Community and Culture

Augustus Haney
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born in MD; grew up in Washington, DC
Previous Education: 
BS in economics from NYU, 2009
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked as a sponsor's agent and project manager in New York's residential development sector
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in real estate private equity investing and development
CBS Activities: 
Chair of Cluster Z'17; member of the Real Estate Association, Private Equity Club, Sailing Club, and Ski Club
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Met Opera, the Cloisters, MoMA, biking in Central Park, film festivals, theatre at BAM, and new restaurants

 

Why did you apply to business school?

I previously worked in real estate, on the development side. As I progressed, I became interested in working in real estate finance. I knew I needed to enhance certain skill sets and qualifications in order to do that. I also wanted to build my network, both within real estate and outside of it. The MBA was the best route to accomplish this.

 

What specifically attracted you to Columbia Business School?

I was attracted first and foremost by the location. Wanting to work in real estate, I knew I wanted to be in a major real estate market. I also thought about the network I would like to have, and New York is where the business leaders are. It’s the center of the universe in terms of the real estate business. You can easily take the subway to meet for coffee with the principal of a major real estate fund or developer, which is something you can’t do on an isolated campus. That’s why Columbia was my top choice.

 

What were your first impressions as a student?

I think there is a misconception that MBA students are cookie-cutter — that they look the same, dress the same, and that they are all going into finance. I was amazed by the incredible diversity I found here. People come from nonprofits, government, and military. There’s also tremendous ethnic and geographic diversity. Everyone has their own story, and it’s been a surprising gift to have access to this.

 

What have you enjoyed the most about the academic experience?

The best part of the academic experience has been the guest speakers. These people are the top players in their particular industries — just listening to them, you know that they know what they’re talking about. You get to hear about their deals and areas of interest, and knowing what they are doing right now makes you feel very connected to the business community. I don’t think this access would be possible anywhere else.

 

How did you become involved in the community?

I entered in the January term and became tightly knit with my cluster. As the year progressed, and people started taking electives, I became more involved with clubs, including the Real Estate Association and the Private Equity Club. Clubs allow you to seek out people with common interests as well as expand your circle. I went on a trip with the Real Estate Association, and now I consider it to be almost like a second cluster to me, and have formed some of my closest connections there.

Saskia Chanoine
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born in Washington, DC; Haitian roots
Previous Education: 
BA in international relations and community health from Tufts University, 2009
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for PBS/WNET in New York as a producer for the national show SciTech Now, and as an associate producer for the docu-series Treasures of New York
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in media in New York or launching a venture in the media space
CBS Activities: 
VP of speakers, Media Management Association; VP of Women’s Week, Columbia Women in Business Club; alumni chair, cluster H’17; member of the Technology Business Group, Wine Society, Marketing Association of Columbia, Black Business Association, and Hermes Society
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Walking, which is how I discover new places, find new stores, and take in the architecture of the city; trying new restaurants; seeing shows, from free jazz nights at Lincoln Center to Broadway

Why did you choose Columbia Business School?

When I visited Columbia, it just felt like home. The School has a very strong media program. I dove right into it, taking a position in the media management association. It provided an avenue to work closely with the department and to learn from the people in it. There are so many opportunities.

 

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

I’m taking a master class this semester. These are often taught by New Yorkers who are at the top of their field. You get real, practical knowledge from them – what’s happening in the field and what you should be concentrating on. We have access to so many interesting people. And there’s also the cultural aspect of being in New York. I love the theater, I love the arts, and I love music. You also learn from that.

 

What has been your favorite thing at Columbia Business School so far?

My favorite thing is called CBS Matters. Every Thursday, one or two people present about their life, on any aspect they choose. Some people have focused on the country that they come from. Others dive into the details, like, "My ancestors came on the Mayflower." These are the most precious moments, because it's really when people open up.

 

What has surprised you?

The people surprised me the most. I came from a non-traditional background, in nonprofit, and didn’t necessarily have the quantitative experience that a lot of my peers have. But people are so open to helping you. They’ll take their time -- 30 minutes, an hour, three hours – to break down a problem and help you walk through it. In school, time is your most valued asset, but everyone makes the effort to help each other as much as they can.

 

What advice would you give to others?

