Community and Culture

Gustavo Henrique Martins dos Santos
MBA
Class of 2019
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
São Paulo, Brazil
Current Work: 
Gradus Management Consultants

Prior to starting, what were you expecting the program to be like? How was it different than your expectations?

Before coming to Columbia, I thought the MBA would focus around finance, and in mostly connecting the academic world with business practices. I believed I would learn from my professors and guest speakers, and discuss my learnings with my classmates. This was all true, however, there was much more than I was expecting. Not only did Columbia provide me with academic expertise, it also allowed me to put into practice my learning through clubs and professional events. Moreover, by being co-president of Pangea Advisors and CFO of Microlumbia, I was able to take advantage of faculty support and see the impact of my learnings in real companies. Finally, although finance is extremely strong in Columbia, there are many other interesting subjects. Among the many options, I dedicated my time at Columbia to improving my skills in social entrepreneurship and operations, and to discover more about healthcare and public health.

How did the cluster and team approach effect your experience?

Both the cluster and learning team experience were fantastic and challenging at the same time. There were more than 30 different nationalities, not mentioning the extremely diverse backgrounds of my classmates.

Being in a learning team with 4 different nationalities and people from 5 different career industries was challenging. We didn’t always agreed on the course of action and, sometimes our cultural behaviors were unexpected to other team members. But I believe this really contributed to my growing experience. Working in such a diverse environment improved my teamwork skills.

I made a lifetime of friends from my cluster. Not only from my cluster, but also from the whole class. We worked together, traveled together, and partied together.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

Right on the first week, during the orientation. We spent one week having activities to prepare us for the MBA and to help us get to know each other. I remember the first day when I was walking to school at 8am. The Peer Advisors greeted us with air balloons, loud music, cheering, and dancing. The temperature was below 0 but they looked very happy in inviting us to this new experience.

How has your MBA experience translated into growth in your career?

I can divide this question in 2 parts; numbers and titles, and learning and experience.

First, my wage is twice as much it was before. My company gave me the opportunity to head one department and to develop and head a new business unit.

Second, I will be able to apply many of the learnings I got from school to my business. At the moment, I don’t know exactly how that is going to roll out, but I developed so much academic and professional knowledge during my MBA that I believe it will successfully drive my career.

What advice would you give to a new student coming into the MBA program at Columbia Business School?

There is no time to dedicate yourself fully to everything that is happening at Columbia. Between classes, clubs, professional events, recruiting, social activities, travels, etc., you will miss a lot of things. Don’t worry! Choose what you want to focus on and take advantage as much as you can from it. In addition, use all the resources Columbia has available for you. Faculty members are willing to guide you and to help you in your growth. Take advantage of that.

Which faculty members(s) influenced you the most, and how?

Columbia has many stars as faculties and I had an extremely positive experience with almost all my classes (there is always one class that is not exactly what we are expecting, but overall, the academic program was better than I was hoping for).

Although I had an impactful experience with most of my professors, three of them were particular helpful. Medini Singh (I took Operations Strategy, Supply Chain Management and Service Operations Management with him) guided his classes with deep discussion of supply chain and operations challenges. His approach required students to deeply understand the cases, work through the financial and operations numbers and think broadly of the impact each decision has on the overall market.

Bruce Usher (I took Finance and Sustainability, Climate Finance and Impact Investing Seminar) opened my eyes to new market opportunities. We discussed how to manage a business focused on both the return to investors and social and environmental issues. During our classes, Professor Usher used real company cases to demonstrate both successful and unsuccessful businesses, and deeply discussed their financials, including capital raising, international expansion, operational challenges, etc.

Finally, Daniel Guetta (I did Business Analytics II) is such a passionate and good professor, that I felt the desire to understand more about business analytics. His teaching encouraged me to pursue knowledge in a subject that I wasn’t really interested in before.

Which corporate visits helped enhance your experience?

I did many corporate visits during the MBA. Mostly on big companies such as Amazon and Itaú (one of the largest banks in South America). However, the most impactful visit was to Baan Dek Foundation, an NGO in northern Thailand that helps low income families to achieve a better life. I spent one week working onsite with this NGO and it improved myself in so many ways. First of all, I helped the organization develop a financial model and several social impact measurements as a guide for growth and expansion. Second, working with such a small company helped me understand challenges faced by business owners. Finally, I had first hand experience in understanding the needs of low income communities and how to work with them to improve their lives.

What has been your favorite part of the program?

