Entrepreneurship (FME) company, Lift-Ez; and a Math Resource Center consultant.

Now, with a 4.0 on his transcript, Goyal is focused on his startup venture, MetaLogic Consulting, with his roommate, Aditya Kaushika ’20.

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Teammates Forever  |  Elizabeth Baer ’20 and MacIntyre Henderson ’20

Skiing may be an individual sport, but Elizabeth Baer ’20 and MacIntyre Henderson ’20 credit their teammates for spurring their successes.

Elizabeth Baer ’20 (Photo: Randy Burwell)
MacIntyre Henderson ’20 (Photo: Linsey Fagan Photography)

Acquaintances as competitive skiers from Utah before committing to Babson, the pair not only excelled on the slopes and in the classroom but also cultivated lifelong friendships.

“My only regret is that I did not get to know Liz earlier,” Henderson says, “for I’m sure that if I had, I would be far more successful than I am today.”

That may be hard to believe after what the pair accomplished. Over the course of hugely successful alpine skiing careers, Baer and Henderson collected multiple All-America accolades, culminating in sweeping Babson’s Govoni Scholar-Athlete Award. Besides earning the accolades and awards and the high GPAs, both Baer and Henderson say they’re most proud of the team itself.

Says Baer, who is currently working and living in Sun Valley, Idaho, while searching for a job in the fitness industry: “I can’t express how amazing the Babson ski team is. I am inspired, energized, and motivated by my teammates. Babson ski was at the core of my Babson experience. What sets this team apart is that each student-athlete truly shows up for each other, no matter if that’s on the hill or in the classroom.”


Says Henderson, who is helping his family’s real estate development business in Park City, Utah, while working remotely for a real estate investment firm: “We as a team push each other to reach higher and push harder. Each of our teammates is equally deserving of this award, for each of them has spurred our growth into the individuals we are today.”

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Staying Connected  |  @babson2020

Before the Class of 2020 even set foot on campus, it had its own Instagram account.

On May 2, 2016, @babson2020 appeared. “Babson here we come,” read the first post, accompanying the Babson seal.

The unofficial account was created by an anonymous high school student trying to connect future classmates.

“People were really eager to engage,” the Instagrammer says, intent on keeping their identity a secret. “It was pretty exciting in the beginning.”

During the summer of 2016, @babson2020 raised school spirit with quotes and photos to keep future Beavers hyped for campus life—even imparting reminders for housing deadlines and class registration.

Once the Class of 2020 arrived, and students were connecting in person, the Instagram account lay dormant—for nearly four years.

On March 17, as students were moving off campus, @babson2020 was reactivated.

“I thought, what a cool opportunity to try to stay connected with people like we did so many years ago,” the Instagrammer says. “But, now we know each other, and now it feels even more important to know what’s going on in each other’s lives.”

Come Senior Week, the account—now with 472 followers—was alive with memories from the past four years, followed by a flood of students celebrating their Babson degrees.

Now, its manager says the account will stay active through Commencement—and maybe longer: “It’d be fun to keep it going for a long time, to see people starting businesses, and doing amazing things in their careers, and getting married.”

Whatever happens, the Class of 2020 will always have Instagram.

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Game On!  |  Emely Cedano ’20

Emely Cedano ’20 loves playing, reading about, and learning about video games. She loves change. She loves puzzles. And, she loves solving problems.

But, it wasn’t until late in her junior year that Cedano realized she could combine her passions and make a career out of gaming.

Emely Cedano ’20

At Babson, Cedano had shifted her job focus from consulting to marketing but wasn’t happy and felt lost. So, second semester of her junior year, she met with Lee Goldstein, associate director of counseling in Babson’s Hoffman Family Undergraduate Center for Career Development (CCD), who helped her research gaming companies in the area and helped her write cover letters to PlayStation, WB Games, and Rockstar Games, among others.

“She was always there to check up on me and help,” Cedano says. “CCD truly helped me out in more ways than one.”

Cedano began reaching out to Babson alumni, namely Gabriel Goldwasser MBA’11 at WB Games, who helped point her in the right direction. That spurred her to spend a semester away in San Francisco—a hub for gaming and data companies—where she taught herself coding and attended gaming conferences.

Cedano then interned with WB Games Boston and, since completing her degree in May, now works as a data analyst for WB Games San Francisco, where she extracts and analyzes game data.

