2017 Best MBAs: Todd Wisman, Columbia Business School

Todd Wisman

Columbia Business School

“Patriotic family man who lives by the values of perseverance, compassion, and humility.” 

Age: 33

Hometown: Harrisonburg, VA

Fun fact about yourself: I prefer to eat homemade Italian pasta with chop sticks, although it’s somewhat sacrilegious to my Italian wife.


Undergraduate School and Degree: United States Military Academy at West Point, B.S. Nuclear Engineering

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? Worldwide assignments as a Special Forces Officer in the United States Army

Where did you intern during the summer of 2016? I worked as a pro-bono Internal Strategist at Global Risk Advisors (GRA) Quantum in NYC. GRA Quantum is a pioneering information security firm founded upon the belief that every organization has the right to keep their data private and secure. The company is headquartered in NYC and has office locations in Washington D.C., Silicon Valley, Cardiff, and Ottawa.

Where will you be working after graduation? Since I am a sponsored military student, I’m excited to return to the Department of Defense, armed with a new set of skills and a profoundly broadened perspective.

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • Volunteered to serve in an independent study program assessing the feasibility of an Impact Investing Fund that would provide educational and employment opportunities to Syrian refugees. The fund ties Columbia University and Columbia Global Centers with a supporting network of regional NGOs to source, fund, and empower refugees and displaced people. The program is currently in the sourcing phase of the pilot cohort.
  • Selected to the Sanford C. Bernstein Center Student Leadership and Ethics Board.
  • Selected to serve as VP for Admissions Outreach for the Military in Business Association (MIBA), personally communicated through email and phone with over 100 prospective veteran applicants to help them navigate the admissions process.
  • Planned and conducted three separate Leadership Exchange events with the United States Military Academy at West Point and Fort Bragg military communities.
  • Helped to coordinate, host, and moderate a Veteran Applicant Outreach Day with the CBS Admissions Committee where 74 prospective veteran applicants were in attendance.
  • Twice volunteered to coach a team of participants during a virtual month-long Mindfulness Seminar with the Mindkind Institute.

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? I’m most proud of the time I spent at GRA Quantum during my summer internship and continuing into my second year with an in-semester internship. The company is full of incredible people who entirely accepted me into their organization. I was given wide flexibility to create change and encouraged to pursue my interests. I will be forever grateful to the company leadership and employees for the opportunity to be a part of the team.

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Without question, I’m most proud of the relationships I’ve formed throughout my professional career. These relationships transcend race, class, culture, and nationality. From classmates and professors here at Columbia to fellow members of the armed services, I’ve been incredibly fortunate to work alongside some of the bravest and brightest people in the world. From freedom fighters in some of the most rugged and war-torn regions of the world to some of the most innovative and dynamic global thinkers, I’m humbled to call these people friends.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Bruce Usher. He is a caring and passionate professor, who blends his vast industry experience along with his academic prowess, to create an inspirational classroom experience. He was my faculty advisor for the Impact Investing project and I signed up for his Finance and Sustainability class based solely on that interaction.

Why did you choose this business school? The warmth and outreach of the people. Everyone including alumni, current students, and faculty challenged me and motivated me to create a bigger impact on the world.

What did you enjoy most about business school in general? I enjoyed the exposure to endless opportunities and to career paths I never knew existed. This was especially important considering my background in the military.

What is your best advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Reflect upon what truly matters to you and be your authentic self. Allow the admissions committee, and the larger CBS community, to see who you really are. Don’t be afraid to be passionate about those convictions, whatever they might be.

What is the biggest myth about your school? (There is a big misconception that everyone at Columbia Business School is only focused on finance or consulting. Columbia has a large percentage of students focused on tech, social impact, entrepreneurship, and media sectors.

What was your biggest regret in business school? Not being able to travel abroad more frequently.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I most admire Ron Bucca. He is one of the most humble and selfless people I’ve ever met and tirelessly works to help others. Ron is a Pat Tillman Scholar, Special Forces Non-Commissioned Officer, and MIBA Co-President. He has a MA in Globalization from Dartmouth and has been an outspoken advocate for veterans. He inspires others to pursue impactful work and he is personally inspired to fulfill the legacy of his father, FDNY Fire Marshall Ron Bucca, who was killed on September 11th.

I knew I wanted to go to business school when…I first met the Assistant Dean of Admissions, Amanda Carlson, at a recruiting event near Raleigh, NC. I was in the middle of a deployment, but returned home for the birth of my second son. Prior to meeting her, I had thought of business school, but I had mostly considered graduate engineering programs. It was her sincerity, integrity, and passion for the program that made me take a second look. She made me feel welcomed from the start and I remember excitedly sharing the experience with my wife that same night. Amanda was an incredible source of inspiration and I am grateful for our rather serendipitous encounter that undoubtedly changed my life for the better.”

If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…managing operations within the military or studying in a Nuclear Engineering graduate program somewhere.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience? The best thing about getting an MBA is the practical application of one’s learning therefore I would try to develop more experiential consulting projects to coincide with classroom objectives.

What is your ultimate long-term professional goal? Continue to serve the nation in relevant and impactful ways.

Who would you most want to thank for your success? My wife, Vanessa. She is a strong and caring mother to our two boys. She has stood by me and raised our children in a loving home in spite of all my deployments. She serves as an example of resiliency to other military spouses. With her characteristic selflessness, she has allowed me to focus on school and work when necessary. I owe all of my success to her guidance, inspiration, and support.

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? Ideally, I hope they remember me as a humble person who has endeavored to lead with compassion and who seeks to command respect through quiet professionalism.

Favorite book: The Way of the Knife

Favorite movie or television show: Good Will Hunting

Favorite musical performer: George Strait

Favorite vacation spot: Anywhere in the mountains

Hobbies? Exploring the outdoors with my children and tinkering with home projects

What made Todd such an invaluable addition to the class of 2017?

“I had the good fortune to meet Todd Wisman at Fort Bragg in March 2013. Todd was on a short leave—returning home for the delivery of his second son. As soon as I met Todd, I knew he was special and someone I wanted to be part of our Columbia Business School family. And there was no way that I could let him and his beautiful wife Vanessa land at any program other than Columbia Business School.

Todd’s gifts extend beyond his natural charm and charisma—of which he has plenty! He has a kindness and selflessness that are a rare find. Todd has a wonderful “glass is half full” mentality. Todd sees the good in people. Todd always has a laugh and a smile to brighten the day. Todd considers others and proactively dedicates himself to making a positive and lasting contribution at every institution or organization of which he is a part. He has done so at Columbia Business School through organizing the Veteran’s prospective student day and through organizing a leadership and ethics exchange with the Bernstein Center, MIBA (Military in Business Association) and thirty West Point cadets. Our family is grateful that we will be able to call the Wisman family — Todd, Vanessa, Lucas, and Nicholas — friends for life. I am proud to know such a patriot who has dedicated his life to serving our country, his family and making the world a better place. I am proud and humbled to know Todd Wisman.”

Amanda Carlson

Assistant Dean of Admissions


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