It's really important to take the time to reflect, and to have new experiences. Some people come to business school with one specific goal in mind. For example, I came for media, and I was looking to get back into media. But an internship opportunity in finance came up. I never saw myself as a finance person, but the School opened the doors for me, and I got to peek behind the curtains to see how the industry works. I’d have lightbulb moments like, "Oh that's what that meant in the class," or, "Oh, that's what the professor was trying to drive at." It’s so important to be open to new opportunities, to try different things. This is the time that you can do it.

 

What will you take with you from Columbia Business School?

I didn’t expect business school to be emotional, but a self-reflective journey is part of the experience. I had confidence coming in, but I realized when I arrived that everyone here is a superstar. It made me question my fit and skills. But I discovered this is part of the process, and you emerge from this process with a different confidence than you had coming in. I'm going to leave more confident than before, knowing that I can attack problems and challenges that I didn't foresee, or that I had never expected to come face to face with.

 

Yuta Yamada
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born and raised in Tokyo; lived in New York City from ages seven to 12
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for Goldman Sachs in Tokyo in the investment banking division
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in a finance role for a consumer-retail company in New York
CBS Activities: 
VP of international, Student Government Executive Board; member of Peer Advisors, General Management Association, Private Equity Club, and Basketball Club    
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Attending professional sports games, jogging in Central Park, trying new bars and cafes  

 

What have you enjoyed the most at Columbia Business School?

Columbia does a great job integrating academics and the real world of business. Being in New York, you can step out to see what’s really happening — how the theory you’re studying is applied. It also works the other way around, where you can take what you’re learning and apply it through internships. That’s been the greatest thing about Columbia so far.

 

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

I come from Tokyo, but I lived in New York from age seven to 12. I’ve always had a strong connection to New York. There are so many opportunities to pursue. Outside of school, there are Yankees games, musicals, museums — all sorts of non-academic activities. There are a lot of opportunities around campus to enjoy, too, and lots of classmates live nearby. It’s been a great experience.

 

Why did you choose to begin the program in January, as a J-term student?

I originally applied for the fall term. But through talking to the admissions office, I learned about the January-term option, and it seemed like a fit for me. We began in January and took classes together through the summer, instead of taking the summer off for full-time internships. I come from banking and knew I was interested in finance, so the accelerated program made sense to me. It’s shorter, but it has the same curriculum as the two-year program, and you really bond with your classmates. There’s also flexibility, which allowed me to intern outside of class. It was a good balance.

 

What are your thoughts on the curriculum?

The core curriculum was really good for me. I came from finance, and I didn’t know much about areas like marketing and operations. I did some of this as an undergrad, but it was really good to brush up on it, especially now that I’ve had work experience. The electives are good, too, and they provide a lot of variety.

 

How have you been involved in the student community?

I serve on student government as VP of international. About 40 percent of MBA students are international, and for the January term, more than 60 percent are international. One of my missions is to smooth the transition for international students into and out of Columbia Business School. I have worked with the offices of student affairs and admissions to create arrival packages containing practical information on opening bank accounts, finding housing, and using public transportation. I also seek out ways to support international students’ job searches in the U.S.  Many of us will work in a globally-integrated environment after graduation, and I believe planning international cultural events and using case studies on non-U.S. companies in classes can help all Columbia Business School students to think more globally .

 

What will you take with you?

I have gained confidence. I will return to the working environment better able to influence change by supporting my thoughts with logic, especially when challenged about my views. I’d like to look back and say, “Hey, I went to Columbia Business School, and I learned that every view counts.” 

 

Related:
The Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business

 

Annie Messmer-Kurdziel
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born in Shaker Heights, OH; lived in Boston for 10 years before business school
Previous Education: 
BA in philosophy from Boston College, 2008
Previous Work Experience: 
I worked for Building Excellent Schools, supporting urban school leadership in more than 125 schools across the country; I also worked in human capital for Fidelity Investments, as an executive search consultant
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in consulting in Chicago
CBS Activities: 
Co-president, Cluster Q; board and cast member, CBS Follies; board member, Peer Advisors
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Running in Central Park, attending comedy shows, and finding new restaurants 

 

What were you looking for in a business school?
I was looking for a place where I would be really challenged. Prior to business school, I worked in human capital, and I viewed business through that lens. But I didn’t have a vocabulary or skillset beyond that. I came to Columbia Business School because I wanted to be exposed to things I hadn’t done yet in my career. My goal is to leave with a very strong understanding of the fundamentals of business.

