Judges of the MBA Student of the Year Award faced tough choices when it came to picking the finalists for this year's contest. The competition was fierce, and the standards were higher than ever, according to the judges who had to narrow the field down to 16 contenders and then four finalists.
The awards, which are run by the Association of MBAs and the Independent, are in their third year and highlight the wide range of achievements among MBA students. More than 30 of the 54 AMBA- accredited business schools around the world nominated a student.
The entrants are judged against nine criteria including academic achievement, team leadership, and whether they are a good ambassador for the business school itself.
The judges are also looking for someone who has faced a personal challenge or made a big career change after completing their MBA course.
Mike Jones, the director- general of AMBA, says the overall winner will be a first among equals: "I never cease to be amazed by the calibre of people on MBA courses. All those who were nominated are strong personalities, strong leaders in their own right and fantastic ambassadors for the MBA as a qualification."
Last year three of the four finalists were women, but the balance between the sexes is equal this time, with both full-time and part- time students represented. The group of 16 who got to the interview stage includes several would-be entrepreneurs. "To some extent this reflects the trends all business schools are seeing," says Paula Glason, business services manager at AMBA. "Around 20 per cent of the 16 students interviewed were keen to work in the new economy in some way."
Above all, this year's four finalists are proving powerful communicators. They include an American, Jack Barnes, who is completing his full-time MBA at the Instituto de Empresa in Madrid. Despite seriously impaired hearing, he is fluent in Spanish and he has emerged as a natural leader among his group of international students.
Chantelle Gottgens, nominated by London Business School, completed her MBA while planning her own organic coffee-bar business and working to publicise the LBS's work with other entrepreneurs.
Kevin Hogg, from Leeds Business School, had spent 17 years working for a building society before studying for his MBA. Described as an "organisational genius" by some of his peer group, he ran an email system to help students communicate.
The fourth finalist, Annette Williams, completed her part- time MBA at City University while working for Citibank. Like the other three, she seems to have been the voice of her fellow students, leading a group to discuss the future of the course with academic staff.
This year AMBA decided to broaden the panel of judges, bringing in senior figures from business as well as the public sector. Firms such as Arthur Andersen and Goldman Sachs Asset Management, which regularly recruit MBA graduates, were represented.
Tracey Rutledge, from Goldman Sachs, says …