“It means the world to me to be working in the gaming industry,” Cedano says. “I get to help analyze data from some of my favorite games and get to solve new problems everyday with an amazing team that is so open to helping each other learn, grow, and succeed. I love what I do and who I get to do it with.”

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Finding Finance  |  Nancy House MBA’20

Nancy House MBA’20 worked at a law firm before arriving at Babson to pursue her MBA, unsure how her skills would translate, especially in finance. Then, she took Associate Professor Jerome Taillard’s Introduction to Financial Management course, which changed the trajectory of her career.

Nancy House MBA’20

“It was a watershed moment,” House says. “Every class built and expanded upon the prior, adding to my confidence and curiosity along the way. Jerome would dissect complex new concepts into their component parts, clarifying each before moving on to the next. By the end, what seemed daunting at the beginning felt natural, and I was eager for the next challenge.”

Over the course of the Two-Year MBA program, House rose to conquer every challenge, eventually winning the Finance Award as the top MBA student in finance.

House not only excelled in an unexpected field but also discovered a new career path. She is returning to Boston this summer to start a full-time job in private wealth management at Goldman Sachs, where she interned last summer.

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Social Chair  |  Franziska Ibscher MSEL’20

She has been described as “the social glue of Babson’s graduate school.”

Franziska Ibscher MSEL’20

Franziska Ibscher MSEL’20 takes pride in that. She organized many social events—most notably “Wednesdays at Roger’s” with her MSEL colleagues—and constantly kept her cohort and the entire grad school connected on campus and even remotely.

She, of course, has a lot to say on the topic, so maybe it’s best to let the self-described “social butterfly” have the floor:

“For me, it is important to be around diverse groups of people in order to learn and to thrive. As a highly extroverted person, I attain my energy from social interaction. … Whether it was MSEL, MSF, or the MBA programs, being connected with a lot of people was highly important for my motivation and energy level as Babson became family.

“Without a support system, life can be very hard, and this is why it was important for me to be that person who actively tried to bring people together and achieve a harmony within groups so that we became our family. The natural feeling of belonging has to be fulfilled, so someone had to create a family for MSEL.

“In the end, I managed to achieve three dreams that I had before starting at Babson: starting my own startup; building a social network in the cohort; and being the valedictorian of MSEL.”

Well said, Franziska. And well done.

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Bridge Builder  |  Sienzhi Kouemo ’20

You may have seen him at Trim Dining Hall or Reynolds Campus Center, conversing with friends and classmates from across the world.

Sienzhi Kouemo ’20

As a member of a number of clubs and organizations, Sienzhi Kouemo ’20 certainly is career-driven and well-known by his peers. All told, he’s also always glad to listen.

“I love talking to people,” Kouemo says. “These conversations help shape my view of the world.”

It’s fulfilling interactions like these that led Kouemo to pursue a career path in marketing. He also was influenced by his time exploring India, China, and Russia while studying abroad with the BRIC program.

“That experience opened my eyes to brand positioning; how brands have to tailor their image to different parts of the world,” he says. “That stuck with me.”

At Babson, Kouemo bridged students, alumni, and the Board of Trustees as an inaugural participant in the new campus advancement ambassador program. He also joined the Student Government Association in his pursuit to leave his mark.

“My goal was to leave a legacy behind,” Kouemo says. “I got to hear different student voices and perspectives, understand their needs, and determine what we can do to make their Babson experience better.”

He maximized his time as an undergraduate and encourages current and future students to carve a similar path.

“Don’t wait for things to happen to you,” Kouemo says. “Go seek them out. When people see potential, they want to help you.”

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Sustainability Solutions  |  Emma MacPhail ’20

Emma MacPhail ’20 was in high school when a friend convinced her to adopt a vegan lifestyle, and Elon Musk inspired her to learn more about climate change.

Emma MacPhail ’20

As she explored the animal agriculture industry and its impact on greenhouse gas emissions, deforestation, water and air pollution, and biodiversity loss, MacPhail admits she felt defeated.

“At first, these realizations gave me a really bleak outlook on the future of our planet,” MacPhail says. “But, I realized that it is my responsibility as a person informed on the subject to do anything and everything I can to help in the fight against global warming.”

