A. Gary Anderson
Graduate School of Management

Meet the UCR School of Business MBA Class of 2025

By Meghan Marrin | Poets & Quants |

This article was recently published on Poets & Quants, a premium online resource for prospective graduate business students worldwide. Also read the second part of the article: "An Interview with the Leadership Team".

Study hard, work hard and play harder.” That is MBA Fengan (Phannel) Li's motto, and it suits many of the other MBAs in this year’s class at the UC Riverside A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management

UCR MBAs, many of whom are international (51% this year), first-generation, and underrepresented students, come to the program for a variety of reasons — so naturally, their needs and interest vary. 

Some have backgrounds in the Navy and Air Force, some in entrepreneurship, and some in consulting and marketing; some wish to keep on their current career path, while others are looking to pivot. But they all have one thing in common: dedication. 

Quite intentionally, the program prioritizes offering personalized attention to cater to the individual needs and objectives of every student. Located an hour outside Los Angeles, the school connects with the diverse business landscape of the region. Recent graduates have secured positions in an assortment of companies like Google, Tesla, Amazon, Disney, JPMorgan Chase, Hulu, and PepsiCo.

UCR MBA Class of 2025 Featured Candidates


Charting a Course for an MBA at Riverside 

MBAs choose to pursue their degrees for a wide array of reasons. As a member of the Brazilian Navy, UCR MBA Luiz Fernando do Nascimento Vieira chose to set sail on the course for an MBA at Riverside for both personal and professional reasons. 

“As I progress and take on greater responsibilities in my naval career, the weight of my decisions becomes increasingly significant,” says Vieira, who has held a 16-year career managing supplies on ships, overseeing the procurement of supplies for Brazilian submarines, and advising on financial matters for the Submarine Force staff just to name a few things. 

He will be taking on even more responsibility post-MBA. “After graduation, I hope to be equipped with new skills and knowledge that will not only guide these critical decisions but also allow me to improve my organization and establish a broader world view and perspective,” adds Vieira. He plans to return to work in the Navy post-grad, where he will be leading organizations or advising on pivotal decisions. “It’s imperative to remain informed and continually seek innovative solutions and ideas to better serve my institution,” he says. 

Unlike Vieira, MBA Yingchao Fu prefers the land to the sea, yet similarly to Vieira, she has over a decade of experience in her industry. “It was the right time for me to start a new journey,” she says. 

UCR AGSM Students at annual color festival celebration
UCR AGSM Students at the annual campus color festival celebration


A New Voyage through UCR

“I have 12 years of work experience in vehicle engineering, and I can clearly see the promotion path I will have in the vehicle industry. I have varied engineering and team-management experience, and the UCR MBA program is a good chance for me to explore future career opportunities,” says Fu. She’s planning on working to design more efficient vehicles in the future. 

“I’d like to merge new technology into vehicles to redefine the expectations of a car,” she says.  “In the future, automobiles will serve as more than just transportation with integrated functions and innovative technology—almost like a home that’s mobile as people spend more time in their cars.”

MBA Ishita Singhal, from India, is pursuing her degree to master all there is to know about brand reach, marketing, and social responsibility in order to lead a culture of responsible marketing. “Filtering through the large pool of prospective colleges, I was certain about studying at a university that would help inculcate a mindset of excellence and innovation, provide global perspectives, and hone my leadership skills,” she says. 

At UCR, Singhal has been sharpening her analytical, creative, and social intelligence leadership skills. “Today’s interlinked challenges in the changing business landscapes demand exactly such leaders, and this kind of preparation is what I found at UCR.”

AGSM Student Ambassadors celebrate with the dean and executive fellows at the annual Fellows Installation Dinner
AGSM Student Ambassadors celebrate with the dean and executive fellows at the annual Fellows Installation Dinner


A Sense of Tranquility from the get-go

Many MBAs felt a sense of readiness and tranquility entering the fall semester, in part due to the Summer with UCR and Business Ready program that played a key role in their smooth transition into the rhythm of MBA life.

Though they officially began the program in the fall of 2023, the UCR experience started months before in the summer. “The curated sessions gave me a glimpse into life at UCR, what to expect, how to be more prepared, and most importantly, how to be business ready.”  It was a much-needed prelude for me as I transitioned back into school after working for more than three years,” says Singhal, who previously worked at Deloitte India. 

