Meet Columbia’s MBA Class of 2018


Mike Kirwan


Columbia Business School

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Former academic and nonprofit staffer. Two years married. Parent to a Frenchie. Lover of food.

Hometown: Boonton Township, NJ

Fun Fact About Yourself: Because I come from a family of New York Giants fans, my wife surprised me on our wedding day with a groom’s cake in the shape of the old Giants Stadium.

Undergraduate School and Major: Williams College, B.A., Psychology and Economics; University of Maryland – College Park, M.A., Human Development

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: Project Coordinator and Project Manager for the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University; Program Officer and Senior Program Officer for the Robin Hood Foundation

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Raised a $38 million fund to improve outcomes for poor children under age 3 and developed a strategic plan for reaching 20,000 children within five years using those funds.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? Start the process early, preferably two years before your anticipated start date.  Get the official GMAT prep book and practice, practice, practice.  Try to do a couple of practice problems every night and take full-length practice tests on the weekends.  I think that what makes the GMAT difficult is the timing of it, so getting yourself used to the format and length of it makes for a much less stressful test day.

Once you (hopefully) have the score that you want, think about what you want from your MBA experience and use that to narrow your list. Do you want a big class or a small one? Urban setting or small town? Lots of required classes or more electives?  Also, try to visit your top couple of choices to sit in on classes.  I got a great feel for the first-year core classes and the cluster system at Columbia by spending a day following a friend from undergrad.

Lastly, find a friend who knows you well and is a good writer (and whose opinion you trust) and use them as a sounding board for your essays. My writing was made immeasurably better by having another voice that could tell me where I was unclear, repetitive, or otherwise in need of a rewrite.

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? Its New York City location and its reputation for using that location to the advantage of its students.  During my time at Columbia, I’ll benefit from executives in residence, guest speakers, and recruiters that the school is able to bring to campus from the large number of major companies and industries that are headquartered here. My wife and I also want to stay in New York City after I finish school, and the Columbia alumni network in New York City will by an invaluable resource to help me make that next step.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? My dream employer at this point has a varied, fast-paced work environment where its employees use data in very thoughtful ways to solve meaningful problems. It sounds very broad, but I’m keeping an open mind given that I’m leaving the nonprofit world that has housed my entire career up to this point. I liked the variety that came from managing relationships with different organizations in my previous work and I was intellectually engaged by Robin Hood’s data-driven methods for evaluating its grantees’ performance, so preserving those two core elements in whatever comes next are very important to me. Whether the job is as a project manager at a technology company, a consultant for a firm like Bain or BCG, or something else entirely, I think that there are a number of employers and positions that would meet those “dream” criteria.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program?   I would like them to say that I took my work seriously without taking myself too seriously, that my nontraditional background added a different perspective to my cluster and my classes, and that I made the most of my two years of Columbia not just in the classroom but within the larger business school community.