Rutgers MBA Daphni Sawyer

Dual degree offered student the ability to pursue her interest in healthcare and prepare for leadership

After graduating from Cornell University, Daphni Sawyer worked in healthcare for more than two years before she decided to pursue an advanced degree. In May, she will graduate with two master’s degrees from Rutgers. 

“I had two-and-a-half years of experience working in the healthcare industry and I wanted to pivot to healthcare administration,” Sawyer said. “I felt having a Master of Public Health and a Master of Business Administration were critical to my career path. An MPH opens you up to a multitude of positions in healthcare while an MBA is important for leadership roles.”

Sawyer described Rutgers Business School’s dual degree program as “the perfect fit” because it allowed her to do the Full-Time MBA Program and pursue a master’s degree in public health at the same time.

Poets & Quants included Daphni Sawyer on its 2024 list of 100 Best and Brightest MBAs.

As a New Jersey native, Sawyer knew about the strong reputation Rutgers had in the state and noticed Rutgers Business School’s ranking by Fortune as No. 1 Public Full-Time MBA in the Northeast. She was also attracted to Rutgers Business School's sharp focus on pharma, biotech and healthcare.

In high school, Sawyer was interested in social justice and recalled that during her high school’s career day, one speaker, a political figure, told students that the best way to encourage change is to involve yourself in policymaking. She earned a bachelor’s degree in policy analysis and management at Cornell and gravitated to healthcare policy courses. In college, Sawyer also founded The Blue Room, a club to help students struggling to find mental health resources which sparked her interest in healthcare. 

After graduating, Sawyer worked in care management at the University of Pennsylvania and Thomas Jefferson University hospital systems, helping patients access community resources that could improve their health outcomes.

Entering the MBA program without a business background, Sawyer quickly discovered the foundational courses in accounting, finance and economics got her up to speed. More importantly, the courses incorporated experiential learning. "I felt like the classes exposed us to real-world experiences. It wasn't just theory,” said Sawyer, 28, who also served as president of the Black and Hispanic MBA Association.

In a consulting course, Sawyer relished working with other students to provide input to developers working to bring streaming-platform companies to New Jersey. “It was great exposure to an industry I did not have experience in,” she said. “Having the opportunity to thoroughly research this industry and to network and build connections with the developers was a wonderful opportunity.”

"I felt like the classes exposed us to real-world experiences. It wasn't just theory.” - Daphni Sawyer

Farrokh Langdana, the dean’s Professor of Business who teaches MBA students, described Sawyer as one of the all-stars in his macroeconomics class. “She is the quintessential example of someone who combines inherent intelligence with hard work and sheer dedication,” said Langdana, who is also director of Rutgers Executive MBA Program. "From her questions in class, it was clear that she had really delved into the subject matter, that she had really examined all aspects, all sides of the issue," he said.

Rutgers helped Sawyer land a full-time job. Companies are invited to campus to speak to students, and Sawyer was most excited to meet with large pharma companies such as Pfizer and Merck. The program led to Sawyer being selected as an MBA Finance Summer Intern in summer 2023 at Merck, working with the company’s vaccines group to help standardize processes for vaccine forecasts.

The internship led to Sawyer securing a full-time job in Merck’s MBA Finance Rotational Program, which she will start in July. The two-year program gives participants the chance to spend time in different areas within the pharma giant.

Sawyer credited her professors and Rutgers Business School staff, for providing mentoring and networking opportunities, and always being willing to answer questions. “They’re all invested in your growth so they’re always willing to help and lend a hand,” she said. 

Sawyer’s long-term goals also involve Merck. “In five years, I would like to be working for a cross-functional team on a high-impact project at Merck in a leadership role to help the company reach goals that positively impact their bottom line,” she said. “This would be the perfect opportunity to challenge myself and increase my skill set.”

-Sharon Waters

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