As we celebrate Columbia Business School’s Centennial, we honor its innovators, past and present, and look toward the big ideas that will leave their mark on the next 100 years.

Since its founding in 1916, Columbia Business School has possessed a spirit of innovation that has propelled it to the very center of business. Then and now, faculty members’ groundbreaking research informs companies, industries, and governments the world over — from William H. Newman, who co-founded the Academy of Management and wrote the first strategy textbook, to Linda Green, whose healthcare staffing models are already improving care and cutting costs at New York City hospitals and are poised to help eliminate the projected shortage of primary care physicians in the United States. As leaders across sectors — like Azita Raji ’91, recently nominated as the US Ambassador to Sweden — our community members are the pulse of the School, bringing its distinctive brand of innovation to organizations around the world. Students have played a critical part in this legacy since the 1919 formation of the School of Business Association, a forerunner to the current Student Government, with leaders like Andres Small ’12 and his community-building CBS Matters forum enhancing the School experience for generations to come. As we celebrate Columbia Business School’s Centennial, we honor these innovators, past and present, and look toward the big ideas that will leave their mark on the next 100 years.

BREAKING BOUNDARIES

Lasting Value

In the late 1920s, just before the Wall Street crash that would end that roaring decade, a young professor at Columbia Business School began teaching a novel approach to investing. He argued that, rather than placing bets based on speculation and insider information, investors should determine the true value of a stock through research. 

This pioneering idea was introduced by Benjamin Graham in 1928, his first year teaching at the School. Soon Graham and another young instructor, David Dodd ’21, were working together to further develop the concept of value investing — widely credited as the first reason-based approach to selling and buying stocks. Their landmark text, Security Analysis, published in 1934 and now in its sixth edition, was refined during the many years that Graham taught his famous course on value investing—a course later taught by Roger Murray, who edited the foundational textbook for close to three decades.

Among all their achievements, these three economists are also remembered as the teachers of some of the most legendary investors of all time. Students who learned directly from the masters include Berkshire Hathaway chairman and CEO Warren Buffett ’51, who said learning from Graham “was like learning baseball from someone who was batting 400.” Mario Gabelli ’67, chairman and CEO of GAMCO Investors and developer of a means of valuing stocks that has become an analytical standard, also studied with Murray, as did such other titans as Leon Cooperman ’67, founder, chairman, and CEO of Omega Advisors, and Glenn Greenberg ’73, principal and co-founder of Brave Warrior Advisors.

In more recent years, professors such as Bruce Greenwald — one of the most admired investment authorities today, memorably described by the New York Times as the “guru to Wall Street’s gurus”—have helped shape the current generation of value investors, a group that includes Jennifer Wallace ’94, co-founder and partner of Summit Street Capital Partners; William von Mueffling ’95, president and CEO of Cantillon Capital Management; David Greenspan ’00, founder and president of Slate Path Capital; and Todd Combs ’02, formerly CEO and director of Castle Point Capital and now at Berkshire Hathaway, where he has been suggested as a potential successor to Buffett. Greenwald is also the academic director of the Heilbrunn Center for Graham & Dodd Investing, founded in 2001 to promote the study and practice of Graham and Dodd’s principles and to serve as a global resource for investment management professionals. Five years ago, the center hosted its first annual dinner, From Graham to Buffett and Beyond, in Omaha, NE, on the eve of the Berkshire Hathaway shareholders meeting, kicking off an annual tradition that brings together the most prominent investors in the world to share ideas. Like Graham’s early lectures, these dinners have given rise to a text of the same title, co-authored by Greenwald.

The School’s legacy as the birthplace of value investing is carried forward by the achievements of these and many other thought leaders and practitioners. Almost nine decades after its introduction in a Columbia classroom, value investing remains unparalleled as an investment strategy. —JK

Shattering the Glass Ceiling

Shelly Lazarus ’70 graduated from college in 1968, during the height of the women’s movement. Setting her sights on a job in business, she moved to New York City, where a recruiter promptly told her that the only employment available to women at that time was typing — unless she got an MBA. So Lazarus came to Columbia Business School, where she quickly discovered “this thing called marketing,” she says. “It was really interesting, and it was really creative.”

