BOSTON — Harvard Business School announced today that six members of the MBA Class of 2008 have been named winners of the School's prestigious Dean's Award. The recipients, who will be recognized by HBS Dean Jay Light at Commencement ceremonies on the HBS campus on June 5, are Shad Z. Ahmed, Jens Audenaert, Johnita W. Mizelle, Jon R. Puz, Jeffrey C. Shaddix, and Justin L. Silver.
Established in 1997, the annual award celebrates the extraordinary non-academic achievements of graduating students who, as individuals or in teams, have made a positive impact on Harvard, HBS, and/or broader communities. True to the MBA Program's mission, they have also contributed to the well-being of society through exceptional acts of leadership. Nominations come from the HBS community, and the recipients are chosen by a selection committee made up of faculty, administrators, and students.
"This award reflects the remarkable activities and achievements of our students outside the classroom," said Dean Light. "Recipients have set their sights on making our campus and the world a better place. We are happy to honor their accomplishments and confident that this kind of leadership and stewardship will continue throughout their lives."
Please see below for a more detailed look at the 2008 recipients.
Shad Z. Ahmed: Bringing the Middle East to Harvard
Shad Ahmed is passionate about Middle East issues. Before HBS, the Stanford graduate worked at McKinsey & Company in Dubai and as consultant at the Association for Development and Enhancement of Women in Cairo, a group dedicated to improving the lives of poor women in Egypt. His zeal for the region also inspired him to do something to give it a higher profile at Harvard University.
Ahmed conceived of the idea for the first university-wide conference showcasing the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the Arab world. Ultimately, he led a highly engaged team of 25 students from across the University to plan the inaugural MENA Weekend Conference, held last year from November 30 to December 1. More than 400 professionals, students, academics, and alumni attended, along with top executives and scholars from the MENA region.
The conference included a Civil Society Forum at the Harvard Kennedy School and a Business Conference and Career Fair at HBS. It also featured an alumni dinner, where former Harvard Management Company president and CEO Mohamed El-Erian received a Harvard Arab Alumni Association Achievement Award. In addition, there was a charity party during the conference benefiting the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
"As chair of the Harvard MENA Weekend, Shad went far beyond what most conference organizers typically contribute," wrote a student who nominated him for the Award. "He was the first to successfully mobilize the HBS Middle East/ North Africa community to make a MENA conference a reality" in collaboration with groups from the Kennedy School, Harvard College, and the Harvard Arab Alumni Association."
Ahmed's supporter also pointed out that he was "heroic in his efforts to get everyone to work together. He recognized the needs of each group and was able to motivate all to do their best. He exhibited attributes that left many of us in awe, including a remarkable skill to inspire others, an unyielding focus on details, and a selfless desire to create opportunities for other student leaders to shine."
Ahmed worked tirelessly last fall to prepare for the event, creating a conference Web site, organizing speakers, answering 30 to 50 emails each day, and securing sponsors. "He poured his heart into the event and, best of all, followed up after it was over," explained a classmate, adding that Ahmed was "instrumental in getting chairs elected for next year's conference, thus making it sustainable." Beyond his Herculean efforts to organize the conference, he worked with the Harvard Arab Alumni Association to create a fellowship for a student from the Middle East interested in attending Harvard Business School. "Shad Ahmed exemplifies the humble leader that HBS seeks to educate," wrote a classmate. Another said that he "stood out from the beginning as a caring, thoughtful individual." "He is always optimistic, determined, and hard-working," added a third supporter.
Ahmed added further value to the HBS experience through his efforts as social co-chair of his section. Last year, the HBS student newspaper saluted him for organizing a variety of "inclusive" social events that created "cohesion" for members of the section outside the classroom and enhanced the quality of their life at the School--fitting accomplishments for a person universally regarded as "considerate, collaborative, and nice."
