UT Haslam MBA Student Included in National Best & Brightest List

Luke O’Banion, a new graduate of UT’s Haslam College of Business, was recently named to the Poets & Quants Class Of 2024 100 Best & Brightest MBAs.

May 22, 2024

Luke O’Banion, a new alumnus of the Full-Time MBA program at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, Haslam College of Business, was recently named to the Poets & Quants Class Of 2024 100 Best & Brightest MBAs. O’Banion, a veteran who spent 12 years in the U.S. Air Force as a Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape (SERE) Specialist before coming to UT, expressed appreciation of the recognition.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to be included in Poets & Quants’ 100 Best & Brightest MBAs Class of 2024,” O’Banion said. “This recognition was a complete surprise, and I am incredibly grateful to the school and staff for nominating me. I am thankful for this honor and am committed to living up to the expectations it brings. I look forward to serving as an ambassador for our MBA program, showcasing the exceptional education and opportunities it offers.”

“Class Dad,” Dedicated Student

Much of his non-school time has been consumed by remodeling a home he purchased at the beginning of the program. Nonetheless, the Oak Ridge, Tennessee, native still found time to chair UT’s Association of Graduate Business Veterans, volunteer at the Humane Society of the Tennessee Valley and earn one of the highest honors possible for a graduating Haslam MBA student — the Jan R. Williams MBA Dean’s Award, which is voted on by the recipient’s fellow graduates.

O’Banion is older than many members of his cohort and during a mini-term study abroad, his classmates bestowed upon him the affectionate title of “Class Dad.” Fellow class member Jahad Hoq, whom O’Banion cites as the classmate he most admires, explained the moniker.

“Luke emerged as ‘Class Dad’ during our Global Business Study Program to Argentina and Uruguay, just a semester into the program,” Hoq said. “He went above and beyond supporting classmates and ensured punctuality and group cohesion. This remarkable sense of responsibility wasn’t a one-time thing – he continued to be a pillar of reliability and encouragement throughout the entire program, right up until graduation a year later. We were lucky to have him!”

David Maslar, an assistant professor in Haslam’s Department of Finance, had O’Banion in three of his courses and regards the O’Banion highly. In Poets & Quants’ in-depth feature on O’Banion, Maslar praises his former student, saying, “Beyond his professional accomplishments, Luke also possesses a genuine intellectual curiosity and a strong drive for continuous improvement. He asks insightful questions that challenge the status quo – questions that not only benefit him but also others around him. I am confident that with his leadership ability and intellectual curiosity, he will be an exemplary leader in this time of change.”

With commencement behind him, O’Banion joined Knoxville’s Protection Strategies Incorporated as a business analytics manager. As he begins this new life chapter, O’Banion offers an enthusiastic endorsement of the Haslam Full-Time MBA program.

“I wholeheartedly recommend Haslam’s MBA program to anyone seeking to advance their career through an MBA,” he says. “The program has equipped me with invaluable skills and experiences that I continue to apply in my professional journey. The comprehensive curriculum, supportive faculty and diverse cohort have collectively enriched my learning experience and prepared me for success in the business world.”

Read O’Banion’s full spotlight on P&Q’s website.

About Poets & Quants’ Class Of 2024 100 Best & Brightest MBAs

Poets & Quants invited 78 graduate business programs to participate in the list, now in its 10th year. The publication encouraged the schools to nominate students for their “academic prowess, extracurricular achievements, innate intangibles and potential or unusual personal stories.”

Poets & Quants received 226 nominations from 74 business schools. It assessed candidates on their extracurricular leadership, personal excellence and the insightfulness of their responses and recommendations to the publication’s questionnaire for the list. Students from 45 U.S. business schools and 18 non-American programs are included in the 2024 Best & Brightest MBAs list.


Scott McNutt, business writer/publicist, rmcnutt4@utk.edu