Felipe Gomez also found Riverside’s Business Ready program to be extremely beneficial for connecting with those he’d be spending the next few years studying alongside. A local Californian, Gomez has served in the Marine Corps and hopes to work in supply-chain after graduating.  “I connected with classmates, advisors, and staff, which has been extremely beneficial in preparing me for the school year. The activities I enjoyed the most were the reviews of my LinkedIn profile and résumé offered by AGSM’s Career Development Center,” says Gomez.

Professor Rich Yueh uses generative AI tools in his teaching practices
Professor Rich Yueh uses generative AI tools in his teaching practices


A Selfless and Ambitious Community

Students described the community with many positive words, with diverse being the most frequently stated. A few others stuck out, one in particular: selfless.

“The students and alumni, including the staff, have a positive attitude that is contagious. No matter how busy they are, everyone is willing to offer their time and support with any personal and/or professional challenges you are working through. This is truly inspiring to see, and I hope their selflessness carries on to everyone they touch,” says Gomez. 

MBA Manideep Bommakanti was working as a portfolio analyst at BNY Mellon, and he hopes to transition into a role as portfolio manager post-graduation. He describes the others in the UCR community as ambitious. “The peers I have interacted with so far are driven, determined, and eager to excel in their academic pursuits and professional endeavors. This ambition is likely to serve them well in their future careers and contribute to their overall success,” he says. 

Manideep is from Hyderabad, India and has studied in Ireland. “The diverse international background of the students also creates a rich and inclusive environment at UCR. I’ve personally felt warmly welcomed, and the openness to various perspectives and cultures has enriched my experience,” says Bommakanti.

Professor Elodie Goodman helps students learn reasoning to solve complex problems in her Quantitative Methods course
Professor Elodie Goodman helps students learn reasoning to solve complex problems in her Quantitative Methods course


What they Learn and a Course they Love

The curriculum in the UCR MBA contains a total of 20 courses, or 80 quarter units over 21 months. The two professional development courses, Business Career Development and Fieldwork in Management, give MBAs the chance to level up their hands-on skills and sharpen their business mindset. Along with the professional development courses, students are expected to complete a capstone group case analysis or write an individual thesis.

In a candidate’s second year, they can choose from seven concentrations in desirable areas, including Accounting, Business Analytics, Finance, Information Systems, Management, Marketing, and Operations & Supply-Chain Management – and some know exactly which they’d like to pursue going in. 

For this year’s class, one course stood out as a favorite – Management 205 – Information Systems. Air Force combat veteran Normarie Soto from Orlando says, “The course I’ve enjoyed the most so far is MGT 205 Information Systems. The professor has perfected the content presentation and makes it easy to understand and apply the knowledge to our assignments and group start-up projects.”

Several others stated this as their favorite as well, one of them being social responsibility and sustainable lifestyle enthusiast Phannel Fenian Li. “I have so far enjoyed taking Professor Rich Yueh’s course because, besides the content, it is designed with a strong personality that comes from the professor’s taste in style, his keen grasp on the tech industry, and his perspectives on how to make the ‘information system’ more chic and human,” she says. “He knows how to create an atmosphere for brainstorming in his classes tailor-made for MBA students.”

One of the biggest draws to the UCR MBA for Li was the STEM-designation. “STEM-designated MBA programs go one step further by focusing on technical skills, data analytics, and approaches for innovation management, which was the training I was really looking for,” she says. 

MBA candidates connecting with major employer Esri at an in-person career fair
MBA candidates connecting with major employer Esri at an in-person career fair


Entrepreneurs on all Horizons

Li is setting forth on a steady course to promote social innovation within marketing post-grad. “After graduation, I want to work for a multinational corporation and promote social innovation in the field of marketing and guide businesses toward sustainability and social responsibility. Long-term goals include becoming a thought leader in marketing and international business promoting gender equality, sustainable fashion, and cross-cultural understanding.”

MBA Wangda Lu from China says he prioritizes his life with trying new things – including traveling, collaborating with well-known TikTokers, and last but never least — entrepreneurial ventures. One of his biggest accomplishments is funding his own business back in Pittsburgh. 

“My business Drama Goblin Entertainment became the first board game studio in the Pittsburgh area with more than 1,000 customers. The studio was especially popular among the Chinese community in the Pittsburgh-area; they liked to come and play some board games, including Avalon and Werewolves of Miller’s Hollow.