So, she came to Babson determined. As a first-year student, MacPhail led the food committee of the Babson Sustainability Club, spearheading Meatless Mondays at Reynolds Campus Center to expose students to vegan food and its impact on the environment. As president of the Sustainability Club, she hosted trash cleanups, ran a water-saving campaign, and began hosting “Sustainabili-tea” sessions to stir discussion on environmental issues. Her efforts were recognized with the Environmental Sustainability Award.

She credits a dedicated group of like-minded classmates—and Babson’s “impressive offering of environmental sustainability courses”—for raising awareness. But, she says there’s still a long way to go to get the student body to fully embrace sustainability.

MacPhail also has worked in Apple retail for 2½ years and hopes to stay with the company—“a model for innovation in corporate environmental sustainability”—for the foreseeable future.

It’s a future that’s surely brighter because of her efforts.

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Best & Brightest  |  Haley Pesce ’20

Haley Pesce ’20 has all the accolades to prove her success—in and out of the classroom—but they only begin to tell her story.

Haley Pesce ’20

With a dual concentration in marketing and global business management, Pesce was awarded the Bertrand R. Canfield Marketing Award, and she earned recognition as one of Poets & Quants’ Best & Brightest Business Majors, along with classmate John Wen ’20.

“I believe I can speak for both of us when I say that our accomplishments, academically and extracurricular, did not come without sacrifices,” Pesce says, “and being recognized for this award makes it all worth it.”

As a sweeper back on the field hockey team, Pesce started all 43 games her final two seasons, collecting a host of honors, including twice being named a ZAG Field Hockey/National Field Hockey Coaches Association Division III Scholar of Distinction.

“My college experience would not have been complete without being a member of the Babson field hockey team,” she says. “Grit, teamwork, time management, and enthusiasm are all characteristics I’ve gained from athletics that can definitely be transferred to my professional career.”

She’s calling on all of those traits now.

The job offer she had lined up was rescinded because of the pandemic. So, Pesce is channeling her passion for health and wellness into a job as a farmhand on an organic vegetable and flower farm with an eye on a career in the food and nutrition sector.

“This has been perfect for me in the interim, while I look for a job,” she says, “allowing me to continue my food blog on the side.”

She’d love to return to Italy, where she spent a semester abroad, so she’s applying to the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Bra, Italy, and searching for jobs in Europe and the United States.

It’s a bright future for one of Babson’s best and brightest.

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Balancing Act  |  Isabel O’Dogherty MBA’20

The work required to earn a graduate degree from Babson is not for the faint of heart. Creativity is critical, as is an open mind and a relentless work ethic.

Isabel O'Dogherty MBA'20
Isabel O’Dogherty MBA’20

“Professors are keen on making you think and realize that there is always more than the right answer and that execution is everything,” Isabel O’Dogherty MBA’20 says. “You are taught to do things differently, to roll your sleeves up, to think outside the box.”

It’s even more challenging for someone such as O’Dogherty, who was so active in student life.

As a member of Babson’s Two-Year MBA program, O’Dogherty had the honor of being selected as one of 19 women entrepreneurs for the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab® program, which offered her the resources and opportunities to learn from “incredible experts, mentors, coaches, and peers.” She also served as co-president of the College’s Latin American Club, helping to oversee its annual forum, and as a member of the Babson Dining Student Advisory Team.

Leading the Latin American forum “was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my time at Babson,” O’Dogherty says. “It forced me to put my leadership style under a magnifying glass.

“I realized that one of the biggest challenges is not to do the things yourself but to encourage others to make things happen.”

These extracurricular activities and accomplishments were squeezed between trips to Colombia, India, and Iceland. Now, back in her home country of Mexico, she isn’t afraid to lean on her peers, no matter where they are.

“I will always have my Babson network,” O’Dogherty says. “It is incredible how successful people from all over the world are willing to pick up the phone or answer your emails just because you are from their alma mater.”

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Second Degrees  |  Double Beavers

Kayla Florence ’14, MBA’20 always suspected that corporate America wouldn’t be for her. She found herself drawn back to Babson to earn her MBA. “There is nothing quite like the entrepreneurial mindset,” she says. “Babson’s entrepreneurial focus is unique and right where I wanted to be.”

Jessica DiPhilippo ’15, MBA’20

Florence now is co-founding a substance abuse treatment center. In the Class of 2020, she is one of 17 newly minted Double Beavers, alumni who have earned two degrees from Babson.