When Lazarus first started working at advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather in 1971, she was the only woman employee on the business side. But she rose through the ranks quickly, becoming president of Ogilvy & Mather New York, then president of North American operations, and eventually COO of the company. In 1996, 26 years after she entered the field as one of its first women, Lazarus became CEO of Ogilvy & Mather.

Over the years, Lazarus helped reshape Ogilvy’s marketing campaigns to better reflect female consumers, working across product categories. Under her leadership as CEO, the firm landed such marquee clients as Coca-Cola and American Express, and in 2015, Lazarus was inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame. As chairman emeritus of the company she steered into the digital age, Lazarus says the future of advertising is exciting, with technology requiring broader and more nuanced strategies. As she told Beet.TV in June: “So long as you’re comfortable with ambiguity and complexity, you’re going to have a ball at this time in our business.” —AGB

Taking Private Equity into Uncharted Territory

Without Henry R. Kravis ’69 and Lionel Pincus ’56, private equity might still be a niche market — a far cry from the estimated $2 trillion market it is today.

Kravis, a legendary master of leveraged buyouts, established his reputation at Bear Stearns and went on to refine his skills at his own firm, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., founded in 1976. A few years later, in a deal that, according to Bloomberg, “became the prototype for every leveraged buyout that followed,” KKR purchased industrial pumps manufacturer Houdaille Industries. In the decades that followed, the firm would set records with the size of its deals — first with its 1988 buyout of RJR Nabisco for $25 billion, and then toppling that record in 2007, when it partnered with TPG Capital to purchase utility company TXU for $32 billion. 

Pincus, who died in 2009, was also a pioneer on a grand scale. His firm, Warburg Pincus, launched in 1966, raised vast amounts of cash to invest in companies like 20th Century Fox, Mattel, and Mellon Bank. Its $2 billion venture capital fund, established in 1989, was five times larger than any other of its day — and, like KKR, the firm would later beat its own records. But perhaps Pincus’s greatest innovation was tapping into a new source of funding: in the late ’70s, he played a key role in revising rules to allow pension funds to become major investors in private equity and venture capital, greatly expanding the flow of capital to these markets. That spirit is being carried forward by innovators like Russ Carson ’67, whose firm, Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe, is the leader in buyouts of private healthcare and information services companies. Once a specialized segment of the market, private equity is now a major force on Wall Street. —JK

EFFECTING CHANGE

Beyond Meat

Can meat made from plants change the world? Bill Gates is betting on it and so is Silicon Valley heavyweight Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, whose investment in Beyond Meat, the company Ethan Brown ’08 founded in 2008, is the venture capital firm’s first investment in a food startup. Brown spent years collaborating with biologists to take plants like pea and soy and use a heating, cooling, and pressure process to make them mimic the makeup of meat.

At a time when the world’s population is exploding, heart disease is rising, and livestock accounts for more than half of annual greenhouse gas emissions, Brown saw an opportunity not only to improve human health and animal welfare, but also to address climate change and conserve the world’s increasingly limited resources. “The opportunity to simultaneously impact [each of these issues] by changing those three or four ounces of protein at the center of the plate — from animal to plant-based meats — was too compelling to ignore,” he says.

Brown’s vision for the company is ambitious: to help reduce global consumption of animal meat by 25 percent by 2020. To get there, Beyond Meat appeals to a market largely ignored by most competing vegan brands: carnivores. To make his products even more indistinguishable from chicken and beef, Brown and his team are engineering a meat alternative that’s sold right next to the real thing in the refrigerator section of grocery stores. With business doubling every year and products sold in more than 7,000 stores nationwide—not to mention New York Times op-ed columnist Mark Bittman’s admission that he was “fooled” — Brown is on his way not only to revolutionizing the food industry but to solving some of the world’s biggest challenges. —AGB

Just What the Doctor Ordered

In 2007, Linda Green, the Cain Brothers & Company Professor of Healthcare Management, published a paper about providing timely access to doctors. Using a mathematical model, Green and her co-researchers showed that a combination of strategies — such as team care and e-visits—could eliminate the projected shortage of primary care physicians in the United States, which the US Department of Health and Human Services estimates could amount to upwards of 20,000 doctors in 2020. Moreover, this could be accomplished without increasing the number of hours that doctors work while ensuring that an estimated 75 percent of patients could get a same- or next-day appointment.