Managing professional clubs. As co-president of Pangea (pro-bono consulting club focused on social enterprises in developing economies), I experienced the challenges of running a company. I was involved with strategic decisions and operational activities, such as sourcing clients (about 40 different companies per year), educating students about the projects, sourcing students (about 150 students per year), overviewing the projects and managing the team who worked with me. As CFO of Microlumbia (Impact Investing Fund), I had the opportunity to manage the daily finances, make investing decisions, recruit new members, and perform financial analyses and due diligences.

Running clubs are the same as running companies, but with less risk and more support from Columbia staff and faculty. Definitely the best learning experience.

What was the most challenging part of the program, and how did you handle it?

FOMO (Fear of missing out). There is so much going on at Columbia that we cannot participate at every single activity even if we want to. There were so many classes, guest lectures, travels, and social events that I wanted to attend but I missed. In my opinion, what was most helpful to deal with “overscheduling” is to talk to people and gauge other students’ views and experiences. Many students have taken the same classes or engage in the same activities I wanted to do, and they were very helpful in the process of prioritizing my experience at Columbia.

Did you take advantage of the Career Management services offered to all students? If so, how did the office help you?

I was sponsored by my company and I did not recruit while at Columbia. However, I did take advantage of CMC. I discussed with them long term career plans and how to build my network to achieve my long term plans.

Are there any other experiences you would like to share?

In addition to clubs, classes, and being a TA, I also helped Professor Carri Chan in writing a case. I worked with Professor Chan and Caseworks to write a case about a real business to be used in the Operations Management core class.

Katie Cullina
EMBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Madison, Connecticut
Previous Education: 
Boston College – BA in Communication, Philosophy
Current Work: 
Director of Strategic Planning (Marketing & Advertising)
Post-CBS Goals: 
I plan to build a career that energizes and challenges me, merges my passions for marketing, strategy and design, and allows me to work alongside people who inspire me.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Meeting up with friends at different bars and restaurants, walking around campus before and after class, and perusing cafes and shops downtown whenever I can.

What brought you to Columbia Business School?

A growth mindset and focus on education is something that has been instilled in me throughout my life. When I found myself working in the marketing industry and increasingly curious about the macroeconomic factors impacting my industry, ways to move through my budgeting spreadsheets more capably/less frantically, and calling my CPA dad about my taxes every year, I decided I needed to double down and get a comprehensive business education to expand my mind and skillsets, for both professional and personal reasons. And here I am.

What was your favorite part of the program?

My international seminar in South Africa was an absolute highlight of the program for me. South Africa is the kind of place that just instantly changes your world view. It’s sad, hopeful, destitute and stunning all at the same time, and to be able to take this in with my classmates was an experience I’ll never forget. It’s easy to start to feel badly for yourself when you’re working full time and completing an MBA in less than two years. That feeling was turned on its head in South Africa. The locals I met and things I saw really reminded me of how lucky I am and how much good I can do with the opportunities.

In addition to how meaningful the trip was, it was also a whole lot of fun because of the people I traveled with, which takes me to my next point: the incredible friends I’ve made in this program. It takes a certain kind of person to willingly sign away their weekends and free time for two years, and I think because of the intensity of the program and associated lifestyle, we all felt an instant camaraderie. The South Africa seminar felt like a big extended family vacation, and I give a lot of credit to Columbia for handpicking people who were not only looking to further their minds, but also gain lifelong friends. 

What was the most challenging part of the program?

The most challenging yet rewarding part of the program for me was being forced to face my weaknesses head-on. I found myself struggling to keep up with my talented classmates cruising through Excel valuations, and that was an incredibly humbling experience. But this is the power of the EMBA: You don’t really know what you don’t know, until you are challenged. My eyes were opened to weaknesses in my knowledge and skillsets, but I’m happy to say I’ve improved myself in these areas.

When did you first feel the impact of the program?

I first felt the impact of the program when I implemented concepts from my Leadership & Organizational Change course at work and saw, in real time, how it changed my team for the better. Professor Paul Ingram explained the concept of psychological safety, and recommended that we make time to regularly meet with our teams in a more unconventional kind of way — celebrating successes, listening to concerns, and looking at our work lives in a bigger picture and more people-focused manner. I set up weekly coffee chats with my team called “Caffeinate & Contemplate” in which we’d take time out of the week to just hit pause for a second and remember the larger context of what we were doing. Here, complex and frustrating projects were reframed as meaningful opportunities to learn how to deal with new sets of challenges. I noticed a shift in my team’s attitude and felt like I was not only connecting with them more deeply, but also inspiring them to think differently in the process. One of my direct reports even went on to pursue a Master’s degree in Business Analytics, an idea that was in part born from these meetings and my mentoring of her, and hearing of her acceptance to the program was one of my proudest moments as a manager. Seeing these kinds of changes in action showed me how truly impactful the EMBA program really is.