Myrna Suarez ’19, MSEL’20 decided to come back to Babson because she was still trying to fine-tune her career options.

“I think my undergrad years gave me a chance to explore and discover my passions, and graduate school gave me the chance to act upon them,” she says. “I ended up reaching goals that at one point in my life I would have seen as unattainable.”

As an undergraduate, Jessica DiPhilippo ’15, MBA’20 played on the women’s soccer team, an experience she treasured.

Jeremy Hill ’04, MBA’20

Returning to Babson, she not only pursued an MBA, but she also is serving as the team’s assistant coach. “I was honored to be given the opportunity to come back to coach at my alma mater and bring my education to the next level,” she says.

Sixteen years had passed since the last time Jeremy Hill ’04, MBA’20 had graduated from Babson. That means he had other responsibilities to balance, namely being a father and a husband, that he didn’t have the first time around. But, just as he did years before, he found his professors and classmates to be inspiring. “I have been impressed by so many of my classmates,” Hill says. “Similar to my undergraduate peers, I expect them to remain lifelong friends.”

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The Curtain Rises  |  Babson Dance Ensemble

Stand on stage during a Babson Dance Ensemble (BDE) performance, and a wall of sound hits you from the audience. That sound is enveloping and exhilarating.

Babson Dance Ensemble

“Every fall, we tell our new members,” says Alexa Maetta ’20, “ ‘Trust us, you won’t be able to hear the music opening night.’ ”

One of the largest student organizations on campus, BDE performs shows in both the fall and spring to rollicking crowds. Maetta remembers how uplifted she felt when she returned to the BDE stage for the first time after recovering from several knee surgeries. “There is no better feeling than hearing the Babson community as the curtain rises and the stage lights go up,” she says.

The pandemic, however, forced the cancellation of BDE’s spring show, which would have been the last time on stage for the organization’s seniors. “My senior show being canceled was a tragedy to me,” says John Wen ’20. Still, the memories from past shows, and the hard work that went into creating them, remain. Looking back on his time in BDE, Wen thinks of late-night practices, of the amazingly talented friends he made, and of the collective joy after the curtain closes on a successful performance.

Maetta marvels at the support and commitment of her fellow dancers and choreographers through the years. “We each shared the same goal,” she says, “and that was putting on the best show possible.”

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Senior Leader  |  Lizbeth Ledesma ’20

Each academic year, Lizbeth Ledesma ’20 had the opportunity to attend the First-Year Senior Retreat, starting as a participating first-year student and continuing thereafter as a facilitator.

Lizbeth Ledesma ’20, front and center, on retreat

This annual experience provided valuable insight into the role of the senior leader, which she says is to be a storyteller who helps new students ponder their personal goals by offering wisdom.

“My biggest message was to place greater emphasis on processing your thoughts and reflecting and finding your community,” Ledesma says.

Ledesma’s leadership skills are largely due in part to her own experiences. Early in her first year, she found difficulty adjusting to the college environment. But, it was at her First-Year Senior Retreat where she was provided with a journal, which held a special place on her residence hall desk for the rest of the year.

“When I felt lost, I picked it up and just wrote,” she says. “It was a healthy coping mechanism for myself.”

Her outlet was writing. As a senior leader, she learned to support students by listening.

“They want to be heard,” Ledesma says. “During freshman year, things go by so fast. They do not process such a huge transition in their lives, and even if they do, they do not have someone to talk to about it.”

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Staying Together  |  Sorority Sisters

Before Babson grads join the impressive network of alumni, they build friendships, much in the same way professionals foster connections. The bonds built among Alex Beck ’20, Julia Doran ’20, Hannah Grayson ’20, and Priya Kapoor ’20 are model examples, even as members of different sororities and student organizations.

Clockwise from top left: Priya Kapoor ’20, Hannah Grayson ’20, Alex Beck ’20, and Julia Doran ’20

Beck and Doran have been friends since they became roommates as first-year students, and their relationship continued in Chi Omega. Grayson and Kapoor similarly got to know each other as friends from across their residence hall, and their relationship continued in Sigma Kappa.

Kapoor and Doran connected with each other during the group’s sophomore year, when they were respectively serving as president and vice president of the College’s Panhellenic Council. A summer internship and a group dinner brought the foursome together as friends shortly before senior year.

“The rest is history,” Kapoor says. “We became friends because we all have similar interests, and we enjoy each other’s company.”