The paper generated an enormous response. In the years since its publication, Green has received hundreds of requests to use the model — from physicians in private practice, hospitals, and healthcare organizations both in the United States and abroad. “It’s extraordinary,” Green says. “I’ve never had this kind of response to anything I’ve done.”

That’s saying a lot. In the course of Green’s career, she has uncovered many ways to make healthcare more efficient. A study she conducted with New York–Presbyterian Hospital resulted in staffing changes that reduced the number of patients who leave the ER without being seen by doctors by close to 23 percent. With the New York–based Hospital for Special Surgery, she developed a queuing model for nurse staffing that cuts costs and improves patient care. It’s a good outcome for an operations researcher who is passionate about improving service systems. “Healthcare and hospitals are incredibly inefficient,” Green says. “It’s an opportunity to shed light, bring some insight, and make things better.” —JK 

A New Kind of Farm

David Rosenberg ’93 and Marc Oshima ’97 are reinventing the produce industry. Their company, AeroFarms, founded in 2004 with agriculture expert Ed Harwood, harvests crops indoors using aeroponics (air or mist) and LED lights — without sun or soil. In AeroFarms’ maximally efficient vertical farms, which took more than a decade to optimize and fine-tune, production occurs year-round without pesticides and crops grow faster and use 95 percent less water than in traditional farming. As a result, cities can grow safe, sustainable, and locally farmed produce, even during droughts.

With more than 80 percent of the world’s arable land already in use and the population exploding, the time is ripe for vertical farming — and AeroFarms is leading the charge. The company has secured $30 million from investors like Goldman Sachs and Prudential, and it is building new corporate headquarters in Newark, NJ, that will boast the world’s largest indoor vertical farm. The 69,000-square-foot facility is expected to grow up to 2 million pounds of leafy greens and herbs each year, enough to feed 30,000 people a salad a day. Rosenberg, recently recognized by the World Economic Forum as a Transformational Leader in Agriculture, is advocating on a global scale to make vertical farming an important part of agriculture. AeroFarms already operates eight farms and hopes to build 25 more in North America, Africa, Asia, and Europe in the next five years. “Using science and data analytics,” Oshima says, “we are fundamentally transforming agriculture.” —AGB

Big-Impact Giving

By offering students the chance to give real money to New York City nonprofits, a new course from Columbia Business School’s Tamer Center for Social Enterprise teaches students how to make smart donations that deliver the greatest results.

Effective Philanthropy in Urban Communities, co-taught by Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors’ Melissa A. Berman and the Clark Foundation’s Douglas Bauer, tasks each student team with allocating $25,000 to a New York City charity of their choice. (Various New York City foundations underwrite the grants.) To select their nonprofits, teams pick one serious issue affecting the city and rigorously investigate related nonprofits, scouring financials and interviewing executives. Upon making a selection, the team that produces the best analysis and recommendation is invited to bestow an additional $25,000 to their charity of choice at the end of the semester. “We tried to find an organization that had a theory of transformative change and would actually fix the [social issue we’d identified], not just put a Band-Aid on it,” says Julie Brickman ’15. Her team ultimately awarded their grant to the New York Legal Assistance Group to help provide civil legal services to unaccompanied children emigrating from Central America.

“Cities across the world face a complex set of challenges and opportunities, and philanthropy has an important role to play in addressing the issues,” says Berman.

“This class provided an opportunity to actually go out and to do something,” Brickman says, “something real and tangible.” —AGB

FURTHERING KNOWLEDGE

The Customer Experience

In 1982, Morris B. Holbrook, the William T. Dillard Professor Emeritus of Business, helped to upend the prevailing theory of consumer behavior. Instead of assuming that consumers behave rationally — a model pioneered by Holbrook’s mentor, the late Columbia Business School professor John A. Howard—Holbrook revived earlier psychological and economic viewpoints to argue that “what’s more important is the experience you have with a product.” A lover of theater, music, and movies, Holbrook considered how products elicit emotional responses in consumers. With NYU’s Elizabeth C. Hirschman, he published a groundbreaking study, “The Experiential Aspects of Consumption: Consumer Fantasies, Feelings, and Fun.” During the next 35 years, Holbrook expanded this stream of research to include perspectives from psychoanalysis, leisure studies, and other disciplines.