Did you have a favorite professor or course?

My favorite course and professor was Personal Leadership & Success with Hitendra Wadhwa. To me, it was genuinely life changing. When you live authentically and communicate authentically, you’re able to tap into your own unique power as a leader and more effectively motivate yourself and others.

What’s your top advice for new students?

The mountain of deadlines and responsibilities ahead may seem insurmountable, but you’re capable of more than you think. My advice to incoming students would be to do just that: stay focused on the assignment at hand, remember how lucky you are to be here, and before you know it, you might even miss those nights and weekends in Warren Hall!

Kathryn Brown
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
New Kent County, VA
Previous Education: 
BA in Political Science from Washington University in St. Louis 
Post-CBS Goals: 
I want to excel in a career where I can help other people achieve their dreams and create something of worth and value in the world. 
Favorite NYC Activities: 
One of my favorite activities is to ride the train to a stop I’ve never been to and just take in the sights and sounds of the city. I also enjoy rollerblading in Central Park and attending live music events.

What has the business school experience been like so far?

It’s been intense and a lot of fun. I’ve been pushed in a lot of ways both expected and unexpected. When I came to Columbia, I thought I knew whom I was going to click with and become friends with, given that I’ve tended to gravitate toward people of similar interests or backgrounds in my undergraduate and professional lives. But at Columbia, I’ve been pushed to form relationships with people who are very different from myself and to not make snap judgments. During class discussions, sometimes I’m surprised in a good way by what I hear people say. I come from a teaching background, and I wouldn't necessarily think that a banker on my learning team would have similar morals or perspectives, but this experience has taught me not to judge any book by its cover.

How did your professional background affect your decision to pursue an MBA?

I did Teach for America in Washington, DC, and I had a really good experience. But I realized that what I loved about it the most was the data analysis and thinking through operations of the school with my principal. So from there, I worked in an operations management role in a warehouse. Most recently, I returned to education as a data analyst, and I was working for the superintendent in DC, where I was able to merge my passion with the skills and things that I wanted to develop.

I wanted to earn my MBA so that I could have the biggest impact possible on the things that I care about. I felt like the people whom I’ve seen having the most impact, even in education, are individuals with MBAs. So it just seemed like a natural next step for me.

Why Columbia?

I come from an education background, but I am also interested in beauty and retail, and the Retail and Luxury Goods Club at Columbia is phenomenal. The number and caliber of speakers, as well as the alumni network, are unmatched. And, of course, being in New York, you have access to alumni from the first day of the first semester. I’ve met with alumni several times in person, and I think being able to make those in-person connections is something that you can only do if you’re in the same city.

There’s just something about the energy of this city and the energy of the School specifically. Whenever I thought about the hustle of New York City, grinding and trying to make it, I always thought of it as a very individualistic thing. I didn’t realize how much support there is if you want it.

How have you been involved with the Black Business Student Association?

I’ve been involved in a few ways. At first, it was just socially. It’s a good home base, like a family type of feel. But then I discovered that BBSA provides in-depth professional support as well. We have career-specific groups if you’re recruiting or interested in a specific industry. You’re matched with a second-year student who has already pursued the path you’re interested in. We have alumni events, and we’ve had alumni come in and do interview prep. We’ve had several career meet-up group events.

I’ve also been involved in the Spotlight On: Diversity events and talking to prospective students, helping to mentor them throughout the process, which was my first touchpoint with BBSA when I was applying to Columbia. I’ve definitely tried to pay it forward. I always try to make myself available after professional events to talk informally with new students, too.

Any other community events you’ve had a chance to attend while at the School?

I love CBS Matters. I’m actually hoping to present myself this spring. I always try to arrange my schedule so that I make the presentations. There are two things you get out of it. The most obvious is that you learn a lot more about someone in your cluster, maybe someone you don’t know very well. Again, this has helped me to not make judgments about people and to be open. But the other thing that I really like about CBS Matters is the community-building aspect of it. When someone shares such a personal story, everyone in the room is bonded in that experience. It pushes our cluster, even in our more informal one-on-one conversations, to be more open with each other because someone has just poured their soul out in front of 50 people. 

