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Meet Columbia Business School’s MBA Class Of 2019

John Christopher 

Columbia Business School 

Describe yourself in 15 words or less: A former financial consultant who founded a hospital and school in the remote Himalaya of Nepal.

Hometown: Fort Lauderdale, Florida

Fun Fact About Yourself: In the time since I first arrived in Nepal nearly five years ago, the Nepali dance moves of “John Dai” (John Brother), have become quite popular. I am frequently asked by students and neighbors to dance at weddings, programs, and other events and no local party is complete without me dancing to “Hat Ma Rato Jhola,” “Juma Jum Jum” or most recently the smash Nepali hit “Funtastic.”

Undergraduate School and Major: Washington & Lee University, Business Administration

Employers and Job Titles Since Graduation: The Oda Foundation (Founder & Executive Director), Redstone Consulting (Senior Consultant), Capital Edge Consulting (Consultant/Senior Consultant)

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Despite the strides we’ve made since establishing the Oda Foundation, I’m proudest of a sentiment that we captured from a young woman living in Oda during a recent series of interviews with our beneficiaries. When asked about the Foundation she said, “Many children used to die before the Oda Foundation was established…our children don’t suffer anymore. Now we don’t have to carry old people on our backs to Manma [a two hour, mountainous walk + 2 hour bus ride)] for treatment.” My most significant career accomplishment has been overseeing a significant reduction in avoidable deaths within Oda’s catchment and helping improve the lives of people who have a challenging time doing so on their own.

Looking back on your experience, what one piece of advice would you give to future business school applicants? Try not to get caught up thinking that the path to business school is a narrow one. Many of my friends followed a more traditional journey (Banking/Consulting/PE -> MBA), and like them, I thought I would return to business school after three-and-a-half years of consulting in Washington, DC.  Little did I know at the time that I would travel to Nepal, and ultimately found The Oda Foundation. Had I followed the crowd, my life would be drastically different (and likely far less satisfying). While my advice transcends business school, I would say that you’re far more likely to find fulfillment (and to become a more compelling business school candidate) if you challenge yourself to move out of your comfort zone and walk the road less travelled.

What was the key factor that led you to choose this program for your full-time MBA and why was it so important to you? Columbia and New York made a tremendous amount of sense to me both personally and professionally. While New York is at the very center of the financial world – it is also at the center of social innovation, entrepreneurship, and venture capital.  As home to the second largest number of non-profits in the United States and countless socially conscious for-profit organizations, Columbia provides an unparalleled gateway to explore the intersection of business, government, and society. This gateway is critical to me as I am seeking an opportunity to put my experiences from Nepal into a broader context and to develop a more defined framework to address the many challenges surrounding sustainable development.

What would success look like to you after your first year of business school? Success for me will be multi-faceted.  Professionally I will have found an internship that allows me to fuse my social impact, small business, and finance experience. I will have also successfully navigated the transition from day to day oversight of the Foundation towards a more advisory capacity.

More importantly, I will have joined my classmates as an active and involved member of the Columbia community, participating in the Social Enterprise Club, Columbia Entrepreneurs Organization, and Pangea Advisors, where I hope to contribute my unique cultural and professional experiences as I learn from a group of similarly focused individuals.