Professor Ashish Sood connects to his students through interactive activities and by building relationships outside of class
Professor Ashish Sood connects to his students through interactive activities and by building relationships outside of class


Ambassadors at Work

The UCR MBA has a beloved experience called the ambassador program, consistently named as one of the best opportunities available at the school. Should an MBA be chosen as an ambassador, they become the figurehead of the school, navigating the waters of alumni, donors, Executive Fellows, the community, prospective students, and other essential stakeholders. As ambassadors, they contribute to the community through service, and participating in special networking events.

“It has also been an honor to be selected for the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management (AGSM) Student Ambassador program and represent UCR. As an ambassador, I’m looking forward to attending different events and conferences,” says Lu. 

California native Kevin Thiphavong formerly served in the Navy, and he says becoming an ambassador has been the pinnacle of his MBA voyage thus far. “My biggest accomplishment as an MBA student so far is being accepted into the Graduate Student Ambassador program at the A. Gary Anderson Graduate School of Management (AGSM). I was selected among many applicants, and being an ambassador allows me to sharpen my leadership skills, challenge me throughout the school year, and mold me into a better business leader.” 

Incoming MBA candidates talking with MBA peer mentors at orientation
Incoming MBA candidates talking with MBA peer mentors at orientation


Taking the Leap to Begin

For some, the challenge comes during studies but for several, the toughest hurdle to navigate is simply beginning. This was the case for MBA Normarie Soto. “My biggest accomplishment as an MBA student has been taking the leap and starting the program. I think it’s easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about pursuing an MBA in addition to everything you already have going on. You wonder where you’ll find the time, but I know I have what it takes to work through the challenges, especially with the support and encouragement of my family,” she says. 

For financial consultant Tu-Anh Viet Nguyen, the biggest hurdle was being accepted into the program. Prior to acceptance, she was fairly content, but a question persisted in her thoughts – “What if there’s more?” 

“I applied to UCR; I put all my eggs in one basket to apply to the school that I felt an instant connection with.” She had many sleepless nights worrying if her decision to only apply to one school was too risky, yet in the end, fortune favored her. “Countless times I checked the student portal to see if there was any change to my application status. And I received the offer! Just being here is already a massive first step for me,” she says. 

Alumni and professors give advice to incoming students during orientation
Alumni and professors give advice to incoming students during orientation


A Class Profile

This year, the program had a total of 331 applicants and accepted just 37 students – making for a 41% acceptance rate for this year’s Class of 2025. The GMAT scores stood at 663, with the GMAT range hitting 688. Over half of the class are international students, at 51%, and just under half the class, 49%, are women. On average, the UCR MBAs have four years of work experience entering the MBA. 

Most of the class has an academic background in business – a whole 54% of them, yet some come from Engineering (14%) and Social Sciences (11%), Computer Science (3%), Humanities (3%) Economics (3%), Science (3%). The other 11% came from varying backgrounds. 

Before beginning their degree at UCR, the class was intermixed in a variety of industries. The top industry was consulting, accounting for 16% of the class. The next top was Industrial with 10% of the class, then Entrepreneurship, Finance, Military, and IT – all at 6% individually, then Healthcare, Marketing and Non-Profit each with 3%. A little under a third, 32% of the class, came from industries outside of the aforementioned. 

Meet the UC Riverside MBA Class of 2025 featured candidates:
MBA Student Hometown Previous Alma Mater Last Employer
Normarie Soto Orlando, Florida International Academy of Design and Technology Anchor Wellness Insurance Agency
Fengan (Phannel) Li Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, China University of Hong Kong Independent consultant
Tu Anh (Tini) Viet Nguyen Vungtau City, Vietnam and San Diego, California San Diego State University Aron Consulting Services
Wangda Lu Xi’an, Shaanxi, China University of Pittsburgh Morgan Stanley
Luiz Fernando do Nascimento Vieira Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Brazilian Naval Academy Brazilian Navy Budget Management Board
Yingchao Fu Shanghai, China Tongji University NIO Inc.
Kevin J. Thiphavong San Diego, California UC Berkeley DCG Communications
Manideep Bommakanti Hyderabad, Telangana, India University College Cork, Ireland The Bank of New York Mellon
Felipe Gomez Pomona, California California State University, Fullerton United States Marine Corps
Ishita Singhal Hyderabad, Telangana, India Symbiosis Centre for Media and Communication Deloitte India


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Tamra Johnson, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions
Tamra Johnson, Associate Director of Graduate Admissions







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