Nana Yaa T. Mensah
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Chicago, IL
Previous Education: 
BA in Biology from Grinnell College
Current Work: 
Pathology Technologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center 
Post-CBS Goals: 
I want to utilize both the hard and soft skills I have learned at the School to create outcomes that provide value in my work decisions and personal life.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Spending time with my husband, playing with my puppies, listening to and performing music.

What is your professional background?

I work at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) in clinical pathology performing genetic testing assays. I began my career at MSKCC in the Infectious Disease Service in research. I later transitioned into pathology, because it gives me the opportunity to flow seamlessly between research and clinical workflows. Pathology has grown so quickly since the advent of personalized medicine. We now use genetic-based advanced tools to find out if someone has disease. From there, Pathology passes that information on to the person’s physician, who will prescribe treatments and medications to help them to get through a very difficult time in their life.

Why did you choose the EMBA program?

Whenever something new and important comes out, it’s really important to look at it, turn it upside down and figure out if that thing is going to be beneficial. I wanted to leverage the curriculum of Columbia’s EMBA program to help me move forward research applications that can be transitioned into clinical applications in pathology. I also wanted to continue working full time so I could use knowledge I would gain at the EMBA program on a daily basis, while staying connected to my field.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced, and how has that impacted your decision to go to business school?

The past two years have been challenging for me. Unfortunately my mother passed on while I was in the second semester of the program. I actually applied to Columbia Business School with her knowledge, and she was very, very excited about me going. She graduated from high school, and that was where she stopped. She’d always told me, ‘You have to keep going. And you have to learn as much as you can. Knowledge is power.’ She came to visit me about a year before she passed. She visited the campus and said, ‘This program would be great for you, Nana, and you should do it!’ Then suddenly, a drunk driver struck her. During that time period, I wasn’t exactly sure if I wanted to continue the program; I was heartbroken.

In order to continue the program, I had to gather my inner resources, and then acknowledge to myself that I’m part of my mom’s legacy. She was a pretty tough woman, but she was gentle and kind, too. I felt that it would do her a great honor to continue the program. With the help of my family, friends, the community here at the School, my learning team, and people in the Black Business Student Association, I’m in my last semester of the program.

Can you talk more about the community that you found here?

It’s interesting because while it’s a diverse community, it’s also a close community. There’s something about the way the School brings students together that is very special. I haven’t actually seen it anywhere else. The program is designed to allow students time to get to know each other outside of class in a meaningful way. School-sponsored events after class, like happy hour, gave me the opportunity to build familiarity and strong ties with my classmates.

What do you hope to do after graduation?

Besides continuing to work in pathology research, I’ve been thinking about entrepreneurship. I’ve been impressed by the new platforms that people have been creating in the healthcare sphere.

I collaborated with an EMBA student who also works at MSKCC in my Marketing Workshop class. We helped a company move forward on the marketing goals for their product. I believe their product will be a very important diagnostic tool in the future, and the experience working with this company made me more interested in entrepreneurship as a career choice.

What advice do you have for an incoming student?

I would love to give two pieces of advice. One is to be well organized and plan your trajectory through the program. In order to get the most out of your class experiences, put your priorities first and remind yourself about these priorities as you go through your day. Understand that your time is valuable.

The second thing is to have fun while you are learning. I have had a wonderful time, attending residence weekends, dinners organized by fellow students, and trips abroad. There’s a little time to stop and smell the roses, and it’s important to do that because you can come away with some beautiful relationships that will last for the rest of your life.

 

Nathalie Tadena
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Ossining, NY
Previous Education: 
BA in journalism and political science from Northwestern University, 2011
Previous Work Experience: 
I was a business reporter for the Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones & Company.
Post-CBS Goals: 
I plan to work in technology or media.
CBS Activities: 
Board member, Columbia Women in Business (CWIB); board member, Media Management Association (MMA); Asian Business Association; Technology Business Group; Hermes Society
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Weekend brunch dates, New York City Ballet performances, picnics in Central Park, and getting lost in art museums.

 

Why did you decide to attend business school?
Before business school, I was a reporter at the Wall Street Journal. As a reporter, I saw first-hand how technology was changing the media industry. I knew I wanted to come to business school to better understand technology and also gain a skill set for how to lead an organization as the marketplace changes.

