Sometimes, you don’t need to travel the globe to experience the world’s rich differences and possibilities.
Just go to the right place…and stick around.
That advice could easily apply to New York City, where nearly 800 languages are spoken in the five boroughs. The Big Apple is headquarters for 54 Fortune 500 companies—and the epicenter for the arts, fashion, media, dining, and finance. Not surprisingly, Columbia Business School takes after the city’s diversity of backgrounds and resources. Here, you’ll find world famous faculty like Bruce Greenwald and Murray Low. And that doesn’t count the former chairmen, CEOs, partners, and authors who populate the ranks of CBS’ executives-in-residence and advisors – let alone the business legends who drop by to speak.
EVERYONE KNOWS COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL
These assets, coupled with an Ivy League pedigree, make Columbia Business School a formidable credential – one that will yield returns for the rest of a graduate’s life, writes first-year Kate Krasky. “Coming from a suburban Minnesota town and an unassuming liberal arts school in Iowa, having a degree from CBS means I’ll never be asked, “Where is that?” in a job interview ever again.”
Yes, New York City boasts nearly every imaginable industry within a 30-minute subway rate. At Columbia Business School, MBAs can participate in over 100 clubs, covering region (Asia, Africa), industry (Automotive, Fintch, Luxury Goods), recreation (Basketball, Flag Football) and hobbies (Spirits, Sailing). That doesn’t even count the illustrious CBS Follies, a variety show whose parodies MBA life has reached pop culture status. In short, CBS MBAs are “taught by active industry leaders in NY; living in a city where culture, business, and art meet,” explains Jake Yihai Zhu – a 2019 CBS MBA and McKinsey consultant.
That’s a high bar to reach – but one that the Class of 2022 is already testing. “I think what is the most exciting about my MBA is also the scariest,” writes Madison Kaminski, a marketer from Dallas. “It’s going to be a challenge. I’m surrounded by a group of brilliant, driven minds. As tough as it is to fight off the imposter syndrome, it’s thrilling to get the chance.”
NOT A “COMMUTER SCHOOL”
This chance includes working alongside eclectic classmates. Efosa Uwaifo, a petroleum engineer by trade, describes his six member learning team as “a United States national chess player, a former professional baseball player, a real estate broker, a marketing and brands expert, an investment banker and an engineer.” While large urban business schools often get tagged with the “impersonal” label, the Class of 2022 has experienced the opposite. Bain & Company’s Aditya Shankarm, for one, describes the class as “down-to-earth, smart, and extremely empathetic.”
“One of the highlights of my social experience at Columbia was when, after learning about one of our peer’s parent undergoing chemotherapy, the entire cluster decided to wish her the best for her recovery with a dozen postcards,” Shankarm tells P&Q. “This was not a symbolic effort, but exemplified the very quintessential care and warmth one experiences from the CBS community – and that is precious.”
And this wouldn’t come as a surprise to Kenneth Burchfiel, either. “We’re all here to learn and network and ultimately find satisfying careers, but we’re also looking to develop lifelong friendships,” he observes. “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.).”
FOLLOWING IN HER FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS
Before business school, Burchfiel earned a Master’s degree in Social Work and worked as a Family Services Counselor. In contrast, Jennifer Golden collected two education Master’s degrees while working for Teach For America and the Celia Cruz Bronx High School for Music. Her biggest educational achievement, however, occurred when she taught for General Assembly, an education firm that hones in on increasingly-popular subjects like data science, digital marketing, and software engineering.
“While working at General Assembly I had the privilege of witnessing people from many different backgrounds pursue the work they were passionate about and transition to new careers. It was extremely motivating to make sure our programs responded to the needs of our students because of the dedication and hard work the students put into the programs.”
For Christine Wilson, a hospital administrator from Pennsylvania, CBS is a chance to reinforce the family legacy. After all, her father was a 1984 graduate. Her father also encouraged her passion: competitive horse riding. It is here, Wilson says, where she left her biggest mark. “The biggest accomplishment in my career was transforming the company culture at Mid-Atlantic Equine Center and demonstrating the impact this had in growing the business and increasing employee satisfaction. I helped foster an environment where employees felt empowered to contribute towards company goals and gained confidence to take risks that would challenge them professionally and personally.”