Jens Audenaert: A Multitude of Interests
Harvard Business School prides itself on being a diverse community. And in every classroom in the School hangs a community values statement emphasizing the need for "an environment of trust" and the importance of "respect for the rights, differences, and dignity of others." Jens Audenaert, an economics graduate of Ghent University and the London School of Economics, has contributed significantly to the implementation of those ideals, winning praise from his classmates and others at HBS for his initiatives and accomplishments as an officer of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Student Association (LGBTSA), whose mission is to "maintain a supportive environment for LGBT students in the classroom, corporate recruiting, and around campus." The organization also aims to "increase awareness and understanding of LGBT people at the School and the surrounding business community."
While serving as the club's treasurer, Audenaert extended his purview and influence far beyond keeping its books and managing its finances. As a first-year student, he was instrumental in launching "diversity luncheons," where classmates could "ask questions and learn about students who might be gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender." Nominations for the Dean's Award also credited him with developing the concept for "an in-depth, high-quality" brochure (which he also contributed to and designed) focusing on diversity at HBS and how the presence of LGBT students contributes to the texture of the School community. Distributed by the club to promote its activities to alumni and corporate partners, the ten-page document resulted in a two-fold increase in sponsorships. As further testament to its effectiveness, the brochure is now used by the HBS Admissions Office in information sessions for prospective students.
During his final semester at the School, Audenaert's interests led him to pursue two academically-related projects under the guidance of HBS faculty members. One, undertaken with a classmate, explores "best practices" in managing diversity at HBS and eight other business schools. The other is leading to the first Harvard Business School case study with an openly lesbian protagonist.
But all this was just part of a multitude of interests that made Audenaert's two years at HBS so eventful for himself and many others. As co-chair of the fifth annual Healthcare Club Conference, organized by Harvard Business School students and held on campus last January, Audenaert played a major role in the success of an event that drew keynote speakers and panelists from companies such as Eli Lilly, Johnson & Johnson, Genentech, and McKesson. One of those who nominated Audenaert for the Dean's Award praised his "tireless commitment" to the cause. "His long hours of work--from overseeing logistics and reaching out to sponsors and speakers to organizing meetings of dozens of volunteers-resulted in a highly professional conference that was well attended by both students and the broader industry and scientific communities." "I would see him labor late into the night to ensure that everything went smoothly," observed another classmate.
With several years of management consulting experience at Bain & Company before attending the Business School, Audenaert frequently acted as an "informal career coach," advising students interested in following that path. "I saw him help countless Harvard undergraduates and HBS students with mock job interviews," said one supporter. "Jens goes out of his way to help people."
Finally, Audenaert's bonds with his classmates were strengthened by his dual roles last year as historian of his first-year section and editor of the yearbook.
"Jens has tapped into all his passions to elevate the discourse and experience" at both HBS and beyond, a nominator said. "He has excelled and made a difference in all aspects of our lives here," concluded another.
Johnita W. Mizelle: Sharing Her Wealth of Knowledge
When Johnita Mizelle arrived at Harvard Business School in 2006, she brought with her a decade's worth of experience in the financial world. After graduating from Spelman College with a bachelor's degree in chemistry, she worked in the Equities Division of the Institutional Sales Group at Goldman Sachs before joining The Williams Capital Group, where she opened the firm's Chicago office and was responsible for all aspects of business development in the Midwest, including corporate finance and institutional brokerage. During her two years at HBS, she has frequently shared her knowledge and experience not only with MBA classmates but with Harvard undergraduates, impressing one and all with her combination of energy, passion, and charisma.
Mizelle was a major factor in the success of the Veritas Financial Group, founded in the spring of 2007 by three Harvard College students completing their freshman year. Now with almost 200 members, this undergraduate organization is dedicated to preparing African-American, Latino, and Native American students for careers in finance. To accomplish that, it has overseen the creation of an intensive program that includes seven weeks of training with an HBS student as instructor in one of three areas: private equity, sales and trading, or real estate.
Mizelle prepared the curriculum for the sales and trading track and taught it to 35 students last fall in weekly three-hour classes at HBS. She also gave feedback on homework assignments, provided extra help, graded tests, and put together a career panel of HBS students. According to one Harvard College undergraduate, "Johnita's passion and persistence in teaching led several students to consider and actually pursue a career in finance - something they didn't ever believe was possible." Another described her as "the most amazing person I've ever met."