 

Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

Columbia is in the media capital of the world. As someone who’s passionate about media, I wanted to be at a school with a good network of alumni in the media industry as well as great classes on the industry. I also wanted to work with students who share my interest.

 

What was it like to transition from being a reporter to being a student?

It was definitely challenging. I knew coming in that many of my classmates came from finance and consulting. It’s been an incredible experience to learn from these classmates who have had such different experiences than my own. I’ve been able to share with them the writing and communications skills that I’ve honed.

 

Can you talk more about how you’ve brought your professional experience as a reporter to the business school experience?

When I was a reporter, I was always asking questions to executives: How do you stay competitive? What’s the future of this industry? These are questions I ask in class, too, about cases we are studying or new topics we’re approaching. I try to bring a journalist’s mindset to exploring business topics.

 

What has surprised you at Columbia Business School?

I’ve been really surprised at how collaborative the community is. I thought that students would want to study on their own, but I’ve always been able to find classmates who want to work together — from doing homework, to studying, to reviewing answers. Everyone is very supportive.

 

How have you engaged with the community at the School?

I’m an associate vice president of Women’s Week, which is a part of Columbia Women in Business. Together we plan a week-long program around women’s issues. We aim to provide a well-rounded suite of events and speakers, including women from various industries, entrepreneurs, and investors.

 

You’re a first-year student. What are your summer plans?

I plan to intern at IBM. I am excited about it because I have always been interested in technology. I want to learn about how technology can impact different industries, especially the media industry.

 

 

Eileen Ng
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Queens, NY
Previous Education: 
BS in hospitality administration from Cornell University, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for a luxury boutique hotel firm as director of revenue and for Expedia as a market manager in the Hawaii office.
Post-CBS Goals: 
I would like to work in brand management for a consumer packaged goods (CPG) firm.
CBS Activities: 
AVP of Women's Week for Columbia Women in Business; AVP of membership for Asian Business Association; AVP of events for the Gourmet Club
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Trying the many different coffee shops, visiting museums on a weekday, walking the High Line.

 

What were you doing before business school?

Prior to business school, I was in hospitality. I worked in revenue management for a luxury hotel firm in New York City. I've also traveled the world and worked for Expedia in Hawaii as well as in Japan.

 

What made you decide to come to business school?

I’d spent my career in hospitality, and I wanted to broaden my knowledge of different industries and learn about more businesses. Because of this, I recently accepted a summer internship outside of hospitality, working for a consumer packaged goods company.

 

Can you talk more about your internship?

I will work in brand management. It's really exciting for me because I will work with consumer goods, which I never expected to do. I would not have had this opportunity without Columbia.

 

What else has Columbia Business School offered you?

I think there's something for everyone. I've been lucky enough to be able to be part of clubs, like Columbia Women in Business and the Christian Business Fellowship. I've been able to find really strong communities around these interests.

 

You are from New York. What’s it like being a student in your home city?

As a native New Yorker, I thought I knew everything about New York. But I’m learning about so much more through my classmates. Just the other week, I went to an event sponsored by the Gourmet Club at a new restaurant in Morningside Heights. I've discovered so much from my classmates that I never expected to.

 

Have there been other surprises in your experience?

I didn't realize how many resources were at the tips of my fingers. It seems like every week there's a talk from a CEO from a different industry. A few weeks ago I went to a talk from the CEO of MSK. I never expected to be able to meet people of such high caliber so easily, and all of them are in New York.

Coree Mahoney
MBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Scottsdale, AZ
Previous Education: 
BS in criminal justice from California State University Sacramento, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
I was an active duty intelligence officer in the United States Navy.
Post-CBS Goals: 
I would like to begin a career that involves management, financial services, or aerospace and defense. I want to join an organization with a positive culture and motivating mission.
CBS Activities: 
Member of the Forte Foundation; Military in Business Association; Columbia Women in Business; Investment Banking Club; Wine Society; and the Retail and Luxury Goods Club; Chair of Sponsorship: Brand and Apparel for the CBS Fashion Show
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I enjoy running in Central Park, trying new restaurants, shopping, and sightseeing.

You were in the Navy before business school. What was that experience like?

I loved my time in the Navy. For my first tour, I was with an F/A-18 squadron. These jets can take off and land on aircraft carriers. I did one deployment with them to the Arabian Gulf for eight months. The pilots would fly into Afghanistan every morning to support the ground operations, and I briefed the pilots before and after missions. If they dropped any bombs, I reported it. Overall, it was amazing to experience the dedication to mission accomplishment within the US military.