FIGHTING FOR LGBT RIGHTS
Aditya Shankarm also took a big risk at Bain & Company’s India operation, where he was the firm’s only “out” employee. In response, he founded the India Chapter of BGLAD – Bain’s LGBT association – and grew it to 15 members.
“Ever since, my team and I set-up a proactive system of recruiting the best LGBT talent and created an inclusive space where fellow Bainees can bring out the best version of themselves,” he writes. “Beyond Bain, I have actively worked to nurture queer groups in various campuses we hire from. BGLAD has funded case-study competitions in various IIMs and taken “Faces of Diversity” talk-series across multiple IITs and Indian School of Business. As a result of these efforts, the internal NPS of Bain as an LGBT-friendly place of work has improved by ~20% over the last 3 years.”
Kate Krasky made a similar impact in the same space at Goldman Sachs. She helped spearhead the firm’s Pronouns Project, a first for the finance industry that educated staff on using correct pronouns – particularly for trans and gender non-conforming individuals.
“Today [Goldman Sachs] not only has resources for allies looking to create an inclusive workplace but also provides implicit public support of its TGNC workforce by allowing the inclusion of pronouns within email signatures,” Krasky explains. “The initiative’s launch event was a panel called “A Discussion on Supporting the Transgender Community.” During this hour-long discussion, I became the first employee in firm history to openly and publicly identify as trans. I candidly shared my professional coming out story including others’ reception to my transition and advice for those contemplating a similar workplace transition. The event served as a catalyst to provide comfort to others seeking advice on the transition journey; notably, I was approached by two senior members of the firm seeking advice, both of whom have since publicly transitioned.”
TOP PRIZE…IN TERMITE EATING COMPETITION
It was a process that Krasky herself experienced. “My defining moment was in the Fall of 2017 when I went to Goldman Sachs as Kate for the first time. While there had been months of preparation and messaging to colleagues prior to “go live” my first day in office as Kate was a mix of trepidation, anxiety, and elation…My co-workers were beyond gracious toward me. Although my first day included hiccups, I could not imagine it going better. By the end of the day, I felt as if a fog had lifted and could sense that I was at the beginning of a positive chapter in my life. This experience of overcoming adversity and stress to bring my whole self to work was extremely informative and is one that has paid huge dividends thus far in my business school journey. It has helped me to forge stronger friendships, engender vulnerability in the classroom, and engage in difficult or uncomfortable conversations with peers.”
On a less weighty note, Krasky has also bowled a perfect 300 game. Efosa Uwaifo can also tout the time he won a termite eating competition. In college, Madison Kaminski played a princess at birthday parties to earn extra money. Aditya Shankarm once biked 1,000 kilometers across France, while Margaret Davidson can speak Wolof thanks to her time in Senegal as a Peace Corps volunteer. And how is this for an early start in business?
“I started a 501(c)(3) tax exempt nonprofit in high school to teach elementary school students about cultures other than their own through cooking lessons,” writes Nick Szuch, a portfolio manager.
A BIG JUMP IN APPLICATIONS
An M7 staple, Columbia Business School offers two intakes: August and January. That’s not the only difference in CBS MBA admissions. The school operates using early admission, meaning applications are evaluated as they are received. In other words, CBS applicants aren’t waiting months for decisions. That’s a huge advantage for candidates who list CBS atop their list of target schools. This past cycle, many applicants ranked CBS as the top school on their list. This year’s class features 782 full-time MBA students. 211 students arrived in the January cluster, bolstered by another 571 first-years from August. Together, these 782 MBAs represent a 28 student increase over the previous class.
What’s more, CBS receive 6.971 applications during the 2019-2020 applications cycle. Translation: applications jumped by 18.6% over the previous year. At the same time, the school’s acceptance rate dipped from 19.1% to 16.2%. That places CBS between Harvard Business School (13%) and MIT Sloan (22%) in terms of selectivity.
Beyond a surge in applications, which was aided by the school moving its final deadline from April 10th to June 1st, the class profile remained relatively consistent to previous years. Average GMAT slipped from 727 to 726, while average GPA held steady at 3.6. By the same token, the percentage of women inched up two points to 40%. Despite a season wrecked by pandemic, international students only lost three points, making up 44% of the Class of 2022 (with U.S. minorities accounting for another third). On average, the full-time class is 28 years old, though the age range runs 23-41.