Today, it’s almost impossible to imagine a company not trying to appeal to a customer’s less rational side, largely due to work by Bernd Schmitt, the Robert D. Calkins Professor of International Business. With his landmark 1999 book Experiential Marketing, a term he coined, Schmitt argued that companies must “get customers to sense, feel, think, act, and relate to [their] company and brand.” “I noticed that most brands were largely identical in terms of the functional features and benefits they provide,” Schmitt recalls. “But the customer experience is a way to differentiate them: through design, attractive packaging, and communications.”

Companies continue to embrace this strategy with increasing sophistication, creating events, pop-up shops, and social media campaigns to affect what consumers think and feel about their brands. Schmitt expects that as people interact more seamlessly with their devices, experiential marketing will evolve to meet customers there. “The digital and virtual world will be integrated even more into our daily lives as smart devices and even robots change business and create entirely new experiences for consumers.” —AB

Unlocking the Value of Diversity

Building a workplace with social diversity is an imperative for strong business performance, according to decades’ worth of research by Katherine W. Phillips, senior vice dean and Paul Calello Professor of Leadership and Ethics.

In one study, Phillips and her co-authors found that diverse teams outperform homogenous ones where people assume their colleagues have the same information they do. Another study found people work harder when asked to reach consensus with colleagues of different backgrounds. “Diversity jolts us into cognitive action in ways that homogeneity simply does not,” she explains in a 2014 Scientific American article.

Research by Phillips also confirms that diversity at the very top — specifically, by way of female presidents and prime ministers — may even help the economic development of a country. In 2013, Phillips and her co-authors reported that when an ethnically diverse country elects a woman, the GDP climbs more than when a similar country elects a man. The researchers suggest that traditionally female leadership styles, such as inclusiveness, quell strife — which delivers economic benefits.

Together with several studies linking women in firms’ senior management to better financial performance, Phillips’s work underlines the benefits of diversity at all levels. Companies are taking note, and Phillips regularly advises employers like Google and Goldman Sachs on their diversity-growing efforts. The challenge going forward, and the focus of her newest research, is how to maximize performance “to give people the tools and interventions they need to get the benefits out of diversity,” Phillips says.

“If you care about innovation, learning, and how to make more money than the next company, you need diversity.” —AB

Reconciling Financials Across Borders 

Back in the late ’80s — the early days of global capital markets — US investors were wary about the financial statements of foreign companies. For example, many investors felt that the price-to-earnings ratios reported by Japanese companies were too high.

Trevor Harris, the Arthur J. Samberg Professor of Professional Practice, suspected that this assumption was incorrect. Working with research partners, he launched a three-way study on the association of accounting earnings and stock return information in the United States, Japan, and Germany. No previous study had compared this data among these different countries.

Around this time, several German companies who wanted to be listed on the NYSE without first reconciling their accounting to US standards were rejected because “there was a lot of controversy about their perceived management of earnings using local standards,” Harris remembers. His study, however, showed that the association between accounting earnings and stock return information in Germany and in the United States were actually quite similar. With backing from the NYSE, Harris went to Germany in the early ’90s to meet with the CFOs of several companies that were trying to get listed in the United States, including Daimler-Benz. “It was very clear that US regulators and many people in the markets were looking at German accounting through their US lens,” he says. “[But the two practices] were much closer than they thought.”

Daimler approached the SEC again, citing Harris’s research. And in 1993, it became the first German company to be listed in the United States — a move that had significance far beyond Daimler’s triumph. German and European accounting experts became more embracing of International Accounting Standards, which were eventually mandated by the European Union. In this classic example of the integration of research and practice, a professor’s quest for knowledge helped ease the flow of capital across borders. —JK

The Promise of Microfinance

When Suresh Sundaresan, the Chase Manhattan Bank Foundation Professor of Financial Institutions, was growing up in India, the word “microfinance” had scarcely been invented, yet microfinance transactions were taking place constantly through informal networks of pooling and borrowing money.

“I saw the poor organize informal networks of credit and savings through members of their community,” he says. “But I did not actively think about it as a research issue until much later.” 