Life on the carrier — which was huge, there were about 5,000 people onboard — was not as bad as it sounds. We had a Starbucks, multiple gyms and stores, a post office, and concerts and BBQs on holidays. I never had to cook, and I only had a five-minute walk to work each morning. I would get off the night shift and exercise on the rowing machine in the morning while watching dolphins play in the water.

For my second tour, I did a non-operational intelligence tour, in Washington, DC, where I worked at the Office of Naval Intelligence. I analyzed foreign naval operations in Europe, Russia, Syria, and parts of Africa. I absolutely loved that, too.

What was behind your decision to end your Navy career and go back to school?

I was attracted to Columbia Business School because there were so many international students whom I knew I could learn a lot from. I did not want to be at a school full of people just like me. I also met with alumni, who were so supportive — that’s when I knew Columbia was a community that I wanted to be a part of. Additionally, I wanted to be in New York to begin my new career, and the School offered so much access to the top businesses in the world. You can’t beat being in the heart of New York while being a student in business school.

What did you learn about leadership and organizations in the Navy that you brought with you to business school?

The US Navy is a massive organization, and inevitably there are both good and bad examples of leadership. I always looked at both as great situations from which to learn something. During my first tour in the aviation community, we had a really cohesive group. Our squadron was about 220 people, and the most senior person would meet with all of us in the hanger about once every two weeks. I saw how he set an example to take care of the sailors in the squadron and their families. I started to emulate that example.

From then on, I focused on the people who worked for me. I realized that being able to pull people in and bring everybody together, while recognizing that the method for doing so is different for everyone, is a part of leadership that is rarely emphasized. You need to adapt your strategy for motivating each person and build your team that way. And when you build a great team, they will move mountains to complete the mission.

What’s your impression of the community at Columbia Business School so far?

The military community here is awesome; it’s comforting to hear the banter back and forth between the different branches in our group chat. The Columbia community as a whole is so diverse, and I’m learning a ton, about both business and different cultures. I thought I learned a lot when I went to other countries with the Navy, but here I’m learning even more from everyone’s personal stories. I don’t think it would be such an amazing experience if it weren’t that way.

What are your plans for the future?

I am interested in the banking industry, maybe a corporate strategy type of role. Before coming to business school, if I saw a Wells Fargo on the corner, it was just a bank to me, and I didn’t think much about it. Here, I started to learn that there’s a lot behind that, so I may go that route. But I’m here to explore. I want to find something that I enjoy doing and that may be something else that I haven’t even heard of yet.

What advice would you give other military veterans who are interested in attending business school?

The most surprising thing for me was that recruiting kicks off right away in the fall. I thought I would come to business school to figure out what I wanted to do, but there isn’t much time for that. My advice for other veterans is to think about what they want to do the summer before school starts, and come prepared to start recruiting for that career path.

Danielle Beneduce
EMBA
Class of 2018
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Mendham, NJ
Previous Education: 
BA in Marketing, Lehigh University
Current Work: 
Operations Manager, HBO Home Entertainment
Post-CBS Goals: 
I hope to one day sit in the executive chair at HBO.
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I enjoy walking my dog in Central Park, Soul Cycle, football Sundays, trying new restaurants, and summer movie nights in Bryant Park.

Why did you decide to pursue your MBA?

I’ve always wanted to get an MBA, and when I transitioned to my role at HBO I knew it was the ideal time. I love what I do, and I want to see how far I can climb at my company. Being relatively young in this industry, though, I knew I still had a lot to learn to take me to the next level. So it seemed like the perfect opportunity to go back to school and apply what I learn on the weekends to my job during the week. Being able to learn from other executives who are also working full time and going to school made the decision to pursue this program even more appealing.

Why did you choose Columbia?

It was a no brainer. Columbia was always my number one choice. Part of it was because I work in New York City. I knew I wanted to keep my job. I wanted to be able to directly apply what I was learning — go back to the office the next day and see how I could work it into my day-to-day tasks. I had to be in New York, and Columbia is the best business school that you could possibly go to in the city. Also, the network of people at the School is so impressive. I know people who have gone to Columbia, and I knew that this was a network I really wanted to join.

When you arrived on campus, what were your first impressions?

Honestly, at first I was a little intimidated. At orientation, they went through the list of all the different industries and accomplishments of my classmates, and it was super impressive. I was very excited and humbled to know I was going to be a part of that. I also noticed right away how interactive the classes were. It’s different from undergrad; you don’t feel as much like you’re just being lectured to. You’re in a room with a huge amount of talent and experience, which turns the classes into conversations more than lessons. You’re very involved, and you feel like you’re getting a wealth of knowledge and experience from your classmates as well as your professors.