What has surprised you?
I expected that I would learn a lot and be very busy. But I didn’t expect that I’d make really good friends. I’m 30 years old, and I have a wife and family. To my surprise, I found people here who are unlike any people I’ve met before. They are intelligent, yet also incredibly relatable and also very diverse. I’ve made close friends from Guatemala, China, India, and more. I’d never had this type of exposure before, and it surprised me a lot.

How are you involved in the Columbia Business School community?
I’m serving this year as a peer advisor and as co-president of Cluster Q, Columbia Business School’s LGBTQ professional and social association. Cluster Q is a community I really care about. It plays two roles, focusing on the experience of anyone identifying as LGBTQ within CBS, as well as looking externally at how we influence and create a better business world for the LGBTQ community outside the walls of Columbia Business School.

Can you talk more about the role of peer advisors?
Peer advisors are second-year students who get paired with incoming first-years, and through this relationship they become ambassadors of the culture. They play an incredibly important role, and the ongoing support they offer shouldn’t be underestimated. During times of transition, we all need support and a little guidance. I think every first-year looks for that along the way, whether it’s in the first week or six months down the road.

How has your education extended beyond the walls of Columbia Business School?
Columbia University is an amazing institution. I spent my second semester taking an intensive course at Columbia Law School, through its Center for Public Research and Leadership. I’m interested in education reform, and the course allowed me to consult with a team for an educational organization. I didn’t know about this program when I applied to Columbia, but my future in education has been shaped more by this experience than anything else I’ve done.

As a busy student, how do you find balance?
I take stock every day of what I need to get out of my day. That's no different than finding balance in a job. You look at the day and week ahead and ask, “What are my goals?” When I came to Columbia Business School, I wrote a mission statement for myself. Every once in a while, I'll go back to that and reflect on what matters to me and why I am here. It is very easy to get sucked into a day where you are running around — from a meeting, to class, to an extra-curricular, to a coffee chat with a future employer. When it becomes too much, you have to be able to step back. Saying “no” is one of the best skills I’ve learned in business school, as well as saying “yes” to the things that really matter.

Gabriela Soler
EMBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Guaynabo, Puerto Rico
Previous Education: 
BA in communications from Villanova University
Current Work: 
Strategic sourcing of food commodities
Post-CBS Goals: 
To lead product development and export projects at my family’s food ingredient company.
CBS Activities: 
Young Women in Corporate Governance, Latin American Business Association, Family Business Club
Favorite NYC Activities: 
I have two young children so we like to visit the Bronx Zoo, Prospect Park, and MoMa. We like The Dutch restaurant and Miss Lily’s (great Caribbean food).
Areas of Interest: 

Why Columbia Business School?
I chose Columbia Business School because I thought the EMBA program and its structure were very unique. In just 20 months you can complete your degree, and it offers a very rigorous and holistic core curriculum. Then, you can really make the program your own with the electives. This structure is what attracted me to the program. The other thing that is unique for me is the Deming Center. I work in operations and the Deming Center promotes operational excellence. I've been able to use resources from the center to improve operational processes in our company and to be able to make our business more efficient.                

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
For me it's been very exciting to go to business school in New York. I currently live in Connecticut, but I've lived most of my life in Puerto Rico. Studying in New York has opened a door to a very diverse group of friends. They've helped me get to know the city better. The dynamic in the city is very energetic, and I find myself commuting to the city every chance I get to see my business school friends. It's very exhilarating, studying where I can learn and do business.    

How does being in New York City help you with your career goals?
I work in the purchasing department, so I deal with a lot of international suppliers and food processors. New York is very central for our company. It's accessible to our international suppliers, so I've used New York to meet with our suppliers. A lot of the food commodities that I trade, like orange juice and sugar, are traded in New York. A lot of major food processors have offices in New York, so I use it as a strategic location for our company to nurture old relationships with suppliers and to make new ones. It's really been an advantage for our company. 