Academically, the class features strong business credentials. 29% majored in a Business-related field as undergrads, with another 20% holding degree in Economics. Another 27% majored in STEM-related fields like Engineering (17%), Science (7%), and Technology (3%). Social Sciences (14%) and Humanities (8%) round out the rest of the class. In terms of professional experience, Financial Services (30%) and Consulting (23%) make up over half of the class. Another 22% of students last worked in Marketing and Media (14%) and Technology (8%). The rest of class arrives in Morningside with backgrounds in Non-Profits, Health Care, Real Estate, Energy, and Military and Government Service.
TAKING A DEEPER DIVE INTO TECH
In the next class profile, you can expect some changes. After all, CBS intends to boost the size of its January term by 20% – at least for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle. Last February, the school also earned a STEM designation – an initiative that unleashes many new possibilities explains Dean Costis Maglaras.
“Earning the official STEM designation for MBA and EMBA programs reflects the greater integration of technology and data analytics into the school’s curriculum, which will result in our graduates being even better prepared to solve today’s business challenges. Retroactive to May 2019, the designation demonstrates the caliber of knowledge and skills our MBAs have in technology and data science. This designation also affords students from abroad the opportunity to work in the U.S. for up to three years after graduation under an extended Optional Practical Training (OPT) permit, enabling us to draw greater numbers of international students and enhance the already global nature of our programs.”
That’s not the only difference. In a 2020 interview, Nicole Shay, associate director of admissions, also points to a surge in tech-themed classes in the CBS curriculum. “Columbia Business School has always done a fantastic job of making sure coursework and student opportunities are contemporary, so I am always excited to hear about the new coursework being introduced each semester. Courses like “Introduction to Programming Using Python”, “Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies and Digital Tokens Demystified”, and “Virtual Reality & Artificial Intelligence” are a few of our recent additions, and have quickly become favorites among our students. A focus on technology has certainly been underscored with the introduction of our Dean, Costis Maglaras. Dean Maglaras has a demonstrated commitment to data-focused scholarship, and I am sure there will be more to come.”
The results speak for themselves. In 2020, the percentage of CBS graduates entering tech companies climbed from 13.8% to 19.8%. In fact, Amazon raked in the 4th-highest number of 2020 full-time grads with 24. When you remove sponsored employees, Amazon actually finished 2nd to McKinsey in hiring. At the same time, Google tied Goldman Sachs with 14 hires. Overall, CBS grads earned starting pay packages of $174,313, with 43.9% of the graduating class choosing finance and 23.8% of the class opting for consulting.
AN INTERVIEW WITH THE ASSISTANT DEAN OF ADMISSIONS
That’s not the only news happening this year. Next year, the school will be leaving Uris Hall for new state-of-the-art digs a few blocks away. How will this transition impact the resources available to MBAs? What changes have taken effect since a new dean was hired last year? And how has COVID-19 impacted the school’s day-to-day operations? Earlier this year, P&Q reached out to Amanda Carlson, assistant dean of admissions. Here were her thoughts on the state of the MBA program…
P&Q: What are the most exciting new developments at your program?
Carlson: “Continuing the legacy of the late Professor Katherine Phillips, The Phillips Pathway to Leadership Program (PPIL) was created to ensure that our students are trained to be advocates for an inclusive workplace. As seen in Professor Phillips’ research, more diverse teams – when they are able to communicate and work collaboratively – produce better results for shareholders and stakeholders alike. Managing diversity is one of the most important leadership skills in today’s workplace. The PPIL was created last summer by Camira Livers-Powell ’20 and Mariah Celestine ’20 as part of their Summer Fellowship work, working with our Vice Dean for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Gita Johar. There are four impact goals for the PPIL:
- Academics: Increase student awareness of the business case for diversity and the development of their own inclusive leadership toolkit.
- Careers: Encourage students to practice managing difference during their time at CBS to better prepare them for the workplace and leadership roles.
- Community: Create an inclusive environment for all students across programs, embracing diversity in all its forms.
- CBS Reputation: Emphasize CBS’s commitment to DEI and empower CBS to become a DEI pioneer among leading business schools.
We are very eager to see a successful rollout of the PPIL and to see Camira’s and Mariah’s vision come to fruition.”
Go to next page to access 11 in-depth profiles on the CBS Class of 2022.