Meet MIT Sloan’s MBA Class Of 2021

Adam Swartzbaugh

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management

“Guy on a mission to find the most effective ways of ending child prostitution globally.”

Hometown: Camden, Maine

Fun Fact About Yourself: A fresh cup of good coffee is the fastest way to my heart.

Undergraduate School and Major:

Brown University, MA in Development Studies

Brown University, BA in International Relations

*Currently enrolled in the joint MPA program with Harvard Kennedy School

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: US Army Special Forces; Executive Officer

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: Starting a non-governmental organization that has been building schools and creating opportunities for kids without access to education in underdeveloped regions of the world since 2007.

When you think of MIT, what are the first things that come to mind? How has your experience with the Sloan program reinforced or upended these early impressions?  Everybody at MIT is there to create.  Students intend to make an impact and they have no shortage of passion to do it. From my initial engagements with students and faculty well before I had even applied until the present moment, I have been met with nothing short of enthusiasm and an authentic desire to help realize my ideas.

What quality best describes the MBA classmates you’ve met so far and why?  Collaborative competition. When you talk to students about their semester, they speak in terms of problems they are solving and ideas they are exploring. Grading curves, GPA and class rank never come up. “Honor” is found in process and “achievement” in creation.

Aside from your classmates, 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? Culture.  An MBA alone will not help me solve complex problems. However, MIT’s culture of innovation and collaborative problem-solving can.  More than a vehicle for business education, Sloan is a platform on which one can build ideas that will change the world – and an opportunity to team up with some of the greatest minds to do so.

What club or activity are you looking most forward to in business school? MIT’s Innovation Initiative and the Legatum Center for Development and Entrepreneurship.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? During my interview: What number cup of coffee is that today?

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? Getting at the root causes of child trafficking and prostitution requires addressing broader socio-economic challenges. This often means addressing obstacles to regional stability, community strengthening, and economic development.  Collaborative economic initiatives under certain conditions can often facilitate the social cohesion needed to resist exploitative activities by criminal organizations in developing areas. Launching and scaling legitimate entrepreneurial enterprises can reveal and unify local market forces capable of reducing such vulnerabilities. A better understanding of business will enable me to do just that.

What other MBA programs did you apply to?  Admitted to HBS, Wharton, and Yale SOM.

How did you determine your fit at various schools? Culture is first – MIT’s is one of rebel thinkers utilizing disruptive ideas to change the world.

Application mindset – an institution focused on placing theory and academia into action to achieve real results, right now. At MIT, its commitment to this is embodied in everything – to include its motto, Mens et Manus.

An enabling ecosystem – the consortium of people, departments, initiatives and supporting resources needed to bring ideas to light.

What was your defining moment and how did it shape who you are? Fourteen years ago, I learned about the atrocities of human trafficking and child prostitution while managing a disaster relief project in Thailand. This led me to start an NGO that builds schools, providing alternatives through education and skills training to communities with historically high rates of exploitation. It also prompted me to join the military to acquire the skills needed to rescue children and combat complex criminal networks.

Where do you see yourself in ten years? Facilitating conflict resolution and regional stability through collaborative economic development globally.

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