What’s been your favorite part of the experience so far?

There are a lot of things I like, but there are probably two that stand out the most. The first is the friendships/network that I’ve built with the other students. Each class is broken up into clusters, and each cluster is a relatively small group, so we’ve all grown close. It’s nice to spend time with people who are like-minded and share the same passion for business and for their work. I wanted to get more involved, so now I’m also one of the student representatives for the EMBA Saturday program. I’ve been able to get to know my classmates on a deeper level by organizing the CBS Matters program. The second, I would say, is the satisfaction of learning things that are useful to everyday life. Being back in the classroom and having conversations about things that really matter has been refreshing. I missed that aspect of the academic environment.

What is it like going to business school in the city?

I don't know what it’s like going to business school anywhere else but I can’t imagine it could compare to New York City. You have everything at your fingertips here. We’ve had great speakers come in from Wall Street, the media, and other exciting industries; just a couple of weeks ago, we got to do a Q&A with both Bill Gates and Warren Buffett ’51 at the same time! Having such a wealth of great people available to us adds so much to the experience. Outside of school, my classmates and I are able to enjoy so many different activities together. We’ll often go out and try new restaurants or bars; classmates who are into dance have brought us to the ballet; we’ve taken day trips to the suburbs for golf and vineyard outings. There’s so much opportunity to do a lot, learn about each other, and try new things together being in New York. It’s made for a dynamic experience so far.

What are your long-term career goals?

I would like to see how far I can push myself up the executive ladder at HBO. I really enjoy working for this company. Right now, my focus is in the manufacturing and distribution side of operations, but home entertainment is a quickly evolving industry — going from DVDs and Blu-rays to digital streaming. I’d like to get a more holistic knowledge of operations in the media and entertainment industries, specifically in technology and information systems, and then see how I can use those competencies in what I’m doing at HBO. I want to be a leader in helping our department evolve as the industry continues to change. In the long term, hopefully that turns into having a really successful career here.

What will you take with you from your time at Columbia?

The number one thing I’ll take with me is the valuable friendships and relationships I’ve created. Even being here for less than a year, I've already met so many amazing people. Also, having a better, wider knowledge of all of the different aspects of business has already proven valuable in my job. I think it’s helped me to think more strategically — not only about what I do specifically, but how the entire business operates and how my decisions affect the whole company. I think after this program I’m going to be much more valuable as a professional. 

Geoffrey Pope
EMBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Detroit, Michigan
Previous Education: 
BBA in marketing from Eastern Michigan University, 2011
Previous Work Experience: 
Former NFL player, New York Giants, Cincinnati Bengals, and Philadelphia Eagles; vice president at USI Insurance Services
Current Work: 
Vice president at Aon Risk Solutions, a leading global professional services firm providing a broad range of risk, retirement and health solutions
Post-CBS Goals: 
Continue working in risk solutions and entrepreneurship 
CBS Activities: 
Officer of Our Community Matters Program; member of the Reentry Acceleration Program Curriculum Team, Black Business Students Association, Real Estate Club, Private Equity/Venture Capital Club, and Retail & Luxury Goods Club. 
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I enjoy taking in sporting events and sampling the diverse restaurants the city has to offer.

What brought you to business school?

My path to business school was untraditional. I started my professional career in the NFL, but after sustaining a career-ending injury in my fourth season, I knew it was time for me to transition. Like most NFL players, I left my undergraduate school early to train so I wanted to finish my last semester and graduate. Immediately following my injury, I went back to Eastern Michigan University and completed my last semester to graduate that summer. I then followed the advice of my mentor, and pursued a career in risk management and insurance. Education has always been important to me. Also, I knew that having an MBA from a top business school would give me an edge in my industry.

So why did you choose Columbia?

I live in Philadelphia so it would have been easy to consider a local MBA program. I did a lot of research on schools and knew I was looking for an academically rigorous program with a strong network and reputation. After visiting Columbia, I knew I would get all three of those things here. I couldn’t be happier with my choice. My professors are industry leaders, and my classmates are great. My journey and time in the NFL was unique preparation for Columbia and the work ethic it takes to succeed here.

How exactly did football prepare you for the EMBA program?

