Meet the MBA Class of 2024: Michael Fagan, Columbia Business School

Michael Fagan

Columbia Business School

“Passionate foodie, party shaker, and the most-Aquarius Aquarius you’ll ever meet.”

Hometown: Glendale Heights, IL (about an hour drive outside of Chicago)

Fun Fact About Yourself: I once took a workout class next to Justin Bieber (Rumble Boxing).

Undergraduate School and Major:

  • Northwestern University – Biological Sciences major and Theatre/Spanish minors
  • Teachers College, Columbia University – MA in Science Education

Most Recent Employer and Job Title:

  • New York City Department of Education – JHS 167 Robert F. Wagner Middle School
  • Grade 6 Science Teacher

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Columbia Business School’s MBA curriculum programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? As a public-school educator teaching in New York City for the past five years, I have worked with a diverse population of students, families, coworkers, and administrators. This experience led me to gravitate towards equity and anti-racist work, both at a school-wide and district-wide level, because that work was the most vital in shaping me to be the best champion I could be for my students. Columbia Business School’s Phillips Pathway for Inclusive Leadership aligned deeply with my core values, and the school’s investment in this new initiative assured me that I would be surrounded by peers and faculty also focused on promoting equity and justice in all fields.

What has been your first impression of the Columbia Business School MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best CBS story so far. Coming to business school, I feared that others with dissimilar interests would not be invested in getting to know or support me; I am happy to say that this could not be farther from the truth with the Columbia Business School network. I have felt that everyone I have interacted with – whether during a Zoom panel or in-person at a happy hour – has taken the time to get to know me not only for my career aspirations but also as a person. Attending Hamptons Week must be my best CBS story so far – something about being told by a bouncer to take your nametag off because the Instagram influencers at the same bar do not like how it looks in their pictures really binds people together.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Columbia Business School? I am excited to take Food Entrepreneurship as an elective, since the main reason I applied to business school is to support my aspirations of starting my own food business devoted to making cookbook recipes easier for home cooks to prepare.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: My work on the District 2 Anti-Racist Socioemotional Think Tank this past year is something I am really proud of, mainly because our work reached a large audience: approximately 120 schools. This team exemplified the power of collaboration – grounded in the research of educators of color. Each member brought a different perspective to the team which was held together by our collective vision for progressing the student and adult socioemotional learning throughout the district. During my time on the committee, I helped co-create an advisory curriculum for Summer Rising (the New York City Department of Education’s summer school program), consulted multiple schools on progressing their specific anti-racist goals, and developed a progression of circle discussions and journaling prompts for white-identifying educators devoted to this work.

What led you to pursue an MBA at this point and what do you hope to do after graduation? During the pandemic, I found solace in the kitchen. For me, cooking, baking, and watching others cook and bake became my happy place. At the same time, teaching – first through a screen and later through a mask – lost its spark. Since I was a middle-schooler, I have been obsessed with food, even opting to prepare dinner for my family from the age of ten, and I had an “aha” moment while cooking one day. I said to myself, “Why am I not doing this?”. Driven by a passion for food sustainability and ending food deserts, pursuing an MBA seemed the best way for me to pivot into this new industry while exploring the best function I can fill to support this mission within the industry.

What is one thing you have recently read, watched, or listened to that you would highly recommend to prospective MBAs? Why? While studying for the GRE, the only album that could get me “in the zone” to relearn high school math was Taylor Swift’s Evermore. Prior to this album, I was not a Taylor fan, but the storytelling and production behind this album is magic. This album allowed me to channel my inner transcendentalist and feel like I was studying trigonometry next to a tranquil pond rather than at my tiny desk in my studio apartment.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? I applied to Stanford, Northwestern (Kellogg), NYU (Stern) and The University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) – but ultimately, I wanted to stay in New York City, and Columbia had the best resources to support my career goals in this city (the best city in the world!).

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Columbia Business School’s MBA program? Be vulnerable in your application – show who you really are. Business school is a place where the opportunities are plentiful, but you must seek them out – showing that you’re willing to “put yourself out there” in your application goes a long way.


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