Meet Columbia’s MBA Class of 2018

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Natasha Korgaonkar

 

Columbia Business School

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: Former civil rights litigator trying to level the field in multiple ways.

Hometown: Worcester, MA

Fun Fact About Yourself: From ages 9 through 17, I studied martial arts and nunchucks.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Brown University, Africana Studies and US History (A.B.)

Columbia University, African American Studies (M.A.)

Columbia University School of Law (J.D.)

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation:

Corporacion de Accion Civil y Educacion (legal researcher, 2007-08)

Covington and Burling LLP (litigation associate, 2008 – 11)

NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Inc. (assistant counsel, 2011 – present)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My proudest accomplishment in my career so far is having worked for nearly six years at the civil rights law firm founded by Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall – the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF). Working as a civil rights lawyer, and being part of solving pressing issues of racial justice, has been (and remains) a dream for me. At LDF, I’ve had the absolute privilege of defending the civil rights of my clients in federal trial and appellate courts throughout the south, primarily in Texas and Louisiana.

The most exciting moments of my legal career have been representing my plaintiff clients in the three-week trial challenging the Texas voter ID law under the Voting Rights Act and the Constitution, and being part of the legal team defending the constitutionality of the Voting Rights Act before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Looking back on your experience, what advice would you give to future business school applicants? During the admissions process, I focused on my own candidacy and blocked out a lot of the noise that I know is out there. Admission to any top business school is, of course, extremely competitive; you can easily stress yourself out by focusing on the fact that there will always be applicants with higher scores, stronger essays, etc. By focusing on my background, candidacy, and unique reasons for wanting to go to business school, I believe that I was best able to communicate my intentions, goals, and the contributions that I was confident that I would make to my class. The best advice I can give is to know what motivates you and why, and to channel that message as directly and sincerely as possible, rather than to get caught up in comparing scores and notes with other applicants. Also, when it comes to the GMAT or any standardized test — practice, practice, practice!

What led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA? As a proud alum of both the Graduate School and the Law School, CBS was an easy choice for me. I’m excited to be in a full university environment that will support my interdisciplinary interests with top scholars in all of my fields of interest. I know that at Columbia, I’ll be able to make the maximum use of my two years by having access not only to the extensive resources of the Business School, but also to the rest of the university. As someone whose interest in a business school education stems from my civil rights career, I hope to draw upon the wealth of diversity in thought-partners available to me at the university. Being in New York, of course, will only broaden the resources available to me in my professional education, both through internships and coffee chats. Every time that I’ve had to choose which graduate school to attend, I’ve chosen Columbia knowing that my access to inside and outside classroom learning would be unparalleled.

Tell us about your dream job or dream employer at this point in your life? I am driven by my commitment to social justice and to helping to create real opportunities for people of color in the United States. Through my work as a civil rights litigator at LDF, I was able to learn first-hand that many of the Black communities that I served through litigation were up against limited access to economic and political capital, and therefore to opportunity more broadly. Many of these inequalities simply could not be addressed by litigation alone. It was this understanding that first sparked my interest in business school and in impact investing.

After graduating, I would love to build upon my experience as a civil rights lawyer, and work at a venture capital fund or a foundation that invests in startups and small businesses that are either founded by entrepreneurs of color, or that have an explicit and measurable racial/social justice goal.

What would you like your business school peers to say about you after you graduate from this program? I realize that the majority of my classmates at CBS will not be primarily interested in social justice work, as I am, but I hope that my time with them will change what they ask of themselves as future leaders in the business world. I hope that they’ll be able to say that I helped them to define success in the business world as necessarily entailing a commitment to diversity, to fairness, and true equality of opportunity – and to always consider the impact that they can have on racial justice and other social justice issues in our country. I hope my classmates will say that I was able to help them commit to being mindful and intentional with how their decisions as business leaders will impact millions of people’s lived realities every day.

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