Football is the ultimate team sport. You can perform at your best but the rest of the team has to do the same in order for you to succeed. The same principle applies to the program. The learning team model is very similar to a locker room: people from different backgrounds coming together to accomplish a goal. Also, football requires perseverance and a strong work ethic. There is a lot of work that goes into game day preparation: studying plays, watching film, and consistently practicing at a high level. Similarly, that same perseverance and work ethic is required to succeed in this EMBA program as well as most of the career paths my classmates and I work in.

What is the community like at the School?

People come from a variety of professional backgrounds, which makes for interesting discussions and debates regarding our approach to solving complex problems. For instance, everyone in my learning group represents a different industry — from a leadership or organizational management standpoint, differing viewpoints and experiences are invaluable. The varied perspectives in the school community enrich the learning experience as well as demonstrate that diverse perspectives are key to finding the best solutions. My classmates and I have also developed strong relationships throughout the course of the program, which will surely continue after graduation.

What’s the advantage of going to business school in New York City?

New York City is really the business capital of the world. With Columbia being located here, we have access to industry leaders who are often featured as guest speakers and adjunct professors. The opportunity to network with the New York City business community is a huge draw. Specifically, I focus on real estate and private equity so building a strong network in New York is key to my success.

What pieces of your EMBA experience will you take with you?

I have already applied so many of the lessons from the program. What I’ve learned from the professors — whether it’s a leadership course with Paul Ingram or Paul Johnson’s Value Investing — can be applied to many different situations both in my personal life and in my career. I’ve had the opportunity to work on a wide variety of issues, from a white paper on changes in the real estate industry to an independent study that focuses on reducing the recidivism rate through educational programs. I know that my EMBA network and relationships with professors and classmates will continue post graduation. 

Ashley Mackel
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Shaker Heights, Ohio, United States
Previous Education: 
BA in Comparative Women’s Studies with minors in Public Health and Sociology, Spelman College, 2008
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for Ogilvy & Mather in New York developing marketing strategy for clients and charting brand development for the marketing and content of the agency
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in a brand management role for a global company
CBS Activities: 
VP Conference, Retail & Luxury Goods Club; VP Partnerships, Marketing Association of Columbia; board member, CBS Reflects; member of Black Business Students Association, Columbia Women in Business, General Management Association, Gourmet Club, Hermes Society, Innovation + Creativity in Business Society 
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Trying new restaurants with friends throughout the city, reading on the Brooklyn Heights Promenade, and walking the distance of Central Park to head to Midtown.

 

Why did you choose to pursue an MBA?

I spent seven years working in a New York advertising and marketing agency. I fell in love with the field, and by the end of my time there, I was working directly with the chief marketing officer around marketing strategy for the agency. On one of my work teams, I was surrounded by a team of MBAs, and in working with them, I realized I wanted to be able to think and ask questions like they did. I talked to them about the impact of their degrees and decided that I wanted the same for myself.

 

What attracted you to Columbia Business School?

After I decided that I wanted to get an MBA, I set my sights on identifying schools that focused on retail and luxury goods. I wanted to combine my professional experience in marketing and strategy with a new focus on the brand side. As a prospective student, I attended Columbia Business School’s Retail and Luxury Goods conference, and I was blown away by how professional it was. Also, I recall walking out of the School’s library thinking, “I have to be here. This is the place for me, and this is the type of work I want to learn how to do.”

 

What has surprised you the most?

The most pleasant surprise is the strength of the community. The community welcomes you with wide-open arms, if you choose to participate in it. Students live throughout the City, but that doesn't mean there isn't a fabric of community here for those who want to participate in and contribute to it.

 

How are you using electives to complement the core curriculum?

Although I worked in advertising and marketing before business school, I didn’t study it as an undergrad. A lot of the elective courses I’m taking now are focused on marketing, branding, and strategy. I love these areas, and it’s good to encounter them in the classroom, where I can tie the learnings to my professional experience.

 

What’s it like to be a student in New York City?

The power of Columbia, married with our location in New York City, gives those of us interested in retail and luxury goods a huge amount of access. We have alumni across those industries. There are also innovative startups focused on retail that are only a subway ride away. I’m using this access to plan our next Retail and Luxury Goods conference. It really energizes me.

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Fall 2015 Cross-Registration Dates

  • A-term, B-term, and Full-term electives: 10:00 am on Thursday August 20th until 4:00 pm Tuesday September 8th.
     
  • B-Term electives: 10:00 am Wednesday October 21st until 4:00pm Wednesday October 28th.