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been most helpful to you in your current work role?
The class that I found most helpful is Financial Accounting in the core curriculum taught by Professor Amir Ziv. He taught the class in a way that was applicable to someone like me who has no financial background. He really helped me understand how the different financial statements work and interact with each other to help you make better internal business decisions. As a business owner, learning how to use our financial statements to make better business decisions was the most helpful to me so far.  

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
When I was coming here, I knew I was going to be with bright and like-minded people, but I'm so surprised by the bond that I've created with my class and my cluster specifically. It has been an amazing experience. We all have different expertise and we use that to help each other better understand the courses. I really feel like I couldn't have done the core curriculum without my EMBA peers. 

How does the School's entrepreneurial approach help you with your career goals?
I think the School's entrepreneurial approach has helped me see the different aspects of a business and how to integrate them to achieve the unified goals that will help you expand the business. My future career goal is to eventually lead my family's company and expand its food distribution services from Puerto Rico to the Caribbean and the U.S. I think the entrepreneurial approach will help me find ways to better integrate all the departments in our company — operations, marketing, and sales — to achieve unified goals. I think Columbia helps us solve problems as an entrepreneur would, and that's what I need to lead my family's company in the future.  

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you apply it to your current role and beyond?
My immediate goal after getting my degree is to lead our purchasing department. I also plan to focus on our key competitive advantages and use them to scale up the business. Even now, I feel like I'm using my degree to improve our internal processes and create a more successful business plan that will help us differentiate ourselves in the industry. 

Jessica Hollins
MBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Calgary, Alberta, Canada
Previous Education: 
BSc in civil engineering from Queens University, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
Project engineer for Kiewit Construction
Post-CBS Goals: 
I'm hoping to get back in the construction industry, involved in either energy or infrastructure, with more business experience and greater ability to drive some change and innovation
CBS Activities: 
Cluster Chair, Black Business Students Association, Columbia Women in Business, dance classes
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Lots of shows, lots of eating. There's a really good ramen place on 125th and Broadway: Jin Ramen. That has quickly become my favorite restaurant — I'm there almost once a week.

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
It's been all the positive things that everyone said it would be, and more. Your access to everything is above and beyond what you'll get anywhere else, at any other school. It's so easy to set up meetings with important people in management — they're just here. It's something we don't even have to think about. That has been a huge, huge benefit.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been your favorite?
I am really enjoying Capital Markets & Investments with Professor Mark Zurack right now. My entire life I've shied away from the stock market because it's something I didn't know anything about. It feels like the veil is finally being lifted and I actually have an understanding of it now — maybe even enough to go put some money in the stock market, which I wouldn't have done before. I feel like understanding how markets work is an important life skill for anybody.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
How supportive everyone is. Coming from an engineering background, having zero business experience, I thought I would have to try harder to be taken seriously — or, like the last one picked for dodge ball, no one would want me on their team. I was a little unsure about what I had to offer in this setting, but that feeling quickly disappeared. Everyone is so helpful and eager to learn from each others’ experiences. I feel that people value what I have to say and that I have alternative work experience that wasn't for a financial institution or consulting. Everybody's experience is valued here, even more than I would have expected.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
I already feel like I've learned so much from my classmates. It's a cool feeling to sit in class talking about Argentina’s economy and have three students be able to comment firsthand on what hyperinflation was like 10 years ago. To be able to hear their experiences firsthand makes me feel very, very lucky that I'm here. I really feel a sense of pride being associated with Columbia Business School. Part of the reason I wanted to be Cluster Chair and want to stay involved in leadership next year is because it means a lot to me to be part of this community, and to help shape my classmates’ experiences here, as well. We all play such a big part.

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you conquer the world?
Construction is not a particularly innovative industry, because you are successful by doing what you've done before more efficiently and being able to bank on that. I'd love to be able to walk away from my career and see that I had a really big impact on driving that industry towards sustainability. How do you incentivize companies to act more environmentally responsible when the technology is not financially feasible? I think success for me is finding the answer to that question.

