2018 MBAs To Watch: Ashia S. Johnson, Columbia Business School

Ashia S. Johnson

Columbia Business School

A creative junkie equipped with Midwestern grit and flair, driven by people, place and culture.”

Age: 26

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Fun fact about yourself: I wrote for the independent, student-run newspaper at ASU and covered issues of underrepresentation across society and business.

Undergraduate School and Degree:

Barrett’s Honors College @ Arizona State University W.P. Carey School of Business (B.S. Supply Chain Management + B.S. Marketing/Minor in Psychology)

Where did you work before enrolling in business school? ExxonMobil (Houston, TX)

Where did you intern during the summer of 2017? The Doneger Group – the global leader in creative merchandising and business strategies for the retail and fashion industries (New York, NY)

Where will you be working after graduation? TBD

Community Work and Leadership Roles in Business School:

  • VP of Membership (Black Business Students Association)
  • VP of Community (Columbia Women in Business)
  • VP of Brand Sponsorship (Retail & Luxury Goods – Fashion Show)
  • Cluster Citizenship Chair
  • Pangea Advisors (Eminyeeto Girls Empowerment, Uganda)
  • Junior Board Member + Finance Chair (Opening Act, NY)

Which academic or extracurricular achievement are you most proud of during business school? Pangea Advisors is a select group of business school students who work on teams to consult with organizations and small businesses operating across the globe, particularly in impoverished nations. Traveling to Uganda and working with a women-operated bakery to improve profitability while seeing the impact of our presence in the local community was professionally and personally so fulfilling.  

What achievement are you most proud of in your professional career? Founding and managing a scalable MWBE matching program for the downstream organization at ExxonMobil is a proud moment because nearly fifty minority and female founders were able to connect with the industry’s biggest players, resulting in critical mentorship and growth opportunity.

Who was your favorite MBA professor? Professor Kathy Phillips (LEAD)

As one of the first courses in the MBA experience, LEAD helps to set the tone for classroom protocol. Professor Phillips established academic precedence with her candor, guidance and overall support.

What was your favorite MBA Course?  Organizational Change (Professor Todd Jick)

“Managing change is a competitive advantage. Change management is evaluated based on objectives as well as process; it’s just as important to garner inputs as well as to communicate a vision.”

Why did you choose this business school? At the epicenter of business, I knew CBS would grant me access to professional developmental opportunities, specifically within the retail, tech, and startup space. I ultimately decided to come to Columbia as result of the several encouraging and supportive touchpoints I had across the ecosystem, from coffee chats with admissions officers before info sessions to second years reviewing my essays.

What is your best piece of advice to an applicant hoping to get into your school’s MBA program? Meet as many people as you can across the ecosystem – really get to know the community.

What is the biggest myth about your school? The biggest myth about CBS is that while it’s in NYC, it’s too far uptown to feel like you are in the city. While we aren’t in the heart of Midtown where buildings breach the sky, our proximity to Harlem grants us access to a unique cultural experience that, in my opinion, brings us closer to the heartstrings of the city.

What was your biggest regret in business school? My biggest regret in business school is not becoming a PA as I believe this is a unique community of students within the school who share a special bond. It’s also another way to stretch yourself as a leader and influencer while building EQ.

Which MBA classmate do you most admire? I’m humbled every day by my classmates, so it’s hard to pick just one.

However, if I had to choose one, I’d say Imani Gooden, who is the President of the BBSA and someone I worked closely with as the VP of Membership. She is highly regarded across the business school community and has spread and encouraged social advocacy.

Not only is she a mentor, I’m lucky to call her one of my closest friends in the program as well.

Who most influenced your decision to pursue business in college? My dad most influenced me to pursue business in college, specifically supply chain, largely due to his cross-disciplinary comparison between business and engineering; he always made the point that supply chain managers are the engineers of the business world, which was very attractive to me.

He is not only my parent, but also a teacher, a role model, an influencer (before the term equated to social coinage) and a sounding board. My dad worked extremely hard in every role he pursued and showed me the value of mentorship.

“If I hadn’t gone to business school, I would be…actively working on a retail venture idea, devoting time to community development and taking as much time to get inspired through travel.”

If you were a dean for a day, what one thing would you change about the MBA experience?

I would mandate the international business consulting opportunities for all students as I believe this emerging economy experience is highly impactful and extremely relevant considering the natural resource crisis.

What are the top two items on your bucket list?

  • Travel to every country in Africa
  • Tell my story on the “Beyond the Moth” stage

In one sentence, how would you like your peers to remember you? I would like to be remembered as someone who always smiled and said “hi” when walking through the hallways in Uris and someone who cultivated a safe space for all.

What is your favorite movie about business? The Pursuit of Happyness.

The fragility of employment is a real thing that many people are forced to reckon with every day. I am reminded that the opportunities I am given should not be taken for granted and diligence, perseverance and overall ability is what stands out.

What would your theme song be? “Girl on Fire” – Alicia Keys

Favorite vacation spot: Crete, Greece

Hobbies?Running with the New York Runners Club, finding the best ramen spots in the city, reading up on storytelling guides, maintaining a photo journal of my travel adventures.





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