That time came in 2007, when at the behest of Professor Raymond Horton, the Frank R. Lautenberg Professor of Ethics and Corporate Governance, Sundaresan organized a broad-reaching academic symposium, Credit Markets for the Poor. The conference gathered leading scholars, policy makers, practitioners, and students to discuss the latest microfinance trends and how to improve borrowing and saving in developing countries.

The highly successful event led Sundaresan to collect the presentations into a book he edited, Microfinance: Emerging Trends and Challenges. It also inspired him to design a popular mini-course, Markets for the Poor, offered in the spring semester.

The impact of Sundaresan’s symposium is perhaps most felt on campus through Microlumbia, a student-run investment fund founded shortly thereafter. Sundaresan advised co-founders David del Ser ’08 and Katie Leonberger ’08 and served on the board. Microlumbia has invested $80,000 in four microfinance institutions on four continents and recently expanded its scope to invest in social enterprises, with the goal of developing the next generation of impact investors. “We expanded the scope so that students would learn what else is at the forefront of investment for social change,” explains Leonberger, who now chairs Microlumbia’s board. “There are other ways to provide capital and drive development on the ground, and we wanted to be part of that too.” —AB

BUILDING COMMUNITY

Tour de Force

When Markus Fischer ’14 arrived at Columbia Business School after working in Dubai, he realized many fellow students knew little about the city, judging it “by what the Middle East is in the news, without knowing about the opportunities there or how dynamic it is,” he says. He set out to change that, organizing a Chazen International Study Tour to the United Arab Emirates. Once they arrived, he says, “students saw a completely different Dubai”; one even took a job there after graduation.

Fischer’s 2014 trip was one of the several Chazen Study Tours to various countries that are offered each year through the School’s Jerome A. Chazen Institute of International Business. In the past decade, groups have journeyed to Brazil, China, India, Italy, and Japan, among other locales. Students spend packed days meeting executives and government officials, touring workplaces, and, for a taste of the culture, sightseeing.

Chazen Tours were among the first peer-coordinated business-school trips in the country. “They enable student organizers to apply their leadership and management skills in a practical manner, while showcasing each country,” says Josh Safier, executive director of the Chazen Institute. Participants deepen connections with fellow students — there is nothing quite as bond-forming as a 22-hour flight — and return to campus with the broader understanding of other cultures so crucial in today’s global business climate. Ammar Mukadam ’15, who organized a South Africa trip, says the tour helped him see how widely business cultures can vary. “It really opens your mind to new ideas and new ways of doing business,” he says.

Adds Linda Chew ’15, who took Mukadam’s trip: “Having traveled makes me more open-minded and accepting that even if cultures or behaviors seem different, it’s easy to find common ground.” —AB 

Nurturing the Future 

As a Columbia College first-year, Sara Sakowitz never imagined she’d soon run her own company. But by the end of her semester in Innovation and Entrepreneurship @ Columbia (IE@Columbia), she had launched Blue Moon Box, a monthly subscription service that sends science games to kids. 

Hers is one of 45 startups cultivated by IE@Columbia, a cross-campus business incubator led by the Business School that develops business opportunities based on innovative ideas and intellectual property from across the University. Community members with an idea for a company — student, faculty member, or staff member — from any area of Columbia may apply. The program accepts about a dozen teams each year and is run by Professors Murray Low and Clifford Schorer, startup veterans with contacts across campus and beyond.

Participants say IE@Columbia creates a community of entrepreneurs who learn from one another and also make valuable contacts with potential investors. “Someone will ask a question about a completely unrelated project, but it might trigger something in your own work,” says Sakowitz. “Cliff took an active role in helping us meet with one potential investor after another,” says Bob Coyne, a computer science PhD student who worked on the business plan for a software company, Wordseye, with Neelam Brar ’14. IE@Columbia members meet weekly for intensive workshops on topics ranging from product design to entrepreneurial finance. Schorer says the rigor of the program sets IE@Columbia apart from other incubators. “It's not just about the business ideas, and it’s not just about incubating them. We’re taking the entrepreneurs on a full academic program to refine their ideas.”

