Meet Columbia’s MBA Class of 2018


Anna Aagenes


Columbia Business School

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: I’m an LGBT advocate, writer, speaker, consultant, athlete, and connector of people and ideas.

Hometown:  Plumsteadville, PA

Fun Fact About Yourself: In college, I was a cross country and track & field athlete, specializing in the 800m and 1500m (middle distance).

Undergraduate School and Major: University of Pennsylvania, Major: Gender, Culture & Society

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Vice President of Program Development & Community Relations; You Can Play

Executive Director; GO! Athletes

Deputy Chief of Staff; Pennsylvania State Representative Brian Sims

Research Assistant; Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) Adolescent Initiative HIV/AIDS Clinic

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: One of the biggest career accomplishments I’ve had was becoming a co-founder of the non-profit, GO! Athletes, whose mission is to support current and former LGBT student athletes. During my time as the Executive Director of GO! Athletes, we organized and expanded a confidential space for LGBT athletes, launched a mentorship program, and promoted the leadership and the visibility of younger LGBT athlete-advocates. We also forged partnerships with organizations with a similar mission as ours, including You Can Play, which is where I was most recently employed before starting business school.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? I think the most important place to start is self-reflection. You want to have a high level of confidence that now is the best time to pursue your MBA and that this degree will truly benefit your professional development. Without this confidence and self-awareness, I wouldn’t have had the same motivation and authenticity in my application process. I approached each essay, interview, and conversation with a genuine enthusiasm and confidence that an MBA was the next best step for me. It’s also much easier to motivate yourself to study for tests when you understand the bigger picture behind the work you are doing.

Applying also gave me an incredible opportunity to reach out to friends and acquaintances to ask for advice on applying for my MBA. Through my undergraduate and post-undergraduate networks, I was able to find people who went through the same or similar MBA programs to which I was applying. Each time they asked me, “Why an MBA?” I refined and articulated my vision for my future career and the desired outcomes of my MBA, which was crucial preparation for my MBA interviews.

I also can’t emphasize enough how important it is to go, in-person, to the schools that you want to attend. That will, more than anything else, give you a sense of the school’s culture and community. Not only will this help you solidify where you’d like to be, it shows the MBA programs that you are invested and committed in your application process.

Listen closely to how people react when you share your current and future career goals and also consider if you feel inspired when you hear future classmates share their hopes and dreams. If there’s a positive energy and excitement in those conversations, it’s likely an excellent place for you to grow and thrive. Just as with any job environment, you want to be surrounded by a community people who will invest in you and will be open and eager to utilize your skills, knowledge, and talents to the best degree.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Aside from the incredible education, resources, and network that are afforded to Columbia MBA students, the Columbia staff, alumni, and incoming students were a key reason why I decided to apply and enroll in this MBA program. During the information sessions and preview weekends, I met admitted and current students who shared a similar energy and excitement about our professional careers. In my conversations with staff, they not only informed me of relevant resources at Columbia, but they also pointed out ways I could contribute to the MBA community.

Another factor that greatly influenced my decision to pursue a degree from Columbia was learning about Vice Dean Katherine Phillips, who has spoken, written, and researched best practices for diversity & inclusion initiatives. After watching a YouTube video of her Talks@Columbia presentation, Why Diversity Matters, I was inspired and even more confident about the program. Columbia’s faculty, including Vice Dean Phillips, are global thought leaders on topics that are of critical importance and relevance to my work. The location of New York City also influenced my decision after considering the companies, organizations, and leaders who are doing groundbreaking work just a few blocks away from campus.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? My dream job is one where I’m leading diversity & inclusion initiatives on a macro level. This could be done as an employee of an organization or it could be through my own business and expanding the consulting work that I already do. The most important thing for me about a future employer or future client is their commitment to diversity and promoting widespread inclusion initiatives. Upon graduating, I intend to bring the connections, knowledge, and skill-sets I’ve gained through an MBA program directly into the work I’m already doing, which is rooted in my commitment to social justice.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I’d want my peers to say that I have a strong commitment to diversity & inclusion, that I’m team-oriented, and that I’ve empowered them to make a difference in their own professions and communities. If they remember my love of track & field and that I’m loyal to Philadelphia sports teams, I’m good with that too.

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