Gairy Hall
MBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Fayetteville, Georgia
Previous Education: 
BA in economics from Columbia University, 2011
Previous Work Experience: 
Assistant Vice President at Citi Private Bank
Post-CBS Goals: 
Management Consulting
CBS Activities: 
University Senate, Student Government, Hermes Society, Black Business Student Association, Management Consulting Association, and Wine Society
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Trying new restaurants (I love Indian, steakhouses, and anywhere with good cheesecake), learning about the city’s architecture, and visiting the smaller parks (Madison Square Park and Bryant Park are my favorites)

Sections, cohorts, teams — each school has a different name for it, and at CBS we have “clusters." However, my cluster might as well be called "Family E'16" as I have had the privilege of meeting 68 amazing individuals through both the ups and downs of our time at CBS.

Taking our core curriculum classes together meant that we could carry conversations and ideas from one course to another, tied together even further by professors who coordinated cases and topics from their side of the lectern. Recruiting is a notoriously rigorous commitment, but each company event became much more manageable and enjoyable when we spotted fellow Es and could take a breather from asking about firm culture and career development.

I could not talk about cluster bonding and not mention our Fall Break trip. Each cluster takes a few days of rest and relaxation in the fall, and while we love bonding in Uris, the sand and sun of Cancun helped develop even stronger friendships. I am already excited for next year’s trip!

My cluster has a reputation for giving CBS our all, from academics to recruiting to socializing, and we absolutely do! What might not be visible at first is how this extends to our personal relationships. The support we show one another after our CBS Matters sessions is powerful. We are always looking out for each other, from Watson Library to the many social events held around the city, and have collectively built an intense, inclusive bond.

It is exciting to know we have more semesters together. Clusters are representations of the student body as a whole. I am looking forward to branching out even more and getting to know many people across classes and programs. CBS is full of the most amazing people, with the most interesting backgrounds and achievements, I have ever met.

Shannon Talbert
EMBA
Class of 2015
Program Details: 
EMBA Americas
Hometown or Country: 
Newport, Rhode Island
Previous Education: 
BS in business management, Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business
Current Work: 
Director of enablement at Schneider Electric
Post-CBS Goals: 
Putting all that I’ve learned at CBS into practice at work; continuing to learn and grow while leveraging the CBS network; and impacting my community through leadership and engagement.
CBS Activities: 
EMBA Americas 2015 Academic Representative
Favorite NYC Activities: 
A walk on the waterfront or the West Village. I especially love the The Frick Collection on a rainy day, and the Cloisters and Met Museum in the spring and summer. I try a new restaurant every time I’m in NYC; there are too many great ones to name!

Why Columbia Business School?
I decided to come to Columbia Business School to continue my growth as a professional, expand my network, and gain new experience. I chose Columbia because it really does put you at the center of business. It's a premier business school. It offers an incredible opportunity and experience for students. I think that Columbia Business School network is world class and the caliber of education is completely unmatched anywhere else. 

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
Going to business school in New York City is a fantastic experience, and provides some unique benefits that you simply can't access anywhere else. Through the CBS network in New York City you get to engage with faculty, business leaders, and experts who are really at the forefront of business and innovation. It's such a unique and dynamic environment. You really feel like you have your finger on the pulse of business by being in New York.

How does being in New York City help you with your career goals?
Being in New York helps me gain insight and perspective on business and on the market. It's such a perfect environment to explore and learn about exciting trends and developments in business. That includes groundbreaking research and discoveries, not just from our faculty but also from fellow students. Particularly with my program, the EMBA Americas program, we aim to bring what we learn in the classroom every day and immediately put it into practice in our own professional lives and career endeavors. It's an opportunity for us to really bridge theory and practice, guided by some of the best and most influential business minds of our day in New York City.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been most helpful to you in your current role?
I've been very lucky that I've had fantastic courses at Columbia and a really good experience, so it's difficult to choose just one or two. But there have been two courses that I think have been the most helpful. One was Nelson Fraiman's Operations and Technology course. It provided such unique input on the importance and depth of operations, from the smallest project to even the highest macro level. I also love Hitendra Wadhwa's Leadership course. That's the course that I consider a must take for any business leader. It really was life changing in the way it strove to get students to approach our lives and leadership very personally.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS?
One thing that really surprised me about CBS, in such a positive way, was the strength and support of the community and the network here. On day one I had twenty new allies and best friends in all aspects: academic curiosity and exploration, business and professional groups, learning, and — at the most basic level — personal support and friendship. It's been so overwhelmingly positive and supportive that I almost can't imagine my life before my CBS family.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community?
Being a part of the CBS community means so much to me – it really puts me at the center of an amazing convergence. There's so much to it. There's connection, opportunity, access, and an open exchange of ideas and practice. As part of the community I really feel like the walls are torn down and I can engage with titans of industry and incredible faculty and staff, and also emerging entrepreneurs and upcoming leaders among fellow classmates and colleagues. The great part is it's a convergence, so it's more of a mutual exchange. I feel that I'm giving back to this incredible network and community, as well, and really bringing a lot to them – as much as I'm receiving from them.