Schorer says the teams’ ventures are growing increasingly sophisticated. “They teach me all the time about what the world will look like.” —AB

A New Tradition

Happy hours are ubiquitous, but they’re not very memorable. As a first-year student, Andres Small ’12 wanted to create a better way to get to know his peers and professors. One of the most powerful ways to connect is through sharing personal stories, he thought, so why not instill that into the Columbia Business School experience?

That spring, Small founded CBS Matters, a forum where students, alumni, professors, and administrators share what matters most to them: personal or professional triumphs, setbacks, goals, and motivations. The 10-minute presentations encompass everything from surviving cancer to running a pizza-dedicated website to spreading a professor’s passion for backyard handiwork. “It’s been years since I saw Professor [David] Juran’s presentation, yet I still remember the picture he shared of the brick wall he built in his backyard and how he likened it to Winston Churchill, who did the same,” Small says. It’s a win-win: memorable bonds are created while presenters gain public speaking experience in a supportive environment. 

The inaugural CBS Matters event comprised just Small’s cluster. But the initiative caught on quickly, with Small’s fellow peer advisors helping spread the word. Today, each cluster runs its own forum, the Student Government sponsors Schoolwide CBS Matters forums several times a semester, and prospective students often cite the tradition as a deciding factor in their decision to attend the School.

Ultimately, what started as a student initiative grew into an integral part of the Columbia Business School fabric — one that stretches beyond the classroom to continuously shape and strengthen the School’s global community. —AGB

More Than Words 

After the 2008 financial crisis struck, storefronts in the town of Maplewood, NJ, sat empty for months. Residents Jonah Zimiles ’08 and his wife, Ellen, worried about the future of their town and the limited employment opportunities for their son and other individuals with autism or different special needs who often struggle to find suitable work.

Aiming to give “an emotional and financial shot in the arm to the community,” as Zimiles remembers it, the couple purchased a shop that was on the brink of closing and transformed it into a thriving independent bookstore with a “double mission”: to provide great books to local residents and to employ young adults with autism. Words Bookstore — named “Best Independent Bookstore in New Jersey” three years in a row by New Jersey Monthly — has actively employed and trained more than 70 young adults who are on the autism spectrum. From the start, Zimiles says, “we wanted to provide a warm and welcoming environment” for this population. In September 2014, the Maplewood Chamber of Commerce honored Jonah and Ellen for their service to the community. That same year, Autism Speaks honored Words for its innovative model. Jonah and Ellen are proving to small business owners that creating jobs for young adults with autism is not only possible — it’s profitable.

“We felt it was important to step up and do something to help save the downtown,” says Zimiles. “We also want to share best practices, serve as a sounding board, and encourage fellow employers to hire people with autism.” —AGB

SERVING THE PUBLIC

Extracurricular Activities

In addition to teaching, researching, mentoring students, and writing books, Columbia Business School professors have always made service a priority, finding time to share their expertise and insights with presidents and the public. This tradition took a great leap forward when Courtney C. Brown, a former chief of the State Department’s division of war supplies and resources, was named Dean in 1954, strengthening the School’s ties to the policy realm. More recently, Dean Glenn Hubbard served two presidential administrations, first as deputy assistant secretary at the Treasury Department and later as chairman of the Council of Economic Advisors.

Through his research and writing, Hubbard has proposed ways to improve the nation’s healthcare system and explored how its tax policies affect financing and corporate investment decisions. In a similar vein, Shang-Jin Wei (pictured), the N. T. Wang Professor of Chinese Business and Economy, is on leave from the School to serve as the Asian Development Bank’s chief economist. Previously he was chief of the Trade and Investment Division and Myanmar mission chief at the International Monetary Fund. Through his prolific research, Wei frequently advises business leaders on the role of Asia’s emerging markets in the global economy.

