This Valentine’s Day, we revisit some of our favorite MBA love stories! Current MBA students and alumni who found love during their time at McCombs share their sweet stories below.
An Impromptu First Date
Abhisikta Dasgupta and Aneesh Bansal, current 2nd year MBA students, met at an improv team-building activity during MBA Orientation. Two free tickets to the Hideout Theatre were taped between their seats and thus became their first official date.
“We started going out immediately after orientation and love happened gradually. It’s nice to have a partner who knows what you are going through and is there to support you,” says Abhisikta. “It is definitely more rewarding than challenging. Getting your MBA can be very stressful, so we give each other space when needed.”
Abhisikta and Aneesh got married in January 2020 in Delhi, India.
“We both have Indian parents and Indian weddings can be crazy,” says Abhisikta. “We passed on most of the planning to Aneesh’s parents but still spent many sleepless nights trying to find the right balance of both cultures. Finally, we did manage to collapse a week worth of madness into a single day of events. It was a fun, happy day.”
Abhisikta says her best memories with Aneesh include getting lost while hiking and Aneesh’s cooking.
“We got lost while hiking on the Crystal Mountain (near Mount Rainier), roamed around for hours, thought we would be eaten by wild animals (it was getting dark), said our good-byes and love yous, but then spotted a lake and a bunch of tents and found a trail and are still alive to tell the tale!”
“Aneesh loves cooking for me and then he waits eagerly for feedback,” says Abhisikta. “I sometimes forget and he makes a very sad puppy face.”
Abhisikta and Aneesh are both joining Amazon after graduation in Seattle, where they plan to adopt two dogs and take full advantage of Amazon’s dog-friendly office policy.
Interviewing Your Future Husband
When Caitlin Ellinwood, MBA ’19, was doing research for a start-up while in school, little did she know it would lead to the first conversation with her future husband, Jonathan Powell, MBA ’20.
“I was working for a robotics start-up founded by a McCombs alum and I needed to interview people related to the aerospace industry,” says Caitlin. “Jon had just started at McCombs a few weeks prior and I found out he was previously a helicopter pilot. I ended up interviewing him about his time as a maintenance manager for Apache Helicopters [in the U.S. Army].”
Photo by Creatrix Photography.
Caitlin and Jon took a trip together to New Orleans after he completed his first semester of school to celebrate, which became a pivotal point in their relationship. The couple married in February 2020 in a “flash-mob style” wedding at the Mopac bridge alongside 50 of their closest friends and family members.
“We chose Mopac bridge because Jon LOVES bridges! During our first trip together in New Orleans he dragged me across the entire French Quarter to see a bridge in the middle of the day while we were out with friends,” says Caitlin. “I complained at the time, but it has become one of our fondest memories. We’d visited the Mopac bridge a few times and thought it was a beautiful opportunity to show our guests Austin’s beauty and get to have fun on a bridge!”
Photo by Creatrix Photography.
“Before we told people we were dating, we used to fist bump on campus when we saw each other. It has stuck as an inside joke between us and we still do it to this day,” Caitlin said. “It’s definitely a bit awkward at the beginning – it would be like dating a coworker. But once you’re settled in it’s great to have someone you can talk to you about classes, career goals etc.”
Photo by Creatrix Photography.
They plan to lay low this Valentine’s Day and catch up on some alone time after the busy holiday season.
Summer Love Turned Forever
Launa and John Bilal, both MBA ’17s, met at the Consortium Orientation Program (OP) in 2015. John was much quieter than Launa, and his first impression of her was, “she’s a handful.”
In 2016, they both moved to Dallas for their MBA summer internships and decided to live together. During that time, they fell in love.
“Being able to have a partner who is just as ambitious and understands the challenges and pressures of being in business school as well as the subsequent careers that we accept is important,” says Launa. “There is never a need to explain our frustrations, fears, or exhaustion during business school or with our work because we are sharing very similar experiences. In the same vein, we know how important it is to celebrate when either of us had milestones in business school or in our careers because we understand the challenges first-hand.”
During their last semester of business school, Launa and John studied abroad in Switzerland and traveled together across Europe.
“One of our favorite places was Barcelona – we took a paella cooking class, marveled at La Sagrada Familia, walked through Casa Batlló, went to an ancient bath spa, and just otherwise enjoyed the culture and beauty of Barcelona,” says Launa. “It was a wonderful few days of being together, enjoying each other, and not thinking about school, work, or anything in between.”
Launa and John both travel for work, and so this will be the first Valentine’s Day they will be spending together since getting married. They will be celebrating with a night out in Dallas.
“The primary objectives of going to business school should be to elevate yourself, learn about yourself, and explore areas that you otherwise would not have the opportunity to do in your previous careers,” says Launa. If you happen to meet someone who you feel you could also grow with and grow to love, that is a plus! Do what you set out to do – grow and challenge yourself – and the rest will fall in place.