The importance of incorporating varying perspectives in cultivating new innovations, Grayson says, also applies to building networks and friendships. “It is so important to be friends with people from different backgrounds, cultures, and on-campus organizations to become a more compassionate and empathetic person,” she says.

In early July, the four friends and now alumnae moved into an apartment together in Boston’s North End. They will stay connected for the foreseeable future—and beyond.

“We have a balance between silly and serious moments,” Doran says. “As much as these women are fun to be around, they are also driven, compassionate, and loyal, and inspire me to be a better woman in both my professional and personal lives.”

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Reaching Out  |  Andres Furlan MBA’20

Andres Furlan MBA’20 makes connections with impact.

Andres Furlan MBA’20

As co-president of the OUT Network, he engaged more allies with the club, reinforced relationships with other colleges, and co-created the diversity mixer.

“We gathered people from the different diversity clubs, and we did a mixer with games,” Furlan says. “We had a very good attendance. We collected information about what students need regarding diversity.”

And, as a ROMBA Fellow, Furlan attended the 2019 Reaching Out LGBTQ+ MBA & Graduate (ROMBA) Conference last October in Atlanta. Drawing on that experience, he has helped create information for the Babson website for incoming LGBTQ+ students.

“It was a super valuable experience for me,” he says. “I think every LGBTQ+ student should go to the conference. This conference is an amazing opportunity to meet the ROMBA community and to represent our community as a Babson LGBTQ+ student. It is an opportunity to network with other professional leaders from different universities and companies around the States and the world. Also, students have the opportunity to understand the LGBTQ+ business world, and to learn about diversity in the workplace.”

Now, as a global solutions manager at Anheuser-Busch InBev, Furlan is leading its People Products Team.

Ask Furlan which other achievements mean the most to him, and he’ll cite being on the organization committee for the Babson Entrepreneurship Forum, being invited to speak about diversity at a faculty and student panel, and just being in the Babson community.

“I love being part of this collaborative, diverse, and inclusive community,” he says. “I was able to be myself all the time. Thanks, Babson!”

Thank you, Andres.

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Turning Pro  |  Ryan McDougall ’20

When the nationally ranked Babson men’s hockey team was upset in the conference quarterfinals Feb. 22, seemingly dashing its NCAA hopes, Ryan McDougall ’20 could have lamented the abrupt end to his collegiate career. Instead, he took matters into his own hands, embarking on a whirlwind journey in pursuit of his dream to play pro hockey.

Ryan McDougall ’20 (Photo: Jon Endow)

“From the time we lost,” he says, “it was a crazy couple of days.”

McDougall contacted all 10 teams in the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL), including the Pensacola Ice Flyers, who offered the defenseman a tryout contract. He then reached out to professors to temporarily leave campus, hopped a flight to meet his new team in Peoria, Illinois, and—six days after the heartbreaking defeat—made his pro debut with the Flyers. He started his first pro game the next night, then rode the team bus nearly 900 miles back to Florida, and played three more games the next weekend.

The next day, Babson, against all odds, received an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, its first since 2014. “Obviously, being a captain of the team,” he says, “it was a proud moment.” However, McDougall, now a pro, wouldn’t be able to rejoin the Beavers, so he planned to extend his stay in Pensacola and delay his return to campus. It all was moot: Once Babson moved online, the NCAA tournament was canceled, and the SPHL suspended its season.


The experience not only fulfilled a lifelong dream but also set up his future. “If I hadn’t gone, I’d just be another name,” says McDougall, who already has received three pro offers to play next season, whenever it starts.

He likened the process to the entrepreneurial mindset he learned at Babson.

“I think taking the initiative and seeing the opportunities that are out there and having the ability to do it on your own, I think relates a lot to Babson,” he says. “One of the larger lessons I’ve learned over my four years is things may not go your way, but the harder you work, the luckier you’ll get.”

McDougall proved lucky—and good.

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The Dreamer  |  Cristian Leiva MBA’20

Cristian Leiva MBA’20 had a dream.

Cristian Leiva MBA’20

Inspired by his brother, Guillermo Leiva MBA’11, he envisioned earning his own MBA from Babson. Cristian Leiva gained valuable experience with U.S.-based companies while working in his native Chile and preparing to attend Babson. He and his sister, Carola Leiva MBA’18, were accepted into the MBA Class of 2018, but a health exam revealed several tumors on his pancreas, and he was forced to undergo life-saving surgery in Chile.

