Meet Columbia’s MBA Class of 2018

Members of the Class of 2018 at Columbia Business School

Members of the Class of 2018 at Columbia Business School

No school is plagued by stereotypes more than Columbia Business School. To some, CBS is a haven for tomorrow’s pin-striped set. Supposedly cliquey and competitive, the program is sometimes painted as a two-year version of high school. Just don’t tell the school’s admissions, which prizes genuineness and teamwork above all else.

“Sometimes you interact with folks where they’re very transactional: ‘You have something I want, so I’m going to be nice to you or pretend that I am until I get what I want, then move on,’” says Michael Robinson, the program’s senior associate director of admissions in a 2015 Poets&Quants interview. “We try to avoid those people.” Amanda Carlson, CBS’ assistant dean of admissions echoes Robinson’s sentiment. “The culture of Columbia is really one of inclusion. That’s something that we’re looking for – the humility that you’re going to learn from these people. You’ll check your ego at the door. You want people who are going to be able to cultivate relationships.”


This philosophy is heavily reflected in the school’s full-time MBA Class of 2018. Sure, you’ll find plenty of class members who matriculated at Harvard, Penn, Berkeley, Cambridge, and Yale. But just don’t think of Columbia as finishing school for quant jockeys. As undergraduates, they majored in disciplines like anthropology, exercise science, philosophy, architecture, and gender studies.  Their career paths defy the conventional wisdom about CBS.

Let’s start with Natasha Korgaonkar, who earned her JD at Columbia Law in 2007 and has spent the past five years as an assistant counsel with the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund (along with a stint as an adjunct professor at NYU Law). Coree Mahoney served as a U.S. Navy Intelligence Officer, while Elsbeth Grant taught 6th grade math and technology at the Young Women’s Leadership School of the Bronx. In fact, you’ll find the spirit of service infused throughout the incoming Class. For example, Mike Kirwan thrived in the nonprofit fund-raising for children. At the same time, Anna Aagenes formed an organization, GO! Athletes, to provide mentorship and support to LGBT student athletes.

Columbia's Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions Amanda Carlson

Columbia’s Assistant Dean for MBA Admissions Amanda Carlson

“Our incoming students are interested in a broader range of disciplines, more so than ever before and they have a wider range of experiences,” says Carlson. “They area another wonderfully robust, dynamic class full of talent for whom we see a continued bright future!”


Outside of academia and the office, the class is even more captivating. When asked to describe himself in 15 words or less, Amrinder Singh Chawla categorized himself as “a global nomad who has studied, worked and lived in three continents.” Hashim Ibrahim strikes an optimistic tone as an “African, globally-oriented and believer that one day we will eradicate poverty.”Jordan McNulty is “a confident and charismatic former competitive gymnast from Texas with a desire to bring people together,” while Michelle Repak is a “lover of fine liquor, dogs, and shopping.”

For Vincent Xeus, who points to “collecting great people” as his strongest passion, CBS is certain to be a sumptuous marketplace. He’ll be joined by Brooklyn’s Diana Berkovits, who plays flag football several times a week. Like any future consultant, she loves playing quarterback! McNulty has snorkeled with sharks in the Great Barrier Reef. Ibrahim embraced the hustle ethos at a young age, closing his first business deal when he was 13. Shuli Hervitz and Moises Eskinazi come to CBS as a married couple. Repak had an allowance to buy alcohol in her previous job. For Jill Wang, 15 years of dance lessons, including ballet, tap, and jazz, were great preparation for business school. “Much of what I know about teamwork, I learned while wearing tights,” she explains. “I can trace my most formative lessons in the value of teaming back to my dancing days. When I was on the competition team, I learned quickly how to balance my personal style with the spirit of working in a group.”

You want accomplishments? It’s hard to even know where to even begin with this group. Kirwan raised $38 million dollars to help 20,000 children. Korgaonkar was part of a legal team that defended the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court. As a consultant at the Boston Consulting Group, Wang worked to reduce a retail client’s lost, spoiled, and stolen merchandise, eventually producing savings of $150 million dollars across 750 stores.  At 23, Repak had onboarded her entire company, which had swelled from 40 to 120 people in just one year. Taking a year away from being a senior analytics associates, Singh Chawla returned his family’s business, turning it from a “1-star” distributorship to being recognized as a “5-star” distributorship (as measured by the Indian government). At Bain, McNulty helped author a study that was presented at Davos. Similarly, Berkovits presented a paper in 2015 at the international conference of the American Thoracic Society.


However, Mahoney takes her greatest satisfaction from earning enough trust from her subordinates to re-enlist under her command. “My biggest accomplishments have been when the junior sailors that work for me ask me to re-enlist them, or officially pin the warfare device onto their uniform that they have worked hard to earn. These are both huge milestones in their career and they choose an officer that they admire and respect. Being asked to do these things is an honor, and has given me the greatest sense of accomplishment because I know that I have positively impacted their lives.”

In the process of achieving big things, the Class of 2018 also faced disappointment and adversity. Xeus learned about business the hard way. After designing a series of aesthetically innovative condominiums, he watched in horror as his vision was diluted by “bottom-line thinking” during the construction process. However, he came away from the experience more determined —and with a new calling. “I realized that substantive changes had to come from deep within,” he says. “These challenges drove my evolution from a spatial creative to a visual artist.”

Ibrahim had to fight just to get into business school. With Sudan, his home country, under U.S. sanctions, he was prohibited from taking the GMAT until he found a sympathetic ear in Dubai. “Business school lessons start from the day you took the decision to apply. For me it wasn’t an easy process, but you have to look at it as a startup. There will be a lot of challenges and you have to be very persistent and hard working person to make it through.”


Columbia Business School - Ethan Baron photo

Columbia Business School – Ethan Baron photo

In key metrics, the Class of 2018 has also exceeded preceding classes. The full-time MBA program received a total of 6,008 applications for its January and August entries, up from the 5,829 applications it received last year. The school ultimately admitted 1,025 applicants, good for a 17.1% acceptance rate, down from 18% for the 2017 Class. Ultimately, CBS enrolled 776 students, up 14 from the previous year. Historically, the 6,008 applications is the highest the school has seen since the Class of 2013, which boasted 6.669 applicants. Similarly, the acceptance rate is the school’s lowest since the 2013, which had a 15.9% rate.

Incoming GMATs also continued to rise, with the 2018 Class bringing a 717 average to Morningside Heights, up two points from the previous class. Overall, GMATs ranged from 550-780, with the scores going from 680-760 in the middle 80% range. Student undergraduate GPAs averaged 3.5, identical to the previous five graduating classes, as incoming GPAs ranged from 3.1 to 3.9.

Demographically, the percentage of women creeped up to 38%. That’s a slight bump from the 36% average for the 2015-2017 classes. Similarly, international student representation jumped from 42% to 48% with the 2018 Class. At the same time, the percentage of U.S. minority students slipped from 35% to 31% but was still comparable to U.C.-Berkeley at 32%.


Go to next page to see 13 student profiles from the Class of 2018

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