At HBS, Mizelle was an involved member of the Business School's African American Student Union (AASU), Africa Business Club, Entrepreneurship Club, and Finance Club. As one of her supporters for the Dean's Award wrote, "Despite her academic workload, Johnita has chosen to actively contribute to these clubs' objectives and to sustain a legacy of leadership and service."
Heading a 25-member HBS team, she helped make this year's Finance Club conference "a flawless day-long event" with 11 sponsoring institutions and more than 200 participants, including students from 10 business schools. The success of the conference will also have an impact on future members of the Club, since the $35,000 in surplus will be devoted to developing an array of educational activities for them.
As chief financial officer of the Entrepreneurship Club, one of the largest student organizations on the HBS campus, Mizelle also dealt with the details of processing new memberships. Working with the AASU, she focused on promoting professional development. During her first year in the club, she spearheaded the club's career fair, organizing the event and carrying out all the marketing efforts. This year, she assembled a panel of finance professionals for the AASU's annual conference.
In addition, Mizelle has served on student panels at HBS to provide her own perspectives on working on Wall St., helped conduct mock interviews for summer internship candidates in financial services, and advised and inspired other students individually. "Johnita seems to do all this simply out of the pursuit of the greater good," wrote a supporter. "People here will remember her for years to come."
'Jon R. Puz and Justin L. Silver: Intent on Improving Health Care
Even before Jon Puz and Justin Silver began their first year at Harvard Business School, they had already asked how they could become involved in the School's Healthcare Initiative. Established in 2005, the Initiative joins students, faculty and alumni interested in improving health care and the healthcare system. "They were extremely interested in the direction of healthcare management education at the School," recalls an HBS administrator. "Their proactive spirit and unflagging interest in strengthening health care has only increased in the past two years. They have demonstrated exceptional leadership that will have a lasting impact at HBS."
Elected co-presidents of the Harvard Business School Healthcare Club last year, Puz, who studied computer science and systems analysis at Miami University (Ohio), and Silver, a finance major at Washington University (St. Louis) with a master's degree in biochemistry from Georgetown, took the club to "new heights and put it in the spotlight," wrote a classmate nominating them for the Dean's Award.
"Jon and Justin have made great strides in increasing the visibility of the healthcare industry among HBS students," wrote another supporter. "They have also made it known to the healthcare community, including companies in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, medical devices, and venture capital realm, that HBS is committed to training its students to be leaders in the global healthcare environment."
As the Healthcare Club's leaders, Puz and Silver "took a hard look at what was missing," wrote a nominator. "Instead of repeating and making incremental improvements in previous years' events, they initiated many new and creative programs."
Focusing on foundational activities and infrastructure, they established the club's first advisory board, comprising faculty, staff, and alumni. They also created a formal governance document as well as new positions of responsibility, including a philanthropic committee to bolster and institutionalize the club's charitable activities and healthcare representatives within each first-year section. The "healthcare reps" help communicate club activities and provide first-year MBA students with leadership opportunities. In addition, the duo organized the first healthcare trek in Boston, visiting sites such as Abiomed, Brigham & Women's Hospital, Genzyme, Highland Capital Partners, Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Novartis, and Zoll Medical.
To showcase the talents and dedication of current Healthcare Club members, Puz and Silver were catalysts in creating the first issue of the club's "biobook." Well received by prospective students, faculty members, and recruiters, the booklet is now included in HBS admissions materials. The pair also revamped the club's Web site; expanded the grant program for healthcare field studies and independent study projects; partnered with the School's Healthcare Initiative to identify areas for collaboration, co-development and co-marketing; and led a campaign to raise funds to fight Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), better known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, which has afflicted a member of the MBA Class of 2007. "Jon and Justin accomplished a tremendous amount because of their inclusive leadership style and entrepreneurial bent," wrote a supporter. "Other students were excited to get involved in the club, hold leadership positions, and demonstrate strong performance." In addition, their classmate continued, "all the activities have been institutionalized to make it easier for future club officers to maintain the trajectory."
