Meet The MBA Class of 2023: Alex Karwoski, Columbia Business School

Alex Karwoski

Columbia Business School

“Engineer and Olympic athlete eager to embark on a new adventure.”

Hometown: Moultonborough, NH

Fun Fact About Yourself: I have rowed approximately the equivalent of three times around the Earth’s circumference.

Undergraduate School and Major: Cornell University, Civil & Environmental Engineering

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: US Rowing – Olympic Athlete

What word best describes the Columbia Business School MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far and why? Enthusiastic. The multiple phone calls I have been fortunate enough to have with some alumni have all gone over their alleged allotted time slot by at least thirty minutes. Their genuine excitement and joy surrounding their time at Columbia was palpable. I was disappointed when the calls ended and realized I still had three months until orientation!

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Columbia Business School’s MBA programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Pivoting from athletics to business school, I knew that dedicated programs with far-reaching professional networks would be crucial to my success. There was no place else where I could learn such tangible, real-world skills by meeting with industry leading alumni or attending any of the dozens of events offered through the Paul Milstein Center for Real Estate. The NYC Immersion Seminar in Real Estate Development offers the opportunity to learn, understand, and speak the industry language outside of the classroom.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Columbia Business School? Bridging the American Divides is an elective course that, given the previous five years of living in the United States, could not be offered at a better time. Having been surrounded by very like-minded, singularly-focused teammates for the last nine years, I am looking forward to meeting and engaging in discussions with new classmates from diverse backgrounds in a class aimed at improving our understanding of what causes differing opinions.

What makes New York City such a great place to earn an MBA? With over 8.5 million people living in such a dense area, New York City offers the seemingly perfect combination of resources and location to pursue a new career. There are opportunities for any type of business endeavor within blocks of where you can live, study, and learn. Whether you want to or not (but you almost definitely want to) – you are exposed to life and culture everywhere.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: It was competing in and representing the United States at the 2016 & 2020 Olympic Games. The culmination of years of physical effort and determination coincided with two of the most memorable Games in history (Brazil was the first South American nation to host, Japan had the only 5-year ‘quadrennium’ due to the pandemic!).

How did COVID-19 change your perspective on your career and your life in general? When the Olympics were postponed in March 2020, I quickly recognized that I was not ready to ‘end’ my rowing career without seeing the full cycle through. That decision meant that I would need to withdraw and re-apply to CBS for the Fall 2021 incoming class. The pandemic gave me a new outlook towards rowing – it was no longer something I felt like I wanted to do, but rather something that I needed to see to the end. Looking ahead to what is next for my life in general, I hope to gain insight on how to avoid situations that put me in that ‘need’ instead of ‘want’ state-of-mind.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? Graduating from undergrad with an engineering degree and then promptly moving into training full-time allowed me to develop several business-like skills…just in a non-business environment. I believe that a solid foundation, in anything, provides the key to continued success and pursuing an MBA now offers me the chance to establish a solid framework upon which I can move into the real estate development industry.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I had my heart set on a school in New York City from the start so the only other program I applied to was NYU Stern School of Business.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Columbia Business School’s MBA program? Make the trip to campus for an event. CBS offered a tremendous number of pre-admissions events and attending a few of those changed the course of my application process. Something I picked up from my brief stints in admissions offices at other schools (one at a boarding school, one at a university) – there is no substitute for seeing and feeling the campus vibe in-person!


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