Student Leadership

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.

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. 

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.

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

 

Clifton Smith
MBA
Class of 2017
Program Details: 
Full-Time MBA
Hometown or Country: 
Born and raised in Los Angeles, CA
Previous Education: 
BS in accounting from the University of Southern California, 2010
Previous Work Experience: 
I earned my CPA working for Deloitte; created my own startup consulting firm; ran the operations of and built the digital side of my family’s community newspapers business; and built an international mixed media publication focused on fostering collaborations between politicians, philanthropists and entrepreneurs in emerging markets
Post-CBS Goals: 
Working in venture capital; founding another startup
CBS Activities: 
Founding co-president, Venture Capital Club; founding organizer, Columbia Impact Hackathon; co-president, Healthy Living Club; advisory board member, Lang Center for Entrepreneurship; cluster cup chair, Cluster A ‘17
Favorite NYC Activities: 
Running along the Hudson River, doing hot yoga and Krav Maga on the Upper West Side, and experiencing real seasons for the first time

 

What attracted you to Columbia Business School?

I’m passionate about venture capital as well as entrepreneurship, and I was drawn to Columbia Business School’s entrepreneurial endeavors. A few of my mentors are alums, so the network really stood out. Also, I come from a media background, so I was attracted by the opportunity to take classes that combine finance and media. This, plus the school’s location in New York, created the perfect mix.

 

What were your impressions when you got here?

The admissions team does a great job finding not only very skilled people, but also people who are interested in collaborating and exploring new ideas. As an entrepreneur, it’s great because there’s a lot of deep industry experience in the School, and classmates are always willing to talk over coffee or lunch. It’s a welcoming and warm environment.

 

How did you get to know your classmates?

Before starting the MBA program, I participated in the CBS World Tour, which is a student-organized selection of trips around the world. You can sign up for as much or as little as you want. I went to Croatia, and it was a great opportunity to build and solidify relationships with people prior to starting school. The MBA orientation was very helpful, too. All students are part of clusters, and the clusters give you the opportunity to get to know a small number of people really well. Orientation is supplemented by a class called Lead, which shines a light on the culture-building practices that are applied during orientation. That was very helpful.

 

What has surprised you?

I didn’t come in with set expectations — not because I wasn’t expecting a lot, but because I had faith in the program. The biggest surprise has been how friendly and flexible the administration is. They strive for continuous improvement and are very open to feedback. For example, I’m co-president of the Venture Capital Club. It had previously been part of the private equity group, but last year, several of us expressed interest in separating, so that we could focus on venture capital. The administration was very supportive. Our aim is to establish the School as a thought leader in venture capital and to connect Columbia more strongly with entrepreneurship in New York City.

 

What is one of your most memorable experiences?

I created a company with two classmates. We participated in a Shark Tank–style challenge, which included presenting to a panel. Our idea was in the FinTech space, and our panel had several high-caliber Columbia Business School alums. It was phenomenal meeting them, and it was particularly eye-opening to me because it showed how strong our network is. We advanced in the competition and got to compete at another school, where we won for best crowd-pleasing presentation.

 

What is it like to be part of Columbia University?

In terms of entrepreneurship, one very interesting experience has been working with an undergrad student who found me online, on a platform I participate in. This has led to my mentoring him. We’ve talked a lot about how to navigate the entrepreneurial landscape and the things I’ve gone through — especially what’s made me bang my head against a wall. Across Columbia, there are many students and individuals who are eager to work together to solve challenges.

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.

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.

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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.