Meet the MBA Class of 2022: Kenneth Burchfiel, Columbia Business School

Kenneth Burchfiel

Columbia Business School

“I loved working as a counselor and plan to continue serving nonprofits following my MBA.”

Hometown: McLean, VA

Fun Fact About Yourself: I use the Dvorak (instead of QWERTY) keyboard layout and it has paid off—I’ve been able to type over 160 WPM on This definitely comes in handy for the Zoom chat feature during classes!

Undergraduate School and Major:

  • Middlebury College ’13, B.A. in Psychology
  • University of Texas at Austin ’18, Master of Science in Social Work

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Catholic Charities of Evansville, Family Services Counselor

Aside from your classmates, what was the key part of the school’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As an applicant who desired (and still desires) to pursue nonprofit work following my MBA, I wanted to attend a school that offers a wide range of nonprofit electives and had a reputation for training nonprofit leaders. Columbia not only meets both of those criteria, but also offers a wealth of information and expertise through the Tamer Center for Social Enterprise. The Loan Assistance Program that nonprofit MBA alumni can access also factored into my decision.

What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? My fellow classmates genuinely care about making new friends. We’re all here to learn and network and ultimately find satisfying careers, but we’re also looking to develop lifelong friendships. And I have evidence for this! As part of our cluster’s “scavenger hunt,” I created a poll that asked my classmates what part of CBS they were most excited about. Nearly half responded with “making new friends” (as opposed to “advancing your career,” “networking,’ etc.).

What is the best part of coming to New York City for your MBA? Perhaps the best part is that I will only be able to scratch the surface of this city as an MBA student. There will always be another area to explore and a new restaurant, institution, or business to discover. The pizza is pretty great too.

What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Columbia Business School? What makes you most nervous about your MBA? I’m most excited for the opportunity to immerse myself in subjects that are important to me and to successfully pivot to a nonprofit development career. I’m a little nervous about having to decide between different competing priorities (academics, careers, community, etc.) over the course of a given week, especially because I know that saying ‘yes’ to one opportunity means saying ‘no’ to many others.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far? As a mental health counselor, I was honored to accompany individuals and couples on their path to healing, and am grateful for the role I was able to play in that recovery process.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? I desire to help nonprofits grow and develop so that they can better serve their clients. I am confident that the courses and connections that an MBA offers will enable me to be an effective nonprofit leader, especially when integrated with my background in social work.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied early decision to Columbia and actually heard back from them by July of last year, so I did not need to submit any further applications.

What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I don’t recall a specific challenging question that Columbia asked, but in general, the “why pursue an MBA?” question was a bit tougher for me than for many students, as I don’t come from a traditional pre-MBA background.

What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? I took HBS Online’s CORe program in early 2019, which gave me more confidence about my ability to succeed in quant-focused MBA coursework. This year, I have spent quite a bit of time studying computer programming, and I’m excited to find ways to apply that knowledge within both my MBA studies and my post-MBA work.

What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? Back in 2019, I was very nervous about sharing my MBA plans with my supervisor at work, but she ended up being incredibly understanding and supportive. That conversation served as a ‘defining moment’ that gave me more confidence that this was the right path for me, and that I’d have a team of people supporting me along the way.

What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? Within the for-profit world, Nintendo is one of my favorite companies. They’re relentlessly innovative and have also demonstrated that you don’t have to compete in the graphics arms race to make popular and critically acclaimed products (a good example of the ‘Blue Ocean’ strategy). I’m hoping to find some time to take on my classmates in Mario Kart this year, and they’d better come prepared!

DON’T MISS: Meet The MBA Class Of 2022: The COVID Cohorts

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