Nicholas “Nick” Szuch
“A real estate lifer with a sense of humor and a passion for social impact.”
Hometown: Morris Township, NJ
Fun Fact About Yourself: 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.
Undergraduate School and Major: New York University (NYU), Metropolitan Studies
Most Recent Employer and Job Title: Clarion Partners, Portfolio Management Associate
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? CBS, in particular through its Chazen Institute, makes a point to contextualize programming in a broader, international framework. As someone who is focused on working in emerging markets post-MBA, this approach is extremely attractive to me.
What quality best describes your MBA classmates and why? We are optimistic—our cohort is keenly focused on making the best of a difficult environment via challenging each other to conceive of business and social issues from different perspectives while forging meaningful friendships along the way.
What is the best part of coming to New York City for your MBA? The best part of an MBA experience in New York City is being able to use the city as a large classroom. For me, this means studying the downsides of gentrification via neighborhood case studies to then thinking about new approaches to investing that meet clients’ expectations but prioritize preserving the unique integrity of the target market.
What makes you most excited about getting your MBA at Columbia Business School? What makes you most nervous about your MBA? The Real Estate Association at CBS is an institution, so I am very excited to get to know folks who are similarly passionate about the business and to participate in the upcoming University of Miami case competition focused on redevelopment and social impact. Like so many MBAs before me, juggling classes, club commitments, recruiting, and socializing is a bit stressful for me to think about, but I’m very happy with how it’s all going so far.
Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far. I was part of a team tasked with disposing of a retail asset that, due to a shift in prevailing institutional investor strategy, faced headwinds when initially marketed. With my colleagues, I made tactical improvements—primarily through leasing—in a short timeframe to change the message about the investment, translating to a successful monetization at a price level 10% above the prior high offer received.
What led you to pursue an MBA at this point in your career? After four terrific years working [in real estate private equity], I was ready to pivot out of the core space and into opportunistic investing. I also felt that I would benefit from a classical business education given my academic background from undergrad was predominantly liberal arts.
What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied early decision to CBS and I am so pleased that I did!
What was the most challenging question you were asked during the admissions process? I was asked about my study abroad experience while at NYU [in Shanghai], which was challenging in so far as I have so much to say about my love for East Asia and especially for Shanghai! I wrote my college thesis about consumerism in China post economic liberalization, focusing on ghost cities.
What have you been doing to prepare yourself for business school? The last several months of working, which were shaped by the pandemic and the associated economic downturn, provided an invaluable basis for many of our discussions here at CBS in the core classes. I also took a bit of time off to zone out, read the newspaper and enjoy plenty of ice cream!
What was your defining moment and how did it prepare you for business school? I spent a semester off campus in high school to participate in the inaugural class of the School for Ethics and Global Leadership; this signal experience taught me the importance of seeking diverse perspectives, thinking collaboratively and developing an enthusiasm to address difficult issues; I believe that these three elements have prepared me to be a contributing member of the CBS community and are reflected in my work as the Chair of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion for my cluster.
What is your favorite company and what could business students learn from them? I am very impressed by Actis, a private equity firm focused on alternatives and investing in growth and emerging markets around the world. Actis has developed a proprietary impact score that allows the firm to ensure that its financial performance and its impact to the communities it invests in are calibrated in a measurable way.