Cassie Fulton and David Flores are proud members of the Evening MBA Class of 2016 and even gave a nod to their b-school background at their wedding last year with a creative hashtag: #FultonFloresMerger.
“We met during the first orientation weekend of the program,” says Cassie. “David spotted me walking down the stairs and we ended up walking to dinner at the stadium together. At the end of the weekend, he ended up asking for my number so we could grab lunch — and the rest is history!”
Cassie famously told her brother she was getting her MBA not her “MRS”, but came away with both. Cassie and David tied the knot in February 2019 in Austin, Texas and reserved a whole table just for their “McCombies.”
Cassie and David posing with their McCombies at their wedding.
“We started our relationship by taking the Myers-Briggs [personality assessment] with our classmates — this was VERY helpful,” says Cassie. “Being in class together and trying to navigate being a couple, trying to make friends or network with peers, and also be professional in the class environment was tricky. Being McCombies together, we made great friends in the program and built a great network. We also have similar motivations and language when discussing life and our careers.”
After business school, David’s job moved them to Minneapolis, MN and then to Raleigh, NC. They just moved back to Austin and don’t plan to leave again. Cassie is VP of Global Product Marketing at CPA Global and David is a Senior Customer Support & Engagement Manager at Collins Aerospace.
Out of the Friend-Zone
Kinza Azmat and Nishanth Ramesh graduated from the Weekend MBA at Dallas/Fort Worth program in 2018. They first met a pre-MBA happy hour and their story is a little different from the other MBAs.
“I know what you’re thinking: boy meets girl, girl meets boy, love at first sight. That’s precisely the opposite,” Kinza says. “We friend-zoned immediately and continued as platonic group mates. Suffice it so say that this friendship extended beyond graduation, especially since we’d seen each other at our highest and lowest points while at McCombs.”
“Our classmates were akin to VC firms, seeing our relationship’s potential much before the original founders,” she says. “Even at the insistence of many friends, we were obstinate to external advice and continued to remain friends.”
A year after graduating from McCombs, Kinza decided to move to Denver. But before moving, she wanted to close all open chapters in Dallas – subtly dropping hints to Nishanth about a potential relationship. The target audience did not receive the intended message; Nishanth invited other McCombs friends to all of Kinza’s attempts at a “real date.” Finally, Kinza point blank asked him out and he enthusiastically agreed.
“Our first date consisted of a Brandi Carlile concert, a cozy sushi spot, and the realization that all of our classmates were right,” says Kinza. “Love was a matter of weeks, a shared home came next at 6 months, an engagement at month 8, and a wedding-to-be in October 2020!”
Nishanth wanted the proposal to be fun and include their friends, at a place special to both of them – the climbing gym. Kinza enjoys competing in bodybuilding and trains to peak for photoshoots, so Nishanth coordinated a faux photoshoot of Kinza climbing at the local gym and she didn’t suspect a thing. But then, Kinza started getting suspicious, especially when Nishanth asked her to take the tape off her fingers before the next route.
“As she was being lowered from her last climb, the rope turned and she saw all of our friends gathered at the bottom, smiling and cheering,” Nishanth says. “The rope was still tied in to both of us, highlighting how she’d been trapped…oops, connected for life when she said ‘yes.'”
Dave Jackson, Senior MBA Admissions Officer in Dallas, who admitted both of them into the program, was one of the many spectators there to witness the proposal.
“Not only is it great to have two of my favorite people meet in the program and become engaged, but the fact that so many of their classmates were there when Nishanth proposed also testifies to the culture of the program and the relationships you form.” says Dave.
This Valentine’s Day, Kinza and Nishanth are staying true to their nature of valuing adventurous experiences and plan to go shoot zombies in a virtual reality arcade, followed by a romantic dinner.
“Our advice would be to keep doing you, make friends, experience new adventures, and let your feelings guide your life,” says Kinza.
An Adventure in Love
Lis Reed and Peter Mamone, MBA ’15s, first met on the McCombs Adventure Program (MAP) tubing trip right before orientation. They became “fast friends” after learning about each other’s military background and officially started dating that spring of their first year at McCombs. They knew they loved each other after spending a summer apart.
“We did our first year internships in different places: I was in the Bay Area with Apple; Pete was in Dallas with Deloitte. We knew it was love when we really missed each other over the summer,” says Lis. “These days we’re both at Google here in Austin.”
One of their favorite memories at McCombs was traveling to Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines with classmates for a Global Connections MBA Study Tour.
“It was a once in a lifetime experience and awesome to share it with each other! It was really nice to be with someone who understood how chaotic business school schedules can get and who values their career.”
This Valentine’s Day weekend the couple will be heading to Nashville to celebrate their 2nd wedding anniversary.
Best wishes to all our McCombs couples! ❤️