In the public realm, professors are analysts, interpreters, and advocates, shedding light on and drawing attention to the most pressing economic issues of the day. An expert on environmental economics, Geoffrey Heal, the Donald C. Waite III Professor of Social Enterprise, is also a founder and director of the Coalition for Rainforest Nations and a director of the Union of Concerned Scientists. Chris Mayer, the Paul Milstein Professor of Real Estate, has testified six times before Congressional committees on the housing and credit bubbles that led to the 2008 financial crisis. Throughout the last 100 years, the insights of Columbia Business School’s professors have shaped policy and perception for generations to come. —JK

Bringing World-Class Healthcare to China

After she graduated from Columbia and relocated to Beijing, Roberta Lipson ’77 was surprised by the disparity between China’s hospitals and those of the Western world. Determined to bring modern equipment to China’s healthcare institutions, Lipson co-founded Chindex International, an importer and distributor of medical devices, in 1981. Ten years later, although Chindex had supplied many Chinese healthcare organizations with the devices they needed, Lipson still found many hospitals were in need of improvements, especially in service and management.

In an ambitious move that ultimately pioneered the concept of private hospitals in China, Lipson used the resources of Chindex (today valued at $433 million) to found United Family Healthcare (UFH), which began with just one government-approved pilot hospital in 1997 and today runs more than 20 Western-standard private hospitals and clinics across five cities in China and Mongolia. In addition to providing medical services to hundreds of thousands of patients, UFH also runs medical education programs for doctors, as well as an international clinical research institution. Not only are UFH hospitals recognized by global insurers and international quality accreditation agencies as providing some of the best patient experiences in Asia, but private hospitals — which Lipson says were “a totally laughable concept” when UFH started — are now part of the Chinese government’s 10-year plan for healthcare reform. —AGB

Better Public Education

When Matt Torell ’14 was a summer intern at the New York City Department of Education through a Tamer Center fellowship, he witnessed children from lower-income families suffer in school due to lack of resources—and he found his calling. “Public education is not just ‘education’: it’s health services and social services and food services,” he says. “I want to make sure that a child’s success later in life isn’t determined by the family they’re born into.” Knowing that early intervention is key, Torell, now the operations manager for Manhattan and the Bronx in the Division of Early Childhood Education at the NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE), is working to implement Mayor Bill deBlasio’s ambitious goal to make free pre-kindergarten accessible to every toddler in the city.

Torell is just one of nearly 300 Columbia Business School alumni who are working to improve the nation’s public education system. The School encourages students’ interest in education reform with such courses as Education Leadership, which offers an overview of important issues facing US public education, and the Tamer Center’s Social Enterprise Summer Fellowship Program, which provides paid internships at the New York City Department of Education and Teach for America. The firsthand experience that these fellowships provide is particularly invaluable; during her summer at the NYCDOE, for example, Alia McCants ’13 witnessed the challenges facing public school teachers and — like Torell — was spurred to action: she is now the New York director of alumni affairs for Relay Graduate School of Education, a national training program for teachers and school leaders.

Ultimately, the School not only inspires graduates to pursue careers in the field, but also equips them to lead social change. “With better schools and better school systems,” says Daniel Gennaoui ’11, COO of public charter school network KIPP Nashville, “we are leveling the opportunity gap.” —AGB

We, the People

In February, a state representative in New Hampshire was preparing testimony in support of a bill that would make it illegal for local authorities to shut down fisheries based on an ownership change or the character of the neighborhood. To make his case, Rep. Robert Cushing pointed to a novel form of evidence: hundreds of citizen opinions that were collected by the Live Free or Die Alliance (LFDA). Thanks in part to this testimony, the bill passed — and Cushing said he was encouraged that citizens were weighing in on complex issues.

Co-founded in 2008 by Paul Montrone, PhD ’66, the LFDA offers New Hampshire residents and lawmakers a virtual town hall that provides nonpartisan information about candidates and issues and encourages the exchange of opinions in a respectful online environment. “If the public understands the issues, we will get better-founded policies,” says Montrone. 

Each day, the LFDA, which is run mostly by volunteers, invites the public to comment on an issue of interest on Facebook. Next, an LFDA editor synthesizes members’ views into its signature Citizen Voices, which is sent to the media and relevant government bodies. The LFDA has grown to over 70,000 participants, including 90 state legislators, some of whom, like Cushing, now introduce Citizen Voices into testimony and hearings.

Montrone says the organization is serving as a successful model for other states whose citizens want to be heard, with other citizen activists expressing interest in adopting the concept. “Thomas Jefferson said our democracy should express the ‘will of the people,’” he says. “We’re trying to take that will of the people home.” —AGB

Illustration by James Taylor