How does the School’s entrepreneurial approach help you with your career goals?
CBS really encourages the entrepreneurial approach, so as you go into business and your own career you have a more empowered, inquisitive, creative, and entrepreneurial lens. Having a network around you that supports that lens and perspective is really an invaluable benefit. It has encouraged me to find the right way to grow my career and knowledge, and to make an impact on the community around me in my own career. It has really let me be laser-focused on my goals and take advantage of the network and community around me to explore more.  

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you apply it to your current role and beyond?
I was pretty unique in that I actually changed roles at my current company about midway through the program. I really feel like I — maybe more so than a lot of people who were in the trenches of the program — am already reaping the benefits of Columbia and of my MBA. I feel like I came in with doors open, and I've opened doors that I didn't even know existed previously. The experience has had a really great impact on me. I'm certainly excited for my life as a CBS alum. 

JD Dolan
EMBA
Class of 2015
Program Details: 
EMBA New York
Hometown or Country: 
Silver Spring, Maryland
Previous Education: 
BA from Dickinson College
Current Work: 
Active duty army officer, former special operations strike force commander; cofounder and partner, LDR Investments LLP
Post-CBS Goals: 
To grow LDR Investments across two sectors: 1) the mid-stream energy services sector, and 2) the law enforcement and emergency management sector
CBS Activities: 
CBS Entrepreneurship Network and Columbia University Military Veterans Group
Favorite NYC Activities: 
My favorite restaurants are Wolfgang's Steakhouse, Tres Carnes, and Meat Hook. My favorite gyms are Crossfit Gantry and Velocity Sports. I also like Gantry Plaza State Park in Long Island City, Bear Mountain in upstate New York, and the Intrepid Museum.

Why Columbia Business School? 
For me, it was a unique opportunity. I was on active duty in the Army and wanted to look for a position that was in an area where there was a very good business school. My family is from the Tri-State Area, and Columbia was always a dream of mine. I also happen to teach at St. John's University, so it's close enough where I can do both. It was really the best of both worlds for me.

What is it like to go to business school in New York City?
I really think it's like no other city in the world. When you think of the United States and the pinnacle of business and the American way of life, you think of New York City. Being able to go to a top-tier business school in arguably the greatest American city — there's really nothing like it. Obviously there are business implications and ramifications of being located here, but I think there are also lifestyle and personal benefits of being in the Big Apple.

How does being in New York City help you with your career goals?
I've been entrepreneurially driven since I was introduced to business. My father started his own business many years ago, and I started a business while I was on active duty in 2011. The Columbia network, but more importantly the Columbia network within New York City, has allowed me to grow my business in ways that really no other city would permit. That means involving investors and subject matter experts, and there's somebody from every sector, every industry, every field, in New York City — all within the Columbia network. For me, that's been a significant tangible benefit in the short term.

What class are you most excited about, or what class has been most helpful to you in your current role? 
I would have to say it's a combination of courses. In the core, the focus on quantitative skills was crucial for me to round out my own skill set, but my favorite classes were the entrepreneurial ones. The entrepreneurship course that I took in South Africa was pretty incredible, but my absolute favorite was Organizational Culture Demystified, which really looked at how culture affects business growth and success. It was something that was immediately applicable. I felt like I could immediately bring what I was learning to my company, which had started as a management and leadership consulting company. It's something that my partners and I were able to apply from day one for a number of our clients.