Puz and Silver's leadership and achievements have also extended beyond the Healthcare Club. Puz is co-president of the Midwest Student Association and was selected as an HBS board fellow for Cambridge Cares About AIDS. He was also on the team that, in unprecedented fashion, recently won both the HBS Business Plan Contest (social enterprise track) and the MIT Entrepreneurship Competition (biotech track) for Diagnostics-For-All, a not-for-profit enterprise whose mission is to provide a new generation of point-of-care diagnostic tools for people in the developing world.
Silver was part of the team that represented HBS at the Venture Capital Investment Competition (VCIC), an educational event where MBA students from various schools play the role of venture capitalists assessing actual companies. The students then present their final investment recommendations to judges who are real venture capitalists. After participating in the VCIC, Silver helped establish a similar competition on campus so that other HBS students could benefit from this kind of experience.
"When prospective students look at healthcare opportunities at HBS and compare them with those in other MBA programs," noted a nominator, "it is primarily the Healthcare Club's activities they see first. The impressive suite of activities Jon and Justin created is very attractive to prospective HBS students."
Jeffrey C. Shaddix: Helping the Less Fortunate
Described widely by his peers as an individual who pursues a life in step with his high values and ideals, Jeff Shaddix, who holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Texas, is known for his positive outlook and for consistently reaching out to help those around him. It is this genuine passion for service that propelled him for the past two years to spend January, not in some relaxing vacation hot spot, but in Hurricane Katrina-ravaged New Orleans and the surrounding region. Part of a program known as the New Orleans Service Immersion, he traveled to the Crescent City with other HBS students, faculty, and staff-many of them involved with the School's robust Social Enterprise Initiative-to contribute time and talent to a variety of rebuilding efforts.
In his second trip to New Orleans, Shaddix not only served as co-leader of the Immersion, which involved a considerable amount of advance preparation and attention to detail, but built upon his 2007 experience to play a critical role in addressing educational issues affecting the city. He and his team developed and conducted intensive career development sessions for the undergraduate business students of historically-black Dillard University, focusing on general career goals, industry opportunities, and internships. The flood-affected environment forced Shaddix and his team to counter unforeseen obstacles such as a damaged information technology and electrical infrastructure and a greatly diminished group of Dillard professors and staff--not to mention the fact that companies were slow to resume their recruitment efforts in the area.
Those who worked alongside Shaddix in New Orleans commented on his exceptional ability to listen, engage directly with others, set a vision, and achieve consensus among a diverse group to follow that vision. One nominator for the Dean's Award depicted him as a "master of acknowledgement" who is always ready to mention the contributions and successes of those he works alongside. These are the traits that Shaddix relied on to build a community of trust that was necessary not only to fulfill the goals of the New Orleans Immersion but to make the experience equally profound for the HBS participants and those they helped. His "passion" for the people of New Orleans and his desire "to make a difference in the rebuilding efforts is evident and inspiring," said a fellow Service Immersion participant.
Shaddix's deep concern for others has manifested itself throughout his time at HBS. Classmates quickly describe him as someone who always "gives before he receives," a "very thoughtful" and "humble" person who shows "deep concern for others."
Active in the Christian Fellowship at HBS since his first semester on campus, Shaddix took on a leadership role in that group last fall as its community service coordinator and established a series of events with the Boston Rescue Mission, a homeless shelter. He recently organized a spring clothing drive so that when students move out for the year, they can easily donate clothes to those less fortunate.
Shaddix also spearheaded a volunteer consulting project that created a business plan to launch a youth camp this summer for students making the transition from high school to college. A colleague working with him on the project took note of his focus on motivating everyone in the group to deliver high-quality work at all times.
In the eyes of his classmates, Jeff Shaddix is an authentic leader with an innate ability to inspire others. His relentless commitment to those around him and his selfless approach to the task at hand have already enabled him to make a difference in the world.