His dream, nearly derailed, never diminished. He recovered, enrolled with the Class of 2020, and was determined to make the most of his Babson experience.

Leiva spent nearly every waking hour on campus, often arriving before 7 a.m. and staying until 10 or 11 p.m. “I used every facility at Babson,” he says. Breakfast at Reynolds, classes at Olin, lunch at Trim, studying at Horn, down time at the Diversity Suite, dinner at Reynolds, training at BRAC, and back to the library.

“Babson gave me the best two years of my life,” he says. “It is a whole new experience not only inside the classroom but also getting involved in the community. That is why Babson is so important to me.”

During his darkest days, Leiva had another dream.

“Being chosen as a Commencement speaker was something that I thought about back in 2018, when things were personally difficult,” he says. “At that moment, I had a vision, me talking in our graduation ceremony, and while I was doing my MBA, it was something that came to my head frequently.”

Sure enough, Leiva was selected to address his classmates. That dream, too, has been deferred until the class can gather safely on campus. But, as always, Leiva will be ready to make the most of it and deliver his message of hope and encouragement.

“No matter what is happening in your life, as bad as it appears, always be grateful for what you have, and from that point, you will become stronger to face anything,” he says. “If there is something in life that you want to do, you should work daily until you accomplish that goal.”

Leiva is proof that dreams really do come true.

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First Generation  |  Tara Masjedi ’20

Tara Masjedi ’20 recognizes her journey resembles a fairy tale.

Tara Masjedi ’20

“We come from a low-income background, so this is kind of like a Cinderella story, where I just got so lucky,” she says. “I’ve been so successful and grown so much that I seriously cannot imagine what my life would be like if I didn’t come to Babson.”

Masjedi’s tale starts with her parents, who emigrated from Iran in the 1970s right before the revolution. They arrived in Southern California with “only the clothes on their back,” she says. Her father started a business, but it was destroyed by the devastating Northridge earthquake in 1994.

“It’s a story of overcoming any challenges and being so strong,” she says, “and it’s really inspired me to follow on their path.”

That led her to Babson as a first-generation college student and as a CWEL (Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership) Scholar. Masjedi made a huge impact across campus, ultimately receiving the Student Contribution Award. She served as a peer mentor and was president of both Babson Hillel and the First Generation Student Organization, which carried significant importance.

“A lot of times, as first-gens, we forget our worth, because we don’t realize how much we’ve overcome,” she says, “and through that, we’ve built so much strength and confidence.”

Masjedi graduated with a double concentration in retail supply chain management and environmental sustainability. She is interning at a startup, Tee Commerce, before starting as an e-commerce associate at Wayfair in November.

“It’s such a significant achievement for not only me, but also my family,” she says of her Babson degree. “It’s honestly indescribable how big of an impact it’s had on my life.”

It’s a tale destined to continue happily ever after.

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Pioneering Class  |  Babson College Miami

For Samantha Capobianco MBA’20, the decision to pursue an MBA was about making an investment in something important: herself. “There is something very special about investing in yourself,” Capobianco says. “It allows you to reach higher.”

From left to right: Samantha Capobianco MBA’20, Mariana Yepes MBA’20, and Hesley Solano MBA’22

Capobianco is one of 17 students who graduated this May with MBAs from Babson’s campus in Miami. Babson has a growing presence in the entrepreneurial city, and the close-knit and diverse class marks the first group to earn their Babson MBAs there.

“It was very exciting but also came with a lot of responsibility,” Mariana Yepes MBA’20 says. “We wanted to make sure the program was as successful as possible and that future cohorts would have a great experience as well.”

The Miami graduates are an eclectic group. They work in a wide variety of organizations, from banking and real estate, to construction and retail, to nonprofits, startups, and family businesses.

Befitting Miami, a city considered the unofficial capital of Latin America, the cohort also is international. While most of the members now reside in the Miami area, they were born in countries far and wide, including Argentina, Colombia, Peru, and Venezuela.

Such disparate life and work experiences made for a vibrant learning environment. “I was able to learn from instructors but also from my classmates,” Jose Darsin MBA’20 says.

Yepes agrees: “My classmates made the whole experience so memorable. I truly feel I have friends for life whom I can rely on anytime.”

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