What's been the most surprising thing about being at CBS? 
It should not have been a surprise, but it's the raw talent across the board, from the professors to the staff, my classmates, and all the people we interact with. I really believe that everyone brought their best to the classes and contributed significantly. Having ample opportunity to personally interact with everyone — classmates, professors, staff, industry leaders, etc. — is so rare in an academic forum and has been a real blessing for me. I really think the Columbia network is unmatched, both nationwide and worldwide.

What does it mean to you to be part of the Columbia Business School community? 
I come from a background where I was involved with a very small, very elite special operations group within the US military. Columbia is like a larger version of the same: an elite group that is very welcoming and provides many opportunities for outreach within the community, and the growing business network that is New York City and the nation. It really means a lot, and I can't stop talking about it. Friends and family always ask me, "What is it like, and how is your experience?" and I'm always talking about the people. I really feel blessed and humbled, but also really proud of being a part of it.

How does the School’s entrepreneurial approach help you with your career goals? 
That was one of the things I was unsure about when I started. One of the reasons I wanted to go to business school was to round out my quantitative capabilities, but more importantly, I wanted to grow my business by opening up doors that I didn't really even see yet. Being able to take a number of classes that were entrepreneurially driven — two of which were with Don Weiss — where I could spend a significant amount of time on my own business and get feedback from classmates, professors, and visiting business professionals, allowed me to see different openings, windows, and doors that I could explore, push, and expand.

My business, which started as a strict leadership consulting firm, has grown into a functioning operations group as well. We also recently launched our own energy services company. That was really an inspiration from Don Weiss, but also from a number of my classmates as well, who have come into these different entrepreneurial classes and assisted me in growing the business in directions I hadn’t seen before.

Once you have your CBS degree, how will you apply it to your current role and beyond?
The Columbia brand speaks for itself, and being able to not only leverage the network but also the tangible lessons that I've already gleaned from the academics, my classmates, and our professors has already had a palpable result within my business. 

Related:
"Entrepreneurship in South Africa: At the Center of Global Impact"

 

Sonie Guseh
MBA
Class of 2016
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Durham, North Carolina
Previous Education: 
BA in english from the University of Pennsylvania, 2006
Previous Work Experience: 
Advertising Sales Account Manager at Google, Senior Communications Associate at Group Gordon Strategic Communications, and Summer 2015 Digital Distribution and Partner Marketing Group Intern at HBO
Post-CBS Goals: 
Television marketing strategy
CBS Activities: 
Hermes Society, Black Business Students Association, Columbia Women in Business, Marketing Association of Columbia, and Media Management Association
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Summer in the city — everything from lounging on rooftops to visiting local beaches to outdoor eating

Since joining CBS, I’ve noticed that cross-cultural community building is an integral part of the program. It’s not just that my first-year class consists of 41% international students, 32% US minorities, and 36% women, but that people are really open and transparent about sharing their backgrounds and experiences.

From the first day of Orientation — when our peer advisors shared that inclusion is one of the key tenets of the CBS experience — to the everyday openness and transparency with which people share their backgrounds, cultures, and creeds (for example, the diverse attendance at cultural events), the community heralds and maintains our inclusive nature.

On September 11, 2014, a member of my cluster sent a message to all of us that said, “I know this can be a tough day for many New Yorkers — let’s open up our arms and be there for each other during what is likely a difficult day for many.” It was a warm reminder for all of us, whether we lived in New York at the time or not, that our community is open and that our classmates are here for each other.

I am amazed by the many opportunities for cross-cultural learning in the CBS experience, including visiting Italy as part of the Chazen International Study Tour program. Fellow students from Italy helped organize the trip, and we visited professional and cultural sites during our week there.

Additionally, the most fascinating part of business school is getting to know my classmates. This year, we have a supper club series where students invite small groups of peers to dinner in their homes. We sign up to either host or attend, and it is a great way to meet new people. The supper club really helps build the community feeling that is so pervasive and strong here at CBS.

In this environment, I feel comfortable sharing my own perspectives — like my work experiences in tech, advertising, and communications — with my classmates. When I think back to why I chose CBS, it was partially because of the strong academic programs and exceptional relationships in industries of interest to me. And while I expected to learn lots from my classmates, it's amazing to think about how much I've learned personally and professionally from them. I hope to continue to share my own views with others given all of our unique traits and backgrounds.

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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.